Jordan Village Historic District
The Jordan Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Village of Jordan is located in the central part of the New York State along the western edge of Onondaga County. The village lies north of the main east-west road (Route 5) and is somewhat isolated due to a series of steep hills which separates them. From these hills, the village spreads north along the plains of the Seneca River. The Skaneateles Creek runs north and south through the village and was a source of water power for some of Jordan's early industries.
The Jordan Village Historic District contains seventy-three commercial, residential and ecclesiastical buildings, most of which date from between 1820 to the early 1930s. The building styles reflect Jordan's most prosperous period when the Erie Canal was in operation. The commercial area of the Jordan Village Historic District is located near the former Erie Canal bed in the heart of the village. Residential areas extend north and south along Main Street from the commercial district. There are only five modern non-contributing structures in the Jordan Village Historic District.
The Jordan Village Historic District was established and boundaries proposed as a result of a comprehensive survey conducted by consultants for the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency. The Jordan Village Historic District boundaries were drawn to include the most architecturally intact structures surviving in the village. To the north, Route 31 forms a visual and physical terminus to North Main Street. The southern boundary line was drawn to include the mill race and pond of the White grist mill.
The western and eastern boundaries are drawn to include the significant properties sited on North Hamilton, Clinton (Lawrence), Elbridge and Mechanic Streets. Beyond these properties, the architectural integrity diminishes due to extensive alterations.
A variety of nineteenth and early twentieth century architectural styles, detailing, and methods of construction are represented, but similarities in size, scale and use of materials and consistency in craftsmanship create a cohesive district of intact historic buildings.
The Jordan Historic District is a distinctive concentration of nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture. The historically and architecturally significant residential, commercial and ecclesiastical structures illustrate the village's nineteenth-century growth and prosperity, particularly during 1830-1840 and 1870-85, when the Erie Canal made Jordan's principal commercial, industrial and transportation center of western Onondaga County. There are also many structures which represent the village's growth in the early twentieth century when Jordan enjoyed railroad and trolley service. By 1930, the Erie Canal took on new significance by being converted to a landscaped park as a W.P.A. project and remains a visual tool for understanding the canal and aqueduct construction. A variety of architectural styles, detailing and methods of construction are represented in the cohesive district. The historic character of the village, relatively undisturbed by the effects of post 1930 modernization, remains an important example of a nineteenth and early twentieth century town in central New York.
In 1797 Zercas and Owen Wright built the first house within the present boundaries of the village of Jordan. By 1800 a mill had been erected on the bank of the Skaneateles Creek which runs north through the village. In 1805 the Seneca Turnpike (Route 5) and the Cherry Valley Turnpike (Route 20), two major east-west highways, were constructed south of the village. Despite this, Jordan became a major transportation center after one of the earliest sections of the new Erie Canal was constructed through the village in 1819. The Jordan Feeder, which fed the canal via Skaneateles Creek, had its source in Skaneateles Lake, located about twelve miles south-southwest of the village. Several dams were erected along the creek to regulate flow into the canal and to provide water power for Jordan's expanding mill industry. The Jordan Feeder provided a tremendous impetus to the village's early nineteenth century growth. By 1825 there were three mills; a post office opened in 1831 and the first local newspaper, the Jordan Courier, was published. Commerce and industry expanded and flourished during the next decade, and by 1836, the year after the village was incorporated, Jordan had 3 grist mills, 3 saw mills, a sash factory, a distillery and a clothing shop as well as 5 taverns, 7 general stores, 2 drug stores and 5 grocery stores.
Several distinct architectural examples dating from this era remain substantially intact and are included in the Jordan Village Historic District. The White mill is the sole surviving mill from this early development. The former grist mill is still used as a grain and feed store and retains its simple Greek Revival detailing and some original equipment. The mill's setting is also remarkable intact with the millrace and millpond located to the southeast.
Other examples of early commercial structures include two hotels which were built to accommodate canal travelers. The Jordan Hotel was only two stories high when first constructed in 1820. Located close to the canal, the hotel enjoyed excellent business and added a third floor and a rear wing when the canal was enlarged. The Old Tavern (16 North Main Street) served as an inn, meeting place and social center for stage and canal travelers as well as for local residents.
Extant residences from the period are predominantly vernacular interpretations of the Federal and Greek Revival styles. These include 2 1/2 South Main Street, 305 Clinton Street, and 31 North Main Street.
Jordan experienced a second period of economic expansion between 1870-1890 due to improvements made on the feeder canal and the advent of rail transportation. The originally small and narrow Jordan Feeder (section at Jordan) had been widened and deepened in 1860. Between 1865 and 1885 the old canal was eliminated altogether, the canal bed was straightened, a new double lock was constructed west of the village and a larger aqueduct over Skaneateles Creek was built. The extant masonry foundations of the wooden aqueduct in the east end of the canal park date from this period. By 1855 the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad had been extended to Jordan with the tracks running north of the Jordan Village Historic District and parallel to the Erie Canal. In 1885 a second line, the West Shore Railroad, arrived, continuing to aid in Jordan's prosperity. Examples of the Italianate, Gothic Revival and Queen Anne styles are represented, ranging from highly elaborate to modest vernacular interpretations. Distinctive examples of commercial architecture include the Hendricks Block (North Main Street), the Brace Block (South Main Street), and the Coliermic Building (12 Elbridge Street). The majority of North Main Street was developed during this period and the street is a cohesive collection of late nineteenth century building styles. The Italianate houses on Lawrence Street, built as speculative housing, represent the prosperity of this period in Jordan's development.
Jordan's economy suffered in the late nineteenth century when the importance of the Erie Canal as a major transportation mode and rail transportation declined. However the Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Electric Train Co. had a line to Jordan providing easy access to Syracuse for commuters. The trolley station has now been adapted to a garage but serves as a reminder of the line which was popular until the 1930s.
The creation of Canal Park also occurred in the 1930s. The canal had been drained in 1917, and as part of a W.P.A. community development project the canal bed was converted into a landscaped park. The limestone walls and aqueduct were carefully incorporated in the design and the entire park serves as a reminder of the catalyst of Jordan's development and transportation history in the state.
Jordan became increasingly isolated during the twentieth century as modern transportation routes bypassed it. Industries left Jordan for more accessible locations; few new enterprises were established; the population declined and poverty increased. The lack of modern development in the heart of the village after the 1930s, however, has resulted in the substantially intact survival of the historic character of this important nineteenth-century canal town.
Beauchamp, W.M. Past & Present of Syracuse & Onondaga Co. New York: 1908.
Bramley, Jessica. Former Jordan Village Historian, Jordan, New York. Interview.
Bruce. History of Onondaga County. Vol. I. New York: 1874.
Hudson, Kate. Jordan Village Historian, Jordan, New York. Interview.
Onondaga Landmarks. Syracuse: Onondaga Co. Planning Agency, 1975.
Richey, Linda. Office of Economic Development, Community Development Division, Syracuse/Onondaga County Planning Dept., Interview.
Syracuse, New York. Canal Museum. Research Files.
Whiteford, Noble E. History of Canal Systems of the State of New York. Vols. I & II. Supplement of Report of State Engineers & Surveyors, 1905.
Wright, Richard N. Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse, New York. Interview.