Fabius Village Historic District
The Fabius Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Fabius Village Historic District is comprised of forty-four residential, commercial, educational, and religious properties in the historic core of the Village of Fabius, Onondaga County, New York. The village is located in the southeastern corner of Onondaga County, in the predominately rural town of Fabius, approximately fifteen miles southeast of the city of Syracuse. The topography of the immediate region is characterized by smoothly contoured ridges, narrow valleys, and expansive tracts of open land. The landscape is typical of that throughout this region of central New York. The hamlet developed during the nineteenth century on a relatively flat stretch of land, intersected by the east-west axis of the Skaneateles and Hamilton Turnpike, modern-day New York State Route 80 (Main Street). The hamlet developed during the nineteenth century on a relatively flat stretch of land, intersected by the east-west axis of the Skaneateles and Hamilton Turnpike, modern-day New York State Route 80 (Main Street). The Fabius Village Historic District, which encompasses approximately seventy acres, includes within its boundaries portions of Main Street, Academy Street, and Pettit Street, in addition to the Fabius Evergreen Cemetery. The Fabius Village Historic District possesses a significant concentration of early and mid-nineteenth century buildings and associated features, set within relatively intact streetscapes, which effectively convey a visual sense of the community's early development.
The village began to evolve physically following the completion of the Skaneateles and Hamilton Turnpike, circa 1810, at the crossroads where the north-south road leading from Manlius into Cortland County and the turnpike intersected. Fabius experienced considerable growth during the 1820s and 1830s, largely on account of the economic opportunities provided by the success of local agriculture. Main Street (State Route 80), route of the former turnpike, forms the spine of the Fabius Village Historic District, which begins just east of Pompey Street. Sugar maples line both sides, much as they have since first planted by village residents in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The street retains deep, uniform setbacks on both the north and south sides, a feature consistent throughout the Fabius Village Historic District. The First Baptist Church and adjacent burial ground, situated on the northeast corner of Main Street and Pettit Street, forms the visual focus of the main thoroughfare and lies at the core of the district. To the north, the boundary is formed by six residential properties fronting Academy Street, which give way immediately to rolling pastureland. Each of these six properties retain significant agriculture-related outbuildings, indicative of their early function as farms on the village's edge. The southern boundary of the Fabius Village Historic District is formed by Fabius Evergreen Cemetery, a vernacular expression of picturesque rural cemetery design dating to the 1860s. It is bounded on the east by Keeney Street and on the west by Mill Street.
The boundaries were established to include the most substantially-coherent concentration of contributing historic resources. The majority of these are domestic buildings of frame construction, dating from the first half of the nineteenth century. Vernacular interpretations of the classically-derived Federal and Greek Revival styles predominate, indicative of the villages turnpike-related expansion, in addition to notable examples of the early Gothic Revival. Many are transitional examples, exhibiting both Federal and Greek Revival design vocabulary. Numerous examples exhibit the front-gabled orientation typical of the Greek Revival period, while retaining design elements consistent with the Federal style. Mid- to late-nineteenth century styles are also represented, with significant examples of the Italianate, Romanesque Revival, and Queen Anne styles. Fabius Central School, sited opposite the First Baptist Church on the south side of Main Street, was constructed circa 1930 in the Collegiate Gothic style, and represents the principle twentieth century architectural style present in the Fabius Village Historic District.
Fabius Village Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as an intact, representative example of an early-nineteenth century residential and agricultural community in central New York State. The hamlet retains a significant collection of buildings and structures, set in relatively intact streetscapes, that effectively convey a sense of the community's early growth and subsequent development between 1800 and 1930. The Fabius Village Historic District includes examples of national architectural styles popular during the period of significant, including a substantial concentration of Federal and Greek Revival buildings. Other styles similarly represented include the Gothic Revival, Romanesque Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and Collegiate Gothic. The village, set amidst open and undeveloped farmland and wooded hills, is remarkably well preserved, recalling the scale and character of a typical nineteenth century farm-oriented village in Central New York.
See Also: Village of Fabius: Beginnings
Throughout the 1820s and early 1830s, small frame residences of the vernacular tradition began to increasingly line the edges of the turnpike. A number of the extant buildings included within the Fabius Village Historic District date from this period and reflect elements of the late Federal and early Greek Revival period. Buildings of this type are distinguished by their simple proportions, austere facades, and elliptically-shaped fanlights and attic louvers. Inspired by the designs popularized by Robert Adams in England, the Federal style refined the robust character of Georgian architecture, and featured classically-inspired motifs borrowed from the Roman country houses of Herculanaeum and Pompeii. Rural, vernacular interpretations of the Federal style, like those common in Fabius, were the work of local carpenter builders, based on designs available in period builders guides. The two-story residences at 7782 and 7763 Main Street are typical of late Federal design. Constructed circa 1830, these houses feature gable-fronted, three bay facades with side hall entry plans, elliptically-arched entrances with sidelights, and elliptical attic louvers. Like the majority of residential architecture constructed in Fabius during this period, these buildings are transitional forms, reflecting the gable-fronted orientation associated with the Greek Revival period while exhibiting Federal design vocabulary. Similar in design is the residence at 7787 Main Street. Although altered with additions to the one and one-half story ell, the building retains a large, louvered attic fan and an elaborately-crafted Doric order frieze. The house at 7769 Main Street, constructed circa 1825, is one of two Federal period residences in the Fabius Village Historic District that is built with a gable-ended, five bay facade and center hall entry plan more commonly associated with this style in New York. It features a delicately crafted door surround with sidelights.
Two of the village's religious edifices were erected during this period, and although later modified with Victorian era alterations, they reflect the prevailing building traditions common at the time. The First Baptist Church, constructed in 1818, and the United Methodist Church, built in 1826, were built using designs based on the traditional, timber frame, gable-fronted meetinghouse form common throughout the region. The meetinghouse evolved in New England during the colonial period in response to the religious establishments of the old world and was subsequently transplanted in central and western New York. Vernacular examples were common throughout rural New York in the first decades of the nineteenth century. "The First Baptist Society of Fabius" organized in November of 1806, and met in the houses of local members until completion of the First Baptist Church, a dozen years later. The property on which the church was built was leased for the price of twenty-five cents per year for a hundred-year term. Twenty-five dollars were paid up front, covering the first hundred years of tenancy. In 1826, the First Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Fabius organized, and, following years of worship in individual's homes, raised the necessary funds to erect a house of worship. Meeting in District School Number Nine, the congregation raised seven-hundred and fifty dollars by subscription, with pledges including day labor, grain, stock and lumber. The building was specified to be forty-eight feet long and thirty-six feet wide; an 1826 record reads "this house is to be erected in the course of next summer and finished as soon as may be." In 1835 the congregation purchased the present site on the former turnpike and the church was dragged by oxen to its current location.
By the mid-1830s, the population of the town had grown in excess of three-thousand residents and the village continued to evolve physically. In 1836, the town could list amongst it business enterprises four grist mills, fifteen saw mills, twenty-two fulling mills, three asheries, and five tanneries. The most significant of a small number of manufacturing interests was the Agricultural Works of Bramer and Pierce, established in 1828 by David Bramer and located on the turnpike just east of the village core. Bramer's shop produced horse-powered threshing machines and other related agricultural implements. The business thrived even as the local economy flagged, continuing to produce mechanized farm equipment into the later nineteenth century.
The period of the 1830s and early 1840s represented the village's greatest era of growth and prosperity. Representative of this period are significant examples of the Greek Revival style, the dominant style for domestic, civic and ecclesiastical architecture during the late 1830s and early 1840s in New York. Nationally, the Greek Revival style had first begun to supplant the Federal style in the 1820s, representing a conscious break from the English derived tastes from which the latter evolved. Following the War of 1812, American popular taste moved increasingly away from British influence. In architecture, this intellectual break, in combination with a revival of interest in classical antiquity following the excavations at Herculanaeum and Pompeii, and an admiration for the struggle of Greece in her war for independence from the Ottoman Empire, led to a new expression of American ideals. America, as a new nation, sought and found in the ancient city states of Greece the roots of democracy, and in her symbols and styles created a design vocabulary reflecting native aspirations and optimism for the future. Vernacular residential architecture of the Greek Revival style is typified by bilateral symmetry, trabeated entryways with sidelights and rectangular transoms, fully pedimented front facing gables, and wide, molded frieze bands. More distinguished examples featured columned porticoes and flushboard exteriors. Buildings were painted white in an attempt to capture the essence of stone Greek temples.
Fabius features examples of the Greek Revival style that include both simple, regional interpretations and more mature, distinguished manifestations. The one and one-half story frame house at 7775 Academy Street, built circa 1835, typifies the style as commonly expressed in the rural northeast. The building features a gable fronted orientation, the facade embellished by a wide, molded frieze band and partial cornice returns. Similar in design is the residence at 7779 Academy Street; in addition to the above-mentioned features, the building also features frieze band windows and a side ell, the latter which became increasingly common during this period. The two-story frame residence at 7840 Main Street is built using a plan popularized by Minard Lafever, one of a handful of men authoring builder's guides during the first decades of the nineteenth-century. The plan featured a center pavilion flanked on either side by wings with columned porches. The wide entablature of the ells is carried by stout Ionic columns with large volutes.
Two of the frame residences built in the village during the early 1840s display elements representative of a more advanced expression of the Greek Revival style.The house at 7770 Main Street, with its flushboard facade and fully-pedimented gable, is a small but nonetheless distinguished example. The building features elaborate cast-iron grilles set within the windows of the molded entablature and carved pilasters with anthemia. The use of the fan pattern at the corners and tympanum and pilasters reflects the persistence of older, Federal style detail. The frame residence at 7839 Main Street is likewise distinguished from its more provincial peers. The building features a full-length Doric-columned portico with a wide molded entablature, and represents the only temple-fronted example in the Fabius Village Historic District. These buildings recall the age of prosperity enjoyed by Fabius around mid-century and reflect an understanding of the currently accepted intellectual currents of the day.
Contemporary with the culmination of the classically-inspired Greek Revival style in New York during the early 1840s was the growing acceptance of the romantic movement and the ideals espoused by Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852) and Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892). The picturesque mode challenged the ideals of classicism and found its expression in rural areas with the "Carpenter Gothic" cottage. The first application of the picturesque ideal to residential architecture was seen in the Gothic Revival designs of Davis, who, in association with Downing, carried the ideas of the movement into the mainstream currents. Like other picturesque-inspired architecture of the day, cottage design was a product of the proliferation of pattern books, the abundance of lumber, and the development of balloon-framing. The development of the scroll saw, widely used by the 1840s, allowed for the creation of elaborate, Gothic inspired bargeboards, trademark of the style. The influence of this movement can be seen in a small number of buildings in the Fabius Village Historic District. The house at 7767 Academy Street, built circa 1850, features the intersecting front-gable, steeply-pitched roof and decorative bargeboards most commonly associated with the style. An interesting transitional example is the house at 7785 Academy Street. This one and one-half story frame residence, built circa 1850, features the molded frieze, architrave moldings and fluted pilasters common during the Greek Revival period, while incorporating a Gothic-inspired window bay.
Beginning in the mid- to late-1840s the surrounding town of Fabius witnessed a significant decrease in growth, and many business enterprises were forced into closure, resulting in a decline in population. The census of 1845 listed the population of the town at approximately twenty-five hundred. The rural population of New York declined considerably following the decade of the 1830s with an increasing migration to the large urban industrial centers. The village, however, remained an important agricultural service center, serving the needs of local farm families with services including stores, professional offices, houses of worship, a school, and tradesman.
Integral to the development of Fabius from the time of settlement onward was the growth of agriculture and related industries. The village's early settlers marketed surplus agricultural goods at the distant markets of Utica, Whitestown and Herkimer. Later, with the improvement of roads to Syracuse, farmers were able to transport products north and ship them east, via the Erie Canal. The Fabius Village Historic District retains a number of agriculture-related structures, reflecting this agrarian heritage. Academy Street features houses with original frame outbuildings including barns, a chicken shed, and a corn-crib, indicating their use as farms on the periphery of the village center. Following the Civil War, dairy-related enterprises developed and helped stabilize the local economy. Statistics from 1865 indicate the town's role as a leading agricultural center in Onondaga County. The town was credited that year with having over three-thousand milk cows, the highest number in all the county. Holstein-Friesan dairy cattle, introduced to the region in the 1880s, eventually helped central New York evolve as the milk shed for the entire state. Most notable of the late nineteenth century dairy-related enterprises in the village was The Fabius Creamery Company, incorporated in 1893. The company took over a creamery built in 1890 by John S. Carter of Syracuse and began producing butter, cheese, and milk sugar for transport to large urban markets. Augmenting the town's development as a major dairy center was the 1854 completion of the Syracuse, New York and Binghamton Railroad, passing several miles west of the village at Apulia Station. Railroads were an essential component of the development of the dairy industry in New York, providing rural areas with a fast and vital link to distant urban markets. The appearance of the railroad within close proximity to the village provided a significant stimulus to the growth of the town's dairy-related enterprises. Milk and butter produced by the Fabius Creamery Company were sipped by railroad to S.S. Brown and Company of New York City for distribution. Hops were also vital to the area's agriculture-dependent economy. 1865 statistics indicate that the town produced over 34,000 pounds the year before, likewise surpassing all towns in the county. Cabbage, peas, ginseng, and maple syrup also contributed to the list of cash crops.
Sporadic building continued in Fabius during the 1860s and 1870s, with residential architecture reflecting the new tastes of Victorian era. Following the gradual demise of the classically-inspired ideals of the first half of the century came the full development of the Romantic movement. Common throughout America during the decade of the 1860s was the emergence of the Italianate style, popular in city and countryside alike well into the 1880s. Inspired by the country villas of Italy, buildings of this style featured a vertical emphasis, with shallow-hipped roofs, elongated windows, projecting cornices with brackets, and cubic massing. The frame residence at 7852 Main Street is among the hamlets best remaining examples of the style. Built circa 1880, the building features a two-story polygonal window bay, molded window surrounds, a bracketed projecting cornice, and narrow pilasters. The Fabius Hardware store, the sole remaining commercial building located in the Fabius Village Historic District, reflects the simplicity of the style as applied to modest, non-residential uses. Older buildings were also updated to reflect the popularity of current tastes. The First Baptist Church was modified circa 1870 with a number of Italianate style features. Alterations included wood quoins, segmentally arched window crowns, and bracketed cornice, in addition to a substantial remodeling of the bell tower. Residences, such as the Federal style building at 7790 Main Street, also received modifications, in this case an Italianate style porch.
Likewise, related to developments during the Victorian era was the completion in 1865 of the Fabius Evergreen Cemetery. A vernacular expression of picturesque Rural Cemetery design, the plan features the winding roads and romantic plantings characteristic of the movement. The Rural Cemetery movement gained popularity in New York during the mid-nineteenth century as a response to the increased urbanization and industrialization of the nation and was closely linked to the parks movement. Landscape designers sought to "improve" nature and create controlled rural environments, for passive recreation and contemplation. The Fabius Evergreen Cemetery is representative of these precepts and their influence on cemetery design and funerary art in small, rural towns.
Also emerging during the Victorian era was the Romanesque Revival style, inspired by the medieval forms of western Europe and characterized by the use of round-arched windows and the application of decorative arcading beneath the cornice. The style first appeared during 1850s, gaining increased acceptance until falling from favor in the 1890s. Constructed in 1869 by Mathias Berry, a local architect-builder of religious buildings in Fabius, Pompey, and Manlius, the former Free Will Baptist Church is an unassuming vernacular interpretation of the style. The central tower is flanked on either side by projecting bays with hooded rounded-arch windows; notable features include a corbelled cornice. Following a decrease in church membership the building became home to the Fabius Grange, in 1916. Other buildings were likewise modified to accept the new tastes of the period. The Fabius United Methodist Church was modified in 1860 with Romanesque Revival alterations, including rounded bays with Norman arcading.
Representing the culmination of the Victorian era in Fabius are four residential Queen Anne buildings, dating from approximately 1885-1910. Queen Anne style architecture first gained widespread American exposure at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where examples of the English style generated considerable interest. Picturesque rooflines, expressive details, a variety of textures, and elaborate woodwork are all characteristic features. Unlike the English precedent, however, the style borrowed Colonial era vocabulary, including the Palladian window and small pane glass, which it incorporated creating a uniquely American idiom. The house at 7764 Main Street is a relatively early example, dating to circa 1885. Restrained in detail, it features the broad, intersecting gables and sweeping verandah common to the style. The frame residence at 7833 Main Street gained its present Queen Anne form around 1900. At that time, the eastern block, dating to circa 1830, and the western block, circa 1870, were joined. The building was then embellished with a number of Queen Anne style features, including a broad, front-facing gable with imbricated shingles, a porch with elaborately carved woodwork, and a verandah with Eastlake style details. The modifications were commissioned by William Hamilton, secretary-treasurer of the Fabius Creamery Company. A more elaborate treatment is seen on the former Job Phillips House at 7793 Main Street. The house was built in 1912 by Phillips, owner of several dairy farms in the Fabius area and president of the Fabius Creamery Corporation. The building is two and one-half stories in height and features a proliferation of Victorian embellishment, including a wraparound verandah with gazebo, a broad front-facing gable with imbricated wood shingles, and dormers with diamond-pane sash. The Phillips house represents the last of the residential buildings included in the Fabius Village Historic District, a turn of the century Victorian expression of the prosperity of local agriculture.
The Fabius Central School, completed in 1931 in the Collegiate Gothic style, represents the principle twentieth century architectural contribution in the Fabius Village Historic District. The school was designed by Earl Hallenbeck, a prominent architect of educational buildings and professor of architecture at Syracuse University, 1902-1934. Hallenbeck designed schools throughout the region, in addition to religious edifices, and was responsible for the design of Slocum Hall and Archbold Stadium on the Syracuse campus. The building is the culmination of an educational tradition dating back to the early settlement period. Records indicate that the first school in Fabius was of log construction and built shortly after settlement. Sometime around 1840 the Fabius Academy was erected on the southeast corner of what is now Academy and Pettit Street. The house at 1348 Pettit Street represents approximately one-half of the former schoolhouse. The present gable-ended frame building was intersected on the north side by a similar two-story block with its gable oriented toward Pettit Street. A small bell tower rose where the two blocks met. The present residence retains a number of original design features that link it to the Greek Revival period, including the triangular louver in the south gable field and a wide frieze band. The original building served first as a select school, until its sale to the Fabius School Board in 1849, when it became Fabius Union School. The school continued in its role until 1929, when a state inspection deemed the building unsafe. The building was modified for use as a residence circa 1935 with the removal of the north block and an overlay of craftsman-like detail. In 1930 the school district was centralized and the construction of a new edifice commenced. The Fabius Central School represents the final phase in the historic development of the hamlet. The school is a restrained Collegiate Gothic example, an eclectic style that alluded to the architecture of English Universities. Along with the Colonial Revival, it was often drawn upon as an ideal choice for educational architecture in New York during the 1930s.
In the decades since the construction of the Fabius Central School, relatively few alterations have affected the historic core of the village. The brick firehouse on Main Street represents the only significant intrusion, fortunately maintaining a setback similar to those throughout the Fabius Village Historic District. The Village of Fabius Historic District represents a cohesive grouping of historic resources that recall the growth and development of a small, agriculture-reliant village in predominately rural central New York. The hamlet retains a significant collection of early to mid-nineteenth century resources, including a substantial concentration of Federal and Greek Revival residential forms. The village similarly retains two religious edifices, originally constructed using designs based on the traditional frame meetinghouse form common in New England, representative of the areas early heritage. Developing on the frontier of rural New York in the early nineteenth century, the Village of Fabius Historic District remains largely unaltered, a reminder of the regions early history and the success of local agriculture.
Child, Hamilton, Gazetteer and Business Directory of Onondaga County, New York, 1868-69. Syracuse: The Syracuse Journal Office, 1868.
Clark, Joshua. Onondaga; or Reminisces of Earlier and Later Times. Syracuse: Stoddard and Babcock, 1849.
Edwards, Sylvia. "Fabius United Methodist Church Sesqui-Centennial History, 1826-1976."
Flick, Alexander, ed. History of the State of New York 5. Port Washington, New York: Ira Friedman, Inc., 1962.
†Krattinger, William E., New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Fabius Village Historic District, nomination document, 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.