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Amherst Avenue Historic District


The Amherst Avenue Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Amherst Avenue Historic District consists of ten properties and contains 16 contributing buildings and 3 non-contributing buildings. All of the properties are residences, some of which are complemented by contributing garages.

The Amherst Avenue Historic District is located on a tree-lined street in the heart of the village of Ticonderoga in northern New York State. The Amherst Avenue Historic District is in a primarily residential area several blocks away from the village's commercial district on Montcalm Street. While the community's commercial center contains several individually eligible buildings, major losses of integrity preclude its consideration as an historic district. The boundaries of the Amherst Avenue Historic District are congruent with existing lot and right-of-way lines enclosing the historic properties. They include only that land historically related to each of the principal buildings. The Amherst Avenue Historic District boundary has been drawn to include only properties that were constructed between 1921 and 1923 by W.A. Gale for the Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company with the exception of 330 Amherst Avenue, which was constructed at the same time for a private owner. The mostly late nineteenth century residences to the south, east and west are architecturally and historically unrelated to the small well-preserved group of similar 1920's houses within the historic district. The New York State Armory and a related outbuilding occupy a large lot to the north of the district.

The Amherst Avenue Historic District is composed of ten individually contributing dwellings and six contributing garages constructed at the same time and in the same style as their associated dwellings. The components of the Amherst Avenue Historic District feature similar forms, scale, orientation, size, materials, setbacks and street frontage, which serve to unite the properties visually as a cohesive residential neighborhood.

The ten residences that compose the Amherst Avenue Historic District were built between 1921 and 1923 under the direction of local builder William A. Gale for the Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company for rental to their mill management. All of the buildings are built of wood frame construction and share such common features as shingle and clapboard sheathing, front porches, and tripartite windows (all except two). Such details as Doric porch columns, gable returns and multi-pane window sash reflect the highly popular Colonial Revival style. Four of the houses show the influence of the Bungalow form in their long sloped roofs, which sweep down over recessed front porches. Stylistically, they feature the widely overhanging eaves with large triangular brackets and exposed rafter ends common to the Craftsman Bungalow style and are similar in style to the houses that compose the Lake George Avenue Historic District located two blocks to the west. Among these residences there are four general types. The dwellings located at 322 and 332 Amherst Avenue are rectangular with their gable-end perpendicular to the street with small entrance porches situated in the southernmost bay of the principal facade. The dwellings located at 324, 334, and 338 are rectangular in form with their gable-end perpendicular to the street. These residences feature full-length shed dormers above their full-length porch roofs. The residences at 328, 330, 336 and 340 Amherst Avenue are typical Foursquares with hip roofs and central dormers on the front slope. The L-shaped form of 326 Amherst Avenue is nearly a mirror image of 303 Lake George Avenue, a component of The Lake George Avenue Historic District. The residences in both districts are architecturally related, having been constructed by the same builder, William A. Gale, in a four-year period and employing similar details and materials. In addition to the L-shaped form, the rectangular form of 324, 334 and 338 Amherst Avenue was used in the earlier Lake George Avenue homes located at 305 and 307 Lake George Avenue.

Significance

The Amherst Avenue Historic District is architecturally significant as a well-preserved example of an early twentieth century residential enclave, which illustrates the amalgamation of popular architectural tastes and styles with national trends in corporate sponsored workers' housing and residential planning in the village of Ticonderoga. Constructed by the Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company in 1921-1923, under the direction of local builder William A. Gale, the Amherst Avenue Historic District is one of two industrial sponsored housing developments constructed for mill employees. The ten contributing properties that compose the Amherst Avenue Historic District exhibit numerous architectural features and residential planning techniques associated with the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These characteristics include: large residential building lots, deep setbacks, spacious rear and side yards, similar building plans and similar scale. In addition the Amherst Avenue Historic District is identified by the unifying Craftsman influenced Bungalow style of six of the contributing properties. These architectural similarities include: clapboard or shingle sheathing, irregular massing, recessed porches, grouped windows, entrance hoods, wide overhanging eaves supported by large triangular brackets and exposed rafter ends. While similar massing, materials and details unite the homes, the arrangement of prefabricated architectural elements varies in each. The remaining four contributing properties reflect the typical early twentieth century Foursquare form. These resources are visually and architecturally linked to each other and to the remainder of the district by their uniform scale, form and materials. These materials include shingle or clapboard sheathing, tripartite windows, entry and entry porches situated in the southernmost bay of the principal facade and door hoods. These two closely related styles are further united in the district by the builder's incorporation of Colonial Revival elements , including classical porch posts and interior columns and colonial inspired trim elements. The Amherst Avenue Historic District remains virtually unchanged since its construction by the Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company, retaining an outstanding level of integrity of setting, feeling, association, location, design, materials and craftsmanship.

In 1877, Clayton Delano, a prominent local industrialist, transformed the Lake Champlain Manufacturing Company, of which he was president and general manager, into the Ticonderoga Pulp Company. Eight years later as the Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company, the firm began producing high quality book and writing paper at its mills by the lower falls of the LaChute River in downtown Ticonderoga. By 1900 the paper industry dominated the village with five paper and pulp mills.

In 1905 Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper bought the land upon which the houses that compose the Lake George Avenue Historic District were built from the Essex County Pulp and Paper Company, which had bought the five-acre site from Delano in 1893. As the property was located across the street from the Delano Residence, it was most likely purchased for worker housing or offices rather than for a mill. However, no homes were constructed until June, 1919, following the May resignation of 83-year-old Delano as president and general manager of Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper.

Local builder William A. Gale supervised construction of the ten homes, which were to be rented to mill management. Gale was considered to be the foremost contractor in the area and is notable for having constructed Ticonderoga's first hospital. He also built the fourteen homes in the Lake George Avenue Historic District and the Senator Ferris Residence, both components of the multiple resource area nomination.

Prior to and during the construction of the Lake George Avenue and Amherst Avenue mill houses, relations between the large paper corporations and the labor unions of the industry were strained. The struggle focused on the mills and plants of the largest company, International Paper, which had operations in Ticonderoga and several other nearby towns. The desire for wage increases brought about a brief strike of the Pulp, Sulphite and Paper Mill workers' union in May of 1919. But an attempt by the companies in 1921 to impose drastic wage reductions and an open-shop policy sparked the longest and most devastating strike in the history of the paper industry. By the time the strike ended five years later, many local unions had been destroyed. Paradoxically, during this period of turmoil for workers at the Industrial Paper Company, the smaller, locally run Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company remained in full operation, erecting two districts of modern housing representing the stability and financial strength of the smaller paper companies during this period of unrest. In 1925, International Paper purchased the Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company and the homes bringing to an end 150 years of locally owned milling operations along the LaChute River. In the late 1940's International Paper began to sell the mill houses to their tenants.

The Amherst Avenue Historic District is architecturally significant as an intact enclave of industrial sponsored workers' houses that exhibits characteristics associated with the last evolutionary phase of this house type, including massing, materials, details, lot size, setback and orientation.

During the early nineteenth century the nation experienced an unprecedented period of industrial expansion. As technology and the demand for manufactured goods grew, entrepreneurs and would-be industrialists began to establish industrial complexes in rural, unpopulated regions where abundant raw materials and power could be found. In many such developments, in addition to an industrial facility, the owners also constructed workers' housing, company stores and even churches and social halls, creating a sense of community that revolved around the industry itself. During the early phases of the industrial revolution, this sort of community planning by industrialists offered incentives such as steady work, shelter and social order to workers while giving the owners virtual control over their employees' lives, thus guaranteeing a constant and stable work force. In form and appearance, these early workers' houses were characteristically conservative, with small-scale plans and chaste facades constructed in local stone or clapboards. These houses were often constructed in rows of identical single and double houses, featuring shallow setbacks from the street with little or no surrounding property. The regularity and uniformity of the mill sponsored housing strengthened the image of an orderly, modern industrial development.

After the Civil War, as America completed its transition to a fully mechanized society, the damaging effects of these now large-scale industrial concerns began to become more apparent. The mill villages, promoted by the industrialists as modern utopian societies, were now perceived as posing a threat to the health and welfare of individuals, as well as to American society at large. Reform organizations began to criticize various aspects of the mill workers lives, especially in the areas of housing, health and education.

Paradoxically, the shifting perception of the industrial society was accompanied by improvements in building technology that gave rise to an unprecedented construction boom in the country, in which new housing proliferated. New techniques (and their results) included the development of light member balloon framing as opposed to traditional heavy timber framing, the widespread distribution of plan books and carpenter guides and the widespread usage of the stream power-saw. These factors allowed builders and industrialists to build more decorative and functional housing at a reasonable cost. In addition, the Picturesque taste, introduced into the general American consciousness at the mid-nineteenth century, had by now been disseminated to nearly all levels of society and this aesthetic was evident in much of the new building stock. Thus in the 1870's industrial housing began to reflect some of these characteristics. Although still maintaining a relatively simple and unembellished form, mill housing was constructed at a larger scale to provide additional living space, with deeper setbacks and small yards, and although still lacking applied ornamentation, these dwellings often featured deep sitting porches, simple decorative trim and corbeled chimneys.

In the late nineteenth century the impetus for industrial community development and planning began to change. Spurred on by the labor unrest of the 1890's and the violent Pullman Company strike of 1894, industry began a movement to promote "peace between capital and labor" through "good work" in all spheres of the laborer's life. Industries were quick to realize that they would need to gain the confidence and dependency of their work force to avoid unionization and potentially devastating labor strikes. In 1904, the National Civil Foundation (NCF), an organization founded by the nation's leading industrialists and social reformers, began promoting social reforms intended to neutralize the effects of the more radical unions and provide benefits for the working class. These reforms were based on the promotion of education and reform in the areas of public health, education, factory safety and religion. In 1904, the NCF published its reform goals. Interested employees received descriptions of social service programs and designs for company built housing, clubhouses and other community facilities associated with modern company towns. Largely through this effort industry began to apply community planning techniques to the development of new workers' housing developments.

This third phase in the evolution of company sponsored housing was heavily influenced by these social changes during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These changes were promoted by social reformers, primarily the National Household Economics Association, who sought to upgrade living conditions in both rural and urban centers. A primary goal of this movement was to educate the housewife in all aspects of creating a clean, organized efficiently run household. Much of the force of this movement was directed to the area of industrial housing since these dwellings were often not well conceived or maintained. As the ideals of this movement took hold, the look of industrial housing once again changed. During the early twentieth century reformers promoted the idea of simple functional architecture and decoration, based on the belief that the home should promote a healthy, clean environment through the use of efficient building and decorating materials. New construction during this period was characterized by simple window and door trims and linoleum flooring that would not collect dust, built-in book cases, tables, cabinets and benches that were functional in addition to maximizing available living space. Mill workers' housing during this period was changed dramatically. In most houses, constructed during the twentieth century, square footage was reduced to compensate for the increased cost of modern heating and plumbing improvements. By 1910 it was rare to see single-purpose rooms such as sewing rooms, pantries and spare bedrooms in new construction. The emphasis of construction during this period shifted away from the idea of asceticism toward the idea of open, functional and efficient spaces. In general, corporate sponsored housing of this period included three first floor rooms: living room, kitchen and dining room. On the second floor, bedrooms were only sleep and privacy; all social functions occurred on the first floor. The basic forms of these dwellings were adapted to several prevailing styles of the period, with the Arts and Crafts aesthetic being the most prevalent. This final stage in the evolution of company sponsored housing can be seen in the Lake George Avenue Historic District and the Amherst Avenue Historic District. Both districts of single family dwellings were constructed by Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company between 1919-1923 and represent the last of the mill workers' houses to be built in Ticonderoga.

The ten contributing elements of the Amherst Avenue Historic District clearly illustrate the prevailing national trend in the construction of workers' housing of the period. The houses that compose the Amherst Avenue Historic District exhibit similar functional floor plans divided into social spaces on the first floor with chambers situated on the second. In addition they are characterized by the inclusion of built-in bookshelves, benches and cabinets. Interior ornamentation is simple, reflecting the shift toward easily cleaned surfaces. The contributing properties within the Amherst Avenue Historic District derive additional significance as intact representative examples of Craftsman inspired Bungalow design and American Foursquares in the village of Ticonderoga. Like the small, one-story Bungalow, six of these residences are distinguished by their broad, low sloping roofs and extended eaves. Another characteristic of this form displayed in the mill houses is the interrelationship of exterior and interior spaces achieved with bay windows and entrance hoods, and particularly by including porches and sunrooms under the main roof rather than treating them as appendages. Although the properties that compose the district are primarily Craftsman inspired, the builder also constructed four residences in the American Foursquare plan. This style or plan became a standard house type associated with Colonial Revival architecture in the early twentieth century and one of the country's only indigenous house types. Most of the modest dwellings constructed in this style were simple cubes, such as 328, 330, 336 and 340 Amherst Avenue. This house form is distinguished by a rectangular or square plan, low pitched hipped roof, broken only by a centered dormer, wide boxed-in eaves, tripartite windows and shingle or clapboard sheathing. The interior plan of this house type is most commonly divided into four rooms on each floor. Both styles of residences in the Amherst Avenue Historic District are united by classically inspired Colonial Revival porch posts, interior columns, window and door trim and multi-pane windows.

In designing the homes that compose the Amherst Avenue Historic District, Gale used four standard plans: rectangular with the short side to the street, rectangular with the long side to the street, L-shaped and Foursquare. However, he varied them by applying a different combination of prefabricated architectural details to each one. It is highly likely that the plans were adapted from an architectural pattern book or mail order plan supplier's catalog.

Many of the mill houses continue to be owned by mill employees, retirees or their families and have thus been well maintained. When International Paper moved its facilities to the outskirts of the town in the early 1970's, all of the remaining mills of the paper industry in the village were torn down. This group of homes and its counterpart, the Lake George Avenue Historic District, are rare intact remnants of an industry that dominated the village for nearly 100 years.

References

French, J.H. Historical and Statistical Gazetteer of The State of New York. Syracuse: R. Pearsall Smith, 1860.

Garner, John S., The Model Company Town. Amherst, Massachusetts: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1984.

Gowans, Alan. The Comfortable House. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1986.

Lape, Jane, ed. Ticonderoga: Patches and Patterns From Its Past. Ticonderoga, New York: The Ticonderoga Historical Society, 1969.

Pell, S.H.P. Fort Ticonderoga: A Short History. Ticonderoga, New York, 1978.

Smith, H.P., ed. History of Essex County. Syracuse: D. Masson and Co., 1885.

Watson, Winslow C. The Military and Civil History of The County of Essex, New York. Albany, New York: J. Munsell, 1869.

Wright, Gwedolyn, Building The American Dream. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1981.

International Paper Company After 50 Years. Ticonderoga, New York: International Paper Company, 1948.

  1. John A. Bonafide, New York State Department of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Lake George Avenue Historic District, nomination document, 1988, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Amherst Avenue Historic District Map

Street Names
Amherst Avenue

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