Church Street-Congress Street Historic District
The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. 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 Church Street/Congress Street Historic District is located in the southern half of the village of Moravia, and roughly consists of Church, Park, and Congress Streets with portions of South Main, William, and Smith Streets. The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District contains one contributing structure, 123 contributing buildings, and 11 non-contributing buildings. Primarily residential in character, the majority of dwellings are detached and display a variety of styles popular during the nineteenth century.
The village of Moravia is situated at the southern tip of Owasco Lake in Cayuga County. Located in an agricultural region, the village lies at a crossroads between Ithaca and Auburn on the north-south State Route 38 and northwest of Cortland. Moravia became attractive to settlers because of the availability of natural resources. The most significant of these was Mill Creek, which runs through the center of the village in an east-west direction.
The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District represents the earliest settlement in the village. Church Street and Congress Street extend east from Main Street (Route 38) and parallel the creek. The houses in the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District are similar in size and setback, with the exception of several churches and three large brick residences. Structures are typically situated on small village lots.
The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District preserves several intact examples of architecture from the early period of settlement, illustrative of building traditions of New England. The Federal style, wood frame, two story residences located at 11 Church Street (ca.1820) and 8 Smith Street (1815), embody these traditions. Also from this period is the Federal style Congregational Church (1823), which reflects design elements popularized by Charles Bullfinch, most notably a three staged tower with flanking parapets. The church is set back on a large lot with a church green in front, another New England tradition. At 18 South Main Street stands the only stone house in Moravia, built in 1831. This residence represents a transitional period between the Federal and the Greek Revival styles. Several Greek Revival style residences are extant within the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District, such as those at 18 and 35 Church Street, built in the 1830s and 1840s.
A large number of wood frame Italianate style houses built in the 1860s and 1870s are also present in the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District. Typical, well-preserved examples of these can be found at nos. 9, 24, and 32 Church Street as well as nos. 9 and 35 Congress Street. Four examples of the style are built of brick, including residences at nos. 15 and 22 Church Street, 3 William Street, and 15 Park Street (the former Curtice School). All of these display typical Italianate design elements, such as bracketed eaves and tall, narrow windows. Several of Moravia's most architecturally distinguished residences are located in this district including three outstanding Second Empire style mansions built in the 1870s. Two of these residences, nos. 2 William Street and 20 South Main Street were designed after the same pattern in a Bicknell and Comstock pattern book. A third, located at 30 Church Street, is larger and incorporates a tower on the front facade. The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District also displays vernacular interpretations of several late nineteenth and early twentieth century architectural styles such as the Queen Anne style and Colonial Revival style.
Three extant historic churches are located within the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District. The 1823 Federal style Congregational Church, situated on the south side of Church Street at the edge of a small green, is distinguished by its three stage bell tower and forms a dominant visual element in the district streetscape. The 1874 Baptist Church, located at the corner of Church Street and William Street, is a brick masonry edifice with Romanesque style details. A similar church built for the Methodist denomination at the corner of Church Street and Smith Street, burned in 1987 and was subsequently demolished. St. Matthew's Episcopal Church on Church Street was designed in a modified Gothic Revival style, and built between 1897 and 1898 of frame construction.
Institutional buildings within the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District include the modified Romanesque Revival style Powers Library, built in 1880 at 29 Church Street and the modified New-classical style Moravia High School, built in 1924 at the east end of Church Street.
The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District reflects the two historic contexts outlined in the multiple property documentation form: Settlement and Development, 1789-1865 and Social and Economic Development, 1865-1942. Significant intact concentrations of buildings with high degrees of integrity exist in the district, representing both contexts. The settlement and early development of Moravia is evoked through the extant Federal and Greek Revival style architecture in this historic district. The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District's continued development also exemplifies Moravia's Social and Economic Development, 1865-1941, as illustrated by residential, religious, and institutional architecture built during this later period.
Moravia's early settlement and development paralleled that of many other central New York communities which thrived on the rapid growth of an agricultural economy, the exploitation of natural resources, and the development of transportation routes. In addition to the fertile soil, the availability of waterpower in Moravia was also an important factor in its early prosperity, encouraging the establishment of mills, furnaces, tanneries, and blacksmith shops.
The earliest settlers in Moravia arrived from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Many first settled in the area now encompassed within the district, bringing with them regional New England building traditions which are reflected in the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District's early nineteenth century architecture. One of the finest examples of these traditions can be found in the 1823 Federal style Congregational Church, representative of Congregational church architecture in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Despite several unsympathetic alterations, the church retains its overall massing and distinctive three stage bell tower with classically derived details. The concave shaped parapets flanking the tower are reminiscent of the work of Massachusetts architect Charles Bullfinch. John Stoyell, Moravia's first settler, donated the site to the church in 1807 where the congregation constructed a meeting hall and was its first deacon. The present church was built by Daniel Goodrich, Sr., carpenter and David Wright, mason, in 1823. As in other communities with strong ties to the New England states, the Congregational Church represented Moravia's most prominent religious and social institution during the first three decades of development.
Elias Rogers was another prominent member and supporter of the Congregational Church. Rogers began his trade as a blacksmith, and later, in partnership with Jethro Wood, established a furnace to manufacture and improve a highly successful cast iron plow. Rogers's house at No. 11 Church Street, built circa 1820, exemplifies the Federal style with flushboard-sided facade, finely proportioned pilasters and fanlit entrance with sidelights and rusticated jambs. No. 8 Smith Street is notable not only as a fine example of the Federal style but also for its association with prominent citizens. Originally located at the corner of Church and Allen Streets, this two-story, wood frame house was constructed in 1815 by Elias Hall, then owned by Judge Cyrus Powers, and later by Dr. Charles Jewett. In 1826, during the ownership of Cyrus Powers, Millard Fillmore married Powers's sister in the house. Dr. Charles Jewett, one of the first trustees of the Moravia Institute, owned the house in the 1860's. His nephew, Guernsey, moved the house to make room for the imposing Second Empire structure that was completed in 1874. The Hall/Powers House retains much of the detail which identifies it with the Federal style such as the pedimented front gable with a blind fanlight, symmetrical facade, and classical door surround.
Federal and Greek Revival details are evident in the residence at 18 South Main Street. Jonathan Hussey, one of Moravia's leading lawyers, constructed this house in 1831, employing the same mason that constructed Moravia's Stone Mill, John Hamilton. "Hussey's Castle" is the only stone residence in Moravia. It is three bays wide, side gable, and the entrance exhibits side lights, a transom, and engaged Ionic columns.
Several Greek Revival style residences exist within the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District. Many of these houses have undergone modest alterations but typical elements of the style, such as wide frieze boards, pilasters, and cornice returns, remain to identify the buildings with the style. The Pheobe Day Memorial Rectory at 18 Church Street (1836) is an excellent intact example of the Greek Revival style. The front gable and wing plan is still evident in spite of additions in the back which connect it with the neighboring church. It is three bays by five with flushboard siding in the pedimented gable. The wide frieze board is supported by Doric pilasters and corner boards. Leander Fitts, who owned the house in the 1870's, served as Moravia's Postmaster.
The Cotton Skinner House represents a vernacular interpretation of the Greek Revival style. The one-story house, originally built circa 1800, and expanded and updated circa 1840, displays the wide frieze board supported by Doric corner pilasters. Cotton Skinner was an early merchant in Moravia who settled in Moravia around 1795 as a shoemaker and later formed a partnership with Jabez Bradley. In addition to his mercantile business, Skinner was also involved with a brickyard and a distillery on his property.
The prosperity experienced by Moravia beginning in the 1860's and 1870's is illustrated in the large number of Italianate style buildings in the village. The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District retains many fine examples of this style of architecture constructed in both brick and wood. Most are modest in scale and blend well with the older buildings maintaining a consistent setback. Intact examples of the wood frame Italianate style residences popular in Moravia are located at nos. 7-9, 24, and 32 Church Street. They exhibit the typical elements of the style including hip roofs, elongated, hooded windows, and broad eaves supported by paired brackets.
Located at no. 9 Church Street is the former residence of Loyal Stoyell, nephew of John Stoyell, the first settler in Moravia. Constructed between 1870 and 1875, it replaced a house built in 1825 by Amos Stoyell for his son, Loyal, and his wife, that burned c.1869. The house is five bays wide with a projecting central bay containing the entrance. The Jewetts were a large and prominent family. Dr. Charles Jewett supported the Congregational Church and served as a member of the Board of Education. No. 24 Church Street belonged to Henry son of Guernsey Jewett. This wood frame, clapboard, two-story house displays the paired brackets, elongated, hooded windows, and hip roof typical of the Italianate style in Moravia. It is four bays wide and T-shape in plan. Several other examples of wood frame Italianate style architecture are scattered throughout the district including buildings at Nos. 35, 40, and 44 Congress Street, 10 South Main Street, and 19 Park Street.
A smaller number of Italianate style houses in the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District were built of brick. Buildings at Nos. 22 Church Street, 3 William Street, and 15 Park Street are excellent intact examples of the two-story, three bay, brick Italianate style residences. Wallace Wolsey, a blacksmith who owned the Wolsey and Brown Carriage Shop with his brother, built the residence at No. 22 Church Street circa 1865. Daniel McCredie, a planing mill operator, built No. 3 William Street circa 1870. At No. 15 Park Street stands one of the most important structures in Moravia. Originally built as the Hosea Curtice school and residence circa 1877, later it became a private, then a public hospital, one of the first in the Owasco Lake area. This building is two and one-half stories in height and detailed in a manner similar to the residential architecture of the period.
The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District is highlighted by three imposing Second Empire style residences. All constructed in the mid-1870's, these houses were built by prominent local citizens. Located at 30 Church Street stands the Jewett Mansion, the home of Guernsey Jewett. This elaborate three-story, brick house contains a four-story central entrance tower, mansard roof, and elaborate window surrounds. This lot was the original site of the Hall/Powers House, now at No. 8 Smith Street. The other two Second Empire style mansions, at Nos. 2 Williams Street and 20 South Main Street, were owned by two businessmen, Frank Williamson and William Selover, partners and owners of the Stone Mill. Both men used the same design from A.J. Bicknell's pattern book. The houses are each three stories tall with mansard roofs, three bays wide at the facade, and contain three-story bays at the side elevations. The buildings are elaborately detailed with patterned slate roof coverings, hooded dormers and windows, and cut stone foundations. All three of these examples retain a high degree of integrity at both the exterior and interior.
Late nineteenth and early twentieth century residential architecture including the Stick style, Queen Anne style, Shingle style, and the Colonial Revival style are also included in the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District. The Stick style is represented by the Wright House at 25 Congress Street, built in 1882 and featuring an open second story porch with an elaborate bric-a-brac balustrade, pierced-work gable detailing and shed-like window hoods. The Queen Anne style is exemplified in the design of a two-story frame house at 34 Congress Street, built circa 1890, and featuring an asymmetrical configuration including overhanging second-story wall corners supported by curved brackets. Number 27 Church Street, built circa 1905, is a rare example of the Shingle style in the village, and exhibits the distinctive characteristics of the style, particularly the gambrel roof form, and fenestration with multi-light upper sashes. The Colonial Revival style is manifested in a gambrel roofed residence built at No. 19 Church Street in 1938, and in modification to earlier houses, including the Colonial Revival front porch applied to the Italianate style house at No. 15 Church Street.
Several distinctive late nineteenth century church buildings remain within the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District, including the Baptist Church and St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. A Methodist church formerly stood at the corner of Smith and Church Streets until 1987, when a fire damaged the building and caused its subsequent demolition. This denomination organized around 1819 in Moravia and met in "the old Brick Schoolhouse" until they acquired a former Quaker meeting house in 1842. In 1847, the church erected a frame structure which was replaced by a brick church building in 1872. After this building was demolished in 1987, the Methodist Church bought the former Congregational Church building.
The Episcopal denomination was established in Moravia in 1822 by Dudley Loomis. A well respected citizen, Loomis owned a carding mill on the Creek. Rowland Day, a local merchant, donated the land on which the first church was constructed. This church was completed in 1826 and burned in 1842. Another church was erected under the supervision of the architect Charles Ferguson and dedicated in 1863. The present St. Matthew's was built in 1897. The interior of this church is distinctive for its carved wooden altar and statues from Oberammergau, Germany. Both interior and exterior retain a high degree of integrity.
The First Baptist Church was established in Moravia in 1870. A.B. and Louisa Caldwell, L.H. and Jennie Adams, Louise Hall, Sophia Robinson, and Nathan Tuttle were founding members. Begun in 1873, the church building was not completed until 1875 due to financial difficulties. A front entrance and bell tower were added in 1891. Constructed of both wood and brick, the First Baptist Church stands at the corner of Williams and Church Streets, opposite the Congregational Church. Its round arched openings and varied roofline harmonize with the surrounding churches and houses on Church Street.
The Church Street streetscape derives its architectural character from the variety of building types, and diversity of style. In addition to the churches that highlight the streetscape, the Powers Library complements this pattern. Erected in 1880, the library was the dream of Dr. Cyrus Powers, prominent local physician and world traveler who amassed a large and valuable library. His collection formed the basis of the present library which still occupies the red brick Victorian Gothic style building.
The east end of the Church Street/Congress Street Historic District is anchored by the former Moravia High School, built of brick and cast stone in 1924. The school building is distinguished by a Neo-classical facade comprised of paired pilasters and a broad entablature.
The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District is distinctive for the variety of its architectural styles and building types. The general consistency of massing and setback exhibited in the residential buildings is highlighted by the large institutional buildings. The Church Street/Congress Street Historic District displays a high degree of integrity which imparts the feeling of the history and development of the village.