Lake Street Historic District
The Lake Street 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.
Note: While the district title and the references to specific property addresses indicate 'Lake Street,' the name of the street is 'Lake Avenue,' as confirmed by U. S. Postal Service database, Bergen Business Directory listings, and contemporary maps.
The Lake Street Historic District contains eleven late nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial structures in the central business district of the village of Bergen. Located in sparsely populated Genesee County, the tiny village of Bergen typifies the many small agricultural service centers settled throughout western New York during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A typical "crossroads hamlet," Bergen is comprised of a small two-block commercial center surrounded by mid and late nineteenth century residences which have been extensively altered and no longer retain historic district potential. The village of Bergen is currently experiencing a period of growth and development as a result of its location between the city of Rochester to the northeast and the town of Batavia to the southwest.
The small central business district of Bergen is located south of the Conrail railroad tracks that cross the community to the north. Lake Street (Route 19), the community's "Main Street," runs north/south through the Lake Street Historic District and is intersected by Rochester-Buffalo Street, which runs east/west. It is around this intersection in the north central section of the village that the central business district developed. The Lake Street Historic District includes approximately one block of late nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial structures along the west side of Lake Street. The boundaries were drawn to include only those structures within the central business district that retain architectural integrity. The northern boundary is formed by the Conrail railroad track right-of-way. The east side of Lake Street has been excluded entirely from the nomination due to extensive demolition and loss of architectural integrity. The western boundary is formed by the rear lot lines of the buildings. A parking lot forms the southern border adjacent to the Masonic Temple at #12 South Lake Street. The eleven building Lake Street Historic District covers two acres and has no intrusions.
The majority (seven) of the Lake Street Historic District's buildings are brick Romanesque Revival style commercial structures built during the decade following the 1880 fire that destroyed the densely built-up frame commercial area. Four of the structures reflect the vernacular commercial architectural styles of the early twentieth century. Dating from 1880 to 1921, the eleven commercial structures within the Lake Street Historic District are almost uniform in their design, scale, detail, and materials. All but one of the buildings are two stories high with generally flat roofs. The Romanesque Revival style structures display decorative cornices of corbelled brick with end brackets, dentils, or arched detailing. Particularly fine examples include the American Legion Home at #21 N. Lake Street, #25 N. Lake Street, #19 North Lake Street, and #13 North Lake Street. The regular fenestration consists predominantly of the long, narrow segmental arched or straight one-over-one double-hung sash typical of commercial structures of the period with stone window heads, cast-iron pedimented heads, or radiating voussoirs. Other common ornamental features include corbelling, bay windows, and pedimented parapets.
The building at 23 N. Lake Street and the Masonic Temple at 12 South Lake Street, built in 1921 and 1906 respectively, are small-scale representative examples of vernacular early twentieth century commercial architecture. Both buildings are distinguished by their low, horizontal massing, subtle decorative details, and period storefronts. The structure at 23 North Lake Street has a raised parapet with patterned brickwork and stone coping and a storefront with a metal transom. The Masonic Temple has brick pilasters, a simple brick cornice, and tripartite commercial windows. The double storefront has a central brick pier, stone cornice, and large transoms composed of small panes of stained glass.
Nearly all of the building's street level storefronts have remained intact despite tenant changes during the twentieth century. Typical of late nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial structures, the storefronts consist of recessed central entrances with boxed display windows and cast-iron decorative details such as columns, cornices, and end brackets. Although several of the storefronts have been boarded up or enclosed, only three have been permanently altered. The upper stories of the buildings provide space for professional offices, living quarters, or storage.
The most architecturally distinguished commercial structure is the Tulley Block at 11 North Lake Street. Built in 1886, the massive corner structure has an elaborate corbelled cornice, metal coping, a facade pedimented parapet with ball-shaped finials and datestone and a similar side rectangular parapet with the name inscribed. The ten by four bay building has four separate intact storefronts with cast-iron cornices and pillars. The building is especially distinguished, however, by decorative cast-iron cornice window heads on consoles and a central bay window topped by a small cast-iron balustrade with canted corners and drop pendants.
The almost exclusive representation of a single style and the uniformity of materials and decorative details creates a strong sense of harmony and cohesiveness in the district. The Lake Street Historic District remains an intact, well-preserved illustration of a late nineteenth century commercial center in a small western New York village.
The Lake Street Historic District, a cohesive grouping of Romanesque Revival and early twentieth century vernacular commercial architecture, is architecturally and historically significant as the only intact, surviving one-block section of the late nineteenth century commercial core of the small agricultural community of Bergen, Genesee County. The eleven buildings in the Lake Street Historic District date from 1880 to 1921, the period in which the commercial activity of the community peaked following an 1880 fire that destroyed the densely built-up frame commercial core and before the community experienced a loss in population and serious economic decline in the late 1920s. With the exception of two separate but adjacent buildings, the Lake Street Historic District is comprised of an attached row of Romanesque Revival style structures which are embellished with corbelled brick cornices and round or segmental arched windows with cast-iron surrounds. Relatively undisturbed by the adverse effects of modernization, the Lake Street Historic District contains an unusually large number of intact cast-iron storefronts. The Lake Street Historic District is an excellent example of the commercial service center of a small agricultural community in western New York.
In 1798, Joseph Ellicott, the first resident agent of the Holland Land Company, a group of Dutch investors, began a survey of western New York state. Genesee County was formed in 1802 with Batavia as the county seat. Originally, the county encompassed all of the Holland Land Purchase, a huge area of western New York which in the next forty years was subdivided into as many as ten counties. The town of Bergen is part of the "Triangular Tract" sold to LeRoy, McEvers, and Bayard from the Morris Preserve in 1800. The village, the principal community in the township, was settled in 1801 when Lake Road was opened by the land company of the Triangular Tract corporation. The first settlers were farmers from Connecticut who were attracted to the area by its fertile, flat land and dense forests. By 1880, a small crossroads hamlet had developed with a sawmill, store, tavern, post office, and church. On June 8, 1812, the town of Bergen was incorporated with the village of Bergen as its commercial center.
The village of Bergen continued its small but steady growth throughout the early nineteenth century. Although agriculture was the main economic base, several small industries developed in the commercial core of the village including a brickyard, a barrel factory, and a potash manufacturer. In 1836, the Buffalo and Rochester Railroad was completed and intersected the village approximately one mile north of the business district. With the advent of the railroad, the commercial area began to prosper as the expansion of trade and increase in population created the need for a variety of goods and services. The consolidation of the railroad in 1853 to form the New York Central increased rail traffic through the area prompting still further growth in the community. By the mid nineteenth century, the commercial core of the village of Bergen consisted of four blocks of frame structures housing businesses and a wide variety of commercial enterprises.
Disaster struck Bergen on January 15, 1866 when, within two hours, a fire destroyed three blocks of commercial structures along the west side of Lake Street. The area was quickly rebuilt and wooden sidewalks installed. The community continued to enjoy steady growth in the period following the Civil War and on March 17, 1877 the village of Bergen was incorporated. Three years later, the commercial core was once again destroyed by fire with the loss of thirty-one businesses, seven residences, and five barns. The fire prompted a prohibition of wooden buildings and as the commercial core was rebuilt throughout the 1880's, brick Romanesque Revival style structures were constructed. The rows of commercial buildings featured street level cast-iron storefronts devoted to retail enterprises while the upper floors provided space for storage, offices, and living quarters. The commercial district, typical of a small rural western New York agricultural community, included several general stores (Tulley Block at 11 North Lake Street), a tailor (17 N. Lake Street), drugstores (13 and 15 N. Lake Street), a grocery store (19 North Lake Street), and a social hall (21 North Lake Street).
The commercial structures are excellent examples of the Romanesque Revival style of architecture popular during the mid and late nineteenth century (1840-1890). Frequently used for commercial and institutional buildings, the Romanesque Revival style is distinguished by patterned brickwork, corbelled cornices, stringcourse, arched window and door openings, and decorative window heads or surrounds. Ornamental details found on the buildings in the Lake Street Historic District include elaborate cast-iron window heads such as those found on 10 South Lake Street and 11 and 19 North Lake Street, decorative stone lintels exhibited on 15, 17, and 21 North Lake Street, corbelled cornices displayed on 11, 19, and 21 North Lake Street, and parapets featured on 11 and 13 North Lake Street. Nearly all of the buildings retain their cast-iron storefronts with pillars or columns, decorative cornices, end brackets, and wide plate glass windows.
The village of Bergen flourished at the turn of the twentieth century as the community continued to serve as the major commercial center for the surrounding rural areas. The economic prosperity of the village was sustained through the opening of several major businesses including a creamery, a gas and coal company, a cigar factory, and a fence works. In 1906, a fire destroyed six businesses at the north end of the commercial district that were replaced by brick commercial structures. The buildings at 25 and 27 North Lake Street, built in 1913 and 1906 respectively, exhibit the patterned brickwork, corbelled cornices, and fenestration typical of early twentieth century commercial architecture. The Housel Bank at 27 North Lake Street served the community until it closed during the Depression. The structure at 25 North Lake Street originally served as a barber shop and pool hall. After the 1906 fire, the Masonic Temple, which was originally located at the north end of Lake Street, was moved to a new structure at 12 South Lake Street. The large building features a corbelled cornice and tripartite windows typical of commercial structures of this period. The double storefront has a central brick pier and large multi-paned transoms. The structure still serves as a Masonic Lodge. In 1921, the last gap along the streetscape created by the 1906 fire was filled by a small, one-story brick grocery store at 23 North Lake Street. The structure features representative early twentieth century commercial architectural details such as a transformed storefront, subtle patterned brickwork, and a raised parapet with stone coping.
The village of Bergen never recovered from the economic losses suffered during the Depression and during the mid-twentieth century, the commercial center continued to experience a dramatic decline. Bypassed by the major arterials, the community also suffered from the collapse of the railroad and the unprofitable nature of farming. Many residents left the area. During the 1960's and 1970's, efforts at urban renewal resulted in the demolition of nearly all of the commercial structures on the east side of Lake Street. Today, this area is marked by parking lots and a modern (1970's) post office and gas station. The village is currently experiencing a rebirth as a convenient and desirable location for Batavia and Rochester commuters due to its proximity to NYS Route 490. The buildings in the Lake Street Historic District remain the only intact grouping of architecturally significant structures associated with Bergen's late nineteenth century commercial core. Relatively undisturbed during the last five decades, the Lake Street Historic District evokes much of the character and ambience of a bustling late nineteenth century mercantile center.
Barons, Virginia. The Town of Bergen: A History. New York: Bergen Sesqui-Centennial Committee, 1962.
Beers, F.W. History, Gazetteers and Directory. Syracuse, New York: J.W. Voss and Company, 1890.
Doty, Lockwood R., ed. History of the Genesee Country. Vol. II. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925.