Albion, Oh, Albion

Neil Johnson

Albion Village Historian

No. 1292—The William Hart Farm on East Avenue

We have been following the history of the Joseph Hart farm, settled in 1812 by Joseph Hart (1773-1853) and his family.  This farm, now the southeast corner of the Village of Albion, consisted of 360 acres bounded on the west and east by South Main Street and Clarendon Road and on the north by East Avenue.  Joseph Hart’s eldest son, William (1803-1879), ended up with the northern 130 acres; his house and barns were at 229 South Main, where his red brick farm house still stands.

When William’s only son, John Wells Hart (1836-1920), became twenty-one, he took over the active management of the farm.  After the Civil War John W. began selling off the frontage on South Main and East Avenue as prestigious building lots.  In the short term, this was a wise move, because it brought in a lot of cash and did not hamper farming operations.  In the long run, it meant that the whole 130-acre farm was eventually broken up into lots and is no longer farmed.

Large parts of the William Hart farm are now occupied by the Albion Central School campus, Arnold Gregory Hospital, and the Meadowbrook Drive residential development.  Therefore, this 19th Century farm provided much-needed space for village expansion in the 20th Century.

John W. Hart finished selling off the South Main Street frontage on 2 July 1872.  The only remaining desirable frontage was on East Avenue.  John W. had already sold some of this land; now he sold off the rest, extending almost to the Albion Middle School driveway.  The remaining frontage remained farmland into the 20th century.

On 15 December 1873 John W. sold the .56 acre lot with 82.5 feet frontage on East Avenue on the east side of what is now Rite Aid to Andrew N. Wilson for $2,800 ($5,000 an acre)(OCD 91: 30).  A restriction was that no building could be closer to the south line of East Avenue than 40 feet--Hart was practicing zoning to keep his de facto subdivision desirable.  This was a prime lot, and Wilson paid top price for it.  It is now the Village House Restaurant.

I have no idea who Andrew N. Wilson was.  This is very embarrassing—I do not know anything of Mrs. E. Maria Mandell, the woman who bought the last bit of frontage on South Main, on the south side of the Rite Aid lot, and now I cannot identify the man who bought the land on the east side.   This should be impossible.  People having enough money to buy these lots in 1872-3 should be instantly recognizable, or easily identified.  Not the case.  This is another puzzle that will be solved eventually (municipal historians must learn to be patient).

The next lot to be sold was on 22 October 1874 to John Harris (1827-1903) for $600.  This lot began on the east line of Temperance St. (which extended to East Avenue before the Burt Olney Canning Factory was built in 1903) and extended 132 feet east and 330 feet south (the standard depth of lots along East Avenue), covering one acre.  There were two restrictions on this lot:  (1) No building could be closer than 22 feet to East Avenue; (2) the lot owner had to maintain a fence at the back of the property as long as William Hart or John W. Hart owned the farm (OCD 80: 283).  This was obviously a less desirable lot than the Wilson lot; not only did it cost only $600 an acre (12% of the Wilson lot), but it had much less a setback.

John Harris had already bought the 193 foot frontage east of the Platt Street east boundary, where the Village House Restaurant parking lot now sits, totaling 1.5 acres, on 27 May 1870 for $606.67 (OCD 72:162).  This land, adjacent to the Wilson lot, established the $600 an acre price for East Avenue lots.  Harris lived on this lot until he died in 1903.

John Harris’s father, Thomas, was a stonecutter and Harris and his brother Arthur were masons, who came from Devonshire, England, in 1855 (OR February 7, 1903: 3).

CEMETERY TOUR—County Historian C. W. Lattin and I will lead a free cemetery tour of Sandy Creek Cemetery at 7:00 PM on Thursday, August 21.  The cemetery is on the south side of Route 104, one mile west of the hamlet of Murray (formerly Sandy Creek).  The tour will last about an hour and a quarter.

Next week:  John W. Hart finishes selling land on East Avenue.

References Cited

OCD

1825-present  Orleans County Deeds.  Held in Orleans County Clerk’s Office, Albion, New York.

OR

1828-1960   Orleans Republican.  Albion, New York.