Canandaigua Historic District
The Canandaigua Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. 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 Canandaigua Historic District includes 354 properties (338 of which are contributing) that constitute the historic core of the city of Canandaigua, New York. It encompasses the North Main Street Historic District, listed on the National Register in 1973, which included 86 residential, religious and civic properties along both sides of North Main Street between the New York Central Railroad tracks and the intersection of Buffalo and Chapel Streets. Since the nomination of the North Main Street Historic District, local sponsors have completed a comprehensive survey/inventory of the remaining portions of the city. Based upon this additional data, the local sponsor, the New York State Board for Historic Preservation and the State Historic Preservation Officer have concluded that areas adjacent to the North Main Street Historic District on the east and south possess similar visual qualities in terms of style, scale, materials, and integrity and are united to the existing district by similar associations with the history and development of Canandaigua. Hence, the existing district has been incorporated into the Canandaigua Historic District. The expanded district includes the entire historic core of the city.
The boundaries of the Canandaigua Historic District were drawn to include only those properties which retain sufficient architectural and/or historical integrity. Beyond the boundaries, modern intrusions and heavily altered historic structures detract from the historic character of the core of the city. The southern boundary of the Canandaigua Historic District is the visual terminus of the city's historic business center; south of the district, the properties along South Main Street contain modern commercial structures and large parking lots. Beyond the sections of South Main Street's cross streets that are included in the historic district are areas of modern construction, intrusive parking lots and extensively altered neighborhoods of mixed residential and commercial use. The northern boundary of North Main Street and the eastern boundaries of its cross streets have been drawn to exclude sections of those streets which contain modern and/or altered residences. Other cross streets in the immediate vicinity of North Main Street have been excluded altogether due to the lack of historic integrity.
The Canandaigua Historic District contains residential, commercial, religious and civic properties dating from the 1810s to the 1930s. A broad range of popular American architectural styles of the period, including Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Italian Villa, Octagon, Queen Anne, Eastlake, Stick style, Neoclassical, Colonial Revival, Commercial, International Style and Art Moderne. Substantial masonry churches, dating from the third quarter of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, are scattered along North Main Street north of Atwater Park. Stylistic features of High Victorian Gothic and Romanesque Revival architecture are exhibited by these churches.
North of Atwater Park is a large residential neighborhood comprised of middle to upper class housing. The dwellings, located along North Main Street, Howell, Gibson, Gorham, and Sly Streets, Park Place and Dailey and Fort Hill Avenues occupy relatively large lots. Dating from circa 1810-circa 1930, the structures are generally two stories in height and exhibit a high level of sophistication and craftsmanship. Wood frame construction predominates although there are a considerable number of brick dwellings as well. Examples of early and late nineteenth century architectural styles predominate with relatively few examples of mid-nineteenth century construction. North Main Street, the city's most prestigious residential street throughout history, contains the Canandaigua Historic District's highest concentration of elaborate large-scale residences. The imposing structures occupy large lots on the wide, tree-lined street and are designed in virtually every major nineteenth and early twentieth century architectural style. Although wood frame construction prevails, nearly one-quarter of the dwellings are executed in brick. Howell Street, Gibson Street and Park Place also contain a considerable number of upper-class dwellings. Howell Street is characterized by a high concentration of elaborate, late nineteenth century, frame, Queen Anne/Eastlake style dwellings as well as numerous examples of Italianate and Italian Villa style architecture. Gibson Street contains a particularly large number of Federal style mansions as well as the city's highest concentration of mid-nineteenth century, middle-class residences, many of which are designed in the Greek Revival style. Other well-crafted middle-class houses, many of which date from the late nineteenth century, are scattered throughout the northern section of the district. Located closer to Atwater Park are more modest middle-class residential neighborhoods. Lots are generally smaller and the structures are less imposing, but a high degree of craftsmanship and sophistication of detailing is still evident. With few exceptions, these dwellings are executed in wood. Gorham Street, the city's most fashionable middle-class street during the mid-nineteenth century, contains numerous Greek Revival style dwellings. Dailey Avenue and Sly Street contain relatively modest early nineteenth to early twentieth century frame dwellings.
South of Atwater Park are Canandaigua's business district and working class neighborhoods. South Main Street, Phoenix Street, and Niagara Street comprise the core of the densely settled commercial district. There are also several early twentieth century Commercial style and some Art Deco/Moderne structures scattered throughout the business district.
The small sections of Bemis Street and Coy Street which are included in the Canandaigua Historic District contain modest mixed commercial and residential structures. Bristol Street and Center Street encompass the city's historic working class residential neighborhoods. Property lots are small and dwellings are generally modest, one and one-half to two-story frame structures with minimal detailing. They date from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth century; vernacular interpretations of the mid-nineteenth century Greek Revival and Italianate styles predominate. There are a few middle-class dwellings scattered throughout the neighborhood.
The Canandaigua Historic District contains a significant collection of 354 residential, commercial, religious and civic properties which together reflect the development of the historic core of the county seat of Ontario County. Dating from the 1810s to the 1930s the architecturally and/or historically significant structures represent a broad range of architectural styles, types and methods of construction. The Canandaigua Historic District contains numerous distinctive and/or representative examples of Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne/Eastlake, Colonial Revival, Neoclassical, Commercial, International and Art Moderne styles. Elaborate and sophisticated early nineteenth century Federal and late-nineteenth century Italianate, Queen Anne/Eastlake and eclectic style structures predominate, reflecting Canandaigua's two major periods of growth and prosperity. The high level of sophistication of so many of the structures distinguish Canandaigua as a particularly wealthy and prominent city in the region.
In addition to the architectural significance of the buildings in the Canandaigua Historic District, many of the properties are historically significant for their associations with locally, regionally and/or nationally prominent persons. Many residential and commercial structures are important for their associations with locally prominent doctors, lawyers and businessmen; two properties in the district, the Granger Homestead (295 North Main Street) and the J.A. Granger House (16 Gibson Street) are significant for their association with members of the family of the nationally renowned Gideon Granger. Several properties in the Canandaigua Historic District were designed by regionally prominent architects: A.J. Warner designed the F.H. Hamlin House (152 Gibson Street); J. Foster Warner designed the Bates Building (195 South Main Street); Claude Bragdon designed the Ontario County Times Building (83 South Main Street); and H. Knapp and Son designed the commercial Tillotson Block (South Main Street).
The Canandaigua Historic District contains numerous distinctive examples of Federal style architecture dating from the early decades of the nineteenth century, including the City Hall (southwest corner of West Avenue and North Main Street) and First Congregational Church (58 North Main Street). Other outstanding Federal style dwellings are scattered throughout the district.
The Canandaigua Historic District includes the city's only two examples of mid-nineteenth century, monumental Greek Revival style architecture. The J.A. Granger House (16 Gibson Street) and the Ontario County Courthouse (27 North Main Street) are distinguished by their giant pedimented porticos. Many more modest, vernacular interpretations of the Greek Revival style are scattered throughout the district; they are architecturally significant as representative examples of the period and style and they also reflect the slight decline in Canandaigua's prosperity at the mid-nineteenth century. Other popular mid-nineteenth century architectural styles are less well-represented in the district. There is only one "textbook" example of a Gothic Revival style cottage, the George Bemis House (48 Howell Street). While several other modest dwellings do exhibit the influence of the style, the Bemis House is the only structure which fully incorporates the picturesque ideals of the period and style. The city's only Octagon house, the Van Burkirk-Raines House (116 Gorham Street) is also included in the district. It is a unique, representative example of another popular, mid-nineteenth century style.
Numerous significant structures dating from the third quarter of the nineteenth century reflect the city's second phase of prosperity as a center of rail transportation. Particularly significant examples of high-style Italianate residential and commercial architecture survive throughout the district. More modest, but, nonetheless, well-crafted, interpretations of the period and style which reflect the relative prosperity of the working and middle-classes during the era are scattered throughout the residential neighborhoods. The commercial district is characterized by a particularly high concentration of outstanding Italianate style rows.
The Canandaigua Historic District also contains the city's only examples of High Victorian Gothic and Second Empire style architecture, other styles popular during the third quarter of the century. The picturesque St. John's Episcopal Church (179 North Main Street), with its polychrome stonework, is a distinctive example of the High Victorian Gothic style, a style in which religious structures of the period were frequently designed.
The influence of the Second Empire style is reflected in three structures distinguished by their mansard roofs. The John Gillette House (171 Howell Street), the dwelling at 73 Bristol Street and the Draper Building (a commercial structure, 56 South Main Street) are architecturally significant as distinctive examples of the period and style and are particularly notable for their elaborate detailing.
Architecturally significant structures dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century are characterized by a high level of sophistication and eclectic detailing. Outstanding commercial structures of the era combine features of the Italianate and Romanesque Revival styles with variations and combinations of corbelled brickwork and elaborate cornices. Distinctive late nineteenth century dwellings incorporate elements of the Queen Anne, Eastlake and Stick styles; they are characterized by highly picturesque and elaborate configurations and detailing. Older, more modest structures were often modernized during this period with the addition of contemporary embellishment such as intricate woodwork. There is one distinctive example of eclectic style religious architecture dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century; it is the United Church (71 North Main Street). It features a unique combination of Romanesque Revival style corbelled brickwork and Gothic Revival style pointed-arch windows.
Early twentieth century architecture in the Canandaigua Historic District is generally more modest and less distinctive than early and late nineteenth century architecture. As during the mid-nineteenth century, there are a few outstanding structures, but the majority of new construction, particularly residential, consisted of vernacular interpretations of the styles of the period. Dwellings most frequently exhibit Colonial Revival style features; Bungalows and Cottages often incorporate Colonial Revival style detailing. The influence of the Neoclassical, Commercial, International and Art Modern styles is reflected in the district's commercial architecture. Architecturally significant civic structures include the Colonial Revival style Canandaigua Junior Academy (235 North Main Street) and the Neoclassical style U.S. Post Office (28 North Main Street). A distinctive twentieth-century religious edifice is St. Mary's Church (91 North Main Street), an eclectic structure with distinctive Romanesque Revival style features.