History of the Courthouse Complex

The Three Bears Ovid

History of the Courthouse Complex

Ovid, New York 14521, United States

Created By: Friends of the Three Bears


Before we can introduce you to the Three Bears, we need to provide some insight on how they came to be. John Seeley is often referred to as the “pioneer” of Ovid. This is because he bought 900 acres of land in 1792 including what is the heart of the village today. This includes the hill where the Three Bears now sit. Seeley came to realize that having a courthouse and jail would greatly serve the community so he sold a portion of his land for this purpose for $5 in 1806. Please see the wood cutting of the Northern View of courthouse hill.

This is when the original courthouse was constructed. At this time, Ovid was the county seat, as the village sat in the middle of the county. This was the first courthouse in Seneca County. The frame was put up during an eclipse in June of 1806 and the building was prepared for holding court in 1808. There was actually a fire in the jail in 1817, but luckily, it was extinguished before significant damage could be done. Please see the wood cutting of the old courthouse.

In 1817, Ovid lost its title as county seat, as the boundaries of the county were changed, making Waterloo the geographical center of the county. Waterloo remained the sole county seat until 1822, when Ovid was granted the title of Half-shire, as the county boundaries changed again, making Ovid the geographical center of the county again. Because of this, the county clerk would move between Ovid and Waterloo every three years.

In the 1840s, there were concerns about the condition of the courthouse, as the building became increasingly dilapidated. They received permission to erect a new courthouse in the place of the old one. This new building is known today as Papa bear. They were also given funds to create a new fireproof county clerks’ office, known today as Baby bear. Both of these buildings were built in 1845. Mama bear was constructed in 1860. Please see the two stereoscopic views of the courthouse complex.

When Papa Bear was built, the old courthouse was not simply demolished, it was picked up and moved across main street. Here it was used as a old fellows meeting place and was later turned into a school for girls. Later it was used as a multiple family residence, and it stayed this way until it burned down in 1865.

This point of interest is part of the tour: The Three Bears Ovid


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