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Le Roy Downtown Historic District


Home in the  Le Roy Downtown Historic District, Le Roy, NY, National Register

Photo: Home in the Le Roy Downtown Historic District, Le Roy, NY. The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. Photographer not listed, ca. 2016, for nomination document, Draft: Le Roy Downtown Historic District, Genesee County, NY, NR# SG100000612, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places; http://parks.ny.gov/shpo, New York State Historic Preservation Office, accessed February, 2017.

The Le Roy Downtown Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.

The Le Roy Downtown Historic District encompasses the historical commercial and residential center of the Village of Le Roy, Genesee County, New York; the District is oriented around the intersection of NY Route 19 and Route 5, primarily along Main and West Main Streets with several buildings included from the cross-streets of Bank, Lake, and Clay Street. The Le Roy Downtown Historic District consists of the community's most intact and best examples of commercial, public, religious and social buildings along the route which has served as the primary artery through Le Roy since its founding. Most buildings face Main/West Main Street, a straight east-west road that is also designated as NY Route 5. The west end of the district ends at Gilbert Street and the east end of the district terminates just before the bridge that crosses the Oatka Creek. NY Route 19/Lake Street/Clay Street bisects the district, running north-south, and other side streets, including Craigie Street, West Avenue, Bank Street and Mill Street, also intersect NY Route 19 perpendicularly.

The District forms the hub of the Village of Le Roy, Genesee County, New York, which is located roughly 29 miles southwest of the City of Rochester. The Village of Le Roy is approximately two and three-quarters square miles in area, near the center of the Town of Le Roy. The village has a small-scale urban character, with several dense residential neighborhoods surrounding a more densely concentrated commercial corridor. Main Street has traditionally been the primary east-west route through the village and the town. Oatka Creek, a tributary that empties into the Genesee River on its way east to Rochester, divides the village in two and forms the eastern boundary of the district.

Buildings in the Le Roy Downtown Historic District reflect the development of architectural taste, construction methods, materials, and functional use over a period that spans the history of the village from its origins in the early nineteenth century to the present day. Generally, the eastern portion of the district contains purpose-built nineteenth-century commercial properties that were sited to take advantage of water power from the Oatka Creek. The western half of the district is more residential in character, although many former houses are now utilized for commercial purposes. Though few buildings constructed prior to the town's incorporation in 1812 still exist, one of the two early land agency offices in the town is extant and located inside the historic district boundary. Thomas Tufts's offices and tavern at 48 West Main Street was constructed in 1811 near the boundary of the Craigie and Triangle Tracts and would have been one of the first or last buildings travelers on the Niagara Road saw upon entering or leaving the new Town of Le Roy. Tufts operated the land office until 1815, when the last parcels of the Craigie Tract were sold. In 1815 he sold 48 West Main Street to Captain John Lent, who operated the building as a tavern and hostelry. At a time when more than ten stagecoaches and six freight horse teams passed through the settlement daily, this building was an important landmark. The Niagara Road facilitated commerce across Western New York in an era prior to railroads or the completion of the Erie Canal, and it played an important role in Le Roy's economic development.

Many of the buildings in the district are modest interpretations of popular period styles, with some larger, more ornate examples as well. The western portion of the district contains some early nineteenth century residences, including an Adamesque residence and a Greek Revival former inn from 1811. There are several Greek Revival style buildings from the mid-nineteenth century, as well as examples of large Italianate and Queen Anne houses that were converted to social clubs during the early twentieth century. West Main Street also contains Colonial Revival residences from the first half of the twentieth century and two mid-century Ranch style residences that reflect the last phases of residential subdivision along the street. Commercial buildings toward the eastern half of the district, east of Clay/Lake Street, are generally two- or three-story brick or stone buildings. While many of these buildings date to the nineteenth and early twentieth century, some of the primary facades were altered in the early to mid-twentieth century and reflect widespread trends of storefront modernization during that era.

Main Street is approximately eighty feet wide, with two lanes in either direction, a center turning lane, and parking on both sides. The north side of the Main Street is lined with fourteen mature deciduous trees evenly spaced along the concrete sidewalk and the southern side is lined with eight trees of similar age, paired and spaced far apart along the street. Though most buildings are built right to the sidewalk, there is some lawn along the southern end close to Clay Street in front of the Presbyterian Church, the residence immediately to its east, and the McDonald's restaurant.

The streetscape through West Main Street has a slightly different, more residential, feel, with a narrower street, buildings set back further from the street, and more mature trees. West Main Street is also paved asphalt but is only approximately 45 feet wide, with nearly fifteen-foot-wide grass planting strips between the street and the concrete sidewalks. Most residences are set back between thirty-five and fifty feet from the road, and nearly every house has one or two mature deciduous trees on the planting strip and additional trees on their lawns, giving the sidewalk a near-canopied effect.

Most of the properties along West Main Street have rectangular lots with widths between sixty and seventy-five feet. Two exceptions to that rule are 53 West Main Street and 34 West Main Street, which are used by the American Legion and former O-At-Ka Hose Club, respectively; each has a large parking lot to the side and rear of the building to accommodate their patrons. It appears that most lots originally had depths ranging between 250 and 300 feet, and while the majority of extant residences maintain that depth, there are several variations. In addition to a few shallower lots that likely resulted from subdividing original large lots, 34 West Main and 53 West Main have much deeper lots, measuring 650 feet and 530 feet deep, respectively. Other exceptions include the non-contributing contemporary apartment complex at 57 West Main Rear, which was subdivided off of 57 West Main Street and extends diagonally behind 57 and 61 West Main Street, as well as 1-23 Gilbert Street to the west. Additionally, the Save-A-Lot (formerly Acme Grocery) at 19 West Main Street is located on a parcel that once contained the Late-Victorian Gothic Lampson Mansion, which was the clubhouse for the local Knights of Columbus before they relocated to the still extant carriage house and sold the mansion to Acme, which promptly demolished the building in c. 1963 to build its grocery store.

Architecture

The Le Roy Downtown Historic District includes the traditional commercial core in the Village of Le Roy, as well as a portion of the adjacent West Main Street that originated as houses for some of the community's earliest and most prominent residents. Though residential in design, during the mid-twentieth century, many of the houses along West Main Street were used for social and commercial purposes, and, as a result, have a closer shared character with the commercial properties along Main Street than with the surrounding residential neighborhoods in the village.

The most common building material for residential buildings in the district is wood, while many of the commercial buildings are constructed of brick or stone. Most of the buildings were constructed by local builders who utilized existing plans or pattern books, reflecting popular architectural styles of the time.

Most of the houses are two and one-half stories with front- or side-gabled roofs, but there are a few more complex orientations found among the district's Victorian-era designs. Several houses feature large front porches and many houses have similar fenestration, although the details vary. The majority of the windows are double-hung sash, and multi-light casement windows are the second most prevalent type. Many residences in the district share a number of common features, such as bay windows, large open porches, enclosed entries, dormer windows, wood porch columns, leaded glass windows, and single-story wings attached to the side or rear of the building.

Nearly all of the commercial buildings in the district are constructed of brick, though one bank building is constructed of locally-quarried stone. A majority of the commercial buildings were constructed in the nineteenth century, with simplified Italianate detailing and massing, though there are early nineteenth and twentieth-century buildings as well, including a mid-twentieth century clam-shell grocery store. Nearly all of the commercial buildings are located on Main Street, though several of the former residences along West Main are rented as multi-unit apartments, one houses the American Legion, and one is a funeral home.

The district includes two municipal buildings. The building at 48 Main Street is a c. 1945 former department store that was converted to the Le Roy Town Offices. The c. 1914 Municipal Building houses the town and village fire department, police department, the mayor's office, and meeting spaces for the community. There is one religious building in the district, the First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Main and Clay Streets, which was listed on the National Register in 2014.

Integrity

The period of significance for the Le Roy Downtown Historic District is from 1811 to 1963, encompassing the construction of the earliest extant building, the Lent Tavern at 48 West Main Street, through the construction of the Acme Grocery in 1963 at 19 West Main Street. The buildings in the district maintain integrity in terms of location and setting. Collectively, the buildings in the district retain original historic features, particularly in terms of massing, fenestration, trim work, bay windows, and other common elements from the period of significance. Some of the buildings have siding or roof replacements with non-historic materials, but the majority of the buildings retain the original clapboard, stone, brick and stucco exteriors.

The Le Roy Downtown Historic District retains its traditional character as a historic downtown neighborhood that blends commercial and residential buildings. A determination of contributing or non-contributing status is based on whether the building was constructed within the period of significance and if it maintains its historic integrity without obvious alterations. Buildings constructed after 1963, including two commercial buildings and one apartment building, fall outside of the period of significance and are not contributing. A number of buildings dating to the period of significance have non-historic renovations and additions. In cases where the alterations are confined to the rear of the building and are therefore not visible from the street, the building is considered contributing. Buildings with significant additions and non-historic materials that dramatically obscure or replace historic features such as original massing, fenestration, or orientation are identified as non-contributing.

Significance

The Le Roy Downtown Historic District is significant as a highly intact collection of residential and commercial buildings that reflect the evolution of the primary traffic artery through Le Roy, demonstrating its growth from frontier settlement to a bustling community at the turn of the twentieth-century. Main Street/West Main Street anchored early commercial and residential development in the Village of Le Roy, and it remains the primary thoroughfare and commercial corridor of the town. The district contains a variety of buildings that reflect changes in popular architectural styles from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, representing the phases of commercial and residential growth over the period of significance.

The earliest European-American inhabitants of the area that became the Village of Le Roy focused their settlement along the spine of the major west-east route through the area. Early development clustered toward the eastern end of the historic district, nearest to Oatka Creek, which powered the mills that drove the town's early industry. Commercial development started adjacent to these early mills, while residential settlement spread in a linear pattern along what became known as Main Street. Because the Main Street corridor remained a primary focus of investment and development as the village evolved and flourished in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, buildings in the district represent a wide variety of eras, from the earliest settlement before Le Roy was officially organized to the automobile-centric recent past. With few exceptions, buildings throughout the historic district reflect cohesive, human-scaled architectural development with traditional scale, massing, and orientation, reflecting a diverse yet harmonious mix of architectural styles along a traditional streetscape.

The period of significance for the Le Roy Downtown Historic District extends from 1811 to 1963, the construction dates of the oldest and newest contributing buildings in the district. The Greek Revival "Lent Tavern" at 48 West Main Street was built in 1811, during the earliest years of the area's settlement, and the Acme Grocery (now Save-A-Lot) at 19 West Main Street was constructed in 1963, demonstrating the continued development of this community during the mid-twentieth century. This period spans over 150 years of growth from Le Roy's initial settlement through its role as an economic center at a junction of state routes during the mid-twentieth century.

Physically, the district reflects a range of architectural styles—primarily residential and commercial—highlighting the long era of growth and development along this important village corridor. Along West Main Street, the houses range from Greek Revival and Italianate dating to the early 1800s, to much larger Queen Anne and Italianate residences from the late-nineteenth century, to early-twentieth century Colonial Revival and mid-century Ranch houses. The commercial and institutional buildings along Main Street have a similar aesthetic range, demonstrating mid-nineteenth century Italianate two-part blocks, large turn-of-the-twentieth century Neoclassical government buildings, and, finally, mid-century modern architecture. Although most of the builders and architects responsible for the physical appearance of the Main Street corridor remain unknown, local builders and carpenters likely constructed many of the houses and commercial buildings using pattern books as inspiration. Some of the larger buildings in the district have more sophisticated designs and appear to be works of trained architects. Prominent regional architect Claude Bragdon and noted local builder Philo L. Pierson designed and built several buildings in the district. Other architects in the district include James Arnold, Bryant Flemming, and Charles Ivan Cromwell, while George Barron and John R. Stevens were also the builders of record for two buildings in Le Roy.

Over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Village of Le Roy developed as the center of industrial, social, and economic life in the Town of Le Roy, which, like the majority of Genesee County, was largely agricultural. The area's population grew during the early nineteenth century as settlers passed through the community along the Great Niagara Road, today's NY Route 5, toward Buffalo and the western frontier. The presence of the Oatka Creek, which flows into the Genesee River and Rochester, made this an attractive area for farmers. The settlement was officially incorporated as a town in 1812 and as a village in 1834.

Most of Le Roy's early nineteenth century growth followed the discovery of large limestone deposits, which fostered a quarry industry in the village. Larger and more sustained village expansion occurred in the late nineteenth century, as water power and transportation improvements spurred further development. First, several local industries capitalized on the opportunity for water power from the Oatka Creek and business from the stagecoach line along the village's main road (today's Route 5/West Main Street/Main Street). Later, rail lines just north of the main settlement encouraged further expansion. The formation of Ingham University, located beyond the nominated district on the east side of the Oatka Creek, and the establishment of several other prominent local industries, led to continued growth throughout the early twentieth century. In addition to the village's expansion, its location at the crossroads of two important state routes—Route 5, the main east-west route from Albany to Pennsylvania, and Route 19, which traveled from Brockport and Lake Ontario all the way to New York's Southern Tier region—helped sustain local businesses.

Though village growth peaked by the early twentieth century, Le Roy continued to evolve as the center of commercial and social life in the area. As the residential landscape of the village shifted, wealthy local families left their large houses along West Main Street and village and town social organizations took up occupancy in these ornate facilities. The crossroads of Routes 5 and 19, major pre-Interstate routes in the state and important arterials after Interstate construction, allowed for continued commercial activity along Main Street from its initial formation through today. As business thrived, many building owners updated their storefronts to showcase modern aesthetics and small-scale developers created new commercial developments in the 1940s. The village maintained a sense of identity and wellbeing even after the New York Thruway opened in 1954, passing the village to the north. The construction of the Acme Grocery in ca. 1963 and three Ranch houses along West Main Street demonstrate the continued vitality of local commerce and the appeal of the neighborhood well after most small villages began to decline. Indeed, the continued strength of the village as an economic center in Genesee County has led to some of the more modern developments within the boundaries of the historic district, including the recent Rite Aid pharmacy constructed at the corner of Lake and West Main Streets, and the McDonald's restaurant and Thompkins Savings Bank. While these buildings are not historic in nature, they do reflect the continued commercial function of this area even into the twenty-first century. Overall, the district maintains its historic function as the center of social and commercial life for the Village of Le Roy.

† (Adapted from:) Derek King, Caitlin Moriarity, Matt Shoen, Preservation Studios with Jennifer Walkowski, New York State Historic Preservation Office, Le Roy Downtown Historic District, Genesee County New York, nomination document, 2016, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C. and N.Y. State Historic Preservation Office, accessed February, 2017.

Le Roy Downtown Historic District Map

Street Names
Bank Street • Clay Street • Craigie Street • Lake Street • Main Street • Main Street West • Mill Street • Route 5 • West Avenue

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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