Downtown Gloversville Historic District
The Downtown Gloversville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. 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 small industrial city of Gloversville is located in north central New York State, 45 miles northwest of Albany. Set in the rough foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, at an altitude of 820 feet, it is the urban center of a sparsely populated rural area. Home to a prosperous leather processing and glove manufacturing industry since the mid-nineteenth century, Gloversville boasts a central business district notable for the integrity and variety of its historic architecture.
The Downtown Gloversville Historic District centers on the city's "four corners," the x-shaped intersection formed by North and South Main and East and West Fulton Streets, and also includes properties on Church, Fremont, Spring and Prospect Streets. The Downtown Gloversville Historic District boundary delineates that area of the historic commercial district which retains integrity of design and feeling and is drawn to exclude areas of modern strip development further north on North Main Street and to the south on South Main Street, much altered older buildings to the west on West Fulton and Bleecker Streets, and the mixed commercial/residential neighborhood to the east on East Fulton Street. Generally, the Downtown Gloversville Historic District is bordered on the east and north by older residential neighborhoods, and on the west and south by industrial area. Directly adjacent to the district on the northwest are large municipal parking lots, which occupy lands cleared under the Urban Renewal program of the 1960s. The landmark structure which stood at the southeast corner of Fulton and Main Streets was demolished in 1977, leaving a vacant lot which is excluded from the district.
The Downtown Gloversville Historic District contains a mixture of commercial (79%), religious (8%), residential (5%), service (including clubs, community centers, library — 5%), and educational buildings (1%). Of the 92 buildings included in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District, 78 contribute to the district's historic character, while 14 are non-contributing due to age (less than 50 years old) and/or extensive alterations. Buildings extend in age from pre-1850-1977 and represent a period of architectural significance from pre-1850-1977 and represent a period of architectural significance from pre-1850-1931. Post-1931 construction is typified by low-scale and unadorned commercial buildings that are not compatible with the overall character of the district. Architectural styles ranging from the Greek Revival to those of a modern design are included; most numerous are buildings of the latter half of the nineteenth century distinguished by Italianate style detailing. The typical Downtown Gloversville Historic District building is three stories in height and three bays wide, but buildings vary from one to five stories in height and up to five bays in width. Brick is the predominant building material, with wood, marble, stone and stucco also found. The Downtown Gloversville Historic District contains both vernacular and high style architecture. The works of such noted architects as M.F. Cummings of Troy (Old City Hall, 48 North Main Street, 1885), Henry F. Kilburn of New York City (First Baptist Church, 59 South Main Street, 1890), Wilson Potter of New York City (Estee Middle School, 90 North Main Street, 1906), and F.L. Comstock of Gloversville (Kingsborough Hotel, 34-38 South Main Street, 1902; Eccentric Club, 190-113 North Main Street, 1908; Y.M.C.A., 19 East Fulton Street, 1913) are found in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District.
Occupation is dense, with most buildings abutting directly on the sidewalks and neighboring buildings. Major public and religious buildings on North Main Street, Fremont Street and East Fulton Street are set back from the street on landscaped lots. Three public open spaces exist where small parks have been created or are in the process of development (the Four Corners lot) on the sites of demolished commercial structures on North and South Main Streets. Only one outbuilding, a wood frame carriage house, exists within the Downtown Gloversville Historic District and contributes to it.
Despite the range of architectural building dates and styles represented within the Downtown Gloversville Historic District, a sense of cohesion is provided by qualities of scale, density, use and materials. Although in a few cases the continuity has been broken by unsympathetic demolitions and alterations, this collection of late nineteenth century commercial and public structures retains exceptional visual integrity and architectural quality.
Although the majority of the structures represent the boom period of 1870-1900, there are significant buildings in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District that represent each of the city's five stages of development. Remaining from the earliest phase of city development is the irregular street pattern, centering on the "four corners" intersection of Main and Fulton Streets. Gloversville's original streets were Main, Fulton, Washington, Fremont, Bleecker, Church, Middle, Spring, Elm, Arlington, and Cayadutta, most of which are included in or at the edge of the Downtown Gloversville Historic District. Also extant from the first (pre-1855) development period are two-story wood frame Greek Revival style houses, such as the Berry Homestead at 26 East Fulton Street, 39-41 East Fulton Street, and 1 Spring Street.
The period of steady commercial development which began in 1855 and extended over fifteen years is represented by smaller scale, two and three-story brick structures such as 13 and 15-17 West Fulton Street and 13, 15, and 17 North Main Street. The plain stone lintels and simple denticulated cornices once displayed on these structures have disappeared under facade alterations with the exception of 15-17 West Fulton Street.
Most of Gloversville's downtown commercial district was constructed during the boom period of 1870-1900. Buildings of this period are predominantly three-story brick structures in the Italianate style with projecting, bracketed cornices and details such as modillions, dentils, decorated friezes, and pedimented, segmentally arched or round-arched lintels with keystones. Examples of the Italianate style of this period include 1-5, 21-23, 27, 29-31, 35-37, 39-41, and 43-47 North Main Street, 2-10 and 20-24 South Main Street, 12 East Fulton Street, and 19 and 10-12 West Fulton Street. The Second Empire style, distinguished by its mansard roof, is exemplified by such structures as 89 and 26-38 North Main Street, and 12-18 South Main Street, which were also built during this period.
The fourth stage in Gloversville's development occurred between 1900 and 1940. Buildings extant from this period represent three predominant styles: the Neoclassical Revival style (2, 12-18, 40-44, and 110-112 North Main Street and 28-30 South Main Street), distinguished by the use of classical details such as columns, pediments, dentils, quoins, pilasters, and swags; the Renaissance Revival style (109-113 North Main Street, 48-50 and 52-56 South Main Street, and 19 East Fulton Street), characterized by heavy, projecting, bracketed cornices, a rectangular mass divided into three horizontal sections, and symmetrically arranged details; and the Art Deco style of the late 1920s (91-93 and 97-99 North Main Street) with its streamlined mass and geometric details.
The post-1940 stage of development in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District includes four buildings of modern design. Woolworth's (59-63 North Main Street, 1947) is an example of the streamlined Art Moderne style. St. Mary's Rectory (23 Fremont Street, 1960), the Knesseth Israel Synagogue (34-38 East Fulton Street, 1962), and 31-35 South Main Street (ca.1977) are all examples of contemporary design. Although some of these buildings are compatible with those of the district, they are outside the period of significance and thus do not contribute to the historic character of the district.
The five stages of Gloversville's development have created two distinctive streetscapes in its commercial district. The first is characterized by high density and some variations of scale and is interspersed with monumental structures. South Main, North Main, and West Fulton Streets are included in this category. The Renaissance Revival style Knox Building (52-56 South Main Street, 1907) and the Richardsonian Romanesque style First Baptist Church (59 South Main Street, 1890) herald the boundaries of the district and the beginning of the commercial area by their monumental scale. The rest of South Main Street is densely lined with one to five-story structures of which the three-story Italianate style Veeder Block (51-57 South Main Street, ca.1869-1875), the five story Renaissance Revival style Kingsborough Hotel (34-38 South Main Street, 1902), and the four-story Second Empire style Littauer Building (12-18 South Main Street, ca.1884) dominate due to their scale and mass. The Neoclassical style Fulton County National Bank and Trust Company (2 North Main Street, 1912), with its large marble columned portico and gold dome, anchors the "four corners" intersection. The Neoclassical style City National Bank and Trust Company (12-18 North Main Street, 1916), with its gigantic columned portico, is a focal point of the east side of North Main Street, but it is the massive Second Empire style Kasson Opera House/Schine Building (26-38 North Main Street, 1880) that dominates the two blocks of North Main Street immediately north of the "four corners." The Italianate style Getman Block (43-47 North Main Street, 1877), with its U-shaped entrance, is the anchor of a row of four Italianate style structures built after the fire of 1877. These buildings create a strong cohesive effect on the west side of North Main Street. The intersection of North Main, Middle, and Fremont Streets is dominated by two Romanesque style commercial structures, the Mills Block (73-79 North Main Street, ca.1892) and the Burton Building (58-70 North Main Street, ca.1897). These buildings mark the point where the structures on North Main Street begin to decline in size and scale progressing further north. The setback of the Renaissance Revival style Estee Middle School (90 North Main Street, 1906) creates the only large, landscaped area in this otherwise dense street. West Fulton Street is also densely lined with commercial structures of slightly varying scale. The three-story High Victorian Gothic style Stewart Block (21-23 West Fulton Street, ca.1869) in the middle of the street and the Romanesque style Parkhurst Block (37-43 West Fulton Street, 1888) at its end are the most prominent structures on this block; however, the Romanesque Revival style First Presbyterian Church (16 West Fulton Street, 1865) is also a focal point on the street because of its irregularly shaped, ivy-clad slightly setback mass.
The second distinctive streetscape in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District is characterized by lower density, a variety of architectural styles and original uses, and larger setbacks. Fremont and East Fulton Streets are in this category. Fremont Street features a three-story brick commercial building and parking lots on its west side. Its east side is dominated by the Renaissance Revival style Brower Apartments (5 Fremont Street, 1901-1904) and two Romanesque Revival style churches (Fremont Street Methodist Church, 17 Fremont Street, 1885 and St. Mary's Catholic Church, 27 Fremont Street, 1891). East Fulton Street contains buildings in a variety of architectural styles including the Greek Revival, Italianate, Romanesque, Renaissance Revival, Colonial Revival, and Art Deco. The Art Deco style Jewish Community Center (28-32 East Fulton Street, 1929) and Rubin Gloves, Inc. (a glove factory located at 51-53 East Fulton Street, ca.1920) dominate the streetscape. The six-story Romanesque style tower (1894) of the modernized non-contributing Congregational Church (27-29 East Fulton Street) is the street's primary focal point. The church has lost its integrity due to extensive facade alterations.
In the past, the upper floors of the Downtown Gloversville Historic District's commercial structures housed offices, apartments, club rooms, storage space, two opera houses, and a dance hall. Today the opera house and dance hall spaces have been converted to other uses and offices, apartments, storage, and vacant space characterize the upper stories of most of the buildings.
Most of Gloversville's commercial structures are intact on the upper stories, although almost all of the storefronts have been altered at least once. Except for the modernization of the Romanesque style Congregational Church, the religious buildings have received only sympathetic minor alterations. Three of the five residential structures within this commercial district have been changed with the addition of new stories, storefronts, and siding.
The Downtown Gloversville Historic District contains a significant concentration of commercial, religious, civic and residential structures from the period c.1850-1931. As a whole, the Downtown Gloversville Historic District reflects the city's growth from the wilderness "Stump City" of the early nineteenth century to a prosperous industrial city of the early twentieth century. Each period of downtown Gloversville's growth is reflected in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District illustrating changes in population, commercial and industrial activity, construction techniques and architectural tastes. The city's primary industries since the 1820s have been the processing of leather and manufacture of gloves and approximately 27% of the Downtown Gloversville Historic District's structures are directly associated with the growth and development of these industries. Two structures in the district — the Schine Building and the Glove Theater — are significant in theater history as the office block and flagship theater respectively for the Schine Enterprises theater chain. Of greatest significance, however, are the architectural achievements associated with each period of Gloversville's growth, including a range of architectural fashions from the Greek Revival to Art Modern. Quality craftsmanship and distinctive uses of brick, stone, cast iron and glass characterize the entire district. Despite diversity of construction date and architectural design, the Downtown Gloversville Historic District exists as an architecturally distinguished and cohesive ensemble of late nineteenth and early twentieth century residential, civic, commercial, and religious buildings.
The Gloversville area was settled as early as 1752, but its original center of development was about one mile north of the present commercial district, in a settlement known as Kingsboro (see Kingsboro Historic District, National Register listed, 2/24/1975). Development of the present city, known first as "Stump City," began around 1808 and by 1828 a post office had been established with the name Gloversville, indicative of the already active glove industry. By 1830, several streets had been laid out and by 1835 the Gloversville settlement had established its business advantage over Kingsboro, primarily due to the growing industrial base. In 1852 Gloversville included 525 acres, a population of 1,318, and 250 small, predominantly wood frame, structures. Forty small glove and mitten factories and several skin mills were also established by that date. The settlement centered on the "four corners" at the intersection of Main and Fulton Streets. With the growing core, Gloversville was at this time still a small community surrounded by swamps, bogs, hills, and stumps remaining from the recently cleared forests. Of this early developmental period, architectural remnants in the form of Greek Revival style wood frame structures are found within the Downtown Gloversville Historic District at 26 and 39-41 East Fulton Street (pre-1853 and pre-1857 respectively), 29-31 West Fulton Street (pre-1868) and at 1 Spring Street (pre-1857), this latter building moved from its original location on North Main Street in 1930.
On January 14, 1853, Gloversville was incorporated as a village, absorbing Kingsboro. One hundred and fourteen residences were built in a sudden spurt of activity between 1855 and 1858. By 1858 the village could boast of 500 dwellings and a population of 3,000. The village's first three-story brick commercial structure was erected in 1856 at the "four corners," heralding a change from the streetscape of low Greek Revival style frame buildings. This first brick structure was demolished in 1977 and its site is currently under development, but similar buildings erected between 1850 and 1870 such as the Heacock (2-10) and Veeder (51-57) Blocks on South Main Street remain. These Italianate style commercial blocks constitute 21% of the Downtown Gloversville Historic District's structures.
Between 1870 and 1900 Gloversville experienced a third significant period of development. An expanding industrial base offering new employment opportunities contributed to a population increase from 4,000 in 1877 to 13, 864 in 1890. Gloversville's city charter was granted and the village incorporated into a city on March 9, 1890.
The glove industry which gave the city its name was responsible for Gloversville's growth and prosperity. New England entrepreneurs who settled the region at the turn of the nineteenth century used the area's natural resource, deer skins, for trade. In 1803 Ezekiel Case came to Kingsboro from Cincinnati and brought with him knowledge of the Indian tanning process. The first practical leather dresser in the area is considered to be Talmadge Edwards, a leather dresser from England who moved to the area via Massachusetts in 1809. He trained several local residents in his trade and others picked up the practice over the next four decades. Gradually, the industry changed from a home to factory based operation. The development of the sewing machine in the 1850's and the demand for gloves during the Civil War contributed to the rise of the glove industry. Mills and factories were interspersed throughout the village on several streets including Fulton, Main and Spring Streets, now in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District. By 1892, Gloversville had become the largest glove producing community in this country, perhaps the world. (Washington Frothingham, History of Fulton County, (Syracuse: D.Mason and Company, 1890). Glove shops appeared on every street in the district and "every business interest in Gloversville (was) dependent directly or indirectly upon the glove industry." (Washington Frothingham, History of Fulton County, (Syracuse: D.Mason and Company, 1890). By the first decade of the twentieth century the last of the original mills in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District had been demolished and replaced with commercial structures. Around 1920 Rubin Gloves, Incorporated (51-53 East Fulton Street) was constructed. It was the last mill built in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District and is the only glove factory currently located in the historic district. The Rubin Gloves factory is an intact example of an early twentieth century industrial building.
Between 1855 and 1900 numerous non-industrial buildings were constructed for use by the glove manufacturers, or as investments with money made from the leather industry. Examples of each category in the Downtown Gloversville Historic District include 1-5 North Main Street, built by C.W. Rose in 1881 and used as an office, the Brower Homestead built between 1870 and 1872 at 76-80 North Main Street (the residence of Abram Brower, glove manufacturer) and the Brower Apartments, built by Brower between 1901 and 1904 as an investment at 5 Fremont Street. The majority of the new construction between 1870 and 1900 consisted of brick commercial blocks in the Italianate style, three stories in height and three bays in width. Local merchants and manufacturers such as Willard Heacock, A.J. Kasson, and Nathan Littauer financed the construction of commercial buildings in the district. Willard Heacock financed the Italianate style Heacock Block at 2-10 South Main Street around 1869. Centrally located on the southwest corner of the "four corners," this structure's curved brick facade is unique in the district. A.J. Kasson built the Kasson Opera House/Schine Building at 26-38 North Main Street in 1880. This three-story, nine-bay-wide, brick commercial block is the finest example of the Second Empire style in Fulton County. Its slate mansard roof has ocular and round-arched dormers and projects slightly over the building's central bay. Detailing on the edifice includes a projecting wooden bracketed cornice, triglyphs and metopes on the frieze, pilasters topped by curved brackets and decorative window label moldings. Nathan Littauer was owner of a factory on South Main Street which he later demolished to build the Second Empire style Littauer Block (2-18) ca.1884. Although stripped of much of its ornamental detailing, this structure's mansard roof and large mass still distinguish it as a focal point of its block.
In some cases, investments of glove magnates had a hilanthropic aspect. In 1865 Reverend Heacock, a retired minister and brother of Willard, gave his home to provide land for the construction of the Romanesque Revival style First Presbyterian Church at 16 West Fulton Street. A.J. Kasson constructed his opera house to provide entertainment, and Littauer's building housed the library for several years. Nathan Littauer's son, Lucius, also financed the construction of the Art Deco style Jewish Community Center at 28-32 East Fulton Street in 1929. This building is the best example of a high-style Art Deco structure in the county. It is a three-story, three-bay-wide, brick structure whose two-story projecting entrance pavilion has engaged fluted corner columns. Vertical fluting appears above a shallow bas-relief pediment over the entrance. Polychromatic gold and yellow bricks are layered horizontally and vertically on the north facade to create a weave pattern. In the era 1870-1900 there is the first record of a professional architect in Gloversville: noted Troy architect, M.F. Cummings, who designed the Queen Anne style Old City Hall located at 48 North Main Street in 1885. A second professional architect, Henry F. Kilburn of New York City, created the First Baptist Church (59 South Main Street) in 1890, the best example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style in the area. This three and one-half-story edifice is three bays wide and has a four-story bell tower. Its west facade is of rusticated stone in a random ashlar pattern and features a trio of Romanesque arches at the entrance. Elaborate foliated stone carvings appear on its gable ends, bell tower and corner tower. Kilburn was responsible for the design of several churches in New York City including the Park Presbyterian Church at 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue and the Mount Morris Baptist Church at 126th Street and Fifth Avenue.
The period from 1900-1940, although not the boom era of the late nineteenth century, was still a time of growth for Gloversville. The population continued to rise, reaching 22,000 by 1915. With the continued expansion of the glove industry, Gloversville's downtown prospered. New construction of this period introduced the Renaissance, Tudor and Neoclassical Revivals, and, later, the Art Deco and Art Moderne styles to Gloversville's downtown. In the early twentieth century, the west side of South Main Street was converted from a residential to a commercial district while the 1920s and 1930s saw commercial structures replace residential buildings along North Main Street between Middle/Fremont and Spring/Prospect Streets. In addition to this outward expansion, the downtown flourished with the addition of conspicuous public and commercial buildings, monumental structures which asserted the pride and wealth of the era: The Renaissance Revival Kingsborough Hotel (34-38 South Main Street) was constructed by merchants in 1902 to house the city's numerous visitors. A Beaux-Arts style public library (58 East Fulton Street, National Register listed), an example of the Carnegie philanthropic era, was constructed between 1902 and 1904. A new high school designed in the Renaissance Revival style by Wilson Potter, a New York architect noted for his schools in Geneva, Poughkeepsie, Peekskill, and Fulton, New York City, was constructed in 1906 at 90 North Main Street to accommodate the increase in students among Gloversville's growing population. Gloversville's newspapers continued to expand, and two structures, the Renaissance Revival style Knox Building (52-56 South Main Street; 1907) and the Romanesque style Leader-Herald Building (8-10 East Fulton Street, 1908), were constructed to meet these needs. Several social organizations built new edifices or substantially rehabilitated their meeting halls in this period. These include the F.L. Comstock designed Renaissance Revival style Eccentric Club, built in 1908 at 109-113 North Main Street, and the Tudor Revival style Masonic Temple designed by Herkimer, New York Architect R. Sluyter in 1919 and located at 122 North Main Street. The Elks rehabilitated their Italianate style meeting hall located at 12 East Fulton Street around 1919. Gloversville's two major financial institutions, Fulton County National Bank and Trust Company (2 North Main Street) and City National Bank and Trust Company (12-18 North Main Street) built monumental Neoclassical style buildings on North Main Street in 1912 and 1917 respectively to house their expanding businesses.
The Classical Revival style Glove Theater (40-44 North Main Street) was built in 1914 to supplement the Family Theater (in Memorial Hall/Kasson Opera House, 26-38 North Main Street) next door and its success rose with the fortunes of the Schine Enterprises in the 1920s and 1930s. J. Meyer Schine and Louis W. Schine founded Schine Enterprises, Inc. in 1917 and started their movie house chain with the purchase of the Hippodrome Theater in Gloversville. In 1920 they bought the Glove and Family Theaters. They made the Kasson Opera House (later known as the Schine Building) the office block for Schine Enterprises. At its height Schine Enterprises was a theater chain of 150 theaters in five states. The business was valued at 75 million dollars when sold in 1965. The Glove Theater was the flagship theater of Schine Enterprises. Innovations in theater equipment were first tested in the Glove Theater before distribution to the other Schine-operated theaters. In 1930 it became one of the first theaters in the nation to be equipped with sound.
An influential local architect between 1900 and 1930 was Frederick Comstock. Comstock designed predominantly in the Renaissance Revival style and created Fulton County's most sophisticated examples of this mode. His commissions included the Y.M.C.A. (19 East Fulton Street, 1913), the Eccentric Club (109-113 North Main Street; 1908), and the Hotel Kingsborough (34-38 South Main Street, 1902). Comstock was educated at Union College and Columbia University. He practiced in Gloversville at the turn of the twentieth century and moved his practice to New York City in the 1930s.
Only 4% of the total building stock of the Downtown Gloversville Historic District was constructed after 1940 (one building in 1947, 1960, 1962, and 1977). This is a reflection of the economic decline that the city has experienced since World War II. The glove industry has slumped due to competition from abroad and the population of the city has fallen. The lack of either new construction or substantial remodellings in most of downtown Gloversville has contributed to the maintenance of the Downtown Gloversville Historic District architectural integrity.
The economic and industrial growth of Gloversville, New York between c.1850 and 1931 resulted in a significant concentration of late nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial, religious and civic structures. Downtown Gloversville was the center of commerce for the city in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the city was the glove center of the nation at the turn of the twentieth century. The building stock which makes up the Downtown Gloversville Historic District is still intact and generally cohesive, despite diversities in architectural style and period. Its link with the glove and leather industries provides Gloversville's Downtown Historic District with a distinctive historic association, one which is directly related to the city's early development and most prosperous era.
Frothingham, Washington. History of Fulton County. Syracuse: D. Mason & Company, 1892.
Cook, George H. The Industrial Advantages of Gloversville, N.Y. Gloversville, New York, 1890.
History of Montgomery & Fulton Counties, N.Y. New York: F.W. Beers and Company, 1878.
Stowe, F. B. Gloversville and Vicinity. Gloversville: Stowe Publishing Company, 1896.