Church Street Historic District
The Church Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. 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 Church Street Historic District is located at the center of the incorporated village of Saranac Lake within the bounds of the Town of Harrietstown in Franklin County. It encompasses approximately two blocks of structures, extending southward along property lines from the intersection of Church Street and Main Street to Helen Street on the eastern side and beyond St. Bernard Street on the western side to include the Methodist and Presbyterian churches. Beyond the southern boundary of the Church Street Historic District, modern intrusions, irregular setbacks, and larger lot sizes fragment the residential streetscape pattern of the district. The Church Street Historic District is level, with a steep downward slope to the river on Church Street Extension defining the northernmost edge and the steep slopes of Helen Hill rising beyond the eastern edge of the district.
Church Street is one of the five original streets of Saranac Lake. Connecting River Street to Main Street within the curve of the Saranac River, it forms the third leg of the central triangle at the heart of Saranac Lake's development. The commercial center of the village and the Berkeley Square Historic District are contiguous to the Main Street end of the Church Street Historic District. The dense early twentieth century residential neighborhood of Helen Hill borders the district on the east. Within the Church Street Historic District bounds, Church Street and Main Street are tree-lined, with well-maintained sidewalks and front lawns. The buildings conform to a consistent setback and spacing and are constructed of compatible materials.
The Church Street Historic District includes a total of twenty-seven contributing and two non-contributing structures. Among the primary buildings are three of the four churches founded in the village before 1890, a medical laboratory, two libraries, ten homes and offices of members of the local medical profession, and at least six cure cottages, as well as seven early carriage houses and garages. The majority of the buildings were constructed between the late 1870s and 1900, with six houses undergoing major renovations and alterations in the first few decades of the twentieth century. With the sole exception of the non-contributing Paul Smith's College Residence built in 1987, all of the structures within the Church Street Historic District had attained their present configuration by 1930 and most have remained intact in subsequent years. At least eight buildings have been documented as architect-designed, either in the initial construction as in St. Luke's Church (R.M. Upjohn, 1878), William Coulter's design for Dr. Edward R. Baldwin's house at 6 Church Street (1899), and the four J. Lawrence Aspinwall buildings — St. Luke's Rectory (c.1893) and Parish Hall (1891) at 119 and 121 Main Street, E.L. Trudeau's house at 5 Church Street (1894), and the Saranac Laboratory at 7 Church Street (1894) — or in subsequent major remodelings such as Scopes & Feustmann's work on Dr. Lawrason Brown's house, 104 Main Street, and Dr. Kinghourn's house, 14 Church Street.
The majority of the buildings are two and one-half story, wood frame structures, with asphalt shingled gable or gambrel roofs, dormers, and wooden clapboard or shingle siding. Notable exceptions are the rough-hewn masonry and brick walls of the Saranac Laboratory and the Methodist Church, and the stuccoed Bungalow at 118 Main Street. Almost all of the residences within the Church Street Historic District are known to have housed tuberculous patients in the past and exhibit characteristic features of curing use, such as deep open verandas, second story sleeping porches enclosed with sliding glass panels or grouped sash windows, extra-wide doorways, larger-than-usual dining rooms, dumbwaiters, and call bell systems.
The architectural styles represented include all of those styles typically built in the village of Saranac Lake in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Among the earliest were the structures along Main Street. The Episcopal Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician (1878-79) built to the design of R.M. Upjohn, and the later St. Luke's Parish House (1891), built as the Adirondack Library to J. Lawrence Aspinwall's design, both display the sharply pitched gable rooflines, decorated vergeboards and cross-bracing, and board-and-batten siding typical of the Gothic Revival style. The First Presbyterian Church at 23 Church Street retains its vernacular Carpenter Gothic detailing in the steep cross-gabled roof and vaulted ceiling, interior wainscoting and woodwork, and rose window.
The First United Methodist Church at 19 Church Street exemplifies the twentieth century manifestations of the Gothic style in its stone Gothic arches, corner tower, buttresses, stained-glass windows with stone tracery, and wooden interior ceiling vaulting.
The Conklin Cottage at 108 Main Street (pre-1879), the Werle Cottages at 110 Main and 2 Church Street Extension, and the Dr. Gedroiz house at 17 Church Street were all built in the Queen Anne style in the late 1870s or early 1880s, and still retain typical features such as bay windows, multi-paned sash, fishscale shingles or siding, and embossed metal roofs despite subsequent additions and alterations. Dr. Frank Kendall's house, 12 Church Street (c.1885), retains characteristic asymmetrical massing, multiple gables, decorative vergeboards and stickwork trim.
Dr. Lawrason Brown's house at 104 Main Street (1895) underwent major additions and alterations in 107 under Scopes and Feustmann, who remodeled the cottage into a twelve room Colonial Revival style residence and office. The Werle Cottages were similarly updated when moved to create the new Church Street Extension in ca.1930. Other fine examples of the Colonial Revival style can be found in the symmetrical facades, regular fenestration, hipped and gambrel roofs, and classically detailed entrance surrounds, porches, and dormers of the Lea House, 8 Church Street (ca.1882); Dr. Edward L. Trudeau's house, 5 Church Street (1894), as designed by J. Lawrence Aspinwall; Dr. Edward R. Baldwin's house, 6 Church Street, completed in 1900) and Dr. Price's house, 116 Main Street (1910).
The Kinghorn-Sageman house at 14 Church Street (ca.1880) was dramatically remodeled under the guidance of local architects Scopes & Feustmann in 1917 to create the Church Street Historic District's only example of Tudor Revival architecture. Among its characteristic stylistic features are decorative half-timbering, asymmetry, multiple roof gables, grouped fenestration with multi-paned sash, a prominent chimney, and a stone foundation.
An unusual large stucco Bungalow built by a local realtor, 118 Main Street, exemplifies the Craftsman Bungalow style with its low-pitched gable roof with wide eaves and broad dormers, asymmetrically placed front entrance porch with Colonial Revival posts on piers, and multiple-paned windows.
The Church Street Historic District is historically and architecturally significant as the center of the village's medical and religious activity during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Church Street Historic District contains a number of residences/offices of many of the leading physicians and researchers in the field of pulmonary disease during the period of significance. These facilities include the office and research laboratory of Dr. E.L. Trudeau, the founder of the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium and internationally recognized leader in the study of tuberculosis. In addition to Trudeau, the medical offices of Dr. Lawrason Brown, Dr. Edward Baldwin, Dr. Frank Kendel, Dr. H.M. Kinghorn and several other noted physicians associated with the development of the village's curing industry are located within the district. The Church Street Historic District is also significant as an intact collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century cure related architecture. The Church Street Historic District contains examples of commercial and private cure cottages. In addition, most of the physicians' homes display features associated with the type, since many of them, or members of their families, suffered from tuberculosis. The Church Street Historic District derives additional significance as the center of the village's religious activity during the period of significance. Beginning with the construction of the Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician under the direction of Dr. E.L. Trudeau in 1877, the Church street area quickly evolved into the spiritual center of the community. Within twenty years, three of the village's four denominations had established their places of worship on Church Street. By 1900 Church Street had evolved into the medical, social and spiritual core of the village of Saranac Lake.
Church Street initially developed as the center of the village's religious institutions. Four religious denominations were established in Saranac Lake by 1890; three of the four built churches within the Church Street Historic District. Included within the Church Street Historic District are the Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician, the First United Methodist Church of Saranac Lake, and the First Presbyterian Church of Saranac Lake.
The Episcopal Church was established in 1877 with services held at the Berkeley Hotel by Rev. John Lundy, a Philadelphia clergyman in Saranac Lake for his health. Lundy and fellow winter guests began a fund drive to build a church that same year. After Lundy's departure, Dr. Edward Trudeau took over as chairman of the building committee and carried the project to completion. In 1878-79, Saranac Lake's first church, the Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician, was constructed by local contractor R. Eugene Woodruff on the corner of Church Street and Main Street, following designs donated by noted church architect, R.M. Upjohn, of New York City.
The church continued to expand, raising money first for a parish hall, then a rectory, both built in the 1890s. Trudeau continued to be involved with St. Luke's serving as treasurer and warden for thirty-eight years. The parish hall served the entire village from 1891-1907 as headquarters for a free library for the community; it later moved into its own building just west of the district boundaries.
The First United Methodist Church of Saranac Lake was founded in 1838. Initially, services were conducted in private homes with circuit preachers. The congregation was incorporated in 1878, and built their first church ca.1882, just west of Dr. Trudeau's house on Main Street. In 1927 the congregation vacated their original church on Main Street and constructed a new Gothic inspired stone edifice at the corner of Church and St. Bernard Streets. The building was constructed by the firm of Branch and Callanan at a cost of $135,000.
The First Presbyterian Church of Saranac Lake was organized as a mission in 1890. The congregation incorporated and built their church at 23 Church Street the following year. The wooden Carpenter Gothic style structure was completed in less than six months at a cost of $3,000. The Presbyterian Church was unique locally in having a staff person, Miss Christine Burdick, specifically hired to visit tuberculous patients; she reportedly made about 2,000 calls each year.
The Church Street Historic District also possesses a strong historic association with local medical professionals and the village's tuberculosis curing industry. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Church Street area became the home of many of the researchers and physicians associated with the development of the village as a center for the treatment and cure of tuberculosis. The first and most significant of these physicians was Dr. Edward L. Trudeau. Trudeau was the primary force behind the tuberculosis curing movement within the village and the founder of the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium (later renamed the Trudeau Sanatorium). He revolutionized the American form of treatment for tuberculosis and gained worldwide recognition for his work. In 1884 Trudeau erected a residence at the corner of Main and Church Streets across from St. Luke's Church. This structure contained Trudeau's residence and laboratory. In 1894 a fire in the laboratory destroyed the building. The current Trudeau residence was built in 1894 on the same site. The new dwelling/office was designed by J. Lawrence Aspinwall, a New York architect and cousin of Edward Trudeau. The house included Dr. Trudeau's office and clinic where he saw his private patients.
In that same year Trudeau built his research laboratory at 7 Church Street. Also designed by Aspinwall, the new laboratory was designed and built specifically to be a research facility devoted to the study of tuberculosis, the first in America. Here Trudeau and his associates further isolated the causes of tuberculosis and searched for cures for the deadly disease. The building contained pathological, bacteriological, and chemical laboratory rooms, a medical museum, and animal quarters. A 1928 addition to the building created the John Black Memorial Library to house an extensive research collection of medical papers, journals, and books. A further extension in 1934 created the second story annex and the spaces as seen today.
Other doctors settled on Church Street as they moved into the area. The presence of Dr. Trudeau, and the patients who regularly lined up to see him, created the nucleus of an unofficial medical center. Dr. Edward R. Baldwin built his house at 6 Church Street to William Coulter designs in 1899. Baldwin worked closely with Trudeau on his medical research, becoming director of the Saranac Laboratory and later the Trudeau School of Tuberculosis. He was the resident physician at Mary Prescott's Reception Hospital and the Trudeau family physician.
Dr. Frank Kendall, a pharmacist, built his residence at 12 Church Street prior to September 1899. His pharmacy at 82 Main Street provided services to the thousands of patients who came to Saranac Lake in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in search of a cure from tuberculosis.
Dr. Lawrason Brown, resident physician at the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium from 1901-1012, moved his family into 104 Main Street in 1907, after a major remodeling by local architects Scopes & Feustmann. With residential quarters upstairs and his office space downstairs, Brown lived here the rest of his life. Lawrason Brown was active in the care of tubercular patients and the improvement of their curing facilities. His handbook for patients, Rules for Recovery from Tuberculosis, included specific requirements for cure porches and is the basis for much of the cure related architecture that remains in the village today.
Other doctors established combination houses and offices within the Church Street Historic District in the first decades of the twentieth century. Dr. Hugh M. Kinghorn and his wife dramatically remodeled the Queen Anne style house at 14 Church Street in 1917, creating a Tudor Revival residence which served as both home and office. Dr. Kinghorn had patients in a number of cure cottages throughout the village and was known for his staunch support of absolute bedrest.
Dr. Woods Price, a native of Virginia and close friend of the Trudeau family, built his residence and office at 116 Main Street. Price, like Trudeau, Baldwin, Brown and many other local physicians, came to Saranac Lake for his health and stayed to help others afflicted with tuberculosis. He married Sophie Hoerner, head nurse at the Reception Hospital, and settled in the village permanently, establishing a prosperous practice.
The presence of Dr. Trudeau, many other doctors and the proximity to the village center made Church Street an attractive area for commercial cure cottages as well. Apartments in carriage houses at 6 Church Street and 12 Church Street were adapted for use by tubercular patients. The Conklin Cottage at 108 Main Street, operated by Mrs. Jane Conklin in 1914 took in patients who used the spacious upstairs curing porches. Mrs. Conklin also owned 110 Main Street as a private commercial sanatorium, operated as a boarding cottage.
The residences at 110 and 112 Main Street (which also took in patients) were bought by Jane Schneiderwind and Aletta Wearle around 1918. Advertised as the Werle Cottages, they quickly became a mecca for young upper middle class tubercular patients. The cottage at 112 Main Street was a nursing cottage for more patients confined to bed or cure chairs. A dumbwaiter, still intact, was used to carry trays to upper floors. The cottage at 110 Main was an ambulatory, or "up" cottage, for patients well enough to walk and take mild exercise or entertainment. They would come to the dining room at 112 Main for all their meals. By the late 1920s, there seems to have been no distinction between the cottages, with some patients "on trays" in each house. Meals were also delivered to other cottages which had no dining facilities.
The Church Street Historic District derives additional significance in the area of architecture as an intact collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century cure cottage architecture. In addition to the several commercial cure cottages that were developed within the district, many of the doctors who lived within the Church Street Historic District (many of whom were former tuberculous patients themselves) incorporated curing features into the designs of their homes. Many of these residences display characteristic curing features such as second story sleeping porches glazed with sliding panels or grouped sash windows.
The cure cottages of Saranac Lake were predominantly built between the years of 1870 and 1930 and represent almost every housing type popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. They represent vernacular expressions of architectural styles which include Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Bungalow stylistic features. The majority of the cottages which remain were built between 1890 and 1930.
The most common cure cottages are vernacular expressions of the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles, with multiple gables, balloon frame construction, decorative wooden architectural detail, multiple windows of various sizes and shapes, and associated porches or verandas. Glass-enclosed porches, used for the curing of tuberculosis patients, are the most salient feature of the cure cottage. They can be found on local structures built long after porches had gone out of fashion elsewhere.
Cure cottages are structures which can be commercial, residential or institutional in scale and expression. Many were built specifically to function as private commercial sanitaria, multiple unit dwellings, boarding houses, or private homes. Equally large numbers of cure cottages were adapted for that use from vernacular single family dwellings. All cure cottages display certain architectural features which were necessary for specific functions in the process of curing tuberculosis outdoors. Whether added at a later date or incorporated into the original building design, these features can include multiple-storied cure porches, sliding glass panels, call bells and wider-than-usual doorways without sills.
Around 1930, a village project to extend Church Street to the north necessitated the moving of the building at 110 Main Street to the rear of number 112 and turning it ninety degrees to face the new street. The houses were then renumbered, with 110 becoming 2 Church Street and 112 becoming the current 110 Main Street. The cottages were slightly expanded and altered in the move. By the 1930s, the Werle Cottages primarily catered to ambulatory patients, but trays were delivered elsewhere and patients came from several other houses to eat at 110 Main Street.
The Church Street Historic District, despite limited alterations and new construction within the district, remains one of the community's most important resources. With its intact collection of resources associated with both the medical and spiritual treatment of tuberculosis, the Church Street Historic District reflects the growth and development of the village from a small rural outpost in the nineteenth century to the premier health center of the nation in the early twentieth century.
Cure Industry Resources in the Village of Saranac Lake, Essex and Franklin Co., NY.