The House At 56 East Main Trumansburg, NY 14886
A short history of the house at the top of the hill.

56 East Main Street Trumansbury, NY

The information contained in this history has been pulled from the
Building-Structure Inventory Form completed in the Spring of 1983 at the
Request of the owner, Eunice Frederica Updike McWilliams, by the
Preservation Planning Workshop, Cornell University,
Division for Historic Preservation - New York State Parks and Recreation.

(Edits have been added to correct what appears to be erroneous information originally recorded)

Click on Green Arrows to expand for added information

According to the 1929 Sanborn Map, the one-story side and rear additions were on the house by 1929. According to the 1853 and 1866 maps, there were two buildings on this site; a residence and a law office. Because of the variation in foundations and slight non-alignment at the sill levels, it seems very likely that the original law office building was moved to the west and became an addition to the house.

The other major changes came with the renovation in the Queen Anne style in the late 19th century. A wrap around porch with gazebo was added, the windows on the porch were changed, a second floor window over the front door was altered or added, and a small decorative gable end was added over that. The barn at the rear of the property (two-story board and batten), has remained while two other one-story wooden sheds, also at the rear of the property, were removed after 1929.

The house is at the edge of the commercial district and is very close to the modern motel to the north. To the south are 19th century residential structures, of more similar sizes and styles. Set quite close to the street, the house [in 1983] is obscured by the large hemlocks in the front.

This is a five-bay, late federal / early Greek Revival house with the ridge parallel to the street and delicate cornice returns. It is two story, with one-story wings to the west and south.

Western Wing Addition Had A Second Floor

There are two floor length double-hung (1-over-1) windows on the porch on each side of the entrance. These windows are not original, but were probably a modernization that went with the addition of the porch. The entrance is late Federal in style, with half-length side-lights, transom, fluted trim, corner blocks with a simple pyramidal or diagonal-based decoration and a rectangle block over the door, correspondingly decorated. The door appears to be original.

On the second floor the windows are 2-over-2 on the east side of the house of the front facade and 6-over-6 on the west with a central window that is Queen Anne in style. It has a large diagonally set square pane surrounded by small panes. Above this window there is a small Queen Anne gable with decorative spindling. The window and gable were later additions to the plain Federal front of this house, along the front porch.

The porch is large and wraps around the north and west east sides of the house. A gazebo with a turreted roof is at the corner and there is a small pediment over the front steps. The porch is decorated with bold and well preserved spindle work, with the frequent use of the fan motif. Part of the rear area of the porch is screened.

There were more porches, a woodhouse, and an outhouse attached.

Floor Plan

Historical and Architectural Importance

Date of the initial construction is estimated to be between 1820 and 1840, certainly before 1853.

This was the long-time residence of Henry Barto, an early resident of Trumansburg. Barto's partner in the law practice, J. DeMotte Smith, also lived here in the 1860s, and was co-owner. Barto (edit: Sr.) was a well-to-do judge, and banker as well as a lawyer (edit: to add confusion, Judge Barto's son, also named Henry D. Barto, was a lawyer and banker, too). His law office was in a building just to the east (edit: south) of the house. (apparently annexed to the house later, as noted above). He was instrumental in building the first bank building in the village located nearby at the corner of Main and Elm Streets. (Today (edit: 1983) the Fingerlakes Cooperative Insurance Company.).

Barto was a key figure in the founding of the Episcopal Church in the 1850s. He gave the land on which it was built, just to the south of his house. He died in the 1860s (died 22 February 1857), and in 1866 the house and lands (to Whig Street) were sold to the Griswolds for $4500. Henry Griswold was a well-known "scientific surgical dentist" according to the June 14th 1866 issue of the Trumansburg Sentinel. He came to Trumansburg in 1866 and set up his practice (and residence) at 56 East Main Street. The next owner was Charles Plyer, who purchased the house in 1870. In 1881, he bought the Trembly House (built 1871, and almost directly across the street) and ran it for a few years in the 1880s. Mary Quigley bought the home in 1887 and lived there until 1907. The Quigleys were long-time residents of the village, and were clothiers and quarrymen. Three generations of the Updike family have lived there in the 20th century.

This house shows a sophisticated blending of Federal / Greek Revival and Queen Anne elements. The wrap-around porch is the most noticeable feature, but the entrance, somewhat obscured, is a very fine example of a late Federal design, unusual in Trumansburg.

History of Ownership

1820-40 - Built by Barto, Henry D. and wife Catherine, [and by 1860s also] Smith, J. DeMotte and wife Mary E.

Seems Henry's father really built this house.

1866 - Griswold, Henry P. and Belle - $4500
(included lands to Whig Street)

1870 - Plyer, Charles and Bertha D. - $4700

1887 - Quigley, Mary A. - $2700 [In 1905 census, it appears Mary lived there alone.]

1907 - Updike, Fred C. and Jennie S. - from Mary A. Quigley - $2900

1925 - Updike, Fred C. and Jennie S. - from Nora M. Warren

1935 - Updike, Jennie Sue - inheritance

1946 - McWilliams, Eunice Updike and Updike, Jennie Sue

1967 - McWilliams, Eunice Updike - inheritance.

1984 - Town of Trumansburg, for Village Offices - $40,000

56 East Main Street - 2014

56 East Main St 2014

Map of Trumansburg, NY 1853

Map of Trumansburg, NY 1853


Map of Trumansburg, NY 1866

Trumansburg 1866 Tompkins County Atlas


Bibliography of Sources

Navigation Links