Bovina Center Historic District
The Bovina Center Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. 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 Bovina Center Historic District encompasses the historic rural hamlet of Bovina Center, located in Delaware County, New York, in the northern Catskill Mountains. The Bovina Center Historic District embraces the landscape of buildings and agricultural land in which Bovina Center developed during the historic period. The clustered hamlet is laid out along both sides of County Highway 6, which parallels the north bank of the Little Delaware River. The river flows from east to west, and is joined by Coulter, Brush, and Mountain brooks within the historic district. Open land belonging to farms based within the hamlet slopes upwards on the north and south banks of the main watercourse, to form a steep valley.
Two different principles of spatial organization play roles in the layout of Bovina Center. The first is a response to topography, especially the river valley along which the main road runs and where Bovina Center's mills developed. The second is the rational grid platted by the surveyors of the Hardenburgh Patent, where Bovina Center is located. A number of property lines in the valley follow this eighteenth-century grid and are marked by stone fences. Field divisions within individual farms are marked by additional stone fences that stand proud on the landscape, making the old divisions visible in the present day landscape. The hamlet's mid-nineteenth century commercial and industrial development made land along the main road highly desirable, so the large lots were subdivided into small lots, each with frontage on Main Street (County Highway 6). The latter development created a densely packed cluster of buildings occupying small village lots nestled among open fields and pastures.
The region's oldest transportation routes generally follow valleys created by watercourses, including the Little Delaware River, Brush Brook, and Coulter Brook. The most prominent of these in the Bovina Center Historic District is County Highway 6, which is called Main Street from the bridge at the west end of the district to the intersection of Coulter Brook Road at the east end. These points essentially mark the west and east ends of the Bovina Center Historic District. Much of Main Street was constructed by cutting into the steep slope rising from the river and filling above and below the roadbed. Pink Street (County Highway 5) crosses Bramley Mountain into the north end of the historic district, picking up the eastern edge of the gulph, or valley, created by Brush Brook as it descends the slope to meet Main Street (County Highway 6). At the east end of the hamlet, Coulter Brook Road turns southeast from County Highway 6 to cross the Little Delaware River and follow the course of Coulter Brook. Finally, Bramley Mountain Road crosses the mountain on the north side and intersects Main Street near the west end of the district. In addition to these old roads, two later short lanes intersect Main Street. Creamery Road extends south from Main Street, crossing Brush Brook to a small industrial and agricultural complex between the brook and the river. Between Bramley Mountain Road and Pink Street (County Highway 5), Maple Street sometimes referred to as New Street in maps and deeds, runs for a few hundred yards north from Main Street.
Bovina Center retains highly intact nineteenth-century streetscapes with buildings and features characteristic of rural hamlets in this part of New York state. In general, Bovina Center's buildings are frame, vernacular interpretations of the predominant styles of the periods when they were built. Because of Main Street's cut-and-fill construction, many building sites required either that building foundations be steeply banked or that the lots be banked and leveled. In general, those constructed before 1900 have banked foundations, this being the less labor intensive option at the time for creating a level building site. Most of these foundations are built of local stone. Some are replaced or originally built using rusticated concrete blocks with a pinkish cast, suggesting they were made using local red sandstone.
Bovina Center's hamlet farms enclose the commercial and residential district at its heart. The western end of the Bovina Center Historic District is enclosed by a large farm retaining both open, low-lying fields and wooded hilltops. In addition to the Greek Revival house with later additions, which is essentially the western most building in the Bovina Center Historic District, the farm includes a c.1900 chicken house, a horse barn, and a large, multi-level dairy barn. The last is typical of Delaware County, except for its banked entrance's placement on the gable end. The large Bovina Cemetery (c.1855), situated on a small hill overlooking the Little Delaware River and Coulter Brook, encloses the eastern end of the Bovina Center Historic District.
The northern edge of the Bovina Center Historic District is enclosed by another large farm property, also characterized by open fields and wooded hilltops, whose farmhouse faces onto Main Street just west of the confluence of Brush Brook and the Little Delaware River. The one-and-a-half story house dates to the first quarter of the nineteenth century and was remodeled in the second quarter with a Gothic Revival style cross gable in the front roof face and millwork trim. This farm also retains a large, three-level barn, but its entrance bank is more typically placed in the long wall of the building. A horse barn made from an older house and a c.1920 chicken barn round out this property's main buildings. The southern edge of the Bovina Center Historic District is also enclosed by the open fields and the buildings of two more farm properties. The buildings of one farm stand on a level area between Brush Brook and the Little Delaware, linked to Main Street by a bridge over the smaller watercourse. Further east, and on the south side of the Little Delaware and Coulter Brook stand the Greek Revival style house and barns of the second farm. This farm, too, was once linked to the north bank of the river by a bridge.
Within the context of the Bovina Center Historic District's open agricultural land, Main Street (County Highway 6), lined with densely packed buildings, winds its way along the north bank of the river. Main Street features Bovina Center's earliest buildings, including commercial, agricultural, residential, civic, and religious properties. Many also retain highly intact outbuildings and landscape features, preserving the historic context in which Bovina Center developed. Perhaps the most prominent landmark is the United Presbyterian Church (1849), with its Greek Revival facade, standing opposite the meeting of Main Street (County Highway 6) and Pink Street (County Highway 5). It faces the old District No. 4 schoolhouse (1848, which was expanded and converted to a dwelling in the 1890s. Also visually prominent, is the last of Bovina Center's schoolhouses, a two-room building with a steeply pitched, hipped roof, standing on Maple Street, just north of Main Street. Three commercial buildings, all frontal gable, frame structures, are interspersed with an equal number of residential buildings on the north side of Main Street between Pink Street (County Highway 5) and Brush Brook. Across from these are several pre-1850 dwellings with relatively deep lots intersecting the Little Delaware River at their back lines. Two turn-of-the-century frame dwellings occupy the site of the old Secord Hotel. Outbuildings belonging to the hotel, including an ice house and stables, still stand on the rear portions of these lots.
Between Brush Brook and Creamery Road, the north side of Main Street is subdivided into small house lots. The vernacular frame houses built on these mostly post-date the Civil War. The earliest have relatively simple rectilinear forms with a minimum of architectural detail, but a few examples dating to the turn-of-the-century period typify the more elaborate embellishment of the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles. A number of these properties retain relatively large carriage sheds, mostly dating to the same era as their associated houses, and small chicken houses dating to the early 1900s. One property has a small Greek Revival style shop building reused as a garage. Finally, a large, two-unit, mansard-roofed commercial building occupies a visually prominent location on the north side of Main Street.
The south side of Main Street between Brush Brook and Creamery Road also exhibits a row of densely packed buildings, but these differ one from the other more than those on the north side. Their lots are mostly quite small as the brook, which forms the back line of all but one lot, runs nearly parallel with the road and relatively near to it here. Buildings here include a stylish, frontal gable Greek Revival shop building; a c.1915 two-story frame fire house; the c.1930 Colonial Revival style community hall; and simple frame dwellings, one linked to the parcel of land lying between the brook and river by a small bridge. This parcel is one of the farms enclosing the south side of the district.
From Creamery Road to the western edge of the Bovina Center Historic District, the streetscape is composed mostly of domestic buildings pre-dating the Civil War. These are generally rather plain, vernacular interpretations of the classically derived Federal and Greek Revival styles, mostly with end-gabled rectangular plans and low-pitched gabled roofs. A number on the north side stand on banked foundations with basement levels that once housed workshops. Several other properties retain later outbuildings, generally carriage sheds and chicken houses. One property, however, has a small, gambrel-roofed dairy barn sited with its long wall paralleling Main Street. At the west end of Main Street, a shop building stands on the south side of the street. And directly opposite Creamery Road is large, frontal gable, Greek Revival style commercial building.
While Main Street is the visually dominant thoroughfare in Bovina Center, two side lanes added later to the hamlet plan also retain historic streetscapes. Maple Street, extending north from Main Street east of Brush Brook, was laid out as a residential street in the 1890s. With the exception of the new fire house (built c.1970) and a single non-historic ranch style house, all buildings on Maple Street date between 1890 and 1902. These include six highly decorative Queen Anne style houses, mostly associated with historic carriage sheds and garages, and the 1893 two-room, hip-roofed, frame school, now used as the town library. In addition to this miniature suburb of Bovina Center, five dwellings were built at roughly the same time on the north side of Main Street east of Pink Street. These houses are neither so large nor so decorative as those on Maple Street.
In contrast to these new clusters of dwellings, Creamery Road developed as an industrial and agricultural quarter with its late nineteenth century frame mill; farm buildings, including a large gambrel-roofed frame barn and a horse barn with a hay scales; and ceramic block creamery (built 1942). This mill was built on the location of an earlier industrial site, whose mill dam, pond, and race, are recollected in the deeds of several properties on the south side of Main Street in the description of their back lines.
In addition to buildings, the Bovina Center Historic District includes two cemeteries. At the corner of Main and Maple streets, is a settlement period graveyard, which includes round-headed stones made of local red sandstone. Two of them mark the burial places of Bovina Center's first settler's children, while a third belongs to his mother. A much larger and later cemetery (opened c.1855) occupies the prominent knoll overlooking the confluence of Coulter Brook and the Little Delaware River at the eastern edge of the Bovina Center Historic District. The northern portion of this burial ground retains numerous slab and obelisk markers dating to the second half of the nineteenth century; a twentieth-century extension on the south side will be the last resting place for many Bovina Center residents.
Virtually no non-historic intrusion has occurred in Bovina Center. The cinder block firehouse built in the 1970s at the northeast corner of Main and Maple streets replaces the earlier frame one (built c.1915), now used as part of the historical society. Little loss to the nineteenth-century built environment has occurred either. Of prominent, non-residential buildings only the Reformed Presbyterian and Methodist Episcopal churches and the Secord Hotel, which once stood on the south side of Main Street, are gone.
The Bovina Center Historic District is significant in the areas of social history, agriculture, industry, and architecture during the period 1800 to 1942 as a highly intact example of a typical rural hamlet of the northern Catskill region of New York State. Developed primarily in the period 1820 to 1900, the hamlet retains a high degree of historic integrity, both in its individual buildings and its nineteenth-century streetscapes. Like most settlements in Delaware County, Bovina Center developed first as an agricultural, community tenanted by individuals holding leases for individual farms platted in an eighteenth-century survey of the land. Located at the confluence of several watercourses, early settlers soon recognized potential mill seats, and it subsequently developed as a small industrial hamlet with saw and grist mills and a tannery at the downstream end, all capitalizing on the abundant water supply. As one of two hamlets within the town of Bovina, Bovina Center became the focus of commercial and religious activity, leading to the building of stores and churches on small, densely packed lots. While industrial and agricultural activity have diminished, Bovina Center remains a locally important, if small, commercial and civic center with its stores, church, post office, historical society, and town buildings, including a community hall, fire house, and library. Neither significant infill nor significant loss of historic buildings has occurred, making Bovina Center remarkable for its highly intact buildings and landscape illustrating its historic development.
The hamlet of Bovina Center is located in the Hardenburgh, or Great Patent, a one-and-a-half-million acre tract granted in 1708 by Queen Anne of England to Johannes Hardenbergh and seven others. Using a rational grid, the land was divided into forty-two great lots before the Revolutionary War. These great lots were further subdivided into individual, numbered farms, again using a rational grid. These were leased under the quit rent system commonly used in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. This system concentrated land and wealth in the hands of a few powerful families like the Hardenberghs and the Livingstons, both of whom held land in the town of Bovina. This eighteenth-century land division system survives in a number of property lines still in use in Bovina Center. The present-day tax maps show the numbered farms of this old pattern, though in several cases these farms were reapportioned to follow topographical features like watercourses and ridge lines by practically oriented nineteenth-century owners.
Remote and hilly, the place that would eventually be called Bovina Center remained uninhabited by Euro-Americans until 1794. That year, Alexander Brush, a Long Islander, opened land in the area near the confluence of the Little Delaware River and Brush Brook. About 1800, he built a grist mill on the Brush Brook. Brush raised a family of nine children and lived into the mid-1800s. Some of the oldest surviving markers in the small hamlet cemetery belong to his mother, Bathsheba (d.1803, age 72), his son Joel (d.1813, age 27), and his daughter Abijah (d.1814, age 18). For nearly half a century, from 1849 to 1886, the hamlet of Bovina Center was called Brushland, honoring its first documented white settler.
Early information about Bovina Center is scarce and sometimes difficult to differentiate from information about the surrounding area, in part because the town of Bovina was not divided off from the older towns of Delhi and Stamford until the 15th of February 1820. Much of the earliest recorded history of the community's development is centered on the founding of church congregations. In this period, Methodist Episcopal societies were common in frontier areas throughout New York State because the national organization, based in Baltimore, did not require each society to have a minister or a church building. Instead, individual classes and societies were part of larger circuits, which shared a minister who traveled in a similar fashion to a circuit court judge. Although the Bovina Methodist Episcopal Society did not build a church until 1849, Methodist preaching by Rev. William Jewitt was recorded before 1812. Alexander Brush was himself a Methodist lay minister and probably preached from before 1800; late in life, he preached from an armchair in his parlor. The Methodist Episcopal Church in Bovina Center survived until 1915, when the congregation was disbanded.
Alongside the Methodist society, the Associated Presbyterian church of Little Delaware was formed in 1809. Founded after the Plan of Union in the early 1800s, this congregation may have been formed by settlers coming from the Calvinistic New England tradition. The congregation built its first church, a 30 x 36-foot frame building with a gallery, in 1815 on County Highway 6, a few paces east of Reinertsen Hill Road. In 1849, it engaged a builder named Murray (who built several other buildings in Bovina Center) to construct a new church in a more central location near the intersection of Pink Street (County Highway 5) and Main Street (County Highway 6). This was enlarged to its present size in 1859.
Finally, a Reformed Presbyterian congregation, a sect which dissents from the United States Constitution because that document does not acknowledge God's word as law, was established in 1814 and built a church in Bovina Center in 1861. It eventually joined the United congregation in the early 1900s.
The Reformed sect may have been founded by Scottish immigrants, who are said to have made up a significant portion of Bovina's population. Spafford's 1824 Gazetteer recorded that in the 1820 Federal census Bovina had 1,267 inhabitants, of which 141 were foreigners. This was a considerably larger percentage of foreign-born residents than that recorded in any other northern Delaware County town at the time, suggesting that a large group of Scots did settle together in the town in the early 1800s. Maps showing residents' names and school attendance records from the mid-nineteenth century suggest that this Scottish strain persisted at least until that late. Names on grave markers also reflect this dominant Scottish strain, and even today, several property holders in the Bovina Center Historic District have names with a long history in the area.
While the earliest school records of Bovina Center do not appear to survive, a schoolhouse is said to have been built in 1808 in District No. 4. Local lore states that this building stood on the site of the present Presbyterian Church, a location at the far eastern end of the little grouping of mills, stores, and dwellings developing at the period. Later school records do survive, and these show that in 1848, the school district built a new schoolhouse at the foot of Pink Street across from the old one. This opened the old lot for the new Presbyterian Church, which was built a year later. The second school building is now used as a residence and has received two additions, which hide its earlier form to some degree. When built, it was a frame building 24 x 30 feet on a steep quarter-acre lot at a crossroads, a location typical for a school due to site's unsuitability for agriculture or almost any other purpose. In 1856, the school house was rated as being in passable condition and valued at $500, a high figure relative to other schools in the town. The school and the church thus visually anchored the eastern end of the hamlet from the mid-1800s onward.
At the western end of the hamlet, Brush Brook was the site of a number of water-powered mills. Alexander Brush's grist mill opened about 1800 and several other industrial sites had developed by the middle of the nineteenth century. At the far western end was William Lull's tannery, presumably capitalizing on the town's large dairy cattle population. Further east, a fulling mill and distillery were reputedly in operation during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Little evidence of the water-powered mills of Bovina Center survives above ground except at a site west of present day Creamery Road, where stone foundations of a mill complex, which included grist and saw mills and saw mills and an ashery, remain alongside Brush Brook. The town gravel pile rests upon the fill of one former mill pond. In addition, deeds of several lots on the south side of Main Street note that their back lines meet another mill pond lot further east. These circumstances suggest that a professional archaeological study might reveal much about Bovina Center's early and fairly extensive industrial heritage.
In addition to old foundations and potential archaeology, this section of the hamlet also includes the mill complex and creamery on Creamery Road. Both the creamery, opened in a frame building in 1902, and the feed mill, begun in the late nineteenth century, continued a long tradition in the hamlet of serving the outlying farms with necessary services, including the processing of locally produced agricultural products. The Bovina Center Cooperative Creamery received milk from sixty-seven dairy farms in the surrounding area. In 1913, the Dry Milk Co. purchased the creamery and continued operations, making butter from the cream and dried milk from the remaining skimmed milk. In 1942, the old frame creamery was replaced with a glazed brick building that survives today. Alexander Hilson's steam-powered feed mill was constructed in four phases and included both a feed store and a feed mill. It closed shop in 1974. At roughly the same time the creamery also closed. These two closings effectively ended Bovina Center's industrial history.
Bovina Center was also a locally prominent commercial center throughout the nineteenth century. Four store buildings and numerous shop buildings survive in the hamlet. At the west end of the hamlet, stands a c.1840 blacksmith's shop. A second blacksmith's shop (built c.1860), once owned by Fitch McPherson, is now the garage of 2042 Main Street. Sears Washburn's harness shop was moved in the early twentieth century to 93 Maple Street to be reused as a carriage shed. Charles Palmer's cooper shop (built c.1865) is now a dwelling (1944 Main Street). A diminutive Greek Revival style tin shop, now owned by the Bovina Historical Society, occupies a prominent site on the south side of Main Street (#1962) near where it crosses Brush Brook. A second, even smaller Greek Revival style shop building is now the garage of 1939 Main Street.
Several stores survive in Bovina Center too. Strangeway's store, which has been used as an auto repair shop since the 1920s, occupies a site on the east bank of Brush Brook. Three more store buildings occupy sites on the north side of Main Street. Furthest west is Hilson's store, a large frontal gable, Greek Revival style building with the characteristic nineteenth-century raised entrance for wagon access and large multi-light display windows. Further east from the Creamery Road intersection stands a mansard-roofed, two-unit commercial building (built c.1870). Between Maple and Pink Streets stands Russel's store, a one-and-a-half story, frontal gable frame building. The site of a store since 1823, this building may be a slightly later replacement for an earlier building. The commercial success of the hamlet and its relationship to the outlying farms is reflected in the designation of a post office in Bovina Center in 1841, with John Erkson as the first postmaster. Bovina Center retains a post office to the present day, now housed in the c.1930 community hall.
Another building that also represented the importance of the area as a gathering and stopping place was Secord's Hotel. This occupied a site just east of Brush Brook on the south side of Main Street from the second quarter of the nineteenth century to the late 1800s. Its ice house and some of its stables still stand. This site was regionally important as the gathering place for the first meeting of the county-wide anti-renters society in the early 1840s. The anti-rent wars were waged in parts of New York State where the old quit rent system continued as a form of land tenure. In this system, developed in the colonial era, tenants of some of the state's wealthiest families paid annual rents for the farms they worked rather than owning them outright. Bovina Center's earliest settler, Alexander Brush, opposed the quit rent system, along with many of his neighbors. This faction eventually succeeded in gaining freehold for their properties in 1844, but only after a deeply divisive two-year battle.
A dozen years later, in 1856, Jay Gould's map, the first published map of Delaware County, showed that Bovina Center had a wagon shop, a tin shop, William Lull's tannery, a cooper shop, a blacksmith's shop, two general stores, a grocery store, a hardware store, a hotel, a post office, and several dwellings fronting Main Street. The business directory in the 1869 Beers Atlas noted an additional cooper's shop and a shoe shop owned by the hotel proprietor to the list. Murray's 1898 History of Delaware County listed four general stores — one for flour and feed, one for hardware, one for drugs, and one grocery; one grist mill, two blacksmith shops, two cooper shops, two boot and shoe shops, one millinery parlor, and one hotel.
In addition to being a commercial, industrial, and religious center for outlying farms, the hamlet also incorporates several farm properties with house frontages on Main Street. These reflect the importance of farming on a local basis, but also the dominant type of development throughout the region historically. Agricultural productivity was an important goal in the early republic, and many writers emphasized agricultural improvement in this period. Horatio Gates Spafford provides an early assessment of Bovina's perceived agricultural viability in his 1824 Gazetteer of New York State. He wrote: "The face of the country [is] hilly, but soil is rich, well-watered, and excellent for grazing, producing also good crops of grain, in plenty for domestic use. Timber principally maple, beech, hemlock." While Spafford's work was generally optimistic about grain growing, it appears that even by 1820, grazing played the more important role. Indeed, the town was reputedly named Bovina by General Erastus Root for its unusually large herds of cattle.
The predominance of dairying continued throughout the nineteenth century in the town of Bovina. French's Gazetteer of 1861 stated that dairying was the leading occupation of the town's residents, noting that "the numerous fresh springs of water issuing from its hillsides, the fresh herbage, the bracing mountain air, seem particularly adapted to this business." High milk production was enhanced when John Hastings and Andrew Archibald reputedly brought the first Jersey stock, a breed noted for very high butterfat production, to the town in the third quarter of the century. Grain growing continued on a domestic basis, for wintering over herds, feeding horses, and providing local people with some types of flours. Wheat growing had long since moved to western New York State and beyond.
Murray's 1898 History of Delaware County claimed that Bovina's principal industry was butter-making, probably based on the findings of the Dairymen's League cattle census taken in 1891. This census found that Bovina was more involved in butter-making than any other town in the state. As Bovina Center was never on a rail line, fluid milk production may have remained infeasible throughout the period, when refrigeration facilities were scarce. Instead, after 1902, much of the milk produced locally was processed at the Bovina Cooperative Creamery on Creamery Road in the hamlet of Bovina Center. Finally, poultry farming was an important adjunct activity for Bovina farmers in the early twentieth century.
Numerous buildings illustrating the later chapters of Bovina Center's agricultural history survive. Within the Bovina Center Historic District, two large, banked dairy barns dating to the late nineteenth century survive. While the one on the McIntosh farm (2005 Main Street) has a typical mow entrance in one of the barn's long walls, the one on the McPherson farm (1427 Main Street) is entered from the gable end. Smaller dairy barns, including a small gambrel-roofed example right on Main Street, survive on three other farms within the district. Horse-and-carriage sheds of varying sizes and forms also survive. On the McIntosh farm, the horse barn is a former dwelling. Several residential properties on the north side of Main Street retain rectangular plan examples with sliding doors in their long walls, a smaller number of frontal gable examples with doors in their gable ends also stand. An unusually large carriage shed, once used as the hamlet's livery stable, stands on the east side of Maple Street. At least one of these carriage sheds, on the Hilson store property (1825 Main Street) was converted to a chicken house in the early 1900s. A large number of other chicken houses of different sizes and configurations also survive. Large, single level examples stand on the McPherson farm and the Hilson farm on Creamery Road. A two-story chicken house remains on the McIntosh farm. On the north side of Main Street, several residential properties also have small chicken houses, suggesting that egg raising was an adjunct activity for housewives in the area at the same time that larger farms were engaging in poultry farming on a larger scale. These small chicken houses often sport multi-light sash that were probably taken out of hamlet dwellings during homeowners' remodeling campaigns. Several of these chicken houses appear to be used as guest houses, small studios, or garden sheds today.
Bovina Center's built environment reflects all periods of its historic development except its very earliest settlement era in the forms and styles of its architecture. A considerable proportion of its dwellings and commercial buildings are vernacular examples using the Greek Revival style popular in Delaware County from the late 1820s until the Civil War. The simplest of these are one-and-a-half story, rectangular plan, gable-roofed, frame buildings, generally with center entrances and an odd number of bays. They often include Greek Revival style entablatures, sometimes with side and transom lights, surrounding the entrance and partial returns on their gable ends. More developed examples are a full two stories high. Stylish detailing includes corner pilasters, full returns, colonnaded porches, and dentil courses embellishing friezes. Several frontal gable Greek Revival style buildings also survive in Bovina Center, including some dwellings, the United Presbyterian Church, and both Russel's (2091 Main Street) and Hilson's (1825 Main Street) stores.
While the large number of Greek Revival style buildings reflects Bovina Center's period of development as a commercial and industrial center for the region, buildings designed using forms and details derived from later styles survive in the hamlet too. These include buildings constructed in the 1870s and 1880s, probably using published builder's plans, which were becoming increasingly available at the time. These buildings often have relatively simple, rectilinear forms with gable roofs; chamfered corner boards; porches with squared, chamfered columns, and two-over-two sash. The front portion of Strangeway's Store (built 1872), on the east bank of Brush Brook, is an example of the form used for a commercial building.
While both town and hamlet populations began dropping in the mid-1840s, Bovina Center's built environment continued to grow until about 1900. School District No. 4 replaced its one-room building with a two-room school on newly opened Maple Street in 1893 to meet changing ideas in education calling for more natural light and graded classrooms. This building continued as an elementary school until 1961, when it was closed and the building gently remodeled as the town library. The first firehouse, a diminutive frontal gable frame building with an open belfry, was constructed c.1915 on Main Street. This is now owned by the historical society, and a new cinder block firehouse was built on Maple Street in the 1970s. A community center was also built to house town offices and the court about 1930. This remains in use today.
While many buildings in Bovina Center tend to be fairly plain in their decorative schemes, the row of houses built on Maple Street by the contractor-carpenter team of George Gladstone and James Coulter in the 1890s displays the exuberant details of the Queen Anne style. All were built on land subdivided to create more housing in the hamlet in an era when the number of people sharing the same dwelling was falling. They embody new ideas about housing, including more private space and water supply lines. Though these houses have very similar footprints and relatively simple forms, their display of millwork details lends them a varied appearance. These embellishments include fanciful gable details, diaper patterns and decorative shingles on flat surfaces; turned columns with millwork corner braces on large front porches; and a variety of window sizes and configurations. This row also preserves a number of outbuildings, mainly carriage sheds related to the houses, and the entire street presents a unified and unusually coherent streetscape within the small hamlet. A few other dwellings in the Queen Anne style stand in the hamlet and a row of generally less stylistically developed examples is located east of Pink Street.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Bovina Center's streetscape was virtually established. Infill buildings from this era include a handful of Arts and Crafts and Colonial Revival style houses. Two occupy the site of the old Secord Hotel east of Brush Brook. Two additional examples, one a two-story Arts and Crafts style house and the other a Dutch Colonial style house, occupy lots near Creamery Road. The frontal gable town hall with its classically derived facade is a frame example of a civic building in the Colonial Revival style popular for civic buildings in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. All reflect an increased interest in historic American styles, especially Georgian and Federal, reinterpreted by designers of the period. Buildings dating to the non-historic era include a small Ranch style house and the new fire house, both on Maple Street.
Bovina Center is one of Delaware County's most distinctive and intact hamlets. Situated in the valley of the Little Delaware River, its cultural landscape expresses the historic relationships between agricultural endeavor, local commercial activity, and water-powered industry within the social fabric of many rural hamlets of this region. Located on a relatively remote county highway, it remains virtually untouched by twentieth-century development. Partly because of the isolated nature of the surrounding countryside, Bovina Center continues to serve local people with its small store and local gas pump, church, post office, town offices and barn, library, and even its cemetery. This continuity of use and a considerable amount of local pride has preserved Bovina Center's nineteenth-century appearance with little loss or intrusion in a manner both unusual and distinctive.
Interestingly, Munsell's History of Delaware County (1878) noted that the land in Bovina was not well suited to wheat growing, but that rents, which were collected on most properties in the area until the mid-1840s, could be paid in wheat. Possibly wheat growing had been a necessity for cash-poor tenants before the anti-rent was abolished quit rents.
Beers, F. W. Atlas of Delaware County. 1869.
[Bovina Historical Society]. Bovina Center Self-Guided House Tour, August 5, 1995 [Bovina Center, NY: Bovina Historical Society, 1995], Reprinted 1997.
Bovina School Records, 1854-1865. Abstracted by Shirley Houck, 1990.
French, J. H. Gazetteer of the State of New York, embracing a comprehensive view of the Geography, Geology, and General History of the State.[Syracuse, New York: G.P. Smith], 1860.
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Gould, Jay. History of Delaware County. Reprinted from Keeney and Gould, Roxbury, 1856. New Orleans: Polyanthus, 1977.
Gould, Jay. Map of Delaware County. Philadelphia: Collins and Keeney, 1856.
Houck, Shirley A., ed. The Evolution of Delaware County, New York. Being a History of Its Land. Nashville, TN: Express Media Corp., 1995.
Houck, Shirley A., ed. Town of Bovina, Delaware County, New York. Common School Reports, 1854-1865. [Delhi, NY: n.p., 1990].
Kubik, Dorothy. A Free Soil — A Free People. The Anti-Rent War in Delaware County, New York. Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 1997.
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