South Peterboro Street Commercial Historic District
The South Peterboro Street Commercial Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. 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 South Peterboro Street Commercial Historic District is a three-acre district composed of twenty-five (25) properties, including twenty (20) contributing commercial buildings, four (4) non-contributing commercial buildings and one (1) non-contributing civic building for a total of 20 contributing elements, all of which are buildings. The district encompasses nearly the entire central business district in the historic core of the village, including both sides of a two-block section of South Peterboro Street and the south side of a small section of Center Street, a cross-street containing secondary commercial structures near the south end of the district. Built between ca.1870 and ca.1930, the majority of the buildings are two- to three-story attached brick rows set close to the street along paved sidewalks. They are executed in a variety of late nineteenth century picturesque styles and early twentieth century classically inspired styles. A variety of sophisticated detailing and elaborate ornamentation characterizes the upper stories of many of the buildings, illustrating the late nineteenth century prosperity of the community. Historically and currently, the ground floors housed commercial uses while the upper floors served as residential and/or storage space. Although a number of the street level facades have received unsympathetic, mid- to late-twentieth century modernizations, several examples of late-nineteenth to early twentieth century storefronts survive substantially intact.
The South Peterboro Street Commercial Historic District is located in Canastota's historic and current core near the geographic center of the settled village between the old Erie Canal to the north and the Penn Central Railroad tracks to the south. The district boundary is drawn to include only those commercial properties that retain sufficient architectural and/or historic integrity.
The South Peterboro Street Commercial Historic District is relatively homogeneous in scale, form and use of materials, but sections of the streetscapes are distinguished by variations in periods, stylistic embellishment and levels of architectural sophistication. At the north end of the district on the east side of South Peterboro Street is a collection of three survivors of the 1873 fire. Dating from ca.1870, the three-story attached brick rows display restrained Italianate style features. South of the grouping is the 1940 U.S. Post Office, a small-scale Colonial Revival style brick civic structure. According to information currently available, the post office is considered non-contributing due to age only. A statewide inventory of twentieth-century post offices, currently underway, may reveal that the building possesses exceptional significance; thus, it may become a contributing component of the district at a later time. Just south of the post office is a collection of small-scale, non-contributing commercial buildings which date from the 1960s. Anchoring the northeast corner of the South Peterboro Street-Center Street intersection is the imposing Cronk Block (ca.1890), a large brick building with late Victorian period eclectic style features. Occupying the southeast corner of the intersection is the Doolittle House, a former hotel originally dating from the third quarter of the nineteenth century. It is a non-contributing component of the district due to extensive mid-twentieth century alterations. At this point, the boundary extends eastward to include the three-story, eclectic style brick building at 109 East Center Street (ca.1885). Further south on South Peterboro Street are the four large brick buildings which comprise the Delano and Field & McMahon Blocks. Dating from the mid-1880s, the imposing late Victorian period eclectic style buildings exhibit a high level of sophistication and craftsmanship. The large parking lot between the group and the railroad tracks to the south is excluded from the district.
The buildings on the west side of South Peterboro Street are slightly less distinguished on an individual basis, but an overall cohesiveness and unity characterizes the streetscape. The northern block contains the district's only early twentieth century buildings, all of which are characterized by restrained, classically inspired detailing. Also included in the northern block are several Italianate style buildings from the mid-1870s. Anchoring the northwest corner of the South Peterboro Street-Center Street intersection is the distinguished Twogood House (ca.1877), a visual focal point of the district. Occupying the southwest corner of the intersection is the late-nineteenth century eclectic style Canastota Savings and Loan Building, the southern terminus of the district. The district also includes three secondary commercial buildings on the south side of Center Street west of the bank building.
The South Peterboro Street Commercial Historic District is an architecturally and historically significant concentration of commercial buildings which together reflect the development of Canastota's current central business district during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Built between ca.1870 and ca.1920, the buildings chronicle the second phase of the village's commercial activity. The first phase, during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, occurred on the east-west axis flanking the canal basin of the Erie Canal. As the settlement flourished, particularly after the advent of rail transportation in 1839, the central business district expanded eastward toward the north-south corridor along South Peterboro Street. By mid-century, South Peterboro Street was the hub of mercantile activity, an enclave comprised of fashionable buildings of the period executed primarily in wood. An 1873 fire in downtown Canastota destroyed all but a few structures in the central business district, after which, on a larger, grander and more sophisticated scale, the downtown was rebuilt. The district's primary significance is derived from the outstanding collection of imposing, elaborately ornamented brick rows dating from the 1880s and 1890s; however, significant buildings from as early as 1870 and as late as 1930 survive as well, complementing the late-nineteenth century rows and enlivening the streetscapes.
The earliest buildings in the South Peterboro Street Commercial Historic District include the buildings at 108 S. Peterboro Street and 104 Center Street, both of which date from the early 1870s and survived the 1873 fire. Both are relatively standard interpretations of the Italianate style, featuring traditional wide friezes, cornice brackets and ornamental window lintels.
Commercial buildings dating from the last quarter of the century embody the distinctive characteristics of several picturesque, late-nineteenth century architectural styles. Elaborate, eclectic adaptations of the Italianate and Romanesque Revival styles predominate, characterized by highly ornamental brick- and woodwork, particularly along the cornice lines and above window openings. The high level of architectural sophistication and fine craftsmanship illustrate Canastota's economic prosperity during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Distinguished examples of the period include the Cronk Block, the Delano Building and the Field & McMahon Block at 146, 208-212 and 220-222 South Peterboro Street, respectively. Typical examples include the group at 133, 139 and 149 South Peterboro Street.
Complementing the ostentatious later-nineteenth century commercial buildings in the South Peterboro Street Commercial Historic District are two modest early-twentieth century buildings. Relatively small in scale and restrained in detailing, the buildings at 117 and 121 S. Peterboro Street are the only examples of early-twentieth century commercial architecture in Canastota. Both are characterized by modest, classically inspired detailing.
A number of locally prominent figures, mercantile concerns and events are associated with the properties in the district. The Delano Block (208-212 S. Peterboro Street) was named in honor of Milton Delano, who founded the State Bank of Canastota in 1887, located at 212 S. Peterboro Street. He also served as a distinguished local and state politician. The building at 115 W. Center Street is associated with James McMahon, an undertaker and owner of the prosperous Field & McMahon Furniture Company. J.W. Wilson, a prominent local druggist, operated his business out of 117 S. Peterboro Street. The Avon Theater at 121 S. Peterboro Street occupies the site of the Bruce Opera House, destroyed by fire in 1911. Both the opera house and, subsequently, the theater, played important roles in the cultural life of the village. The theater, originally named the Sherwood, operated as a vaudeville house and nickelodeon during its earliest years; by the 1920s it was showing movies exclusively. It remained a center of community activity until 1981 when, due to financial difficulties, it closed. The Twogood House at 149 S. Peterboro Street, operated originally by D.C. Twogood, was for many years an important hotel and center of the community's social activity. The corner building at 201 S. Peterboro Street is important for its association with the Canastota National Bank, organized as the Canastota Bank in 1856 and the village's first banking service. The original bank building was destroyed by the 1873 fire and, in 1875, the present building was erected. The building at 102 S. Peterboro Street is significant for its association with the Farr Brothers Hardware Company. The Farr Brothers business was started by Edwin Farr in 1879. Edwin was joined by his brother Levi in 1892. In addition to operating the retail business, the Farrs were also engaged in a variety of commercial ventures, including the installation of plumbing and furnace systems. They also glazed windows and did tin work. To this day, the business remains in the family: in 1921 Edwin's son Clarence joined the partnership and, in 1960, Clarence's son Frederick continued the family tradition.
Together the buildings in the South Peterboro Street Commercial Historic District remain an important reminder of the historical development of Canastota's central business district and, as a group, present a chronicle of commercial building traditions in the region.