Fenton Lecture Spotlights County Historic Structure Database

Michelle Henry, Chautauqua County historian, left, and Wendy Straight, Chautauqua County Historic Structure Database volunteer, discuss the mission and progress of the online database during Wednesday’s Brown Bag lecture at the Fenton History Center. P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti

An online inventory of some Chautauqua County’s oldest and most influential structures is now starting to take shape after more than a decade of obtaining and processing old archived material.

The Chautauqua County Historic Structure Database was spotlighted at the Fenton History Center’s Brown Bag Luncheon series Wednesday, where the topic of presenting and preserving the county’s rich cultural history in the form of its earliest structures was discussed.

The county’s historic structure database was established in 2006, and its mission is to compile images of former or existing structures which reflected the rich history of Chautauqua County between 1804 and 1900. This has primarily been accomplished through the assistance of volunteers associated with the county’s several historical societies, as well as through court records which have been recovered and processed by Michelle Henry, Chautauqua County historian.

Henry was present at the discussion and iterated her role as it pertains to the online database along with Wendy Straight, a historical structure database volunteer. The latter said the project has processed approximately 65 percent of the documents and records it has received, with information on each new site taking about 18 months to process before it is posted to the database.

“We’re losing most of these structures, and have already lost many to disaster, demolition or extensive renovations,” Straight said. “So the ultimate goal here is to preserve them as they once were through images and photographs so that people can see what Chautauqua County used to have.”

The Chautauqua County Historic Structure Database is a community-sponsored, volunteer-operated collection of information regarding 19th-century home sites or other historic structures in Chautauqua County. Common sources of information are the public records of the Chautauqua County Clerk, the 1854 Map of Chautauqua County, the 1867 Atlas of Chautauqua County, the 1881 Atlas of Chautauqua County and published sources such as Architecture in Fredonia, New York 1811-1997 by architectural historian Daniel Reiff with local research by Douglas Shepard.

Any individuals with current or former roots in Chautauqua County in possession of photos or stories about these sites are encouraged to submit their information to Henry at 753-4857 or henrym@co.chautauqua.ny.us, as well as to make specific arrangements for submission of images, and to be sure that you are properly credited with the submission.

For more information, visit call 753-4857 or visit chautauqua.ny.us/170/County-Historian.