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Main Street Historic District


The Main Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The Historic District expansion was listed in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from copies of the original nomination documents. [1,2] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Main Street Historic District in Geneseo includes structures of many different styles dating from the early part of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century.

The Main Street Historic District buildings are generally two or three stories in height, with an occasional one story or three and a half story structure. The residential buildings are generally single detached structures while the commercial structures were usually built in attached rows.

The Federal style is represented at 31 and 32 Main Street. No. 125 Main street is a vaguely Greek Revival structure, the only example of this style in Geneseo. No. 129 Main Street is a three bay house with gable end to the street, a type common to western New York in the nineteenth century. Italianate porches are found on 24 Main Street and 1 Court Street. Nos. 72, 74, 76, 80, and 86 Main Street are all commercial structures which employ a window motif of arch within arch, a common Geneseo form. St. Michael's Church of 1866 is a good example of Gothic Revival architecture. The French Second Empire Revival style is represented at 20, 26, and 41 Main Street. Nos. 33 and 34 Main Street are fine examples of the Queen Anne style. The Livingston County Courthouse designed by Claude Bragdon exemplifies the Classical Revival style. Early twentieth century commercial buildings dating from the second decade are found at 57, 61, and 65 Main Street. Richard Morris Hunt designed the bronze bear and lamp post topping the fountain at the intersection of Main and Center Streets. The fountain was given in 1888 by William and Herbert Wadsworth in memory of their mother, Emmeline Austin.

The following structures have a broad regional significance:

  • Jacob B. Hall House (31 Main Street) - c.1813, good example of the Federal style
  • Charles Colt House (32 Main Street) - 1815, good example of the Federal style
  • Genessee Valley Bank (125 Main Street) - Greek Revival with concert hall
  • St. Michael's Church - 1866, excellent Gothic Revival
  • Rodie Coddington House (20 Main Street) - 1874 French Second Empire style
  • Emmeline Austin Memorial Fountain (junction of Main and Center Streets) - designed by Richard Morris Hunt, 1888

Outbuildings:

  • There are a number of outbuildings connected with the properties along Main Street. There are nineteenth-century barns and carriage houses and twentieth-century garages. There is a storage shed behind number 119 Main Street. Number 17 Main Street has a pre-1900 barn. Number 29 has a concrete block two car garage.

Structures included in the Main Street Historic District:

  • Livingston County Courthouse, north end of Main Street
  • 1 Court Street (corner of Main Street)
  • 4-128 Main Street (west side) inclusive
  • Log cabin in park at southwest corner of Main and South Streets
  • 1-137 Main Street (east side) inclusive

Significance

Historically the heart of Geneseo, the Main Street Historic District illustrates the architectural development of a western New York town. The district contains excellent regional interpretations of the Federal style as well as a number of the revival styles of architecture popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Founded in 1790 by two brothers, James Wadsworth and William Wadsworth, who came from Connecticut, the town was planned with a green at one end, now the Village Park located at the south end of Main Street. North of the green was a fine level stretch of land where a few structures were built in the second decade of the nineteenth century. In 1821, the first Livingston County Courthouse was built at the northern end of this land. Main Street developed between the Livingston County Courthouse and the town green and was well established by the mid-1800s. Two churches, two banks, hotels, and manufacturing concerns gave a solid foundation to Genesseo's Main Street. The Erie Railroad came in 1859 and, although not situated on Main Street, had a decided effect on the growth and development of the street.

Main Street Historic District, Geneseo, is an outstanding collection of historic architecture; Federal, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Tudor, Colonial Revival, and early modern are all represented. The streetscape has few intrusions and considerable integrity. The heart of Geneseo, Main Street, contributes significantly to the community's visual resources. The Main Street Historic District possesses integrity of location, design, setting and feeling, and embodies the distinctive characteristics of a variety of periods of construction which exemplify the development and nature of this Western New York town.

Activities associated with the use of the area may have produced archeological remains. However, the archeological potential has not yet been assessed.

References

Dunn, Alberta S. The History of St. Michael's Church, 1823-1973. Geneva, New York: W.P. Humphrey Press, Inc., 1973.

Smith, James H. History of Livingston County, n.p. 1881.

Gilmore, Margaret E. "Main Street Geneseo, A Brief Historical Sketch." 1974. unpublished manuscript.

Malo, Paul. "Main Street — Geneseo, New York." The Association for the Preservation of Geneseo, 1974. unpublished manuscript.

Main Street Historic District (Boundary Expansion)

The Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion constitutes an enlargement of the Main Street Historic District (National Register, 1977), which included Geneseo's historic commercial, religious and civic core, its most fashionable residential enclave, and the Homestead, the 102.8 acre estate of Geneseo's most prominent family, the Wadsworths. (The Homestead, originally listed on the National Register individually in 1974, was added to the Main Street Historic District in 1977.) Thus the expanded Main Street Historic District consists of the original district, the Homestead and 235 additional properties, yielding a total of 308 properties and including approximately 600 acres. There are a total of 414 contributing components in the district. A comprehensive survey of the village, completed in 1978 by the Association for the Preservation of Geneseo, identified 235 properties along sections of ten residential streets east of Main Street that possess similar styles, scale, materials, craftsmanship and integrity and are united to the existing Main Street Historic District by similar associations with the history and development of Geneseo. Based on its additional research and documentation, the Main Street Historic District was expanded to incorporate those structures along Center, Chestnut, Elm, Oak, Prospect, Second, South, and Temple Hill Streets, Avon and Highland Roads, and Ward Place that retain integrity and reflect the historical development of the village. As expanded, the Main Street Historic District encompasses the village's only concentration of substantially intact, contiguous historic properties. In addition to these residential properties and scattered commercial, civic and religious properties, the survey also revealed a second Wadsworth family estate (the Hartford House, on the north end of Main Street) and a nineteenth-century cemetery (Temple Hill Cemetery, on the eastern edge of the village) which contribute to the significance of the Main Street Historic District and thus are included in the expanded nomination. Located northeast of the Main Street Historic District and isolated from it is the Erie Railroad Depot, which, if additional information substantiating its significance becomes available, may be nominated to the National Register individually at a later date.

The boundaries of the expanded Main Street Historic District have been drawn to include only the best, most intact, architecturally and/or historically significant structures in the village. Structures beyond the Main Street Historic District boundaries are extensively altered older structures or modern intrusions. West of Main Street are modern residential neighborhoods and the State University College, a complex of modern structures. The southern boundary of the Main Street Historic District is formed by the 102.8-acre estate of the Wadsworths, the Homestead, beyond which is open land and cultivated acreage of the predominantly rural town. East of the Temple Hill Cemetery (the easternmost property in the Main Street Historic District) are scattered residential and commercial structures of no architectural or historical merit. The northern boundary has been drawn to include the second Wadsworth family estate, (Hartford House) and to exclude the extensively altered, older residences along North Street (which is parallel to and north of Oak Street) and along Avon Road north of St. Mary's Church and Rectory and the Hartford House. The archeological potential of the village has not been evaluated. There are no historic industrial resources in the Main Street Historic District.

The historic building stock of the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion includes residential, commercial, religious and public structures, which, like those in the existing Main Street Historic District, date from the 1810s to the 1930s. They are designed in a broad range of styles and are executed in a variety of building materials, but wood frame residences with early and late nineteenth century stylistic features predominate. Major American styles represented by the Main Street Historic District's residences include the Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Italian Villa, Second Empire, Queen Anne/Eastlake and Colonial Revival. Numerous examples of vernacular, transitional and eclectic interpretations of the major styles also survive intact. Nearly all are wood frame structures with clapboard siding, in some instances inappropriately covered with modern siding. A few of the more imposing, sophisticated dwellings are executed in brick, including the Hartford House on the Wadsworth family estate on the north end of the village. Non-residential properties included in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion include two churches (Central Presbyterian Church, Center Street, c.1939, a brick Georgian Revival edifice, non-contributing due to age only, and the Geneseo Baptist Church, 26 Center Street, c.1885, a Greek Revival period edifice with a Queen Anne style facade), a former schoolhouse (currently the Livingston County Museum, 30 Center Street, c.1838, a cobblestone structure with Greek Revival style features), a library (Wadsworth Library, Center Street, c.1867, a brick structure with Greek Revival and Italianate style features) and several brick and frame commercial structures adjacent to Main Street's business district. There are approximately 124 contributing outbuildings in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion. Wood frame carriage barns and garages predominate and most are contemporary with the primary structures with which they are associated.

Within the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion, individual streets exhibit a consistency of period and style and a uniform scale and level of sophistication that reflect the various stages of the village development throughout the period of significance. South Street, probably the second street developed in the village (Main Street being the first), includes a substantial collection of notable Federal style dwellings. Dwellings of this period conform to three basic house types: the five-bay center hall form; the three-bay side or center-hall form with the ridge of the gable roof parallel to the street; and the three-bay side- or center-hall from with the gable end oriented towards the street. Other structures along South Street include modest, restrained interpretations of styles popular during the last quarter of the century.

Second Street, another of Geneseo's earliest streets, was one of the village's most fashionable, early nineteenth century residential neighborhoods as reflected in the wealth of Federal and Greek Revival period dwellings. Although many of these received substantial modernization with Italianate style elements in the 1860s and 1870s, the early nineteenth century character is recognizable, particularly in the numerous examples of intact entrance detailing. Second Street remained a fashionable neighborhood throughout the third quarter of the nineteenth century; some of the village's best examples of Gothic Revival and Italianate style dwellings are located on Second Street. During the last decades of the century, fashionable development along Second Street declined; there are a few relatively restrained Queen Anne and late Victorian period eclectic dwellings and virtually no examples of twentieth-century construction.

Center Street, the Main Street Historic District's most diverse street in terms of building use, was also one of the village's most fashionable neighborhoods during the first three quarters of the nineteenth century. Notable Greek Revival style structures (dwellings, the library and the former schoolhouse) and Italianate style dwellings of the mid-nineteenth century predominate. Imposing Second Empire, Italian Villa, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival style dwellings are also scattered along Center Street, reflecting the street's prominence throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Elm Street, a modest residential block between Center and South Streets, contains vernacular interpretations of a variety of mid to late nineteenth century styles, including Greek Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne, many of which have suffered unsympathetic alterations.

Houses located on Chestnut and Prospect Streets and War Place are modest structures dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century. A few 1870s and 1880s houses on Prospect Street exhibits notable Queen Anne style features, but, compared to later examples found elsewhere in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion, they are relatively modest. The greatest concentration of imposing Queen Anne style structures is located on Oak Street, a major east-west thoroughfare laid out in the 1889. These dwellings, dating from the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century, reflect the development of Geneseo's most fashionable turn-of-the-century residential street.

Early twentieth century development occurred along Oak Street and Highland Road on the then undeveloped eastern end of the village. Distinctive Colonial Revival style dwellings and cottages with Colonial Revival style features characterize these neighborhoods.

In addition to the ten residential streets, the district includes Temple Hill Cemetery, a picturesque, nineteenth-century cemetery on the east side of Temple Hill Street in the southeast corner of the district. The fifteen-acre cemetery, established in 1807, was landscaped during the second half of the nineteenth century with hedges of evergreens, a row of Australian Pines, a grove of oak trees and walks and driveways.

The Temple Hill Academy dominates the west side of Temple Hill Street. Sited on a landscaped 4.4-acre lot, the academy is an early nineteenth century Federal period structure with distinctive Italianate style features added during the late nineteenth century.

Together, the 414 contributing features of the expanded district reflect the early nineteenth to early twentieth century development of the regionally important village of Geneseo.

Significance

The Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion is a concentration of intact nineteenth and twentieth century, primarily residential properties, whose historical and architectural significance complements and expands that of the Main Street Historic District (National Register listed, 1977). Geneseo is a regionally important cultural, commercial and educational center in the rural Genesee Valley. The relatively sophisticated and imposing structures included in the expanded Main Street Historic District reflect the village's early nineteenth century prosperity as a marketplace for the valley's farming communities through its later prominence as the county seat of Livingston County and the location of the State Normal School (which later became the State University at College at Geneseo. In terms of period, style, scale, materials and craftsmanship, the neighborhood encompassed by the expansion is similar to the Main Street Historic District, which included the historic commercial and civic core of Geneseo, the most fashionable residential enclave in the village, and the Homestead, the palatial mansion and estate of the Wadsworth family. (The Homestead was individually listed in 1974 and was added to the Main Street Historic District in 1977.) As do the structures in the original Main Street Historic District, the structures in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion date from the 1810s to the 1930s and are designed in a broad range of architectural styles, including distinctive, representative vernacular and eclectic examples of the Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Italian Villa, Second Empire, Queen Anne/Eastlake and Colonial Revival styles. In addition to residential architecture, the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion also includes the second and last Wadsworth family estate (Hartford House) and structures which were executed with the same degree of architectural sophistication as those in the Main Street Historic District. The Temple Hill Cemetery, a picturesque, nineteenth-century cemetery, is also included in the district expansion. Several local master builders and prominent architects are also represented in the district expansion, including Frederick Butler, C.N. Otis, Robert Sherlock and Hugh McBride. Numerous substantially intact outbuildings, primarily frame barns and garages dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, contribute to the significance of the district.

The following discussion, which supports the listing of the expansion, is organized by periods of development and includes examples from both the listed original Main Street Historic District and the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion to illustrate that the entire area is a product of the same historical forces.

The village was founded in 1790 by brothers William Wadsworth and James Wadsworth, members of the family that would dominate and determine much of Geneseo's development throughout the nineteenth century. During the 1790s and early decades of the nineteenth century the Wadsworths established a prosperous agricultural community based on enlightened principles of soil conservation, selective stock breeding and scientific agricultural methods. The Wadsworth brothers donated land for the village green, around which the young community's commercial development occurred. The earliest residential growth occurred along Main Street, Geneseo's first thoroughfare, where the village's earliest and wealthiest citizens erected fashionable dwellings on spacious lots.

Reflecting Geneseo's early nineteenth century prosperity as well as the importance of the Wadsworth family throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are the Homestead and the Hartford House, the Wadsworth family homes. They are Genesseo's best, most significant and most imposing examples of residential architecture. The Homestead, individually listed on the National Register in 1974 and added to the Main Street Historic District in 1977, is the monumental estate of the first generation of Wadsworths, James and William. The original section of the mansion, obscured by numerous nineteenth and twentieth century alterations and additions, was constructed in 1804. James is renowned for establishing the family's enlightened agricultural practices in the region and William is noted for his political service: he was the town supervisor for twenty-one years. William's nephew (Jame's second son), James Wolcott Wadsworth, inherited the Homestead in 1844. James W. married Emmeline Austin, a Bostonian, in 1846, six years before his accidental death in 1852. The mansion underwent many changes during Emmeline's occupancy in the late nineteenth century. Between 1870 and the 1890's the Homestead was moved, expanded, embellished and transformed into a palatial residence typical of the extravagant "Gilded Age" of late nineteenth century America. It is from this period that the structure derives its primary architectural significance: it is a distinctive example of late nineteenth century eclectic residential architecture. The mansion and outbuildings occupy a 102.8-acre parcel at the south end of Main Street. The entire acreage was listed, as it retains substantial integrity and reflects the historical agricultural use of the estate which, at one time, covered thousands of acres of open and cultivated land. The Homestead, the county seat of Geneseo's wealthiest landlords, remains an important reminder of the Wadsworth family's dominating force in local and county affairs and remains in the Wadsworth family today: William Perkins Wadsworth, grandson of Emmeline and William W., inherited the property from his mother. For additional information on the significance of the Homestead, see the 1974 National Register of Historic Places nomination form.

Also reflecting Geneseo's early development and the prominence of the Wadsworth family is the Hartford House, the architecturally and historically significant estate of James Samuel Wadsworth, son of Geneseo's co-founder James Wadsworth. The anomalous mansion, inspired by English country houses in the Palladian style, is unique in the region. The Hartford House, built c.1835, was modelled after a villa in London's Regency Park where James S. and his wife, Marry Craig Wharton of Philadelphia, honeymooned. The mansion and contributing outbuildings are prominently sited on a landscaped 184.2-acre parcel at the norther terminus of Main Street complementing the large estate of the Homestead at the south end of Main Street. Although the estate is substantially reduced in size, the acreage currently associated with the Hartford House retains a high degree of integrity which reflects the historic agricultural use of the land and is therefore nominated in its entirety. The Hartford House is also an important reminder of the Wadsworth family's prominence in local, state and national politics and continued, paternalistic oversight of Geneseo's development. James S. contributed land to Irish immigrants to help them settle in the Genesee Valley. He gave them land and money to build an Irish Catholic church. He was noted for his generous lease agreements with his tenant farmers. James S. was also active in New York State politics, as a member of the New York State Legislature and as a leader of political rallies. James S. was killed at war in 1864, leaving Hartford House to his wife. She died in 1872, leaving the estate to her son, James Wolcott Wadsworth, who was twenty-six at the time. James W. continued the family tradition of active political service, serving in the New York State Assembly and the United States Congress. He also continued to maintain the estate for fifty-four years. James Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr., proprietor of the Hartford House after his parents' death in 1932, was also active in national politics, serving as a congressman, assemblyman and a senator. Reverdy Wadsworth inherited Hartford House after his father's death in 1952 and maintained the family's progressive agricultural practices and paternalistic concern for the community's welfare. His most notable philanthropic accomplishment was the contribution of fifty acres of land in 1968 for the construction of the Geneseo High School. The Hartford House today remains in the ownership of the Wadsworth family: Mrs. Trowbridge (Alice Wadsworth) Strong of Pennsylvania, niece of Reverdy's brother, James Jeremial, acquired the estate in the late 1970s. The substantially intact Hartford House remains an important monument to Geneseo's most influential family.

Also reflecting Geneseo's development during the early nineteenth century are several less imposing, but nonetheless architecturally significant, examples of Federal style architecture. Some of the earliest and best examples of the period and style include the Jacob B. Hall House (c.1813, 31 Main Street), the house at 32 Main Street (c.1815), the former bank at 38 Main Street (c.1820s) and the Big Tree Inn (c.1833, 46 Main Street), all included in the Main Street Historic District. The structures are characterized by distinctive features of the style, including delicate and attenuated detailing such as narrow friezes, slender corner boards and lunettes in gable ends. Particularly noteworthy are the outstanding examples of intact entrances featuring delicate pilasters, half-sidelights and/or elliptical fanlights. The two basic configurations exhibited by the structures are also typical of the Federal period: the five-bay, center-hall type and the three-bay, side- or center-hall type. There are two common variations of the three-bay form: the variation in which the ridge of the gable roof is parallel to the street and the variation in which the gable end is oriented towards the street. Federal period detailing and configurations, as exhibited in the Main Street Historic District, are repeated throughout the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion. Significant examples include the Joseph Lawrence House (c.1808, 17 South Street), the Judge Hubbard House (c.1810s, 39 South Street), the dwelling at 29 Second Street (c.1824), and the dwelling at 45 Center Street (c.early 1830s). The Joseph Lawrence House, perhaps the oldest in the village, with the exception of the original section of the Homestead, is a representative example of the five-bay center-hall form. Early twentieth century alterations have somewhat compromised its integrity, but its basic Federal period character survives intact. The Judge Hubbard House features a distinctive arcaded facade articulated by pilasters. No. 29 Second Street, a three-bay side-hall dwelling with its gable roof ridge parallel to the street, is notable for its fine entrance detailing. No. 45 Center Street, uncommon in Geneseo for its brick construction, is typical of numerous Federal period residences in the region: the four interior corner chimneys are characteristic of the era.

Geneseo continued to prosper throughout the second quarter of the nineteenth century as the village emerged as a market town in the center of the Genesee Valley wheat region. During the 1830s and 1840s, the region's wheat was world famous for its high quality. Although later superseded by competition from western states, the area continued to be renowned as one of the richest agricultural regions of the state. In addition to wheat, important agricultural products included cattle raising and wool production. With little natural water power, few industries developed in Geneseo. Those that did exist in the nineteenth century were generally small industries such as lumber, carriage manufacturing, cheese making and a canning factory. Dating from this period of development are numerous Greek Revival style structures. There are several examples located in the Main Street Historic District, including the dwellings at 22 and 29 Main Street, and numerous examples scattered throughout the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion. Forms established during the Federal period continue to persist (such as the three-bay side or center-hall and five-bay center-hall configurations and gable roofs), but structural elements and detailing, including cornice returns, friezes, corner boards and window and entrance trim become heavier and more exaggerated. Representative examples of Greek Revival style architecture located in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion include 35 Second Street (c.1830) and 52 Center Street (c.1837), both frame residences with prominent cornice returns and recessed side entrances flanked by broad pilasters supporting a full entablature. A particularly distinctive example of the period and style is the Rohrbach House (c.1833, 57 Second Street, in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion), notable for its giant portico supported by four fluted Ionic columns. The Livingston County Museum (c.1830, 30 Center Street, a former schoolhouse), also in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion, features stone quoins which articulate the corners of the structure, an attribute typical of the period and style. The former schoolhouse is additionally significant in that it is the only example of cobblestone construction in the village.

Geneseo continued to prosper during the third quarter of the nineteenth century, particularly after the advent of rail transportation in about 1859. Several Gothic Revival style and numerous Italianate style structures dating from this period of the village's development reflect Geneseo's continued prosperity as well as a regional and statewide shift in architectural tastes: rational, classical orders were being replaced with romantic, picturesque forms. Gothic Revival style structures in Geneseo which embody the ideals of the period include St. Michael's Episcopal Church (c.1866, 23 Main Street, an imposing brick and stone edifice in the Main Street Historic District, and the dwellings at 23 Second Street (c.1860s) and 1 Elm Street (c.1860s), frame cottages located in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion. Picturesque asymmetry, steeply pitched gable roofs and ornamental window treatment distinguish these structures. The ornamental bargeboards which embellish the eaves of the cottage at 1 Elm Street (in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion) are particularly noteworthy attributes of the period and style.

The influence of the Italianate style began to appear in Geneseo in the 1850s and 1860s. A disastrous fire on Main Street in 1864 leveled much of Geneseo's business district, but the wealthy villagers were soon able to rebuild. Many of the commercial structures on Main Street reflect the increasingly elaborate tastes of the Victorian era. Several significant examples of Italianate style, attached brick rows survive intact along Main Street's business blocks, including 75-77, 90 and 102-106 Main Street. Distinctive attributes of the period and style include elaborate cornice embellishment, including brackets, modillions and dentils, and ornate window trim around segmentally arched or round-arched windows. New construction and the extensive modernization of older structures with Italianate style elements occurred throughout the rest of the village as well. Picturesque, asymmetrical configurations and rooflines and elaborate embellishment characterize these structures. Representative examples of regional interpretations of the style include 72 Second Street (c.1860s) and 33 South Street (c.1870), both located in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion. Low-pitched hipped roofs with broadly projecting, bracketed eaves and prominent cupolas are distinctive attributes of the style exhibited by both dwellings.

Some of the best examples of Italianate style architecture are earlier dwellings with period alterations. While the embellishment of early nineteenth century buildings with mid to late nineteenth century decorative veneers was a common phenomenon in numerous communities, the extent to which many villagers in Geneseo remodelled their older dwellings seems more comprehensive than usual. Rather than simply adding a period porch, a bay window or cornice detailing, substantial modernization and reconstruction dramatically changed numerous Federal and Greek Revival period dwellings. While the early nineteenth century character of many of these dwellings is recognizable, particularly in the retention of fine period entrance detailing, the prevailing appearance is Italianate. Hipped roofs often replaced the gable roofs typical of the Federal and Greek Revival periods; Italianate style cupolas were added, as were elaborate cornice and window trim. Particularly noteworthy examples of this major reworking include 41 Second Street (c.1828; 1860s), 33 Second Street (c.1830s; 1860s) and Temple Hill Academy (c.1828; 1860), all located in the expansion.

Complementing Geneseo's picturesque architecture of the third quarter of the nineteenth century is the late nineteenth century landscaping of the Temple Hill Cemetery, originally established in 1807. The cemetery, with hedges of evergreens, a row of Australian Pines, a grove of oak trees and numerous walks and driveways, is a significant embodiment of the picturesque ideals of landscape architecture as popularized by Andrew Jackson Downing and Alexander Jackson Davis.

The establishment of the State Normal School (which later became the State University College) in 1871 assured Geneseo's continued prosperity in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Commercial and residential architecture of the 1870s and 1880s continued to reflect the influence of the Italianate style with increasingly elaborate and eclectic manifestations. Distinctive commercial structures located in the Main Street Historic District include 66 Main Street and 89-93 Main Street, both with notable, eclectic cornice embellishment. Residential expansion during this period is reflected in numerous structures throughout the village. Imposing dwellings located in the Main Street Historic District which date from this period incorporate features typical of the late Italianate and Second Empire styles; outstanding among them is the Brodie-Coddington House (c.1877, 20 Main Street) with its distinctive mansard roof, two and one-half story tower and iron cresting. Scattered throughout the district expansion are several noteworthy examples of late Italianate/eclectic dwellings, including the Lauderdale House (c.1878, 16 Center Street) an imposing brick dwelling with a low-pitched, polychrome slate mansard roof and incised window lintels. In the expansion, significant examples of the influence of the Italian Villa style, also popular during the Civil War era, include 72 Center Street (c.1864) and 75 Second Street (c.1876), both distinguished by their prominent towers and elaborate, eclectic ornamentation. Number 72 Center Street is particularly imposing, as it is one of the village's few residential examples of brick construction.

Numerous imposing and sophisticated dwellings designed in the Queen Anne style reflect Geneseo's development during the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century. Massive structures with picturesque rooflines and asymmetrical configurations are scattered throughout the village with the best, most elaborate examples located along Oak Street (in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion), Geneseo's most fashionable, turn-of-the-century residential street. Numbers 16 Main Street (c.1890s), 80 Center Street (c.1888) 27 Prospect Street (Frazer House, c.1894) and numerous 1890s Oak Street dwellings are among the most notable examples of Queen Anne style residential architecture. Prominent towers, elaborate woodwork and sweeping verandahs characterize many of these late nineteenth century and turn-of-the-century dwellings. An outstanding example of non-residential Queen Anne style architecture is the Geneseo Baptist Church (c.1886, 26 Center Street in the expansion), distinguished by its picturesque asymmetry, prominent towers and ornamental woodwork.

Geneseo continued to serve as the region's cultural, commercial and educational center throughout the early twentieth century. New construction in the village occurred north of the state college and on the eastern fringes of the residential neighborhood east of Main Street. Neoclassical and Colonial Revival style features distinguish many of these structures. The most distinctive example of the period is the Livingston County Courthouse, located in the Main Street Historic District, an imposing brick Neoclassical style structure at the north end of Main Street designed by the prominent Rochester architect, Claude Bragdon. Several Neoclassical style commercial structures survive as well, but Geneseo's finest examples of the period are the many dwellings with Colonial Revival style features scattered throughout the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion. Cornerways (c.1927, Highland Road), a five-bay center-hall frame dwelling, is one of the most imposing examples of Colonial Revival style residential architecture in the village. Particularly noteworthy attributes exhibited by Cornerways are the panelled pilasters which articulate the bays and corners of the facade and the classically inspired entrance detailing. Numerous other early twentieth century dwellings throughout the district expansion, particularly along Oak Street, exhibit a variety of period features, including Palladian style windows, denticular cornices and classical entrance surrounds. Geneseo's only intact Georgian Revival style non-residential structure is also located in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion: the Central Presbyterian Church (c.1939, Center Street). With its giant pedimented portico and its square tower surmounted by an octagonal spire, it is a representative example of the period and style; however, it does not contribute to the significance of the district because it is less than fifty years old. A common practice which occurred in the early twentieth century was the addition of Colonial Revival style elements to older structures. Most common were additions of small entrance portico or front porch which while slightly altering the exterior appearances of the residences did not compromise the essential nineteenth-century character of most of the dwellings.

While the majority of the structures in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion were designed and executed by unidentified local architects and builders, a number of buildings are the works of known architects of local or regional prominence. Locally prominent, early to mid nineteenth century master builders include Frederick Butler, who designed the distinctive Federal period Judge Hubbard House (39 South Street), and Hugh McBride, who designed and built the Greek Revival cottage at 1 Elm Street as well as the Greek Revival style dwellings at 52 and 54 Center Street, and the Italianate style modernization of 33 Second Street. Outside architects were occasionally commissioned for larger projects: the Wadsworth Library (c.1867, Center Street) was designed by C.N. Otis of Buffalo; Robert Sherlock of New York City designed four imposing residences, including the distinctive Colonial Revival style Cornerways (c.1927, Highland Road). In the existing district along Main Street, the Livingston County Courthouse (c.1898) was designed by Claude Bragdon of Rochester and the Geneseo Building (c.1908) was designed by W.J. Beardsley of Poughkeepsie.

Many of the residences in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion were built for prominent local shop owners, tradesmen, lawyers and doctors. Living in this residential neighborhood were John Young, an attorney who was elected governor of New York; Solomon Hubbard, a county judge; James Orton, the cashier of the Genesee Valley National Bank; and Herbert Johnston, a coal dealer.

Together, the substantially intact properties included in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion reflect the residential development of the village, concurrent with the commercial development of Main Street, throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Recent development in Geneseo has occurred near the outer boundaries of the village thus preserving the character of the historic core of the community.

The Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion is a concentration of intact nineteenth and twentieth century, primarily residential properties, whose historical and architectural significance complements and expands that of the Main Street Historic District (National Register listed, 1977). Geneseo is a regionally important cultural, commercial and educational center in the rural Genesee Valley. The relatively sophisticated and imposing structures included in the expanded district reflect the village's early nineteenth century prosperity as a market place for the valley's farming communities through its later prominence as the county seat of Livingston County and the location of the State Normal School (which later became the State University College at Geneseo.) In terms of period, style, scale, materials and craftsmanship, the neighborhood encompassed by the expansion is similar to the Main Street Historic District, which included the historic commercial and civic core of Geneseo, the most fashionable residential enclave in the village, and the Homestead, the palatial mansion and estate of the Wadsworth family. (The Homestead was individually listed in 1974 and was added to the Main Street Historic District in 1977.) As do the structures in the existing district, the structures in the district expansion date from the 1810s to the 1930s and are designed in a broad range of architectural styles, including distinctive, representative, vernacular and eclectic examples of the Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Italian Villa, Second Empire, Queen Anne/Eastlake and Colonial Revival styles. In addition to residential architecture, the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion also includes the second and last Wadsworth family estate (Hartford House) and structures which were executed with the same degree of architectural sophistication as those in the Main Street Historic District. The Temple Hill Cemetery, a picturesque, nineteenth-century cemetery, is also included in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion. Several local master builders and prominent architects are also represented in the Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion, including Frederick Butler, C.N. Otis, Robert Sherlock and Hugh McBride. Numerous substantially intact outbuildings, primarily frame barns and garages dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, contribute to the significance of the Main Street Historic District.

References

Albany, New York. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Research File.

Keller, Betty J., ed. Geneseo: A Distinctive Village Geneseo: Association for the Preservation of Geneseo, 1976.

Malo, Paul Geneseo: A Museum of Historic Building. Geneseo: Association for the Preservation of Geneseo, 1979.

  1. Nomination document, 1977, prepared by Elizabeth K. Ralph, N. Y. State Historic Preservation Field Services, Main Street Historic District, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
  2. Nomination document, 1985, prepared by Larry E. Gobrecht, N. Y. State Division for Historic Preservation, Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Other neighborhoods named
Main Street Historic District

Main Street Historic District Map

Street Names
2nd Street • Center Street • Chestnut Street • Elm Street • Highland Road • Main Street • Oak Street • Prospect Street • South Street • Temple Hill • Ward Place

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