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Ellicottville Village

Ellicottville Village Hall is located at 1 Washington Street West, Ellicottville NY 14731; phone: 716-699-4636.

Beginnings [1]

The village of Ellicottville is situated in a rural section of the state that has always been sparsely developed. The local topography has a hilly, upland surface being a northern spur of the Allegheny Mountains. It is separated by deep valleys into ridges running in a north-south direction; elevations range from 1400 (in the valleys) to 3000 feet above sea level. The bend of the Allegheny River that breaks briefly across the New York border is contained wholly within Cattaraugus County. Although the Allegheny River makes its northernmost arc well south of Ellicottville, the village is sited at the confluence of three Allegheny tributaries: Great Valley Creek, a principal feeder, and two lesser waterways, Elk and Plum Creeks. Another geographical feature that locates the village and the Ellicottville Historic District is the Chautauqua Turnpike, built in 1812 by the Holland Land Company to facilitate settlement in the large Holland tract. This route is now known as NY 242 and forms the east-west axis (Washington Street) for Ellicottville's plan.

Organized in a very orderly fashion, Ellicottville reflects the influence of its predetermined plan of streets and functional areas. Laid down possibly as early as 1810 but definitely by 1817, the village plan is bi-laterally symmetrical with two intersecting principal streets: Jefferson Street and its perpendicular Washington Street, forming the axes of a small rectangular grid two blocks wide and four blocks long (five if you count a triangular area at the southwest end where Plum Creek interferes). Beyond this concentrated street plan a larger pattern of farm lots was laid out at the same time. The focal point of the plan is the intersection of Jefferson and Washington Streets, which is further subdivided into a large square with space for public buildings in each quadrant. Here, in the northwest quadrant, the Cattaraugus County seat was established in 1817 (now the Ellicottville Town Hall), the other corners were allotted to the county jail and clerks office (NE quad.), the public school (SE quad.) and the Episcopal Church (SW quad.).

The public square is Ellicottville's most distinctive feature. Here, in the physical core of the village, were located its most important civic institutions. The Holland Land Company gave the northern two quadrants to the Chautauqua County government in 1818 for a courthouse and a jail. The Federal style courthouse with its prominent stepped-gable facade still dignifies the space in the northwest quadrant together with the old county clerk's office (1829) that once shared the northeast quadrant with the stone jailhouse. The jailhouse disappeared many years (in its place is a Post Office building), but the clerk's office survives with roof alterations that provide evidence of its varied uses, including post office, firehouse, church, classroom and museum. The southeast quadrant was reserved for the school and today it is the site of an 1887 school building, together with a c.1926 addition. The final quadrant (southwest) was given to the first church to be established in the village: St. John's Episcopal. The Gothic Revival building was erected in 1836; its horizontal plank construction and distinguished ornamentation remains remarkably intact.

  1. Larson, Neil, architectural historian, Ellicottville Historic District, nomination document, 1991, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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