Our History

Our History

The Homestead (William Wadsworth Estate) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Excerpts from that nomination follow:


The 200-year old family seat of the Wadsworths, “The Homestead” in Geneseo, ranks among a handful of major landed estates in the U.S., which has never changed hands nor lost its position of prominence in the community and the county.


The title to “The Homestead” goes back to the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. Col. Jeremiah Wadsworth (1745-1804) of HartfordConnecticut is believed to have been among the backers of the two land speculators, and he invested in a portion of the Western New York lands, included in the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. As he was advancing in years, Jeremiah Wadsworth never visited his new property but instead made an arrangement with two young cousins James Wadsworth and William Wadsworth of Durham, Connecticut to act as his agent in return for the opportunity of purchasing 2,000 acres of his land outright at the original price of 8 cents an acre.


The two Wadsworth brothers made their way out to the Genesee Valley during the summer of 1790, and they built a log cabin half a mile west of the present site of “The Homestead.” A highly successful team, James and William Wadsworth had an immediate impact on the small settlement at Geneseo, were soon elected to the top local positions
(William Wadsworth was town supervisor for 21 years) and built around them an agricultural community based on enlightened principles of soil conservation, selective stock breeding, scientific agricultural methods, aesthetic preservation and public education.


“The Homestead” was built at the south end of Main Street around the time of James’s marriage to Naomi Wolcott in 1804.


Throughout the 1790’s and early 1800’s the Wadsworth brothers steadily reinvested their profits until they owned and cultivated thousands of acres directly and leased even more. The brick land office, built beside the house, served as the center of management for their far-flung holdings.


The second generation of Wadsworths carried on the family commitment to the lands in Livingston County. James Wadsworth’s elder son and namesake built Hartford House at the north end of the village at the time of his marriage to Marcy Craig Wharton of Philadelphia. “The Homestead” which at that time was still referred to informally as the “Home farm” or the “homestead of the Wadsworth estate” was inherited by James’s second son William Wolcott Wadsworth in 1844. Two years later he married a Bostonian, Emmeline Austin, “a lady of means and determination” who was left alone with three young sons after her husband’s untimely death in July 1852.


Emmeline Wadsworth continued to live mainly at “The Homestead” but made frequent visits to her brother in Boston. It was probably during her tenure that the two-story kitchen wing (now the dining room) was added to the house, and also Emmeline is said to have been responsible for the relocation of Geneseo’s South Street 150 feet to the north on account of the noise created by traffic.


Between the 1870’s and the 1890’s dramatic steps were made in “The Homestead’s” evolution. In these years it became a palatial residence typical of this extravagant “Gilded Age” of late nineteenth century America. Emmeline was still disturbed by the nearby street, and in 1874 while visiting in Boston she sent her elder son the following telegram, “Move house. I will return as soon as possible.” The move was accomplished despite the contractor’s disappearance midstream leaving William A. Wadsworth to supervise the operation himself.


Once on its new site the house was enlarged and embellished in the next twenty years. The third story and mansard roof were added allowing for more guest rooms, and an equally large addition was made to the kitchen wing for more servants. Georgian Revival touches were put on the house — pilasters at the corners, ornate dormers and a porte cochere. During this period two formal gardens (open to the public on Sundays) were maintained as well as a considerable vegetable garden.


In the 1870’s the Genesee Valley Hunt was organized and the pack of foxhounds requiring a staff of four were also maintained by William A. Wadsworth and kept at “The Homestead.” Except for a short interlude when serving in the Spanish-American War, William Wadsworth was master of the Genesee Valley Hunt until 1917 when faced with wartime realities he decided to give up the hunt giving away most of his hounds. He died the following spring. His widow and later his son, William Perkins Wadsworth, inherited “The Homestead” and later followed in his father’s footsteps as Master of the Genesee Valley Hunt.


Their “Homestead” which has grown and been adapted to the needs of each generation has a rare historic integrity of purpose and community role dating directly back to the late eighteenth century settlement of Western New York.

(end of nomination document)

W P Wadsworth married Martha Doty Scofield of Geneseo in 1929.  They had four children: Winifred Perkins Wadsworth, Martha Doty Wadsworth, William Austin Wadsworth, and Sarah (Sally)Youngs Wadsworth.


After Martha’s death in 1958, WP Wadsworth married Penelope Crane of Buffalo.  William Austin Wadsworth inherited the house after her death in 1986.


In January of 2011 W Austin Wadsworth moved to a smaller residence on the Homestead grounds, in order to facilitate a new family business and partnership with his children.


As other generations of Wadsworths have adapted the property for the times, this generation has chosen to re-open the house and grounds to the public for the first time as a venue for special events.  As well, the Wadsworth Homestead will continue its long tradition with the Genesee Valley Hunt.