Churchill Park Historic District
The Churchill Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Stamford is located approximately seventy-five miles southwest of Albany. Situated high in the Catskill Mountains and adjacent to Mt. Utsayantha (3,214 ft.), the village rises gently to the east and west of the Delaware River which divides it. The Churchill Park Historic District is located in the western portion of the village which was extensively laid out and landscaped in 1895 by Dr. Stephen Churchill. The 100 acre area includes two man-made lakes, tree lined streets, and grassy fields that were once part of a golf course. Principal access to the Churchill Park Historic District is from West Main Street and Lake Avenue (N.Y. Route 10).
Most of the fifty-four structures in the Churchill Park Historic District were built from 1870 to 1920 as summer homes, hotels, and boarding houses. The buildings are all wood frame construction and their designs appear to have been derived from pattern books of the period. Density is moderate with most structures located on one-acre lots.
The boundary of the Churchill Park Historic District to the southwest follows much of Dr. Churchill's original park boundaries, encompassing the lakes and undeveloped house lots along N.Y. Route 23. To the south, it extends along the rear property lines of the homes on West End Avenue separating the Churchill Park Historic District from the business area. Because of the hilly terrain of the Churchill Park Historic District, limited construction took place on the east side of Lake Street, and the boundary extends northward down the center of Lake Street to include three prominent guest homes. A large and basically undeveloped hill forms the northern boundary of the Churchill Park Historic District.
The structures in Churchill Park Historic District represent the prosperity this resort community once enjoyed. From 1884 until 1935, Stamford was one of the most popular summer resorts in the Catskills. Dr. Stephen E. Churchill, a prominent citizen of Stamford, was mainly responsible for the development of the tourist industry in town with the creation of Churchill Park, dominated by his grand hotel "The Rexmere." After World War II, tourism declined and the area is now a quiet year-round residential neighborhood containing well-preserved examples of late Victorian architecture.
Dr. Stephen E. Churchill was always concerned with improving himself and his village of Stamford. He worked as a teacher, then principal of the Stamford Seminary before pursuing a medical career in 1875. After attending medical school he returned to practice in Stamford and became very involved with its development. He first converted the old seminary buildings into a large hotel (Churchill Hall) and actively promoted and advertised Stamford as a healthy summer experience. He was instrumental in improving the resort's water supply, its only drawback. In 1895, Churchill purchased a farm on the western edge of town and began to extensively landscape the property into a picturesque park. He first constructed two small lakes with plans for adding two more. He built roads, lining them with trees and installed slate sidewalks. By 1897 he saw the need for a hotel with modern conveniences to accommodate the affluent guests and proceeded to construct the "Rexmere" — king of the meadows. The hotel, costing $75,000, was the largest in Stamford, accommodating 400 guests. Opened in July 1897, the five-story hotel was designed by Churchill in a Second Empire Revival style and sported a large outdoor swimming pool and golf course. Churchill also constructed some large cottages in the park which were rented by families for the entire summer.
In 1900, there were over fifty guest houses, hotels, and rooming houses operating in Stamford. However, with the advent of the automobile, business began to decline. The car gave people mobility to go to more than one place rather than spending the whole summer in the mountains. By 1920, most of the smaller hotels had closed and by the end of World War II, the resort business was finished. The Rexmere remained open until 1954, when the railroad ceased passenger service. The Westholm at 136 Main Street is the only hotel that remains.
The physical characteristics of the Churchill Park Historic District continue to reflect the prosperity the area once had. Although the summer cottages have been adapted to year-round homes, their integrity has been maintained. Many of the old hotels have been converted to apartment houses and business facilities. The Rexmere is used as an occupational training center by the State of New York. Some of Churchill's original house lots have been sold and a few modern homes have been built, but because of the cohesiveness of the original buildings, Churchill's original design is still clearly visible. While many areas of the Catskills have histories related to popular fashion for picturesque hotels in healthy, pastoral settings, Stamford survives as the most intact and representative of such communities.
MacPherson, Elizabeth M. History of the Village of Stamford, N.Y. Stamford, N.Y.: n.p., 1957.
DeSilva, Daisy and Anne Wiullis. A Centennial History of Stamford. Stamford, N.Y.: Stamford Centennial Comm., 1970.