Reed Street Historic District
The Reed Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Reed Street Historic District includes thirty-two buildings in the business section of the village of Coxsackie. This incorporated village is located on the west bank of the Hudson River about twenty-two miles south of Albany, New York's capital city. Coxsackie's Reed Street Historic District formerly adjoined a busy Hudson River landing, now abandoned.
Reed Street was built on fill on wet land close to the Hudson. To the west, other parts of the village are located on rising ground. The district includes all of the Reed Street block, one house on Ely Street, and short sections of Mansion and River Streets. Definitely a mercantile section, the district is characterized by two and three-story, mid-nineteenth century brick commercial buildings. Along Reed Street they have contiguous walls. Most have first floor storefronts opening directly onto the sidewalks, and many feature period doorways giving access to second and third floor offices and living quarters. Among the few exceptions are three Federal residences, a hotel of the 1880's, a period fire house, and a modern post office. Particularly interesting are late nineteenth century cast-iron columns added to some storefronts.
The district exhibits uniformity of style in its Italianate brick facades, with ornate brackets, often paired, on wide friezes under overhanging eaves. Other typical details are flat or sloping roofs, ornamental brick string courses, and occasional hood molds over second-story windows. Entrance doors leading to stairways to upper floors are usually double wooden doors with moldings and round-headed panels or panes, topped by transoms. The storefronts feature molded horizontal wood panels, expanses of glass, and wooden columns except where cast iron has been inserted. Some storefronts have been altered by remodeling and a few buildings have been removed from the original rows. However, except for the post office, they have fortunately not been replaced by modern structures.
The three late Federal residences overlooking Reed Street from the west are attached, a rather unusual circumstance. Although the Heermance Library at One Fly Street is of wood, the other two houses in the row are of brick.
The boundaries of the district have been set at rear lot lines except along the north side where they follow a small road running behind the Reed Street block. The large lots belonging to the Heermance Library and the McQuade buildings have been included to be consistent and to give protection to the district. In addition, the land owned by the library extends south to New Street where it is expected to adjoin another residential historic district. The large lot belonging to the Dolan Block, extending east toward the Hudson River, encompasses part of the old dock area and has been included for historical reasons as well as to give protection to the district.
The Reed Street Historic District, with its well-preserved mid-nineteenth century mercantile rows, has both historic and architectural significance.
The area was bought from the Indians in 1662, and joint owners received a patent, commonly known as the Coxsackie Patent, from the English in 1687. Coxsackie's waterfront, including the Reed Street Historic District, was not developed until division of the remaining portion of the patent in 1784, at a time of post-Revolutionary expansion. Land on which the Reed Street Historic District is located came into the hands of merchant Eliakim Reed, who was living nearby and had a dock and warehouse on the river before 1800. The area became known as Reed's landing and was also later known as Coxsackie Middle Landing and Coxsackie Landing.
Eliakim Reed sold this property in 1804 to Thomas Barker, William Judson, and Ralph Barker, who in 1810 laid out lots, many of which were marshy. Pilings were needed for early buildings. The Susquehanna, Schoharie, Albany and Greene, and Coxsackie Turnpikes were near at hand, but, in part due to the opening of the Erie Canal to the north, development was slow until the success of the brick-making industry spurred growth. One of three residences from this early period included in the district, today the Heermance Library, was built by Coxsackie's first postmaster, Ralph Barker, on the site of an earlier house. Barker's Federal style residence became the home of William Van Bergen Heermance, founder of the first bank in Coxsackie. His bank was housed from 1852 to 1869 in one of the adjoining Federal brick buildings attached to the library.
By mid-century, Reed's Landing had grown into Coxsackie's principal dock area and had become a thriving doorway to Hudson River trade. Greene County's agricultural production increased significantly as transportation improved and the population increased before the Civil War. A number of local industries developed: in 1867 appear fourteen dealers, four lawyers, four brick manufacturers, and three hotel keepers. Other enterprises included ship-building, a carriage manufactory, a printing press manufactory, lumber and coal businesses, an iron foundry and a malleable iron company, and, later ice harvesting. In 1867 the village incorporated. The West Shore Railroad leading from Albany and points west to New York City was laid through the village in 1882.
Shortly after mid-century, fires destroyed many of the buildings on the north side of Reed Street. The street was widened, more substantial foundations of stone were laid, and the burned stores were rebuilt. This accounts for the uniformity of the north side of the street. An atlas of 1867 shows the historic district almost completely developed. The D. M. Hamilton Steamer Company fire house was added in 1872. Since the early 1880's the district has seen little change. Although the landing no longer functions and the related industries have for the most part closed, Coxsackie's commercial district has clung to existence as a business center within the old setting. Its buildings are therefore a very tangible continuum from the busy nineteenth century and early twentieth century years and have great historic interest.
Because it is little changed, the district has architectural significance as well. It retains more mercantile buildings with architectural integrity than most other Hudson River communities of the period. In 1978, a film company, after surveying various villages for a location, chose Reed Street because they had found here a street of nineteenth-century buildings "in excellent repair, their architectural details virtually intact." (Helen Frawan Ofield, Bowling Green Films, Inc.) Storefront remodelings and some deterioration have occurred but the nineteenth-century ambience could be recreated simply by the replacement of storefront awnings and removal of automobiles and blacktop. Late in the century, however, cast-iron columns from an Albany firm, James McKinney and Son, were added to a few storefronts and the 1869 bank was updated to include facade columns, a Richardsonian window, and a dome.
Most of the buildings reflect the adaptable Italianate style as it was applied to small town rows before and after the Civil War. The style could be simple or elaborate. The pristine Bergman and Son Print Shop is an example of the elaboration of the style. The building exhibits paired brackets under an overhanging eave, decorated cornices at the eave and at the top of the storefront, and hood molds of brick over the second-story windows. To these common features have been added ornamental, segmented arches topping each cornice, a fully decorated frieze with an unusual shape and trim, and extra finials. Another similarly elaborate building is the Town Building. The three-bay Vermilyea's Variety Store shows a more restrained application of the style. Its sloping roof extends over the front in a wide eave supported by paired brackets on a deep frieze, but otherwise the facade is plain and the lintels are merely functional. The small doorway on the ground floor is a good example of the molded trim, door and transom which is typical up and down Reed Street. On a few facades, such as that of the fire house, brackets have been rendered in corbeled brick rather than in wood. All are valuable illustrations of the possible applications of the Italianate mode.
An older building of importance in the district is the Hyman Building, a combination store and warehouse which retains its iron loft doors on both the second and third floors of the front, a perhaps once common commercial type dating to the early nineteenth century which rarely survives to the present. The Heermance Library and the McQuade Buildings have also survived from an earlier period, with Federal detailing intact. The library's dentil molding and pilastered classical doorway make an interesting counterpoint to the McQuade Buildings' decorated lintels, block trim, and elliptical doorway lights with tracery.
The collection of nineteenth-century storefronts is one of the significant architectural contributions of the district. Typical are those ranged along the front of the Dolan Block. This is an Italianate building, enlarged by the 1880's, topped by a cupola. When completed, it included six stores, apartments, and a theatre. The street level is completely devoted to wooden storefronts with wooden columns, horizontal molded panels, and large glass windows under wooden cornices that once supported awnings.
Beers, F. W. Atlas of Greene County, New York. New York: Beers, Ellis and Soule, 1867.
Beers, J. B. History of Greene County, New York. New York: J. B. Beers and Company, 1884.