Old Homer Village Historic District
The Old Homer Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
In the shadow of the City of Cortland, approximately 3 miles north, is the 19th century community of Homer. The village, a grouping of residential, commercial, religious, and governmental structures, contains a wide variety of architectural styles as well as a cultural landscape curiosity, the Village Green, a New England phenomena, transplanted to central New York.
The Old Homer Village Historic District encompasses Main Street from 73 North Main Street to 105 South Main Street on the east and from 52 North Main to 102 South Main on the west side. Also included are both sides of Cayuga Street, James Street, and Clinton Street from Main Street to the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad Tracks, the Village Green and the structures within which are bounded by Cayuga, James and the tracks, and numbers 2 and 5 Albany Street.
Residences are primarily two story frame structures with clapboard covering and gable roofs, although a number of the larger homes are of brick and have hip roofs. As architectural styles are varied, so are the numerous details of the homes and several varying elements are often mixed within a single structure. Rectangular sash windows in symmetrical rows are nearly unanimous, shudders frequently employed but by no means universally used.
Houses are generally decorated at the roofline with either moulded box cornices, some with returns, brackets or decorative entablatures. A triangular fanlight occurs on several of the buildings. Greek pilasters Victorian trim, and Italianate brackets are commonly present. A combination of doorways exist, many with transoms, sidelights, entablatures or porticos.
Unlike the residential area, the commercial blocks are generally two or three story brick structures with flat roofs and decorative bracketed cornices often of corbeled brick.
The Old Homer Village Historic District is further illustrated by elaboration on several of the outstanding structures:
Built within the village of Homer is the Town Hall erected in 1908. Reflecting the influence of the Broome County Courthouse and Cortland County Courthouse, only smaller in scale and elaboration, it is a three story stone structure with dome and full length pedimented portico supported by Doric columns.
A three and a half story brick block with slate mansard roof, the Jedediah Barber building, was constructed in 1863. Cast iron store fronts, symmetrical rows of rounded arch windows with pediments and a bracketed cornice beneath the mansard are exterior features. The building contains its original elevator dating to 1863 and an upper story opera house.
Erected in 1887 with an addition in 1888, the three story Brockway Block is a brick and stone structure with Romanesque elements. It was built by W.N. Brockway, a Homer carriage maker. The first floor facade was altered in the 1950's.
A fine residence on the corner of Albany Street is the home of Andrew Dickson White, Cornell's University's first president. The three story brick structure with dormered mansard roof was built in 1819, the mansard having been added in the 1880's. Surrounded by an iron gate the structure originally served as a store.
The two and a half story clapboard residence known as Wisdom's Gate was built in 1816. The structure has a dormered gable roof, Greek Revival elements and two fine Palladian windows centered over two Palladian type doorways. Originally the building was used as a tavern.
Jedediah Barber's home is an impressive three story brick Greek Revival structure erected in 1826. Large fluted Doric columns, eyebrow windows with iron grills, and a low pitched hip roof are main exterior features. The 32 room house, with a large circular staircase in the front hall has an enormous portico that opens onto a formal garden.
Constructed in the 1830's, the Hedges is a two story brick house with a truncated hip roof, capped by a widow's walk. Bracketed eaves, a carriage portico and rounded arch windows are key exterior features.
A one story railroad watch tower which moved from the City of Cortland will be reconstructed within the Old Homer Village Historic District. The wood frame structure with windows on all sides and bracketed eaves was built about 1854 by the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, which called these structures "shanties."
Homer's architectural diversity includes an Octagon house with octagonal belvedere and barn. Erected in 1853 the two story structure has twin chimneys on either side of the glazed belvedere.
The Old Homer Village Historic District represents a well preserved 19th century village located in Central New York. The Old Homer Village Historic District is the product of a century of economic development, due in part to its excellent location and in part to the ambitions of its settlers. Reflecting the wealth generated by economic growth are the many fine residences that line Main Street and which illustrate a wide variety of architectural styles and details. Elegant homes are by no means Homer's only remaining tangible asset. The Village Green, center of the town and ringed both in the past and now by churches, is a New England phenomena transplanted to central New York. Such a phenomena is not surprising considering the first settlers came from Connecticut and Massachusetts. A .2 mile commercial area contains several fine brick blocks constructed as a "second phase" by merchants who made their wealth earlier.
Homer's first settlers were avid religionists and immediately commenced public worship. The First Religious Society was formed in 1799, and a church was built. Land for the Village Green was deeded to the Society in 1805 and a row of fine wooden churches and a school sprang up along the Green in the early 1800's.
Located on an increasingly busy east-west corridor, with roads running north and south as well, Homer had the benefit of location in the early 19th century. Added to this was the ambition of Jedediah Barber who in 1812, built a store on Main Street called "The Great Western," which helped establish the town as a commercial center, and source of supply for people from miles around. Barber interested in all facets of village life, built more than his share of elegant homes for himself and three sons. He helped to establish Cortland Academy, the churches, the Agricultural Fair and a bank, as well as agitate for better roads and a railroad. The village lost its bid for county seat in 1812 and probably owes its present day 19th century flavor to this loss.
A second spur of development followed the opening of the Erie Canal. In the 1830's-1840's the Village Green was improved, a cemetery laid out and numerous handsome houses built. In 1813, The Family Magazine said: "There was in Homer an air of neatness and unostentatious elegance not surpassed by any village in Western New York."
The 1850's evidenced a shift of growth to Cortland as the area was rapidly changing from a village to an urban economy. However, in 1875 with advent of industry, Homer began to revive economically. Among the products were cutters made by Gage and Bishop, oil cloth spring wagon gears, Brockway wagons and carriages, writing ink and the "S" wrench. Flagstone was laid around the Village Green and a bandstand erected. By the early 1900's Homer had again become static as the trolley now took people to Cortland to work. In 1913 Main Street was paved with brick and the process of immigration began all over again.
Today Homer remains a viable village with a still prosperous commercial center. A great deal of interest has been shown in the fine residences which are well cared for. The Village Green remains largely intact as the center of the town. Complete with a century's representation of architectural styles, Homer preserves the flavor of a 19th century country village in Western New York.
Smith, H.P., History of Cortland County, D.Mason and Co.: 1885.
Howe, Herbert, Jedediah Barber, Columbia University Press: 1939.
Goodwin, H.C., Pioneer History of Cortland, 1854.
Howe, Herbert, Paris Lived in Homer, Cortland Historical Society, 1968.