Geneseo Genealogy: Hartford House sustains Wadsworth legacy

The Wadsworths’ legacy in Geneseo is vibrant, associated with the many things the family has touched in this town, including the less familiar Hartford House.

Unbeknown to many, the Hartford house is tucked away at 17 Avon Rd. next to the Geneseo Courthouse entrance.

According to the booklet Hartford House (1835-2007) produced by the Wadsworth family, the Hartford House was built in 1834.

While on their honeymoon to England, Gen. James S. Wadsworth and his wife Mary Craig, encountered Marquis of Hertford’s Palladian style villa in Regent’s Park.

Upon returning to the United States, the couple began building their version of Hertford’s mansion on a plot overlooking the Genesee Valley.

Today, Hartford houses four businesses, while still maintaining the historical integrity of the home, according to Corrin Strong, the home’s caretaker and the great-great-great-grandson of the homebuilder, Gen. James S. Wadsworth.

Few changes have been made to the original home aside from the addition Strong built in 2001 to create an up-to-date living space for himself.

The Wadsworth descendant oversees a tennis club, printing business, produce farm, bed and breakfast and student apartments at the Hartford house.

“A bunch of members of the Geneseo faculty belong to the tennis club. There are a few from the English department, the philosophy department and the music department … we have a lot of fun,” Strong said.

The courts open April 1 with the season usually lasting until November. Strong maintains a grass and clay court for about 40 members that belong to the club.

The printing that Strong does out of the home is the remnants of an old newspaper he used to run called The Clarion. Though he stopped producing the paper, he still uses the equipment to run his printing business year-round.

The Garden Suite, the room available for Strong’s bed and breakfast, is named for the view it has onto the home’s walled garden.

“The bed and breakfast is a fun business ‘cause you get to meet interesting people from around the country and the world,” he said.

On the south end of the home, where Strong’s living space is, there are also student apartments. He said he had considered converting the Garden Suite into more apartments, but did not because of the cost of heating the older, noninsulated side of the home.

The suite is open from May to October, largely because of the large upkeep during the winter months.

“Logistically, though, it would be hard to get water and heat to the other side of the house, where the bed and breakfast is, throughout the year,” Strong said.

Among the other endeavors, he manages is the Free Soil Farm, the farm stand located down the street from the home’s Avon Road entrance.

The name Free Soil Farm references the slavery abolition party that Gen. James S. Wadsworth was involved in. The farm grows a large variety of produce including corn, sweet potatoes and 10 types of peppers.

Strong said his background in farming inspired him to the start the garden in 2009.

“I don’t know; it gets into your blood,” he said. “I guess what I like about the farming is the difficulty. There is a lot that can ruin your crop … animals, disease … but when you have a crop it’s great succeeding against the odds.”