History of 35 Center Street




"Center Street", as we now call it, was late in arriving. For a long time it was merely the alley behind the various inns which stood at 1 Park Place: Hezekiah Barker's log cabin which was replaced by Thomas Abell's framed building and, finally, the large brick "Johnson House."

In 1835, Nassau Street (named after the street in lower Manhattan) was opened all the way to Barker. In the following January, Samuel Johnson bought the inn (then known as the Armstrong House). In 1840 the inn property and much more was bought by Charles M. Reed at a foreclosure sale. Included was "the brick Tavern called the Johnson House and the large Stone Barn adjoining, including in the rear the yards, Garden Orchard and Vacant corner lots opposite the District School House."

Nine years later William Smith of Olean bought it from Reed. This was a time of great expansion in Fredonia. The railroad was to reach Dunkirk in 1850 and, in anticipation, Central Ave. was made a plank road and had a horse drawn omnibus line on it soon after the railroad arrived. The Risley brothers sold their seed company and invested heavily in Dunkirk real estate, and large new homes began going up on the Dunkirk Road (Central Ave.) and elsewhere in the Village, including on Nassau St.

William Smith not only owned the Johnson House and adjoining land, he also had the two mills on either side of West Main St. by the bridge and was involved in rebuilding on the old Woleben Block lot (45-53 West Main St.) which had burned in February of 1850. In its place he built a large brick 5-store replacement. What is particularly significant about this is that, as Dr. Reiff pointed out in his Architecture in Fredonia, New York, 1811-1997, this building and the Federal Style home Smith built in 1851 at 35 Center St. both had Greek Revival elements such as the frieze band below the dentils. That argues for one architect for both projects. Although none is named, it may well have been John Jones who had used a similar treatment in the first version of the home at 20 Central Ave.

A clear picture of how 35 Center St. must have appeared can be gained by looking at the 1851 map of Fredonia. In the previous May, Smith had sold off a small lot just north of the Johnson House to Ira S. Dickinson for a blacksmith shop. On the 1851 map Smith's new, elegant home sits precisely in the middle of his large lot, a 400-foot frontage that ran from Dickinson's to Barker St.

In August of 1851 Smith sold a small parcel next to the blacksmith shop lot to the Village, and in September he sold off the Johnson House itself. He seems to have remained in Fredonia only through 1857/58 and then moved to Westfield. (He died there in February of 1876.)

In 1859 he sold off a large parcel at the corner of Barker St., and, in 1862, he sold the home lot to Devillo A. White. 35 Center St. had probably already been rented to White, who was living somehwere on Center St. at the time of the 1860 and 1865 censuses, before he actually bought it.

Devillo A. White, Dr. Squire White's son, grew up in the old log and frame home that stood at the corner of today's White and East Main streets. At some time after his father's death in 1857, he had the homestead moved back on the lot to face White St. and, in 1868, had a new brick home built on the old site. Today it makes up the rear portion of the White Inn.

Devillo White was a druggist with a shop at 34 W. Main St. nearly opposite Center St. He sold it in 1867 as he was arranging for his new home at 52 E. Main St. At the same time he sold 35 Center St. to George N. Frazine. Frazine, orphaned at 9, had come to Fredonia with his siblings to live with their aunt. He apprenticed as a tinsmith and later established his hardware buisness at 10 W. Main St. He then married Mary Green in 1845 and the had six children, most of whom did not survive childhood. Mary died in September of 1859. In May of 1861 he married his housekeeper, Louisa M. Norton.

When he bought 35 Center St. in 1867, the household included himself, two daughters -- Adelaide, 15 known as Addie or Ada; and Emeline, 13 known as Emma or Emily -- and their stepmother, Louisa. Adelaide married George C. Hamilton in October of 1873 and they planned to move to Franklin, PA. However, her stepmother died in February of 1874 and the Hamiltons either stayed on 35 Center St. or they returned from Pennsylvania. Later, they moved to 45 Barker St. before settling in Franklin PA.

In October of 1876 George Frazine married Irene E. (Miller) Carter who had been widowed in 1870. Emeline, who had been disabled from infancy, continued to live at home, although she apparently quarreled with and became estranged from her family as time went by.

In the 1890's a series of calamities beset the family. In July of 1892 Frazine's third wife, Irene C. (Miller) Frazine died. In May of 1889 the Johnstown flood disaster had killed over 7,000 people. George Hamilton, Frazine's son-in-law and partner, was involved in the arduous task of recovering bodies and disbursing money to survivors. As a result of his exertions he developed pneumonia which proved fatal in November of 1892. Apparently recognizing the inevitable, on October 6, 1892, George Frazine deeded part of his home lot to daughter Adelaide Hamilton with the stipulation that he retain a life estate for himself and then for his other daughter, Emily A. Frazine. At the same time he deeded a small lot off the southeast end of the property to his two grandsons.

In September of 1893, George Frazine himself died leaving only Emily at 35 Center St. In 1894 there was a lawsuit between the two sisters as to who owned the property. It was not until 1896 that the problem was settled and Emily quit-claimed 35 Center St. to her sister and the smaller parcel to her two nephews. At that point, Mrs. Hamilton rented the house to James Dailey, a Professor of Music and his large family. They remained there until early in 1902 when she sold the house (and the small parcel deeded to her two sons) to John and Jennie Miller. The Daileys moved to 127 Center St.

John Miller was born in England in November of 1833. With his first wife, Mary Clark, he came to Fredonia in 1855. He was a grocer, in partnership with Harrison Parker as Parker & Miller, for almost thirty years and raised two sons, Franklin J. and Walter L. Miller. (It was John Miller who built 36 Central Ave. in 1873 selling it in 1876 to Charles Webster who had married Mark Twain's niece.)

By September 1883, Mary Miller was very ill and John Retired from the grocery business. She died that November. In October of 1885 he married Mrs. Jennie (Cottle) Williams of Detroit. (She was the daughter of Phillip and Harriet Cottle of Sheridan.) It was them, John and Jennie Miller, who moved into 35 Center St. in 1902. John died in 1905 and Jennie continued to live there until she died at the end of 1912. She had willed the property to her brother, Octavius O. Cottle and to her niece, Jennie W. Cottle.

Thereafter, 35 Center St. was used as rental property. Over the years the tenants included: the Morris H. Stimpsons, W. Allen Martins, Harold N. Fuller, William G. Miller, Louis A. Salhoff, and Mrs. Jennie Tarbox, through 1938. In August 1938 the property was sold to George C. and Georgine M. Tadt, who lived there longer than any of the other families. After George Tadt's death, in 1985 their two sons, George C. and Robert M. Tadt sold the property to the D&F Telephone Co.