Waterville Triangle Historic District
The Waterville Triangle Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. 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 village of Waterville is located to the south and slightly west of the city of Utica. U.S. Route 20 is a major east-west road located just south of the village, while State Route 12 provides a direct thoroughfare to Utica through the village. The area in the vicinity of Waterville consists of flats, gentle slopes and open fields, through which a stream meanders.
The Waterville Triangle Historic District embraces the heart of the village where three streets intersect to form a triangle. The Waterville Triangle Historic District includes buildings on both sides of East Main Street from the corner of Buell Street and E. Main Street to the corner of Stafford and E. Main; on Stafford Avenue from E. Main to White Street; on White Street from Main to Stafford Street. Five buildings on the north side of West Main Street just west of Buell are also included.
A wide variety of architectural styles and uses are found within the Waterville Triangle Historic District whose worthy historic buildings span the period from 1820 to 1900. Both in size and quality, they reflect the tastes of an urban, rather than a rural, population. The recent commercialization of formerly residential buildings along E. Main Street has resulted in a few intrusions which are visually jarring, such as the supermarket, but the superb quality of the remainder of the Waterville Triangle Historic District more than offsets this disadvantage.
The most heavily commercial portion of the Waterville Triangle Historic District is located in the crossroads area at the point of the triangle. Here are mid and late nineteenth-century brick buildings with arched and plain windows and Italianate bracketed cornices. Proceeding eastward along E. Main Street, commercial establishments give way to churches and older residences of exceptional caliber. White Street and Stafford Avenue are largely residential streets. White Street contains some modest homes as well as more pretentious residences.
During the mid and late nineteenth century Waterville throve as a center for Oneida County's hop raising industry. The prosperity of this era is reflected in the substantial homes, churches and commercial buildings of the Waterville Triangle Historic District, many of which have retained their "pattern book" appearance virtually intact.
The early settlers in the area arrived in the late eighteenth century in the wake of the Revolution, and became engaged in the distillation business. About 1830 hops began to occupy the tillable soil in ever-increasing amounts until the peak period around 1885. The industry gave rise to the marketing side of the business. The village became the site of a national hop exchange and the shipping point for the region's yield.
With the arrival of the railroad in 1867, business boomed and during the 1870's the village expanded its residential and commercial areas. Downtown buildings were given a third story, wooden buildings razed and brick structures took their places. Office space for the ever-increasing number of hop merchants was at a premium.
Between 1870 and 1875 a related industry was born — the extraction from the hop blossom of that ingredient which flavors beer and ale. This made it possible for the first time to hold over from an abundant year to a lean year and thus stabilize the market price. The first industrial plant for the extraction of hop "flour" was constructed just outside the village — probably the first hop extract in the country.
George Putnam, entrepreneur who was a successful hop merchant, builder and mayor from 1872 to 1887, had constructed a Victorian Gothic residence at the corner of Main and Stafford Avenue. In recent times this mansion was adapted for use as a nursing home. It is still in use as an out-patient establishment.
Perhaps the finest Italian villa in the community is the Candee-Harris House at 104 White Street. The structure is derived from a design in a pattern book by Andrew Jackson Downing. Its location on a slightly elevated site overlooking the intersection of Main and White Streets, results in this building being a focal point of the intersection.
Two commercial structures on Main Street that are worthy of special mention are the Buell-Zweifel Block and the Woodman Building. These structures reveal the best qualities of commercial facades of the 1860's and 1870's. The Woodman Building was built to be a bank and the original vault is still used for storage of valuable papers. The Buell-Zweifel Building was built by Buell as a storage place and office for the tannery which was once located in the rear on the creek.
The First Presbyterian Church on the north side of Main Street was designed by Syracuse architect Archimedes Russell and Grace Episcopal Church at the corner of Main Street and Babbott Avenue was designed by Thomas S. Jackson of New York. The Baptist Church directly across Main Street from the Episcopal Church provides an interesting contrast, being designed in the Federal style.
The Municipal Hall, now called the W. Henry Suters Municipal Hall, was the first church erected by the Episcopalians in the village. Later it was purchased and used by the numerous Welsh people as a Welsh Church. Its structure has experienced little change over the years and its church-like atmosphere is still retained even to the seating.
From 1850 to 1880, New York State was the nation's chief producer of hops. Thereafter, new hop-growing districts were developed in Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington. In 1899 the number of acres devoted to hops in New York State had dwindled to two-thirds of its maximum and by 1920 the crop was miniscule. That Waterville shared in this general decline is graphically illustrated by the strictly utilitarian nature of recent buildings. However, despite these intrusions the Waterville Triangle Historic District contains a grouping of buildings of exceptional significance which are well worthy of recognition and preservation.
Durant, Samuel W. History of Oneida County, N.Y. Philadelphia: Everts and Fariss, 1878.
Kelly, Virginia B. et al. Wood and Stone. Utica, N.Y.: Central New York Community Arts Council, 1972.
Meeker, E. Hop Culture in the U.S. Puyallup, Washington Territory: E. Meeker & Co., 1883.
Wager, Daniel E. Our Country and Its People. Boston: Boston History Co., 1896.
Waterville, N.Y.: Centennial History 1871-1971. Waterville Centennial, Inc., 1971.