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Templin House (Downtown Abbey)

18 East Fourth Street, Jamestown, , 14701 Property Website Dated Posted: August 22, 2017


Circa 1854

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About This Old House

HIWP, Inc (Donna and Gary Templin’s solely owned investment corporation) has two buildings (18 East Fourth Street and 317 Pine Street) at the corner of Fourth and Pine Streets in downtown Jamestown, New York. They are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The buildings are totally restored, insulated and have new plumbing and electrical service. The total asking price is $375,000.00. Since the properties are listed on the national registry, they qualify for tax incentives, grants and historic loan programs. For pictures and details see our website www.historichomejamestownny.weebly.com.

The property now known as 18 East Fourth Street was first sold by the Holland Land Company to James Prendergast (the founder of Jamestown) on September 1, 1814. The land was owned by a series of seven people (who did not appear to have constructed buildings on it) before being sold to Isaac Forbes on September 19, 1840. The first indication of a building at the southwestern corner of Fourth and Pine was a depiction on a map of the Village of Jamestown dated 1854, the owner listed was Isaac Forbes. At some point between 1867 (the last known map to show a single structure) and 1881 (the first map to show the five current townhouses) the free standing house was either destroyed or 18 East Fourth Street is much older than we first believed.

Although we originally assumed that the townhouse was built around 1873 when the other townhouses were constructed, we now believe that it is possible the “townhouse” at 18 East Fourth Street was built as early as 1841, the first construction season after Isaac Forbes purchased the property.

If 18 East Fourth Street is indeed the structure shown on the 1854 map, it would have been a free standing, single family home with a carriage house in the yard area south of the home. (That area is now occupied by the 317 Pine Street building which has the outline on its rear wall of the roof for the carriage house for the adjacent townhouse at 16 East Fourth Street.) The current townhouse would have been located on Lot 14 a very large lot measuring approximately 80 feet on Pine Street by 120 feet on Fourth Street and extending from Pine Street to Potters Alley. A number of factors contribute to the belief that the current building was built as a free standing home prior to 1854. There is an original basement doorway that faces west and would have lead to a yard that extended to Potters Alley consistent with the shape of Lot 14 shown on the 1854 and 1867 maps.

The building with its distinctive mansard roof is in the style of a Second Empire French townhouse. Although the mansard style of roof had been around since the middle 1600’s in Europe, it was not until the 1850’s through the 1880’s that it was made popular in the United States and referred to as Second Empire French based on Napoleon Bonaparte’s rebuilding of Paris (1852 to 1879).

Another indicator of the age of the 18 East Fourth Street townhouse is found in the nails used to build the structure. According to publications on the history of nails, the nails used are “cut” nails that were in production from the 1830’s to 1875. After 1875 most nails were of the round pin style. This would mean that the building could have been the one shown on the 1854 map. Based on information contained in the deeds, no known structures existed on the land facing Fourth Street west of 18 East Fourth Street before 1873; therefore, the structure at 18 East Fourth Street was free standing for more than 20 years.

Isaac Forbes sold the townhouse to Horace Gifford on June 15, 1868. Mr. Gifford was an early founder of Jamestown. He was co-owner of the Jamestown Cane Seat Company with R. E. Fenton (son of then Governor Ruben Fenton). He was involved in real estate speculation during the boom period of Jamestown’s development and had buildings and streets named after him. Unfortunately, Mr. Gifford invested heavily in the ill-fated Buffalo-Jamestown Railroad scheme and lost a lot of money. He probably was forced to sell 18 East Fourth Street to bail himself out.

Gifford sold the property to Dr. James Thurston, a dentist turned opportunistic entrepreneur, who briefly lived in the 18 East Fourth Street townhouse until he built a new house on Fourth Street west of Potters Alley circa 1874. He is credited with building the four other townhouses between 18 East Fourth and Potters Alley creating the block as we see it today.

John Grant, a wholesale grocer, bought the townhouse in 1874 and it remained in his family until 1878 when an oil producer named O. C. Emery purchased it. Eventually the townhouse was sold to a prominent haberdasher named Jabez Whitley in 1883.

Jabez Whitley was born in the shire of York, England where he undoubtedly had seen or heard of Highclere Castle in Highclere Park. It became the location for the filming of the popular PBS series Downton Abbey. This would have given Jabez an appreciation for the architectural details he would find inside the 18 East Fourth Street structure. After becoming avid fans of the PBS series and seeing the similarities between Downton Abbey’s interior features and 18 East Fourth Street, we began referring to the townhouse as “Downtown Abbey”.

When Jabez died in 1909 the townhouse ceased being an “owner occupied” single family home. Adam Weber (a founding partner in a local firm called Weber Knapp) rented the townhouse and may have been the last to occupy 18 East Fourth as a single family home. After 1912 or so, the building was turned into offices and apartments. From 1912 to 1994, the building underwent substantial modifications to “turn a profit” for various uncaring investors.

The townhouse has four full floors plus an additional partial basement and contains 4,122 square foot of living space. It has been painstakingly and beautifully restored beginning in 1994 by Donna and Gary Templin. They have spent the last 20 years removing so called “improvements” to return the house to its former glory with necessary upgrades in interior and exterior projects including insulation, wiring, plumbing, and restoration of windows, moldings, ceiling medallions, chandeliers, and coffin niches (on the three story high oval staircase).

The ground floor which was originally the townhouse’s scullery is currently being renovated into a basement work room, 400 bottle wine cellar and office/study for the use of the townhouse occupants. It could be modified to provide an additional bedroom suite with a bathroom and sitting area for elderly parents.

The first floor had been gutted and made into one large commercial space with 8 foot high plaster ceilings. The Templins removed the “dropped” ceiling and revealed the 12 foot high original ceiling with its decorative plaster moldings and four foot in diameter medallions. The remains of the top portion of a dividing wall between the living room and dining room was also revealed. Gary replaced the missing portion of the wall and replaced missing moldings in the living and dining rooms. Other missing features such as the first floor fireplace fronts and chandeliers were replaced with antique architectural pieces that reflected what had been removed. The antique dining room chandelier is made of very heavy solid brass and was imported by the Templins after one of their trips to France.

As previously stated, the first floor has a formal living room and formal dining room each having elegant fireplaces, twelve foot high ceilings with ornate plaster crown moldings and large plaster medallions with chandeliers. This main floor also has a modern kitchen and a utility closet which contains an electric hot water tank. A half bath and entrance hall complete the 916 square foot first floor. The formal eight foot wide entrance hall now has a set of back to back French doors (to provide a cold air barrier at the front door) and a sweeping three story, oval staircase with mahogany banister and inset “coffin” niches.

The second floor which originally was designed to have two bedrooms now has a family room and a breakfast room each with fireplaces and 10 foot high ceilings. There is a half bath and a well designed and equipped, modern kitchen adjacent to the breakfast room. There is also a set of French doors that lead to the roof top patio and garden off the breakfast room. The roof top garden and patio are on the 317 Pine Street building and features two tiers.

There are two storage sheds for patio equipment and furniture. One of the sheds, which adjoins the townhouse, was designed and built by Gary Templin with a mansard roof to compliment the structures. The larger of the roof top tiers accommodates a ten foot by ten foot gazebo to provide shade and protection from rain.

The top floor has a master bedroom with an en suite bathroom, a second bedroom, a second separate full bathroom and a laundry room with a large cedar lined closet.

The result has been the charm and beauty of an 1854 Second Empire French townhouse with all the amenities and conveniences of a “modern” home. It permits an area for very formal entertaining as well as a separate and comfortable informal “family” living area. It is a totally unique, architectural and historic building and provides the best of both worlds. It was the Templin’s hope that this would stimulate similar rehabilitation of the entire Thurston Terrace back into single family townhouse use as it was originally designed. This would protect the only remaining townhouse block in downtown Jamestown.

The two buildings (18 East 4th Street and 317 Pine Street) share a water meter and can not currently function as independent buildings. It would not require a major investment to make the buildings independent; thereby, permitting separate sales of the buildings. Both buildings are set up for electric heating because Jamestown has its own electric generating plant resulting in very economical electric heating rates. Each building is on an independently deeded property.

The building at 317 Pine Street is a 30’ by 30’ two story commercial building built in 1916 in the side yard area south of the townhouse where the carriage house once stood. The first floor has an entrance lobby, two large “commercial” rooms and access to the basement for utilities. The second floor contains a fully furnished vacation rental (Maison MacDuff) a 900 square foot, two bedroom apartment with one bathroom, a living and dining room area, a laundry room and a modern kitchen. It has enjoyed an excellent rental history generating $800.00 a month plus utilities. This more than pays the property taxes for both buildings.

Part of the commercial space on the first floor could be made into a garage with the addition of a garage door from Pine Street.

These historic buildings are within walking distance of the Jamestown Ice Arena, Robert H. Jackson Center, the YMCA (with its fitness center and swimming pool) and a restored 1920’s theater known as the Reg Lenna Civic Center. The main gate of Chautauqua Institution is twenty minutes by car and many public golf courses are within easy driving time. In addition, fishing, skiing, boating, Audubon Society and Roger Tory Peterson Institute for natural history are all nearby. The Lucille Ball/ Desi Arnaz Museum and the new national comedy center promise to be a major tourist draw for Jamestown, New York. The two historic buildings at the corner of 4th and Pine could provide a significant location for a bed and breakfast or boutique hotel for accommodations and other support facilities for the new tourist attractions.

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