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Rossman-Prospect Avenue Historic District


The Rossman-Prospect Avenue Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

Rossman-Prospect Avenue Historic District

Description

The Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District is a small enclave of late nineteenth and early twentieth century residences erected in a planned development on what is known as Prospect Hill. The approximately five-acre district on Rossman and Prospect Avenues contains fourteen contributing buildings on twelve properties. There are twelve houses in the district, two with contributing outbuildings and two with non-contributing garages. There are no structures, objects, sites of non-contributing primary buildings in the district.

The topography of the hillside district is steeply inclined, rising from a low point on Prospect Avenue in the northwest corner of the district to a summit beyond the boundaries of the district to the southeast. Prospect Avenue inclines slightly from west to east; Rossman ascends abruptly along a relatively straight course north to south. Accordingly, the houses on the east side of Rossman Avenue are sited at a higher elevation that those situated on the west side so that all properties above the intersection (nos. 6-11 Rossman Avenue) enjoy views west toward the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. All the building sites on Rossman Avenue slope dramatically westward; some house sites are terraced while on others, houses are built into the hillside creating taller western elevations.

Rossman Avenue is a broad (fifty feet wide), tree-lined street that dead-ends at Hudson's storage reservoirs near the summit of Prospect Hill. When the city decided to establish a right-of-way to its reservoir through the Rossman estate on Prospect Hill in the 1880's, the family subdivided building lots along the avenue. The resulting narrow rectangular lots have frontages ranging from 30 to 60 feet and depths from 150 to 200 feet. These lots are still in evidence on the local tax map on the southern end of the street. Many have been combined into larger lots (as in nos. 8, 9, and 11 Rossman Avenue) or resurveyed entirely.

Prospect Avenue is an important historic thoroughfare in the city, linking turnpikes arriving in Hudson from the county's interior with routes within and south of the city. Originating at the eastern terminus of Warren Street and the city's grid plan, the street traverses the northern base of Prospect Hill, thus receiving its name. Both sides of this short street were distinguished by country seats that took advantage of the opening of the plan and the increased elevation. Based on the 1873 Columbia County atlas, the extensive Rossman property occupied the hillside south of Prospect Avenue and two smaller estates were located on the north side of the street. Both properties have been compromised: no buildings survive on the Rossman estate, and the street frontage has been subdivided; the opposite property is now the site of a large regional hospital. The western most house remains and is currently known as the Cavell House. It was enlarged with wings to create nursing school housing in the early twentieth century.

Boundaries for the Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District include the surviving intact portion of the Rossman subdivision as it was developed between 1875 and 1930. The section of Rossman Avenue south of the district boundaries is characterized by undeveloped lots, city land related to the reservoir, and small-scale houses built within the last thirty years.

East of the district, a modern steel and masonry nursing home fronts on Prospect Avenue opposite the Columbia Memorial Hospital, a facility with an early twentieth century hospital at the core of a complex of later and architecturally disparate additions. South of Prospect Avenue and east of the district is open land on the hillside that was associated with the Rossman property. It consists of at least three parcels, each with access to Rossman Avenue; the tails of two of these lots, located between nos. 4 and 8 Rossman Avenue, have been excluded from the district.

Prospect Avenue and the hospital property form the northern boundary of the district. On the west, the rear property lines of the west side Rossman Avenue residences create the boundary where they abut a service road and the rears of properties on Worth Avenue. Worth Avenue and the south side of Prospect Street west of the district boundary consist of more modest frame residences of an urban scale, design and siting. Most have been altered by the addition of synthetic sidings, porch enclosures and remodeling and were thus excluded from the district. The Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District essentially represents the most intact cohesive portion of one of Hudson's earliest suburban subdivisions.

The Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District contains a selection of distinctive architectural types and styles, including Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Bungalow. Many of these are exceptional individual examples in the context of the city. Two of the original houses built on Rossman Avenue (between 1887 and 1894) appear to be numbers 9 and 11. While the earliest, number 11, retains the form and facade arrangement of an urban house, number 9 (1894) has a decided urban appearance with its one-story, horizontal facade and gambrel roof. Both are distinguished by ornate porches and distinctive design elements of the period such as intricate dormer detailing, multi-paned and stained-glass windows, craftsmanly use of materials (although the front plane of the roof of no. 9 is obscured by aluminum siding), elegant entrances, and asymmetrical arrangement of exterior elements and interior spaces.

The next house north on the west side, no. 7 Rossman Avenue, was built in 1897 combining lots numbered 6 and 9. Sunken on a terrace below the level of the road, it is a large house with a square plan. Unusual in this instance is a flaring of the walls at a point between the first and second floors. (This would probably have been the transition point between a clapboard sided ground level and shingled upper levels, but is now obscured by artificial siding) and an arched Romanesque style entry executed in radiating bands of shingles.

An intact representative example of a Queen Anne style house is located at no. 5 Rossman Avenue (possibly built as early as 1889) with an asymmetrical plan, complex roof, wrap-around porch and tower. This is an unusual house form in the suburban areas of Hudson. Built later in this initial development period, no. 8 Rossman Avenue exhibits characteristics of the Queen Anne period of taste in its decorative shingling and unusual windows; however, it also reflects the later suburban designs in its "Foursquare" plan, symmetrical facade and classical detailing.

Sometime during the first two decades of the twentieth century, four substantial Bungalow style residences were erected on four lots on the southwest corner of Rossman and Prospect Avenues (1 and 3 Rossman Avenue and 11 and 17 Prospect Avenue). Distinguished examples of their style, they are large buildings with tall gable roofs which overhang the entrance facade forming a porch supported by massive columns. Doorways, dormers and gable ornamentation are distinctively treated in these instances. Numbers 1 and 3 Rossman Avenue and number 17 Prospect Avenue are nearly identical. No. 1 Rossman and no 17 Prospect are attached with entrances on different streets, creating an unusual appearance on the north elevation. Similar enough to the others to be associated with the group, no. 11 Prospect Avenue has even more decorative embellishment on its dormer and roofline.

Related to this group but constructed at a later date, no. 6 Rossman Avenue is a more modest but intact example of a Bungalow style residence.

The remaining two houses in the district, nos. 2 and 4 Rossman Avenue, were built in the late 1920's. They are related in that they were designed in the Tudor Revival style and built by individuals associated with the Columbia Memorial Hospital. Local architect Victor LaProsse designed no. 4 and also prepared a set of plans for no. 2. Ultimately the design of Milton Lee Crandell, a Glens Falls architect, was used for the residence.

A brick residence with an English house form, no. 2 is a rare expression of the Tudor taste in the city. With its half-timbering providing a more medieval appearance, no. 4 is a more distinctive example embodying more conspicuous craftsmanship, a characteristic of LaProsse's other local work. Together, the two houses are distinctive examples of the style in the multiple resource area and contribute to the eclectic mix of suburban styles in the district.

Significance

The Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District is significant as a distinctive collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century residential architecture in the city of Hudson. One of the city's earliest planned subdivisions (1875), the district is also important as a reflection of the pattern and character of Hudson's later growth beyond its eighteenth-century grid plan. The twelve properties of the district represent three major development and stylistic periods: 1875-1899, Queen Anne styles; 1900-1920, Bungalow style; and 1920-1930, Tudor Revival style. Many of the principal buildings in the district are distinctive examples of their period type and style in the city context.

Allen Rossman, Columbia County Treasurer in 1856 and a Director of the Farmers' Bank of Hudson, occupied the large estate on the north slope of Prospect Hill. In 1874, plagued by a shortage of water to supply the knitting mills and residential customers, the city of Hudson appropriated a right-of-way across the Rossman estate to reach proposed reservoirs planned for the top of the hill. Water was to be pumped from the Hudson River. When the reservoirs were in place, water pressure in the city below was so great that one newspaper report claimed that fire fighting pumping equipment was no longer needed. By 1903, cases of typhoid fever traced to the river water in the reservoirs brought an end to the use of the river as a source and water was pumped to them from inland.

At the time the street was opened to reach the reservoirs, Rossman urged the Water Commission to make the street fifty feet wide and finally donated the extra fifteen feet to make it that width. He also had the trees set out on either side of the street in 1876. In 1875, Rossman had thirteen fifty-foot lots (with an alley behind) laid out on the west side of the avenue. The first house to be erected on this subdivision was that of Alexander R. Benson of Hudson, who purchased lot number 13, 681 feet from the southwest corner of Rossman and Prospect (11 Rossman Avenue), in 1887 and built on it that year. Allen Rossman died soon after. In 1894, heirs sold lots 10 and 11 (9 Rossman Avenue) to Samuel Holsapple. In 1897, lots 6, 7, 8, and 9 went to Richard W. Bender of Hudson, who built the large, Queen Anne house "531 feet from the southwest corner of Rossman and Prospect," which is located at 7 Rossman Avenue.

Lots on the east side of the street were developed after 1900. In 1926, a well-known local doctor, Dr. J. L. Edwards, used plans drawn by Milton Lee Crandell, an architect of Glens Falls, NY for his brick house on the southeast corner of Prospect and Rossman Avenues. The house took three years to complete. Earlier plans drawn by a local architectural engineer, Victor A. LaProsse, exist but were not used. LaProsse apparently designed the house next door to the south (4 Rossman Avenue), which was built to house the superintendent of the new (1900) hospital on Prospect Avenue.

Rossman Avenue is noteworthy for its architectural quality. However, it also represents an important historic facet of the orderly development of residential areas in Hudson in the late nineteenth century as prosperity and continued population growth pushed the citizens out to the eastern end of the city. Other streets included in such expansion were Green Street and, to a lesser extent, Fairview Avenue. The expansion up Rossman Avenue was paralleled on an even grander scale on Willard Place (Hudson Historic District). Families in the two locations were interrelated and had similar occupations and professions. Related but more modest expansion occurred as housing developments were implemented shortly after 1900 on McKinstry Street (1901) and on Aitkin and Storm Avenues (1913) and included small bungalows on Fairview and multiple-unit housing on Fairview and Green Avenues. Empty lots in the Prospect Hill-Unionville area also were filled in, often with two family dwellings.

Architecturally, the district is locally significant as a showplace of turn-of-the-century styles. Because the core of the lots, on the west side of Rossman and at the intersection of Rossman and Prospect, was developed early, there has been little alteration to the streetscape.

The earliest houses, nos. 7, 9, and 11 Rossman Avenue are distinctive in their design and siting, each taking advantage of the extraordinary westward view. While medium-scale, restrained designs, they embody a quality of detail and craftsmanship that relates to a larger group of late nineteenth century residential architecture in the city, notably on mid-Warren Street, the Court House Square and Willard Place (Hudson Historic District). Inspired by pattern-book examples and catalogs of millwork decoration, these houses reflect the distinction of their location, the position of their managerial/professional class occupants, and the eclecticism of the period taste.

The subsequent Bungalow period in the district was more lavish and sophisticated in its expression. The four houses built on the southwest corner of Rossman and Prospect Avenues are perhaps the most distinguished examples of their type in the city. The large houses have expansive roofs and generous integral porches, Colonial Revival style details in doorways, around windows and doors, and in massive porch columns provide a notable counterpoint. This combination extends to interior details as well, such as mock-Federal newels and stair rails, and Federal style mantels and Georgian arches, despite their typical early Bungalow shapes. Each one also has some gable detail including shingles or "stick" trim. The buildings and their style denote a departure of middle-class home design in Hudson from an urban model to a definite suburban standard.

The Tudor style houses built on the east side of Rossman Avenue (nos. 2 and 4) were also derived from suburban precedents. Down-scaled versions of country house types built in England and America, these two examples gain a certain pretension from their references to historic architecture. The forms and, more particularly, the materials (such as brick, slate, wooden timbers) are emblematic of old world antiquarian sources. These houses contribute to the historic district as representative of early twentieth century taste in this suburban development.

Here, as in other houses on Rossman, workmanship and detail are focal points. The architects, or the owners themselves, used rarer hard woods, ornamental moldings and trim, and high quality workmanship. The essence of the Rossman Avenue development was quality workmanship and design in an appropriately gracious setting; this standard was intended to fulfill an ideal of family life which motivated the professional men of the late nineteenth century. Because the houses and the setting have seen little changed, the Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District provides a valuable record of the architecture and aspirations of the late nineteenth century in Hudson.

  1. Nomination document prepared by Dunn, Shirley W., Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

See Map

Street Names: Prospect Avenue, Rossman Avenue

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