Garfield Place Historic District
The Garfield Place Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Situated on the summit of a hill which overlooks the Hudson Valley to the west and the heart of the city of Poughkeepsie to the northwest, the Garfield Place Historic District extends the length of tree-lined Garfield Place from Montgomery Street on the north to Franklin Street on the south. It is bounded on the west by South Avenue and by the rear property lines of three lots, and on the east by the rear property lines of the pertinent lots. Consisting of approximately three city blocks, the Garfield Place Historic District includes twenty-five dwellings and several dependencies.
The Garfield Place Historic District is distinctly uniform in its scale, character, and integrity. Constructed primarily during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, the dwellings display the variety of silhouettes, facade arrangement, and decorative detail characteristic of that period. The simplest structures are represented by: 69 Montgomery Street (ca.1849), a simple, three-bay-square structure with a gable roof; and 37 Garfield Place (ca.1882), a cross-gabled frame dwelling sheathed by shingles and by clapboards in a variety of patterns.
Elaboration and variety is introduced in other cases by a variety of texture, pattern, color, massing and fenestration, and by the use of towers, brackets, gables, cupolas, porches, bay windows and dormers. Numbers 24 and 35 Garfield Place illustrate the degree of elaboration achieved by a significant number of structures in the district. The former (ca.1952) is a two-story wood frame structure five bays long on the front or east elevation, with a three-and-a-half story tower surrounded by a steep curved roof which is pierced by a series of dormer windows. The elaborate bracketed cornice and the variety of fenestration lend to the structure a lively and expressive character. Number 35 Garfield Place (ca.1873), three bays in length with a projecting central bay on the front elevation, is a polychrome stone dwelling dominated by a substantial mansard roof. Variety is especially prominent in the color, texture and fenestration.
The most recent major structures within the Garfield Place Historic District are 39 Garfield Place (1911), 2 Barclay Street (1913), 13 Garfield Place (1915), and 23 Garfield Place (1961-1962).
Among the dependencies which remain are an elaborate wooden kiosk (ca.1861) located between 19 and 23 Garfield Place, and a carriage house which now serves as a residence at 30 Garfield Place. The carriage house, a large but simple frame structure on a stone foundation, was built to serve the first resident of 28 Garfield Place, George Corlies, a partner in the development of the neighborhood.
Garfield Place is a district of significant architectural quality in the city of Poughkeepsie and serves as well as a tangible illustration of a segment of the city's social history. Located on the summit of a hill, the Garfield Place Historic District possesses distinction for its visual impact achieved by the consistency both of pretension in design and of its largely original character and integrity. Constructed primarily during the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the residences in the Garfield Place Historic District were an expression of the economic prosperity of a small industrial city.
The village of Poughkeepsie developed during the eighteenth century on land purchased from the Indians in 1683. A map drawn in 1770 locates the village and to the south, an area identified as "The Little Commons." By 1799 when Poughkeepsie incorporated as a village, the Van Kleeck family had constructed a house on approximately 53 acres of the Little Commons, bounded by the Post Road on the west and the "Road to John V.D. Burgh's" on the north and east. Located in the area of Garfield Place, the Van Kleeck dwelling was "situated on a very pleasant eminence, within a quarter of a mile of the town of Poughkeepsie, commanding the full view of the same."
During the first thirty-six years of the nineteenth century Poughkeepsie underwent rapid development. By means of a series of real estate transactions begun in 1805, Bronson French had acquired title to the area of the Little Commons. In 1836 he sold "French Place" to John Barnes, Caleb Barker, Richard Varick and George Corlies. Soon after this purchase, the partners surveyed the property and laid out streets and building lots. Sold at public auction, the lots on south Liberty Street, later known as Garfield Place, brought $25 per foot.
Although many of the lots were sold promptly, construction on South Liberty Street did not begin until 1852, owing in part to the effects of the Panic of 1837 which had temporarily curtailed the boom in real estate speculation. In 1852 George Corlies, the leading promoter of the development of the street, built a home as a demonstration of the style of life possible in this neighborhood. By late 1881 when the name of the street was changed to Garfield Place in memory of the assassinated President, much of the major construction had been completed. Situated on the summit of a hill, the dwellings on Garfield Place possessed a view of farmland and the Hudson River to the west.
Together with the Mill Street and Union Street Historic Districts which contain homes of the working classes, the Garfield Place Historic District provides coherent and vivid evidence of the social history of the period. The attractive visual qualities of the site and the natural environment stimulated the construction of commodious and stylish homes made possible by the economic prosperity of the city. Since construction began in 1852, Garfield Place has consistently attracted residents who enjoyed a degree of social and economic prominence including merchants, educators, directors of railroads, physicians, lawyers, bankers, assemblymen and particularly manufacturers. An advertisement dated 1873 remains an accurate description of Garfield Place which is now a locally designated historic district: "...a quiet neighborhood, with no fences, in full view of the Hudson River and within a 10-minute walk from the post office."
Advertisement in the Poughkeepsie Journal, 1785, quoted in Historic Garfield Place by Susan L. Puretz (Privately printed, 1971), p.3.
Advertisement for 35 Garfield Place in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Jenner and quoted in Historic Garfield Place by Susan L. Puretz (Privately printed, 1971), p.5.
Puretz, Susan L. Historic Garfield Place. Privately printed, 1971.