Sherburne Historic District
The Sherburne 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 Sherburne Historic District consists of 119 properties, most of which are on South Main, Church, East and West State Streets with lesser concentrations on contiguous Classics, Summit, East and North Main Streets and Park Avenue. In terms of architectural and thematic character the Sherburne Historic District contains four areas: the commercial district, the South Main Street neighborhood, the William Champ Park and environs, and the East State Street residential area. Included within the Sherburne Historic District are commercial, academic, religious, industrial and residential properties most representative of the village's historic past. Sherburne Historic District boundaries have been established to exclude areas of altered period structures as well as those lacking architectural or historic significance.
Sherburne's commercial district clusters around a main intersection, that of North and South Main streets (State Route 12) and East and West State Streets (State Route 80). Extending eastward on East State Street from North Main is a block of commercial buildings which includes the village's oldest commercial structures: the Empire Block, Quinn's Market, and the Sherburne News Building. All three date from before 1850 and exhibit multi-paned windows and simple boxed cornices typical of the Greek Revival style. Across Main Street are two brick structures in the Second Empire style: the Sherburne Bank Building (now the Post Office) on the corner of West State and North Main and its neighbor on West State, the old Sanford Block (currently the Masonic Temple). Dating from 1880 and 1882 respectively, they retain elaborate bracketed cornices and richly sculpted window and door moldings. Another brick structure is the Georgian Revival Sherburne Inn (1917) which occupies the southwest corner of the intersection. On the southeast corner of this intersection are a small park and two Gothic buildings — the brick Congregational Church, originally built between 1864 and 1868 and rebuilt in 1884 after a fire, and the brick Sherburne Public Library (built in 1910 with a 1938 addition) which marks the eastern edge of the commercial district on East State Street. The two structures are connected by a high stone wall built with debris from the Chenango Canal.
Masonry structures at the four corners create a solid focal point for the commercial district despite the diversity of styles. Also included in the commercial area are a few wood frame structures on West State and South Main streets dating from the mid to late 1800's, and the 1940 municipal building/firehouse. The old firehouse, probably dating back to 1870 but moved to make room for the proposed public library about 1910, is now a hardware store at 7 West State Street. The Central Hotel, 12 West State, is a three-story frame structure contiguous with the Standard Brands Office, 10 West Main Street, a mill office with glazed front.
The western edge of the Sherburne Historic District is dominated by three large feed mills on West State Street, stark functional buildings associated with the area's agricultural economy. The western boundary of the Sherburne Historic District follows the railroad — but no historic railroad buildings remain.
A New York State historic marker and the street sign "Canal Street" are the only visual evidence of the former Chenango Canal (1837-78) which ran parallel to Main Street. There is only one commercial structure on South Main Street, the old Kutschback Block, a Gothic Revival building, now a modern supermarket. Despite a large addition to the side and alteration of the ground floor, the building retains substantial elements of the original picturesque design.
Outside the four corners area, properties are primarily residential with a few public buildings and churches. The South Main and East State Street neighborhoods and the William Champ Park and environs contain the heaviest concentration of architecturally and historically significant residences in the village, covering the stylistic spectrum from the very early nineteenth century Federal to late Victorian eclectic styles. Virtually all modern residential growth has been confined to a development in the southeastern part of the village. Thus, within the Sherburne Historic District, the newest houses are a few modest, single-story dwellings of the 1920's and 1930's which fill in compatibly between older, larger, and more stately residences.
South Main Street, a heavily trafficked thoroughfare, contains the most impressive prestigious homes in the village on well-landscaped grounds. Typical of Federal period architecture in the village is the Rexford House (1805), 8 South Main Street, with symmetrical fenestration and end chimneys. Number 22 South Main Street, a very simple one-and-a-half-story structure, with a recessed porch, is one of the oldest houses in the village, probably c.1800. On the same property is a shed which housed mules used on the nearby Chenango Canal. The Greek Revival genre is represented in these numerous vernacular examples: the modest #9 South Main (c.1840); the slightly grander #13; and #16 with pedimented gable and lunette; #23, #24, and #26 with the typical single-story ell; and #10 South Main, the Lathrop House, with its monumental temple front, built in 1842. Only #5 and #27 South Main are in the Italianate style.
Although there are a number of early nineteenth century houses on South Main Street, it is the large Victorian eclectic buildings which seem to dominate the street, especially the southern end. Number 3 South Main Street, constructed in 1880, and the turreted #20 South Main are fine examples of the Queen Anne style. Other typical examples of the massive, many gabled Victorian eclectic residences on this street are #7, #21, #32, and #34. There are only two brick residences on South Main: one is a picturesque, vine-covered Colonial Revival house at #18, the other is the Pratt-Newton Home at #12 South Main. Built in 1885, this house is a graceful example of the Second Empire style, displaying delicate treatment in the cresting and carved detail.
Residences on East State Street and on adjoining East Street North are slightly less imposing than those on South Main but there are some unusual interpretations of typical styles. The earliest houses on the street are a Federal style dwelling at #14 East State Street and a brick Greek Revival house (1824) at the corner of East State and Union streets. Other houses in the Greek Revival mode are at #39 East State, and #26.
The Italianate style is well represented on East State Street. Number 16, a two-story brick house with graceful porch arcade and bracketed cornices has remained almost intact. Others of this genre have been altered: neighboring houses at #31 and #33 are typical of 1870's and 1880's penchant to remodel older homes in the Second Empire style. (Number 31 no longer has the mansard roof). Aluminum siding and a conspicuous picture window detract from the fine detail of the house at #25 East State Street. However, the modest character of the Italianate style house at #44 and the more flamboyant, later interpretation of the Italianate at #63 are perfectly intact.
The East State Street neighborhood displays a sampling of Gothic Revival style structures including the cross-gabled houses at #21 and #24 and the rambling Sanford House at #27 with deeply carved end gables. Two particularly unusual structures are the house at 22 East State Street with Victorian Gothic roundel in the gable and a rear (original) mansard roofed section, and a similar combination of styles in the house with bays and tower at #57 East State. Numbers 28 and 30 East State Street, vernacular Eastlake style residences, were a single L-shaped house until moved from the grounds just west of the library and separated in 1910. Other Victorian eclectic houses are at #59, 65 and 67 (the latter marks the western edge of this neighborhood on the north side) and #1 East Street, North. Unique in the village is the Colonial Revival house at 52 East State Street which marks the eastern edge of this neighborhood on the south side. Another notable twentieth-century structure is St. Malachy's Church (1922), with twin towers in the French Gothic style. Its property at the corner of Classic Street and East State Street creates open space on both streets. The park east of the village library acts as a buffer between commercial and residential districts.
The William Champ Park neighborhood, just northeast of the village center, is characterized by quiet tree-lined streets dominated by two white frame churches. The park itself is a small grassy plot adorned with cast-iron fountain and monument set in the triangle between Church Street, Park Avenue, and Classic Street. To the east are the graceful Federal/Greek Revival style Episcopal Church built in 1831 and its spacious cemetery. North of the park is the Baptist Church (13 Church Street), an early building substantially altered in the late nineteenth century. Just east of this is the old Sherburne Free Academy now used as a barn. Well-maintained two-story frame houses from the mid nineteenth century line the streets around the park. The simple, classical lines of Federal and Greek Revival predominate. Representative examples include the imposing c.1830 residence at 6 Summit Street with 1880's alterations, a Greek Revival carriage house at 2 Classic Street, the very modest example of vernacular Greek Revival style at 5 Church Street, and a residence at 11 Church Street with a pedimented gable and denticulated cornice. The Italianate mode is represented by 2 and 6 Park Avenue. Variations of Gothic inspired styles appear at 11 Classic Street, 11 North Main (which is the western edge of Church Street), 15 Church and 4 Classic Street. Two simple, single-story Bungalow-type houses built in the 1920's are at #2 and #4 Summit Street.
There are four non-contributing structures within the Sherburne Historic District: the 1960's cement block American Legion building at 15 South Main Street, an unobtrusive single-story modern home at 50 East State Street, the 1940's Municipal Building on West State, and Pudney's, built to replace a Second Empire style block which burned c.1975.
Sherburne Historic District is a distinctive concentration of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional buildings that is both historically and architecturally significant. Only the street patterns remain from the settlement's first years, but all subsequent periods of village growth are reflected in the district buildings and landscape. Among the forces that shaped village progress, the transportation systems were particularly significant, and these — early roads, turnpike, canal, and railroad — define the spatial composition of the Sherburne Historic District. Important village institutions, from the white frame churches of the 1830's to the Gothic library of 1910, are included in the Sherburne Historic District, as are significant commercial and industrial establishments. A broad range of nineteenth and early twentieth century building styles is represented, and richly ornamented examples from the middle and late nineteenth century predominate. The Sherburne Historic District boundary is drawn to exclude areas where modern development and inappropriate alterations have compromised the historic village character.
In the first decade of the 19th century, Sherburne's population grew to 2,250. New church societies were established as well as the more secular buildings: mills, taverns, a machine shop with turning lathe, and a woolen factory which had the first carding machine of its type in this county. In 1803, The Western Oracle, published west of the village, became the first newspaper in New York State west of Albany. Although no extant pre-1800 structures can be documented, there are several residences which date from the first decade of the 19th century: Number 8 South Main, built by blacksmith Benjamin Rexford soon after he arrived from Massachusetts in 1804; a similar house at 14 East State Street; and the unusual 1-1/2 story house at 22 South Main Street.
None of the original churches remain, but several public buildings in the William Champ Park neighborhood — the beautiful Christ Episcopal Church, the Second Baptist Church (dated 1837, but extensively altered later in the century), and the Sherburne Free Academy, are testament to the prosperity and stability of the 1830's. No commercial structures remain from this era as fire routinely destroyed those wooden frame structures. However, two early Greek Revival style residences — the stately brick "Colonel Clark Burham Residence" c.1824 (10 East State Street) and the 1835 house at 6 Summit Street — remain. The latter is particularly impressive with its two-story pilasters, fanlight and pedimented gable along with 1880's modifications.
Despite the rich and abundant land, there was no profitable way to dispose of surplus produce except for the many local breweries and distilleries which utilized excess grain. Canal linkage with the successful Erie Canal, functioning since 1825, was proposed in the late 1820's; but it was not until 1837 that the Chenango Canal opened, connecting the village of Sherburne to the Erie Canal at Utica and to the Susquehanna River in Binghamton. The canal had a tremendous impact on the entire county, not only providing a much needed outlet for surplus products but encouraging development of new local industries as well.
In anticipation of the great things to come from this union with the Erie Canal, Sherburne's economy boomed. The transfer of outside money to local banks for the canal loans, new sources of employment and cash income, and the influx of a labor force with new skills (e.g. stone masonry and iron founding) all resulted in increased prosperity and stimulated new building activity, the results of which are still visible.
The oldest extant commercial structures in the village — the Empire Block, Quinn's Market and the Sherburne News Building — were built in this era of enthusiastic growth. All three are brick blocks, (the first two have stone walls in the rear) built about 1840 to replace several buildings destroyed in an 1837 fire. As this is the first evidence of stone masonry in the village, other than foundations, the blocks may have been the work of masons who had worked on the canal.
Many Greek Revival style residences were constructed during the post-canal boom days of the mid-1800's. Typical of these are: the simple 1-1/2 story house with ell at #26 East State Street; the 2-story house with pedimented gable (9 Church Street) where the nationally known artist T.H. Matteson took residence in 1850; and the Grace Pratt Newton Home (#16 South Main Street) built by Dr. Newton, a founder of the Brooklyn Eye & Ear Hospital. A mid-century example of the Gothic Revival style is the house at 24 East State, with distinctive cross-gable flanked by high-pitched dormers. Fires and razing have destroyed all but one of the commercial buildings of the late 1850's and 1860's. That enduring building is the Central Hotel on West State Street, built to serve the canal traffic. Its third story was added during Prohibition so that it would legally qualify as a hotel.
After the initial burst of building activity the village stabilized as the business, religious and social center for the now more diversified township. Prosperous dairy farms dotted the lush valley lands while abundant water power available from the many streams nurtured mills and factories — manufacturing was no longer limited to the local agricultural market. Progress in transportation was again the stimulus for a renewed burst of development. The Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Railroad connected with Sherburne in 1867. It brought with it a new wave of business growth and prosperity. Real estate prices soared; many fine residences were built or remodeled; churches were improved and "the village put on airs."
It was about this time that George Whitmore, who made his fortune channeling central New York produce by rail through his New York City warehouse for wider distribution, remodeled the Italianate dwelling at 31 East State Street with mansard roof and elegant porches and created an expansive park environment around it. Number 33 East State was remodeled similarly c.1870 and still retains the mansard roof, unlike Whitmore's house. Many houses were built in the Italianate dwelling at 31 East State Street with mansard roof and elegant porches and created an expansive park environment around it. Number 33 East State was remodeled similarly c.1870 and still retains the mansard roof, unlike Whitmore's house. Many houses were built in the Italianate mode at this time. Typical of these are #5 South Main, the former Congregational Parsonage, built by a prominent local contractor, Henry Alfrey, and #6 Park Avenue, a gracious home with an unusual 2nd story side porch.
Sherburne continued to prosper and by 1875 the village had six churches, three hotels, a National Bank, sash & blind and carriage factories, cotton, planing, grist and saw mills, a newspaper, numerous blacksmiths, harness and wagon shops, and a pottery producing fine stoneware. In about 1880, Lucy Ross (of the local cotton mill family) donated a cast-iron fountain to the village and Fountain Park was formally dedicated; in 1976 it was renamed William Champ Park.
The unprofitable Chenango Canal was closed in 1876 but the event had little effect on the village of Sherburne. Increased railroad activities handled all the necessary incoming/outgoing traffic and continued prosperity was assured.
Joshua Pratt, who organized the first bank in Sherburne, hired Alfrey to build the imposing brick Second Empire style bank building (now the post office) at the corner of West State and North Main Streets in 1880; two years later a slightly smaller version, the Sanford Block, was built next to it. In 1885 Pratt built his residence at 12 South Main Street in the same style but with a more graceful and refined treatment and landscaped the surrounding grounds.
Sherburne embraced the Victorian eclectic vogue of the late 1880's with enthusiasm. For example, in order to build his own Queen Anne style home (3 South Main Street) at a conspicuous spot near the center of the already built up village, contractor Alfrey moved a large (c.1820) residence. A family of prosperous farmers built the imposing house at 34 South Main Street about 1880. Other typically massive examples of domestic architecture from this period are #22, #28 and #20 East State and #15 Church Street.
Several major village landmarks on East and West State streets date from the early twentieth century, a period owing much of its stable prosperity to the grain, feed and cotton mills within the village and dairy farming in the surrounding area.
The massive Gothic public library was built in 1910 to accommodate the town's large book collection, previously housed in the local high school. Funding for this ambitious project was left in Carrie Pratt's will (daughter of the banker). A Sherburne architect, Verne Swann, designed the 1938 addition.
About 1910, Walter Sanford had a large Eastlake style house separated and moved (to form #28 & #30 East State Street) so that he could establish a park and formal garden across the street from his house at #27 East State Street. The iron-fenced garden (west of #10 East State Street) continues to belong to that house, while the park next to the library is now a public park for the village.
In 1917 the Sherburne Inn, an impressive brick structure in the Georgian Revival style, was constructed at the corner of West State and South Main streets, a site where frame hotels had been (and burned) since the 1850's.
A few years later the George Whitmore estate and the neighboring house (#33 East State), to the east were bought by the Catholic Society. In 1922, the cornerstone for the twin-towered French Gothic church was laid on these grounds, an event celebrated countywide reflecting that era's innovative and progressive spirit. The two houses were converted into a rectory and parish house. After a fire in 1941 gutted the church cellar and part of the apse, it was rebuilt to the original plan. One can still see scorch marks on the white Italian marble altar.
Indicative of the continuing role agriculture plays in the area are the three grain mills on West State Street. Two still function in their original capacity; the third (Standard Brands) has been adapted and houses, among other things, an antique shop.
It was in this feed complex on West State Street that Clarence Gaines first produced his famous dog food of the same name in the 1930's. The patent was bought by General Foods around 1940 and dog food continues to be made on the south side of the street in a mill building operated by Hunt Club.
The high quality of its period architecture, the integrity of its streetscapes, and the manifold associations with significant periods of the village's development render this a historic district worthy of preservation.
Clark, Hiram C. History of Chenango County, Norwich, NY: Thompson & Pratt, 1850.
Chenango County Planning & Development Board. Chenango Canal, 1833-1878. Norwich, New York: Chenango Union Printing, Inc., 1976.
Ellis, David M.; Frost, James; Syrett, Harold C.; and Carman, Harry J. A History of New York State. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967.
Gomph, John P. Sherburne Illustrated. Utica, New York, n.p., 1896.
Smith, James H. History of Chenango & Madison Counties, New York. Syracuse, NY: D. Mason and Company, 1880.
Williams E. and Cardamore H. Cherry Valley Country. Utica, New York: Earl Widtmann and the Brodock Press, Inc., 1978.