Andes Historic District
The Andes Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. 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 Andes Historic District consists of 84 properties and contains a total of 129 contributing structures and features in the heart of Andes, a hamlet in the Western Catskills. The Andes Historic District forms an irregular "Y" on Delaware Avenue, Tremperskill Road and Main Street. Most of the buildings are two-story detached frame structures dating from the mid-nineteenth century. The Andes Historic District boundary encompasses the hamlet's most concentrated grouping of intact historic buildings; properties which have lost their integrity through unsympathetic alterations are excluded. The Andes Historic District includes five non-contributing buildings.
The village setting is formed by two small streams — Tremperskill Creek and a tributary — flowing between high rounded hills. The main road is New York State Route 28, the Kingston-Delhi Road, which makes a right angle turn at Andes. Its east-west section is Main Street; the section going north toward Delhi is Delaware Avenue. West of this corner, Main Street splits to form Cabin Hill Road, going west, and Tremperskill Road, going southwest. There is a narrow lane, variously known as High or Back Street, north of Main Street. The Andes Historic District includes 59 properties on Main Street, 18 on Delaware Avenue, 6 on the east side of Tremperskill Road, and 3 on High Street. Front yards which used to be expansive have been reduced by repeated road widenings, but most houses are still set well back from the street. By contrast, most commercial structures, as well as a few residences in the business district abut directly on the sidewalk.
The local building tradition is almost exclusively frame construction. Of six masonry buildings in the Andes Historic District, three are modern intrusions, two are early concrete block structures, and the last is an imposing Neo-Colonial school of brick. Although there is a tradition of stone construction in the Western Catskill area, there are no remaining stone buildings in Andes.
The majority of the structures in the Andes Historic District are modest residences, one and one-half to two stories in height, which represent a range of nineteenth and twentieth century building styles. For the most part, these are vernacular interpretations of contemporary fashions, there being very few high-style houses in the village. Notable exceptions are a few simple but carefully detailed Greek Revival style homes, Duncan Ballantyne's fine Italianate style mansion, and one large Queen Anne style house.
Similarly, the public buildings are of vernacular design but are remarkable for the degree to which their historic character has been preserved. Both the Presbyterian and Methodist churches display Gothic Revival detail on traditional classical forms. The fire hall is of a simple carriage barn design with bell and hose towers and elaborately timbered truck doors. The 1937 Andes Central School contributes to the historic character of the village by virtue of its significant role in community life and the important architectural impact of its neo-Georgian design and careful landscaping.
The frame commercial buildings of Andes are also particularly notable for their high degree of preservation. A surprising number have intact wood detailing, and several retain early interior store fixtures. The Corner Store, built by Henry B. Dowie II in 1858, is an extraordinary example of Carpenter Gothic design, a rare survival in commercial architecture. The Ballantyne Bank Building, although now abandoned and deteriorating, is another outstanding commercial structure, notable for the exquisite craftsmanship of its wood detailing.
Most properties include one or more outbuildings, either period barns and sheds or modern garages. Typically, they are of modest proportions and, like the houses, are framed and sheathed in wood. Only two properties in the Andes Historic District are active farms using large barn complexes, but one, farmed until recently, retains extensive acreage and many properties boast substantial carriage barns.
The Andes Historic District, a well-preserved grouping of vernacular structures, is significant as an embodiment of nineteenth and early twentieth century architectural styles as interpreted in a rural upstate New York community. Historically, the area has significance as the site of early settlement, as an important arena of Anti-Rent activities during the 1840's, and as the commercial and cultural focus of an isolated agricultural district since that time. Most of Andes's historic structures retain a high degree of integrity, and the Andes Historic District is distinctive for its unspoiled village character. Set in a narrow valley among the tall foothills of the Catskills, the hamlet retains the intimate scale and visual charm of its nineteenth-century origins.
The Upper Delaware Valley was an area of dense forest when it was first settled at the end of the eighteenth century, and so the area's first industry was harvesting and rafting lumber. The lowland formed by the Tremperskill Creek, although originally a swamp, was exploited early as a site for grist and sawmills. Churches and commercial establishments clustered around the mill area, forming the hamlet called Trempersville. Early nineteenth century businesses included a cooperage, stone shop, cloth-dressing and wool-carding establishments, as well as millinery and dry goods stores. By the 1820s, the town, and therefore the hamlet, had taken the name of Andes. Although none of the early mills and stores survive, there are two early inns and a number of houses remaining from the 1820s to 1840s. The inns, although altered over the years, are examples of the simple, symmetrical, gable-roofed rectangle which was the primary vernacular building type from the earliest times. Surprisingly, there are few houses in the Andes Historic District which are pure versions of this form, but many are variants of it. Most of the early nineteenth century houses in the Andes Historic District conform to two basic types: the simpler is a small 4- or 5-bay gable-roofed cottage, usually 1 or 1-1/2 stories in height, with a central or off-center door. The larger type is an ell which combines a 2-story, 3-bay main block, usually topped by a hipped roof, with a lower, gable-roofed side wing. These early buildings typically exhibit classical detailing at the eaves and entrances, the larger buildings having more elaborate and sophisticated ornament.
Because Andes lay within the Hardenburgh Patent, the inhabitants fell victim to the semi-feudal patroon system: Settlers, even those whose families had occupied the land for generations, only rented their land; thus they had no economic incentive to invest in capital improvements. Disaffection with the system culminated in the 1830's and 40s in a series of land riots known as the Anti-Rent Wars, in which Delaware County tenants were particularly active. The town of Andes was the site of the violent episode which brought these hostilities to a climax — the murder of Sheriff Steele at an attempted forced sale. Many buildings in the Andes Historic District have significant associations with the Anti-Rent Wars, most notably the Hunting Tavern, an important meeting place of the "Up-Rent" faction. It was here that Steele's body was brought after the confrontation where he was shot.
By mid-century, the region's forests were cleared, and the inhabitants were dependent on agriculture. Although isolated and rugged, the landscape was well-suited to grazing and so the major industry was dairying. The area prospered, and in 1861, the village of Andes was incorporated. At this time, Andes boasted three churches, a flour mill, two tanneries, and the Andes Collegiate Institute, founded in 1847. The 1860s also brought Andes's first newspapers, the new Methodist Church, and the Ballantyne Bank.
The village's two leading citizens in the middle of the nineteenth century were Henry B. Dowie II and Duncan Ballantyne. Dowie founded the butter storage and shipping business, which gave impetus to the growth of area dairying, and in 1850, the firm of Dowie and Ballantyne built the large Gothic Revival style store which still marks the main intersection of the village. A few years later, Duncan Ballantyne formed the new Ballantyne Bank with Henry B. Dowie as its president. Although much deteriorated, Ballantyne's original frame bank building, dated 1864, is still a landmark in Andes, as is his circa 1850 Italianate style mansion. Elements of Italianate and Gothic design also appear in the more modest houses of the period: High-pitched gable roofs, ell or cross-gable plans, elongated porches, and bracketed cornices are characteristic of the vernacular buildings from the mid-nineteenth century.
In June 1878, a major fire struck the business section of Andes, destroying 15 buildings on the north side of Main Street between Delaware Avenue and High Street or two-thirds of the village's business district. The post office building survived by being covered with carpets soaked in water. The stores of Ballantyne and Dowie were threatened but saved. The lost buildings were soon replaced, and by October there were only three vacant lots in the business district. Unlike many villages of the period, Andes rebuilt in wood. Today, this row of commercial and residential buildings, all vernacular variants of an Italianate mode, form one of the village's most distinctive streetscapes.
The history of Andes since its incorporation has been uneventful. Despite a costly attempt in the 1870s, no rail line ever reached Andes, and, therefore, the village received little of the tourist trade which came to more accessible spots in the region. However, the relative grandeur of a few late nineteenth century houses in the village and the many early-twentieth century remodellings indicate that the turn of the century was a prosperous time for Andes.
There was a building spurt in the 1920s, probably the result of changes in agricultural practice. As farming became more mechanized and capital-intensive, it required more mercantile and technical services, and so the village grew. The buildings of this period introduce new materials — concrete block and stucco — and designs derived from the mass culture — Foursquare and Bungalow house types, for example — but continue to reflect the vernacular aesthetic of symmetry and regularity. School consolidation in 1937 intensified the village's role as a cultural and social center for the surrounding area, as well as introducing a major architectural presence: The brick school is the largest structure in the village and its only example of the Georgian Revival style.
Residences and commercial buildings dating from circa 1830 to the 1920s make up the varied streetscape. Although many building styles and periods are represented in the Andes Historic District, there is a strong sense of cohesiveness provided by the similarities of scale, materials, and workmanship; the repetitive rhythm of the streetscape, and the vernacular design themes. Most of the twentieth-century construction has taken place at the village edges and thus is not included in the historic district. The building tradition throughout this period has been notable for its simplicity of design combined with excellent craftsmanship. Carefully maintained over the years, the buildings in the Andes Historic District exemplify the distinctive qualities of vernacular architectural practice in the upper Catskill region during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The ambience today is much as David Murray described it in 1898: "a quiet, unimpetuous religious community whose daily life was merely a record of hard work with satisfactory returns."
Atlas of Delaware County, N.Y. New York: Frederick Beers, 169.
History of Delaware County, N.Y., 1792-1880. W.W. Munsell & Co., 1880.
David Murray, ed. Delaware County N.Y. Delhi: William Clark, 1898.