Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
Ownership and Administration. Genesee County.
Significance. This building housed one of the U.S. offices of the Holland Land Co., an enlightened and successful land speculation enterprise of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. An example of foreign speculative effort on the early American frontier, the company contributed to the advance of the northern frontier through western New York and northern Pennsylvania toward the Great Lakes.
After the War for Independence thousands of settlers sought economic, social, or political opportunity in the West. Land speculation reached a peak. The fast turnover of lands and the quick and spectacular profits attracted not only fly-by-night speculators but also financially stable investors. European investors, having the capital lacked by many Americans, bought up much land. The Holland Land Co. was one of the largest of these.
After some preliminary reconnaissance in 1789, a group of Dutch banking houses combined to speculate in U.S. lands. In 1796 they formally organized the Holland Land Co., a stock company controlled from Holland by a director and six commissioners. The company purchased for resale to settlers millions of acres of land west of the Genesee River in New York and in northern Pennsylvania. In 1815 Joseph Ellicott, surveyor and local agent for the company, built at Batavia the third and last land office of the company. From the office he administered the extensive Genesee holdings. After the decline of large land sales on the frontier, the company was forced to dispose of its holdings in small lots and on credit; it liquidated around 1846.
Whatever their faults and abuses, speculators fostered the opening of the West. Responsible land companies assigned land to settlers on an orderly basis, helped them to adjust to life on the frontier, and encouraged the Federal Government to provide roads and protection. Of all the companies, the Holland Land Co. was unsurpassed in its enlightened treatment of settlers.
Present Appearance. During the second half of the 19th century the land office at Batavia fell into ruins, but in 1894 the Holland Purchase Historical Society restored it and it is now in excellent condition. A small gray limestone building, it has a gabled dormered roof, many windows, and four Doric columns at the entrance. A museum commemorating the Holland Land Co. and western New York history, it is open to the public.
NHL Designation: 10/09/60
Last Updated: 29-Aug-2005