Greene Historic District
The Greene Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. 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 Greene Historic District includes some 130 properties which make up the historic core of the village of Greene. The Greene Historic District includes the main commercial area and the oldest residential neighborhoods, with notable public buildings interspersed. A full range of nineteenth and early twentieth century architectural styles is represented, from the Federal style houses of the first settlers to the Georgian Revival institutional buildings of the 1920's. The majority of the buildings, however, are modest vernacular interpretations of national fashions.
The Greene Historic District boundary has been drawn to include the oldest areas of the village and to exclude those areas where unsympathetic alterations or new construction compromise the historical integrity of the buildings and streetscapes. Although older building stock is found throughout the village, there is a much higher proportion of altered properties beyond the boundaries of the Greene Historic District. There are only nine non-contributing structures in the designated area.
The commercial structures are predominantly two and three-story frame or brick buildings with bracketing or corbelling at the cornice. Although built separately, many groups of buildings share common walls and form compact, continuous rows. Some of the commercial buildings have been altered to incorporate modern shop fronts, and in two buildings the entire facade has been obscured. Most of these alterations, however, are reversible. Two large brick complexes mark either end of the commercial district on Genesee Street: On the south side of the street between Matteson Street and Canal Street a group of six buildings form a single unit dominated by a central pediment and tower; on the north end is 16-22 East Genesee Street, a single building articulated to look like two shops and a residence. The cast-iron fronted Clinton-Rosekrans Law Building is another distinctive commercial building. (Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, 1979).
The recently restored Colonial Revival style Sherwood Hotel occupies an important corner at the intersection of Genesee and Chenango Streets. Diagonally opposite is one of the Greene Historic District's largest intrusions, the Key Bank.
The remainder of the Greene Historic District is largely residential with a few religious and public buildings interspersed. Notable among these are: the Moore Memorial Library, an imposing Beaux Arts building at the corner of Genesee and Canal Streets; the Zion Episcopal Church (North Chenango Street), a major Gothic Revival edifice designed by prominent New York City architect Henry Congdon, and the Romanesque Revival style Baptist Church on South Chenango Street.
Residences in the Greene Historic District represent a complete range of nineteenth and early twentieth century domestic architecture. There are two primarily residential streets in the Greene Historic District — Chenango Street, both north and south of Genesee Street, and Jackson Street — as well as additional structures on Birdsall Street and Canal Street, Driscall Avenue, and on Genesee Street east and west of the commercial area. North Chenango Street, a broad avenue lined with mature trees, contains the most prominent and fashionable houses in the village. There are fine examples of the Federal/Greek Revival transitional period at 26, 27, and 31 North Chenango Street. Also of note are the Gothic cottage at number 17, a fine Italian villa at number 21, and large Colonial Revival style homes at numbers 24 and 34. South Chenango Street's homes are slightly more modest and set on less spacious lots. Most are two-story frame houses in vernacular interpretations of various nineteenth-century building styles. Of special interest is number 39-41, a simple stage coach inn, and number 20, Greene's best example of the Shingle style. Jackson Street contains a stylish Victorian homes on the east end, but its western block is a showcase of modest residences of the Federal/Greek Revival transitional period. East of the commercial district on Genesee Street are a half dozen two-story frame residences which face Memorial Park in the middle of the street. On West Genesee Street are a number of frame houses, most of which date from the late nineteenth century. Number 69 is the finest example of Federal style architecture in the village.
The Greene Historic District in the village of Greene is significant for its high concentration of historic buildings and intact streetscapes. Buildings in the Greene Historic District embody the distinctive characteristics of historical architectural styles ranging from the simple Federal buildings of the early nineteenth century to Georgian Revival buildings of the 1920's. With the exception of nine intrusions, even buildings which lack individual distinction contribute to the sense of time and place through compatibility of scale, period design, and materials. A high degree of integrity of location, setting and association are present throughout the Greene Historic District.
The broad patterns of the region's historical development, especially the influence of transportation systems and the regional economy, are reflected in the Greene Historic District environment. The most notable remnant of the earliest period is the street pattern, which was established by 1806. A major building boom occurred in the 1830's when the Chenango Canal was laid through the village, and there are numerous examples of commercial and residential development from this period. There are also many fine examples of residential, commercial and institutional architecture dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when prosperity brought new building fashions to the village of Greene. By the 1920's, village development had abated and there has been little subsequent construction in the Greene Historic District.
Development of the village commercial district began in 1803 when Thomas Wattles opened a tavern in the village's first frame building and Elisha Smith built the first store. Smith also served as local agent for William Hornby, an Englishman who had purchased a tract of land in the township. Smith's duties as agent included selling land, attracting settlers, and laying out the mile-square village of Hornby. A map of 1806 shows the surveyed village with three streets: Genesee (9 rods wide), Chenango (called South Street after it crossed Genesee), and Greene (now Jackson Street). This land was divided into 30 properties but many of these were still unsold. Although named Hornby, the village soon came to be called Greene because the town of Greene post office was there. Greene Village lay on the Cooperstown-Chenango Point (Binghamton) mail route and was visited by a constant stream of settlers moving westward. This east-west traffic increased when the Catskill Turnpike opened in 1807 with the first bridging of the Chenango River at Greene. Greene Village served these travellers and the local farming community as a mail, transportation, and marketing center. Lumbering, tanning, potash manufacturing and quarrying added to the existing mixed-agricultural economy of the region.
The most notable remnant of these early years is the village's street plan. Although most of the buildings from Greene's earliest period of development were replaced during the nineteenth century, a few remain. Most significant is the village's first frame building, the Thomas Wattles Tavern. It originally occupied the southwest corner of Genesee and Chenango streets but was moved to 4 South Chenango Street in 1836. Although enlarged several times between 1810 and 1825 and subsequently altered extensively at street level, this plain clapboarded building, with its three sections separated by simple pilasters, still reflects its early construction date. The post office building on Genesee Street may also date from this early period, but its false front, artificial siding, and modern fenestration obscure the signs of age. There are also a few Federal style residences from this era. Typical of these are five-bay buildings at 3 East Genesee Street and 31 North Chenango, and the smaller but very stylish three-bay house at 69 West Genesee Street. Three of the village churches were also built at this time — The Congregational (30 North Chenango Street ) in 1820, the Catholic (now vacant, 16-1/2 North Chenango Street) in 1834, and the Methodist (32-34 South Chenango Street) in 1828; all were extensively altered in later years.
In the 1830's Greene experienced a building boom as the result of Chenango Canal construction through the village. Completed in 1836, the canal joined the Susquehanna River in Binghamton to the Erie Canal at Utica and opened Chenango County to the commerce of the world. In Greene the resulting development included storehouses, houses and hotels, small new industries such as an iron foundry and lime kilns, and a whole new street — Canal Street. In the rural township and environs of Chenango County, agriculture continued to be the dominant industry. Simultaneously, there was a shift in the agricultural base from a subsistence economy to specialization in dairy products and the export of butter and cheese. Local enterprises such as quarries and tanneries also expanded.
Many residences and commercial buildings remain from this period when architecture was dominated by the transition between Federal and Greek Revival styles. The grouping of similar houses on West Jackson Street — 8-1/2, 10, 12. 14 and 18 Jackson — is evidence of this period, although not all of the buildings remain intact. Most of the north side of the street was owned by Henry Beals, who built the houses and sold off the lots during the 1830's, an early example of housing subdivision. Although variously changed over the years, these houses are all 1-1/2 or 2-story buildings with 3-bay side gable ends facing the street. Features shared by these houses are: narrow corner boards, plain boxed cornices, doorways framed by narrow pilasters and elliptical fanlights and, on the two-story houses, shallow pediments pierced by louvered fans.
Henry Beals may also have participated in the construction of the most prominent village residence of this period, the 1838 Dederer-Blodgett House at 27 North Chenango Street. A fine example of the late Federal design, the house features a tetra style portico of the Ionic order and a doorway with fine leaded-glass fanlight and sidelights. The Federal style remained current well into the nineteenth century. It is exemplified by such diverse buildings as a tiny cottage at 84 West Genesee Street (1839) and a five-bay Georgian style house at 26 North Chenango Street (1843).
The Greek Revival style began to appear in the 1840's although it was never overly popular in the village. Typical of Greek Revival influence is the residence at 22 West Jackson Street, which is identical to its earlier neighbors on Jackson Street except for the doorway framed by heavy pilasters and entablature. Other architectural fashions made a small impact in the more prominent residential areas: The Gothic Revival is seen in the pattern book cottage at 17 North Chenango Street and in the beautiful lancet windows of the church at 16-1/2 North Chenango. At 78 West Genesee Street there is a lovely, delicate house combining Gothic window molds and bracketed cornices with the simple five-bay, center hall plan typical of earlier vernacular forms. A purer Italianate design is seen in the bracketed cornice, bay windows, and round-headed sash of the large house at 21 North Chenango Street, but the form is still a symmetrical L derived from the vernacular tradition.
Several three-story brick commercial structures remain from the early canal period, the earliest being the Exchange Hotel at South Chenango Street. More typical is the three-section complex built on the northwest corner of Genesee and Chenango Streets in 1843: although each building has been altered, all retain their flat fascias and simple cornices, parapet gables, and simple symmetrical fenestration (even the twelve-over-twelve glazing remains on the third floor of number 28). The Rathbone Building, Brown building and Empire Block, (17, 38, and 46 Genesee Street) exhibit similar simplicity. In contrast, the 1845 block at 27 Genesee Street is richly ornamented with corbelled string course and bracketed cornice. Another aspect of the canal development is displayed on Driscoll Avenue, once the canal towpath, which consists of a row of extremely simple clapboarded frame buildings originally built as warehouses, ice-houses, barns and the like.
At mid-century, Greene was a thriving country village serving a large rural area dependent on dairying. The 1850 Industrial Census listed numerous craft workers — blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, saddlers — as well as industries which processed local products primarily for local markets — gristmills, sawmills, woolen factories, cooperages, and tanneries. The major exports were butter and cheese (millions of pounds annually) and salt pork, while imports included coal, various manufactured goods, and rock for the manufacture of fertilizer in the "Plaster mills." However, the canal was never profitable and by the 1870's was suffering from competition with the railroads.
In 1869 the Greene Railroad Company was formed to complete a railroad joining the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western line at Utica to the Syracuse and Binghamton Railroad at Chenango Forks. Active operation of the railroad began in December 1870, and it was the area's major transportation system for the next fifty years. The canal, unable to compete, closed in 1878. At this time some industrial and commercial establishments were relocated east of the river where the railroad ran. However, Genesee Street continued to be lined with retail shops and professional offices. The primary impact of the railroad was on the local dairy industry which shifted first to cheese production (48 cheese factories served the county in the 1870's), then to fluid milk. Besides dairy products, the major items shipped on the railroad were lumber, bark, and flagstone.
With the town's population stabilized and the dairy farms prospering, the village experienced a second building boom in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. There was major redevelopment of the block on Genesee Street where the canal had been. In 1883-1884 a row of two-story frame commercial buildings on the north side of that street replaced the canal bed and canal-related buildings; the towpath was renamed "Driscoll Avenue." In 1886 an imposing brick complex was built across the street to replace several buildings destroyed by fire. Although made up of six separate buildings exhibiting a complete range of period ornamentation — limestone accents, corbelling, stained-glass, and cast-iron pediments — the block-long, three-story brick row displays a singular unity. The Greene Department Store, with its attached Queen Anne style house (1893, 16-22 Genesee Street), and the Clinton-Rosekrans Law Building (1892, 62 Genesee Street) are also important commercial buildings from the last years of the century.
Much new construction and remodelling occurred in the residential areas during this period, representing a broad variety of architectural fashions. These range from the elaborate Eastlake style house at 4 East Jackson Street to numerous vernacular interpretations of the Queen Anne style such as 37 North Chenango Street. Many of the fashionable structures of this period are actually earlier structures that have been altered such as the stylish Second Empire mansion Robert P. Barnard built around the family homestead at 9 North Chenango Street in 1874.
Also notable in this context is Isaac Perry's 1872 remodeling of the 1820 First Congregational Church in the "French style." Two fine new churches were added to the village as well: The Zion Episcopal Church, designed by New York City architect Henry Congdon, is an excellent stone example of the rural Gothic style. The architect of the 1901 Central Baptist Church (37 South Chenango Street) is unknown, but with its three square towers and massive arched stained-glass windows, it is a fine example of Richardsonian Romanesque church design of that period. The elaborate Moore Memorial Library (59 Genesee), built in 1903, is Greene's sole example of the Beaux Arts style. Other architectural fashions that made an appearance in Greene after the turn of the century include the Shingle style (1920, 20 South Chenango Street), Tudor Revival (1901, 13 North Chenango Street), Colonial Revival (1904, 24 North Chenango Street), and the Prairie style (1911, 1 Jackson Street, 17-1/2 and 19 North Chenango Street). The Georgian Revival style proved particularly popular, appearing in such major structures as the Sherwood Hotel (1912, 25 Genesee Street) and the Canal Street School (1923, 10 Canal Street), as well as in the residential area (1926, 34 North Chenango Street).
In the twentieth century, Greene continued to be a prosperous market town serving the surrounding rural area. The establishment of a central school district consolidated the area's educational system, making Greene the town's education center. On the industrial front, the small local manufacturies-distilleries, asheries and tanneries — of the nineteenth century have given way to other small industries, — such as the Branem Company, manufacturer of wire products and the Page Seed Company, distributor of seeds and plants — with somewhat wider markets. The largest industry in the village is the Raymond Corporation, manufacturer of fork lifts, which grew from two full-time employees in 1930 to over a thousand today. Raymond's reuse of the Canal Street School as a training center and its support of the 1980 Sherwood Hotel rehabilitation are examples of the corporation's commitment to preservation in Greene.
There is little intrusive construction in the village, although the population in the town almost doubled in the forty years following 1940. Most of the residential growth has been in developments on the hills to the east and west of the village proper, and the majority of the buildings in the village are older, well maintained, and largely preserved. Except for a few unfortunate alterations, the Genesee Street business district is very much as it was in 1890. Recent rehabilitation projects such as the Sherwood Hotel and Greene Town Hall are evidence of a growing preservation concern within the village. A main state highway, Route 12, bypasses the village, and has kept strip development out of the village center.
Cochrane, Mildred English. From Raft to Railroad. Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1967.
Folsom, Mildred English Cochrane. Echoes of the Past, Greene 1971.
† Breyer, Lucy A., New York State Division of Historic Preservation, Greene Historic District, nomination document, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.