South Street Area Historic District
The South Street Area Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The South Street Area Historic District is located in the City of Auburn, immediately south of the city's central business district. The South Street Area Historic District is linear in orientation and is approximately one mile in length, north to south. Current and historic land uses are largely residential and institutional. The district encompasses 164 contributing resources and 18 non-contributing resources. One property within the South Street Area Historic District, the Seward Mansion, was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Contributing resources are defined to include historic residences, carriage barns, outbuildings, churches, institutional buildings, apartment buildings, statues and monuments, and fences which date from the 1800 to 1940 period of significance and which retain a substantial degree of integrity. Non-contributing elements include all buildings and structures built after 1940 and several historic resources which have experienced major non-historic alterations. Several modern churches, professional offices and a motel are listed in this category.
The South Street Area Historic District is clearly differentiated from adjacent areas of the city in terms of land use, density and age. Although the South Street Area Historic District includes large and significant institutional complexes, it generally retains the physical characteristics of a high-style nineteenth and early twentieth century residential neighborhood, typified by large, architecturally distinguished residences, generous lawns and open space, and rows of mature shade trees. North of the South Street Area Historic District, development is characterized by higher density commercial activity including a modern office building and a large multi-story parking garage. Areas to the south and west of the historic district contain more recent residential development and several wooded areas. The neighborhood east of the South Street Area Historic District is generally characterized by higher density, late nineteenth and early twentieth century residential development of comparatively lesser architectural significance and overall integrity.
Within the South Street Area Historic District, South Street forms an immediately recognizable physical and visual axis. Intersecting streets are generally characterized by somewhat smaller houses and lots comparable in date of construction and architectural style to their neighbors on South Street. However, with the exception on Grover Street, the significance and integrity of these properties declines noticeably within one block or less of the South Street corridor. Boundaries have thus been drawn to isolate the concentration of historic properties on or in close proximity to South Street which call the district's architectural significance as one of Auburn's most prominent residential neighborhoods.
Contributing resources within the South Street Area Historic District illustrate the continual growth of the city outward from the central business district. Consequently, the earliest surviving resources are concentrated in the northern half of the district along South Street, William Street and Grover Street. Examples of early nineteenth century residences include a Federal/Greek Revival residence at 7 William Street and two residences at 28 and 34 Grover Street. The two Grover Street examples were built in the 1820s on large lots with generous setbacks and are similar in design. They exemplify the simplicity of the Federal style at a point when it was beginning to incorporate elegant Greek Revival features. Constructed a few years later, the house at 42 Grover Street is a more full-blown example of the Greek Revival style, with a three-bay facade, front-facing gable, Ionic columns and Doric pilasters. This style was common in Auburn between 1835-1860.
Several early houses reflect mid to later nineteenth century alterations and additions designed to upgrade and render these older properties more fashionable. The Seward Mansion, at 33 South Street, was originally constructed in the Federal style and later refurbished with Italianate detailing. Three other Federal style houses have also been modified to reflect stylistic details from later periods: 3 Grover Street was converted into the Italianate style: 29 Grover Street was completely redone with a gabled wall dormer, mansard roof, and an Eastlake style entrance porch.
Mid and later nineteenth century development is concentrated near the center of the South Street Area Historic District along South and Elizabeth Street, with several examples scattered on Grover, Hamilton and William Streets. These streets contain numerous intact examples of styles common during this period, especially the Italianate style, which was common between 1850 and 1875, and the Queen Anne style, which was popular between 1880 and 1900. The Italianate style is represented on South Street by the adjacent buildings at 40/42 and 44 South Street — examples of duplex and single-family versions of this style; the house at 71 South Street, with its corbeled stone window surrounds; and the large Roselawn Estate at 91 South Street, a massive, but less elaborate, frame version of this style. On Elizabeth Street, there are a number of Italianate residences, including a two-story, frame example at 6 Elizabeth Street and a two-story, brick example, with a later Eastlake style porch, at 10 Elizabeth Street. Examples of other residences executed in the Italianate style include 35 and 46 Grover Street, and 6 Hamilton Street.
The Queen Anne style is represented on South Street by residences at 85, 88 and 109 South Street. The first two examples were designed by the Auburn architectural firm of Green and Wicks, before the establishment of their office in Buffalo, New York. Other examples of this style include 2 and 4 Hamilton Street; 3, 6, 8, 11 and 20 Elizabeth Street; 5 and 7 MacDougall Street; and 45 Grover Street. Other mid and later nineteenth century buildings include a residence at 19 Grover Street, executed in the Stick style popular between 1870 and 1890; former carriage houses at 12 and 14 MacDougall Street, a residence at 8 Hamilton Street, and a residence at 5 Swift Street, constructed in the Shingle style, popular between 1880 to 1900; and the Romanesque Revival style Westminster Presbyterian Church at 17/18 William Street, begun in 1869, and expanded in the 1880s. A classroom facility was sympathetically designed and added to the church in 1931-1932.
A significant concentration of historic outbuildings and carriage barns survives from this era. Examples include simple carriage barns at 3, 25 and 35 Grover Street, and 67, 107 and 123 South Street. 50 South Street possesses a significant, intact carriage barn with a projecting front gable and wood clapboard siding. Another carriage barn of similar size can be found at 62 South Street. 86 South Street has a very large carriage barn with a pedimented entrance and pilasters. Immediately to the south is the former carriage barn for 88 South Street, which has been converted to residential use and is now known as 1 Hamilton Street. A carriage house at 98 South Street is unique in that it is clad in board-and-batten siding. 77 South Street is the location of one of the largest, most elaborate, intact carriage houses in the South Street Area Historic District. It has wood clapboard siding on its first story, wood shingles on its second story, and L-shaped plan, and a large cupola. As mentioned above, two former carriage houses are located on MacDougall Street and now serve as apartments. Both were once part of the MacDougall Estate on South Street.
Historic fencing from this period represents a distinctive characteristic of the South Street Area Historic District, surviving at an unusually high rate. Numerous examples remain within the district, concentrated primarily along South Street. On the east side of South Street, iron fencing marks the front property line of the Italianate residence at 42 South Street, the front and side boundaries of the two and one half story brick residence at 50 South Street, the front boundary of the Italianate style residence at 54 South Street, and the boundaries of the massive Chase Mansion at 108 South Street. On the west side of the Street, six foot high sections of iron fencing can be found demarcating the front property line in front of the large Italianate Roselawn Estate, while shorter fencing runs along the South Street and William Street property lines of the house at 39 William Street.
Large twentieth century residences designed in the eclectic revival styles of the period tend to be concentrated in the lower third of the South Street Area Historic District. The Colonial Revival style is represented by 114 South Street, a two and one-half story, frame residence which features a Palladian window in the front gable and Ionic pilasters across the front facade. The house at 86 South Street combines classical detailing of the Colonial Revival style, including Doric columns and a pediment with modillions and dentils on the full front porch, with ornate Italianate features, such as segmentally arched windows and overhanging eaves supported by brackets. The residence at 123 South Street features elements from both the Colonial Revival and Mediterranean styles, such as a Flemish gable and six-over-one double hung sash windows. Other examples of the Colonial Revival can be found at 126 and 156 South Street, as well as at 1 and 10 Swift Street. The Tudor Revival style is found at 130 South Street, which exhibits a crenelated roof line and exaggerated metal brackets supporting its porch. This style is also represented at 134 South Street, a two and one-half story brick and stucco residence featuring multi-paned casement windows and crenelated brick side trim. The Case Mansion at 108 South Street is a modified Tudor style designed by Coolidge, Shepley, Bullfinch and Abbott, a Boston architectural firm retained by Theodore W. Case to design this residence in the late 1920's. Other residences executed in the Tudor Revival style include 129, 138 and 144 South Street.
Although several major non-historic buildings have been introduced to the South Street Area Historic District since 1940, landscaping, setbacks, mature trees and in some cases historic fencing, help to soften their impact on the historic visual characteristics of the district. Prominent modern buildings include the First Presbyterian Church at 112 South Street, the First Methodist Church at 99 South Street, the New York Telephone Building at 36 South Street, modern residences at 73 and 79-81 South Street and a motel at 37 William Street.
The South Street Area Historic District is architecturally significant as a largely intact residential and institutional district which reflects Auburn's nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial prosperity and regional prominence. The South Street Area Historic District features a large and distinguished collection of Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Romanesque, Queen Anne, Tudor and Colonial Revival style architecture from this period and is historically significant as the former home of many of Auburn's most prominent citizens. The historic architectural qualities of the district are complemented by the survival of period carriage barns, fences and mature plantings. Overall, the South Street Area Historic District retains an unusually high degree of integrity and represents one of the largest and most intact residential and institutional districts of its kind in central New York.
See also: City of Auburn: Beginnings
Historic resources from this period include industrial buildings surviving along the outlet, churches, commercial and financial buildings in the central part of the city, hotels, government buildings, large-scale institutions, and Federal and Greek Revival style residences concentrated along the major avenues extending outward from the central business district (Genesee Street, South Street, and Grover Street). These architectural styles were commonly used for residential, religious and civic buildings during the first half of the nineteenth century and often included classical details, such as columns and elaborate door surrounds, in contrast to the much simpler buildings that were constructed in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
In the South Street Area Historic District, twenty-five residences of the period survive, many representing outstanding examples of these nationally popular styles. The Seward Mansion at 33 South Street, one of Auburn's earliest surviving houses, represents one of the most significant examples of the Federal style in the historic district. The house was built in 1816-17 for Judge Elijah Miller, an early Cayuga County landowner who helped to develop the Auburn Cotton Mills in 1817 and the Auburn and Syracuse Railroad in 1839. His son-in-law, William H. Seward, New York State Governor, United States Senator and Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln, lived in the house intermittently between 1824 and 1872. Brigham Young, noted leader of the Mormon faith, was one of the carpenters to work on the home's original interior. The Seward Mansion is listed as a National Historic Landmark and includes two carriage houses and a horse stable on its property. A bronze cast of William Seward by local sculptor Walter G. Robinson is located on land donated by the Seward family. The statue was dedicated on November 15, 1888. The residence retains a high degree of integrity; from its original date of construction, in addition to significant additions and modifications effected in 1847 and circa 1890.
Intact examples of Federal/Greek Revival and pure Greek Revival styles remain along South, Grover and William Streets. The transition between Federal and Greek Revival is represented by approximately seven buildings in the South Street Area Historic District. 25 William Street (circa 1825) now serves as part of the Auburn YMCA. The residences at 64 and 66 South Street were constructed in the early 1830s. They were among the first to be built on property owned by Dr. Hackaliah Burt, who began development along South Street and laid out Grover Street in the early nineteenth century. Both of these residences were constructed by Amasa Curtis — number 64 for his own residence and number 66 as a speculative venture. The Curtis house was occupied by the Burr family, operators of the Auburn City Mills on Osborne Street, from the 1840s through the 1880s. It later became the home of James A. Seymour of McIntosh, Seymour and Company, manufacturers of steam engines on Orchard Street, in the early twentieth century. Other examples of this transitional style are located at 52 South Street (circa 1815-30), 7 William Street (circa 1825), 28 Grover Street (circa 1827), and 34 Grover Street (circa 1825).
The Greek Revival style, characterized by classical details and popular between 1825 and 1860, was introduced in Auburn by James I. Hagaman, who arrived in the area in 1821. He designed several public, commercial, religious and residential buildings and also ran a school of architecture and drawing until his departure from Auburn in 1843. Hagaman designed and built a Greek Revival style home for himself at 68 South Street around 1833. From the mid-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century, the house belonged to the Munson and the Baldwin families. Other examples of the Greek Revival are located at 42 Grover Street (circa 1840), the residence of Thomas Hunt who was an apothecary on Genesee Street, and 81 South Street (circa 1849).
Almost all of the Federal style residences in the South Street Area Historic District have been altered with middle and late nineteenth century details taken from the Italianate, Gothic Revival, Second Empire and Queen Anne architectural styles. The house at 24 Grover Street (circa 1834) illustrates a layering of several of these styles: the Victorian Gothic is represented by a steeply pitched center gable on the front facade, the Second Empire by a mansard roof, and the Italianate by the porch and the paired, round-headed entry doors. The residence at 72 South Street represents an altered Federal/Greek Revival, built circa 1831-36, and updated with Queen Anne tracery in the upper sash of the windows and Colonial Revival details at the roof line. 16 Grover Street is an example of a Greek Revival residence altered by the influence of the Queen Anne style on the porch and asymmetrical fenestration patterns.
Auburn continued to grow during the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Between 1858 and 1873, the population doubled from 9,000 to 18,000, and many new industries were begun in the city. Auburn's industrial base expanded as a result of its access to water power, the advent of railroads and inexpensive convict labor. Although the city was not directly linked to the state's network of canals, it was connected to the rest of the state by rail as early as 1839 when the Syracuse and Auburn line was completed. The introduction of rail service represented a boon to manufacturing, reducing the costs of obtaining raw material, and providing an efficient and relatively inexpensive distribution network. The completion of the Auburn and Rochester line in 1841 expanded Auburn's link with other areas of the state even further. In 1853, the Auburn and Syracuse and the Auburn and Rochester lines were consolidated into the New York Central Railroad. During the Civil War period, Auburn saw the establishment of ten major industries which produced materials ranging from agricultural equipment to textiles and carpet to forged iron and steel goods to shoes.
Much of Auburn's existing built environment reflects the prosperity of this period. National architectural styles in vogue during the middle decades of the nineteenth century include those related to the Picturesque Movement, particularly the Gothic Revival, the Italianate, the Second Empire, the Romanesque Revival and the Venetian or High Victorian Gothic styles. Major examples of these styles survive along Genesee Street, Grant Avenue, South Street, Clark Street and Fort Street, and in portions of the central business district which were not obliterated during urban renewal in the 1960s.
In the South Street Area Historic District, this period is represented by approximately eighteen residences and five carriage barns, most of which are concentrated along South Street between Logan Street and Fitch Avenue. Many of these residences were built by the city's most prominent industrialists and politicians of the period.
The Gothic Revival is represented by an intact cottage at 11 Roselawn Lane which built circa 1855 as part of the estate at 91 South Street. Two other examples of the Gothic Revival are extant, but have been subjected to turn-of-the-century alterations. The residence at 5 Elizabeth Street (circa 1880) has Colonial Revival and Craftsman additions, and the house at 14 Elizabeth Street has been altered with details from the Queen Anne style.
The majority of the houses constructed during this period were designed in the Italianate style. They are concentrated along Elizabeth and South Streets, with other examples also located on Grover Street and Hamilton Avenue. The residence at 91 South Street, known as Roselawn, was built circa 1845 by William Beardsley and remained in the family until the mid-1920s. William Beardsley, a lawyer in practice with his brother Nelson, and William H. Seward, served as Auburn's youngest postmaster between 1841 and 1845 and was also involved in the city's business community throughout the nineteenth century. The mansion features a flat roof with paired brackets and narrow windows and includes a carriage barn as part of the estate. The residence at 70 South Street was erected in 1850 by John Beardsley for his daughter and son-in-law, Lorenzo Nye, who was partner in the Carhart and Nye Company and later the Nye and Wait Carpet Company. A two-story brick carriage barn is also located on the property. Other examples of the Italianate style include a residence and carriage barn at 6 Elizabeth Street (circa 1845), residences at 13 and 15 Elizabeth Street (circa 1850-70), a residence and carriage house at 35 Grover Street (circa 1840s), a residence and a wrought iron fence across its front property line at 40-42 South Street (circa 1865-71) and a residence and a two-story carriage barn with board and batten siding at 98 South Street (circa 1868-71).
Several Federal and Greek Revival period houses were upgraded in the mid-nineteenth century by the addition of Italianate details. This phenomenon is represented by residences at 80 South Street, a Federal style house built circa 1830s and altered with brackets supporting the overhanging eaves, a tower and one-over-one sash windows (the Federal door with a fanlight and sidelights remains), and 41 Grover Street, a Federal/Greek Revival style house built circa 1825, which includes an Italianate style canopy over the Greek Revival doorway.
The Second Empire style was less common within the South Street Area Historic District. An example of this style, a brick duplex with a mansard roof and round-headed dormers, is located at 92-94 South Street (circa 1870).
Between 1875 and 1900, Auburn grew from a population of 18,000 to 35,000. This period was characterized by an increase in the manufacturing base, expansion of the railroads serving the city, the establishment of public services — such as streetcars, electricity, water and telephones — an influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, and outward growth of the city due to the construction of worker housing and suburban developments. Manufacturing, which continued to be the primary economic force in auburn, experienced several major changes during this period. The abolition of prison labor allowed opportunities for immigrant workers to fill these recently vacated positions. With the introduction of steam power in the 1870s, it was no longer necessary for factories to be located along the outlet and new industrial complexes spread out, complete with larger and more specialized buildings.
Architectural tastes became increasingly eclectic and ostentatious and were expressed in the Queen Anne, Stick, Romanesque Revival, Shingle, and Chateauesque styles, and toward the later part of this period, the Colonial Revival style. Large and stylish houses continued to be built along South Street with more modest examples occurring along several of the side streets, including Grover and Elizabeth Streets.
The most popular style in Auburn during the late nineteenth century was the Queen Anne. The majority of Elizabeth Street, both the north and south sides, contains Queen Anne residences dating from 1880 through 1890. The house at 10 Elizabeth Street also includes a two-story carriage barn on its property. Number 12 Elizabeth Street is an example of the Free Classic, a style which incorporates classical details into the asymmetrical Queen Anne.
Grover Street, Hamilton Avenue and MacDougall Street also contain many residences designed in the Queen Anne style. 15 and 27 Grover Street are examples of this style house built between 1882 and 1886, while the houses at 31 and 33 Grover Street (circa 1900), exhibit characteristics of both the Queen Anne and the Colonial Revival. The irregularly-massed Queen Anne house at 2 Hamilton Avenue, built around 1894, was the home of William Miller Collier, a diplomat and lawyer who held such positions in the national government as Special Assistant to the United States' Attorney General, American Minister to Spain, and United States' Ambassador to Chile. He also served as the president of George Washington University.
The Queen Anne houses along South Street incorporate details from other late nineteenth century styles into their designs — 78 and 102 South Street exhibit Stick style characteristics, and the residences at 77 and 86 South Street exhibit Colonial Revival influences. The houses at 85 and 88 South Street were designed by the local architectural firm of Green and Wicks, who later moved to Buffalo, New York, where they established a successful firm in the early twentieth century. Number 85 was built in 1882 for Gordon Allen, a locally prominent businessman. The house at 119 South Street, built in 1885, was originally occupied by William Hislop, owner of William B. Hislop and Company, a local dry goods store which was operated on Genesee Street by his family until 1973. A slightly altered, three-door former carriage barn is also part of the property at 119 South Street.
Examples of other late nineteenth century styles can be found throughout the South Street Area Historic District. Residences at 1 and 9 Elizabeth Street (circa 1870) and one at 19 Grover Street (circa 1879-80) illustrate the Stick style. The Shingle style is represented by the former carriage houses at 12 and 14 MacDougall Street (circa 1886), both of which were originally part of the South Street estate owned by General Clinton D. MacDougall, an officer in the Civil War and a congressman. Turn-of-the-century examples of the Shingle style are located at 109 South Street and 5 Swift Street.
Several early examples of the Colonial Revival survive from this period. The residence at 114 South Street was built around 1900 and was originally owned by the Boyd family. Between 1929 and 1949, Fred L. Emerson, president of Dunn and McCarthy, resided in the house. Both this residence and the house at 126 South Street exhibit characteristics of both the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival, while 17 Grover Street and 156 South Street are purely Colonial Revival.
Westminster Presbyterian Church, at 17-19 William Street, is an outstanding example of the Romanesque Revival style with a facade constructed in the 1880s. The southern portion of the sanctuary was constructed in 1869-70, and the later additions were built in 1930-31.
Auburn reached its greatest population at 36,000 around 1920. Thereafter, the population remained constant before beginning a gradual decline in the 1960s. Several factors limited growth during this period, including the Depression, economic shifts resulting from the first and second World Wars, and buyouts and mergers of the local industrial concerns by outside investors. Many of Auburn's local manufacturing companies were purchased by bigger corporations, who eventually consolidated their interests and subsequently ceased operations in the area.
Although the city no longer grew at the rate enjoyed during the nineteenth century, the area encompassed by the South Street Area Historic District continued to experience new construction and retained its prestige as the home of the city's elite. Large and stylistically sophisticated homes were built in the Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts styles. Much of this construction occurred in the lower third of South Street and along Swift Street, Fitch Avenue and Hamilton Avenue.
Examples of Colonial Revival architecture in the South Street Area Historic District include the residences at 2 and 4 Fitch Avenue, 1 and 10 Swift Street and 5 Hamilton Avenue. The house at 123 South Street, built in 1915-16 combines details from the Colonial Revival style and Mediterranean style influences. 65 South Street is an example of a multi-family dwelling with Colonial Revival characteristics. This apartment house, known as King's Court, was built by the Fay family in 1930 and is located next to Queen's Court, built in 1913 as the residence of Fred and Flora Fay.
The Case Mansion, built between 1929 and 1931 at 108 South Street, illustrates the Tudor Revival style. Theodore W. Case, a chemist who contributed to the invention of motion picture sound, retained the Boston architectural firm of Coolidge, Shepley, Bullfinch and Abbott to design a residence to replace the MacDougall estate instead of renovating it as was his original intention. The mansion is now a community residence known as Unity House, and is owned by the Presbyterian Church which shares the estate grounds. Other examples of the Tudor Revival in the district include residences at 129, 134 and 138 South Street, all of which were constructed around 1900.
While the Arts and Crafts style was a popular one throughout the country during the first thirty years of the twentieth century, only two examples of this mode are represented in the South Street Area Historic District. There is a Craftsman style residence at 143 South Street (circa 1915) and a Foursquare style house located at 3 Swift Street (circa 1914).
During this period, several public and institutional buildings were constructed at the northern end of the South Street Area Historic District. The City Hall at 26 South Street was built in 1929-30 by Helen Osborne Storrow and Emily Osborne Harris as a memorial to their father, David M. Osborne. This Colonial Revival structure was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Coolidge, Shepley, Bullfinch and Abbott, who were also responsible for the Case Mansion at 108 South Street and the Fire and Police Headquarters. All of these buildings were constructed in the same span of two years, 1929-31. In 1939, the second part of the Auburn YMCA at 27-29 William Street was built in the Colonial Revival style, adjacent to the first YMCA building, a Federal style former residence at 25 William Street.
Auburn's decline as a regional manufacturing and commercial center began in the 1930s and continued through the 1960s and 1970s. Little construction was undertaken in the city or the historic district during this period, and few changes were effected in the character of the South Street Area Historic District. During the 1960s, the city embarked on an ambitious urban renewal program which ultimately resulted in the loss of much of the city's historic nineteenth century central business district. In the historic district, several important buildings including nineteenth century residences and churches were demolished and replaced with incompatible modern buildings including two churches, a motel and an office park. In several instances, these losses were offset by the retention of historic landscape elements such at large mature trees, uniform set-backs and similar building materials. Unlike Genesee Street and several other historic corridors in the city, the South Street Area retained much of its historic continuity and sense of place. It survives today as the largest and most significant single concentration of historic buildings in the City of Auburn.
Cayuga County Historical Society. History of Cayuga County New York. (Auburn, 1908).
Hall, Henry. The History of Auburn. (Auburn, Dennis Brothers & Co., 1869).
Monroe, John H. Historical Records of a Hundred and Twenty Years: Auburn, New York. (Geneva, W.F. Humphrey, 1913).
Stoike, Elliot G. History of Cayuga County. (Syracuse, D. Mason & Co., 1879).