Murray Street Historic District
The Murray Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Murray Street Historic District encompasses sixteen properties along both sides of Murray Street between Stanley and Eagle Streets, one block west of the village's primary north-south thoroughfare (Main Street; NYS Route 36). The Murray Street Historic District includes sixteen contributing primary buildings (all residences), six contributing outbuildings (carriage houses and garages), three contributing objects (a carriage step, a hitching post and a set of early twentieth century street lights), and one non-contributing outbuilding.
The Murray Street Historic District is centrally located in the historic residential core of the village (several dozen blocks in extent), most of which, unfortunately, has lost substantial amounts of integrity. Consequently, only two small concentrations of intact dwellings survive in the larger neighborhood, including the one-block Murray Street Historic District and the two-block State and Eagle Streets Historic District.
The boundary of the Murray Street Historic District is drawn to encompass only that small concentration of intact, middle-class dwellings along Murray Street between Stanley Street and Eagle Street; dwellings in the residential blocks to the north, south, east and west are generally similar in character, but do not retain significant integrity to meet the National Register criteria for registration.
The Murray Street Historic District is relatively homogeneous in its overall character, with one and one-half to two-story, frame dwellings fairly evenly spaced and equally set back from the streets on relatively small village lots. Mature, regularly spaced trees, early twentieth century lampposts, and continuous sidewalks (mostly concrete) also unify the district. The dwellings themselves are generally similar in scale, massing and use of materials (mostly wood frame with clapboard siding [occasionally obscured by modern siding]), but vary widely in terms of dates of construction and stylistic statements. The buildings date from ca.1820 to ca.1920; about half date from the late nineteenth century. A catalogue of popular American building styles is represented, ranging from Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne to Foursquare; most buildings are modest, vernacular interpretations of the various styles (unlike the larger, high-style renderings found in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District and the South Main Street Historic District). Nearly one-third of the properties contain contributing outbuildings. The Murray Street Historic District also includes three particularly noteworthy historic objects, including a stone carriage step (in front of 38 Murray Street) and a cast-iron hitching post (in front of 39 Murray Street) and a set of early twentieth century street lamps.
The Murray Street Historic District is architecturally significant as an intact, middle-class, residential neighborhood illustrating the development of the village of Mount Morris during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chronicling the growth of Mount Morris from a quiet, yet prosperous, agrarian settlement through its heyday as a stop on the Genesee Valley Canal and several important rail lines, to its twentieth century prominence as the commercial, civic, religious and social center for the surrounding rural township, the buildings in the Murray Street Historic District embody a broad range of architectural types, periods, styles and methods of construction.
Laid out during the first half of the nineteenth century, Murray Street quickly became one of the village's most popular "secondary" residential neighborhoods, surpassed only by the premier, upscale enclaves along State and South Main Streets. In contrast to the larger, often high-style dwellings on relatively large lots in the two slightly more prestigious neighborhoods, the simpler dwellings along Murray Street recall the far more prolific historic residential building stock in the village, most of which, unfortunately, no longer survives intact. Consequently, these solid, well-crafted middle-class dwellings remain a far more typical portrayal of nineteenth and early twentieth century life in Mount Morris than do the less frequent (but more imposing) residences along State and South Main Streets.
In addition to the overall significance of the group, several individual dwellings are particularly outstanding examples of certain styles, periods and/or materials/methods of construction. The one and one-half story, three-bay, side-hall house at 38 Murray Street, the earliest portion of which is believed to date from ca.1820, is a rare, remarkably intact example of vernacular Federal/Greek Revival style domestic architecture. On a slightly grander scale is the two-story, three-bay center-hall dwelling at 42 Murray Street, elegantly rendered in brick. Both feature characteristic wide friezes with exaggerated cornices and trabeated entrances.
The diminutive brick cottage at 47 Murray Street is a fine example of the French-inspired Second Empire mode, distinguished by its corner tower, Mansard roof, prominent, segmentally arched dormers, and elaborate, Victorian era ornamentation. The house is particularly interesting because it is known to have been designed by a female architect, a rarity during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The architect was Anna Rockfellow; she attended and graduated from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and also studied in France.
The north side of Murray Street includes a number of intact, representative examples of the American Foursquare mode, popular during the second and third decades of the twentieth century. The dwellings at 32, 34, 36 and 40 (presumably built when land once associated with the Federal/Greek Revival style H.P. Mills House at 38 Murray Street was subdivided for "suburban" development) all embody the distinctive characteristics of the type and period: cubic massing, hipped roofs with prominent dormers, varieties of contrasting materials (e.g., clapboard and shingle, brick and shingle, etc.), spacious front porches and restrained, classically inspired detailing (e.g., Doric order porch posts).
Complemented by the high degree of integrity of setting (broad tree- and side-walk lined streets), the houses in the Murray Street Historic District remain important reminders of the nineteenth and early twentieth century development of the village and continue to convey a strong sense of the community's history and identity.
† Nancy L. Todd, New York State Historic Preservation Office, Division for Historic Preservation, State and Eagle Streets Historic District, nomination document, 1995, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.