South Main Street Historic District
The South Main 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 South Main Street Historic District encompasses both sides of a three block section of South Main Street, one of Mount Morris's premier residential neighborhoods. Determined eligible for the National Register by New York State Historic Preservation Office staff in April 1993, the South Main Street Historic District includes 30 residences, 27 of which are contributing, along with 13 contributing outbuildings (mostly carriage houses and garages). There are 7 non-contributing primary buildings. As a group, the buildings in the South Main Street Historic District comprise the largest, most impressive collection of predominantly high style domestic architecture in the village.
The boundary of the South Main Street Historic District is drawn to incorporate only those contiguous, historic buildings that retain a high degree of original integrity; extensively altered older dwellings (and scattered modern houses) to the north, east, west and south have been excluded. A block of modern and altered historic buildings (between Murray Street and Chapel Street) separate the intact, South Main Street residences from the National Register eligible Mount Morris Commercial District along Main Street to the north. One block to the northwest of the South Main Street Historic District is the Murray Street Historic District, separated from the intact residences along South Main by a block of modest and mostly altered dwellings along Murray Street between Main Street and Stanley Street. (Many of the alterations to the buildings along this block appear to be reversible; if the houses ever were to be restored, a single large L-shaped residential district could be created to encompass both sides of both South Main Street and Murray Street.)
The South Main Street Historic District is characterized by wide, tree-lined streets flanked by imposing, mostly high-style residences set back from the street on large, well-landscaped lawns. The buildings date from ca.1850 to ca.1925, with the majority dating from the late nineteenth century. Most are constructed of wood and have clapboard siding (occasionally obscured by modern siding), although several are built of brick and one is clad with stucco. Most are relatively substantial one and one-half to two and one-half story buildings and are designed in a broad range of popular American styles including Greek Revival, Second Empire, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Foursquare and Prairie. Many of the main dwellings are complemented by intact, late nineteenth century carriage barns or early twentieth century garages.
Visual focal points of the relatively homogeneous South Main Street Historic District include several particularly grand, high style mansions, such as the house at 145 South Main Street (a large, Greek Revival style dwelling upgraded during the early twentieth century with the addition of a monumental, Neoclassical style portico), the house at 140 South Main Street (an imposing, Georgian Revival style brick dwelling with elaborate, classically inspired detailing) and the double-house at 154 South Main Street (an elaborate Second Empire style edifice with a profusion of Victorian era ornamentation.
The South Main Street Historic District also contains a number of less grand, yet equally finely crafted, dwellings, including several examples of the Greek Revival style and a number of fine examples of the Queen Anne mode. Eclectic and transitional interpretations of a variety of styles are also represented.
The South Main Street Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as an exceptionally intact 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 town, the buildings in the South Main 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, South Main Street quickly became one of the village's most prestigious residential enclaves, rivalled only by nearby State Street to the northwest. The oldest buildings in the South Main Street Historic District were built during the Greek Revival era, and embody the distinctive features of the mode and period: low, cubic massing, broad horizontal proportions, and classically derived detailing (wide friezes, broad cornerboards and deeply recessed, trabeated entrances). Fine examples of the style are located at 130, 150 and 154 South Main Street. The residence at 154 South Main Street is believed to have been built by General William Mills, a prominent figure in Mount Morris in the early to mid-nineteenth century, for his daughter.
Many of the South Main Street Historic District's buildings date from the late nineteenth century. These include some outstanding examples of the Second Empire, Queen Anne and several late Victorian eclectic modes, most with picturesque forms and details. Noteworthy examples include the brick, Second Empire style house with Mansard roof at 152-54 South Main Street, built by the Begole Brothers of Mount Morris in 1860. The Queen Anne style houses, with characteristics such as asymmetrical configurations, numerous bays, elaborate woodwork and expansive verandahs, are located at 139, 149 and 157 South Main Street. Eclecticism is embodied in the houses at 123 and 133 South Main Street.
Mount Morris continued to prosper during the early twentieth century as illustrated by outstanding examples of the Colonial Revival, American Foursquare and Prairie styles. A fine example of the Colonial Revival style is located at 137 South Main Street. The building is characterized by a side gabled roof with cornice returns and an elaborate entrance with glazed fanlight, sidelights and Doric order columns and pilasters. The houses at 124 and 146 South Main Street are intact, representative examples of the popular Foursquare style; they feature the typical square plan, full-width front porch, and clapboard siding. The house at 148 South Main Street is a relatively rare and impressive example of the Prairie style; it is a symmetrical, stucco-clad building with characteristic horizontal banding and extremely wide, overhanging eaves.
Complemented by the high degree of integrity of setting (broad tree- and side-walk lined streets), the houses in the South Main 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.