Genesee Park Historic District
The Genesee Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. 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 Genesee Park Historic District in the city of Geneva, Ontario County, New York, consists of Genesee Park and the surrounding buildings on Genesee Street, Genesee Park Place, and Lewis Street. Included in the Genesee Park Historic District are the former North Presbyterian Church, the St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Genesee Park, and eleven dwellings. The Genesee Park Historic District, located two blocks north of the historic civic and commercial core of the city, is in a quiet, mostly residential neighborhood near the geographic center of the city. Most of the older buildings surrounding the Genesee Park Historic District have been extensively altered, thus, the boundary has been drawn to include only those contiguous buildings that retain integrity of setting, location, design, materials, craftsmanship and feeling. The focal point of the Genesee Park Historic District is Genesee Park, a 105' x 247' village green laid out in 1849. The informally landscaped green is enclosed by a cast-iron fence (installed in 1871), and is bounded on the north and east by Genesee Park Place, on the west by Genesee Street ad on the south by Lewis Place. Diagonal paths cross the gently sloping, grassy park; mature trees and shrubbery are scattered throughout the green.
The south end of the Genesee Park Historic District is anchored by the massive St. Peter's Episcopal Church (1868), a massive brick and stone Gothic Revival style church designed by Richard Upjohn. The west-southwest corner of the Genesee Park Historic District is anchored by the former North Presbyterian Church (1875), a massive limestone Gothic Revival style edifice designed by the firm of White & Bickford of Elmira, New York. The remainder of the district consists of mostly large, high-style, single-family dwellings rendered in a variety of materials and styles. The three properties at the southwest end of the Genesee Park Historic District (on the west side of Genesee Street facing the front facade of St. Peter's Church) feature two temple-front Greek Revival dwellings (one of brick and one of frame construction) and a brick Italianate style dwelling; the north end of the district (overlooking the park) contains a frame temple-front Greek Revival style dwelling and a frame Stick style dwelling; the east side of the Genesee Park Historic District (also overlooking the park) features a late Federal/early Greek Revival frame dwelling, a Queen Anne frame dwelling and a brick Italian Villa style dwelling. An imposing Greek Revival style brick dwelling (facing south on Lewis Street) anchors the southeast corner of the district.
The Genesee Park Historic District is a remarkably intact collection of mid- to late-nineteenth century civic, religious and domestic properties in Geneva, Ontario County, New York. Organized around the New England-inspired Genesee Park, the two churches and fourteen dwellings included in the Genesee Park Historic District are architecturally and historically significant in the areas of community development, architecture, and landscape architecture. Together, the square and surround buildings — most of which date from the late 1830s to the late 1890s — comprise a compact and highly cohesive collection of a broad range of types, periods and styles, including Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Italian Villa, and Stick styles.
Geneva was settled in 1787 and incorporated in 1806. By the late 1820s, the city was a bustling center of commercial, social and religious activity serving the nearby rural agrarian towns of Seneca and Geneva. Of particular note was the city's repute as a center of academia, particularly after the establishment of Geneva College (later Hobart College) in 1825. Located at the foot of Seneca Lake, Geneva was also renowned for its abundance of natural beauty. Although somewhat eclipsed by the county seat of Canandaigua about 20 miles to the west, Geneva prospered during the first half of the nineteenth century as one of the most prosperous and pleasant cities in the Finger Lakes region of the state. Thriving nurseries and a variety of successful industrial ventures provided economic stability. The community's earliest development — commercial, residential, religious and civic — occurred adjacent to the lake during the last decade of the eighteenth century and the first two decades of the nineteenth century (near present-day NY 5/US 20, and Exchange, South Main and Washington Streets).
By the late 1820s, new development occurred further away from the lake. Genesee Street, running northward from the central business district, became a desirable middle-class residential enclave dotted with late Federal and early Greek Revival style brick and frame dwellings. Several dwellings in the Genesee Park Historic District reflect this stage of the city's development: 118, 140 and 152 Genesee Street, 5 Genesee Park Place, and 54 Lewis Street. Built during the 1830s and 1840s, all five dwellings are remarkably intact examples of Greek Revival style domestic architecture. The buildings at 140 and 152 Genesee Street and 5 Genesee Park Place are particularly fine examples of the temple-front mode: all feature monumental, pedimented porticoes supported by massive, Ionic order columns. The house at 140 Genesee Street was built by George Seeley, who came to Geneva in 1828. He ran a successful mercantile business and had considerable land holdings. His family lived in this house for 60 years. Charles Neider, former mayor of Geneva, occupied the house during the early 20th century.
By the late 1840s, residents of the neighborhood grew concerned about the rapid development going on round them and appealed to the city fathers for the establishment of a public green. On land donated by George Barkley, Joseph Fellows and the executors of the Sanford R. Hall, the city created a 105' x 247' park in 1849 on the east side of Genesee Street north of Lewis Street. First named Franklin Park, the open space reflected community development ideals embodied in New England village greens: according to deed restrictions, the park was to remain public property for use by all; it was to be enclosed by a "suitable" fence and improved by trees, shrubbery, flowers and oaks; no building was to occur on the land; and the grades of both Genesee Street the surrounding sidewalks must remain intact. The park was modestly and simply landscaped with trees, shrubbery and unpaved walkways; in 1853, it was renamed Genesee Park. It is not clear whether or not a fence was erected during the early years of the park's existence; the present cast-iron fence dates to 1871.
More than half of the buildings in the Genesee Park Historic District pre-date the creation of the park; however, the two largest and most significant buildings in the Genesee Park Historic District were erected shortly after Genesee Park emerged as one of the city's most pleasant public parks. In 1868, the massive St. Peter's Episcopal Church, designed by the nationally renowned Richard Upjohn, was built on the south end of the park. Constructed of regionally quarried Medina sandstone with gray limestone trim, the building is a remarkable intact, outstanding example of Gothic Revival style religious architecture in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. The church was built as a memorial to William Heathcote deLancy, the first Episcopal Bishop of Western New York. Facing westward toward Genesee Street, the edifice is oriented on an east-west axis. The rectangular main block, containing the narthex, sanctuary and apse, features a steeply pitched gable roof (once covered with slate), regularly placed, lancet and Gothic-arched windows (many with intricate stone tracery and stained glass), and prominent stone-capped buttresses. Twenty years later, Upjohn's son, Richard M. Upjohn, designed the massive, four-story, square campanile at the northwest corner of the 1868 church. Also inspired by medieval Gothic building traditions (although derived from southern Continental European sources rather than English sources), the bell tower features tall, lancet-arched louvers with stone trim; bold corner buttresses; a polygonal bastion engaged in its northwest corner; and an octagonal, slate-clad spire pierced by turrets and lancet-arched cross-gables. The interior of the church survives virtually intact and is distinguished by intricately carved Gothic trusses supporting a handsome paneled ceiling; a profusion of Gothic woodwork and liturgical furniture; original pews arranged around a center aisle; and delicate stenciling.
Equally impressive is the massive former North Presbyterian Church, erected in 1875 on the west side of Genesee Street overlooking the park. Constructed of roughly hewn blocks of light gray limestone, the church is a remarkably intact and outstanding example of the Gothic Revival mode in Geneva. Designed by White & Bickford, a regionally renowned firm based in Elmira (Chemung County), the church is distinguished by a soaring square tower engaged in the southeast corner of the rectangular main block; single, paired and tripartite, lancet and Gothic-arched, stained-glass windows, many of which are articulated by stone buttresses; and a variety of handsome stone carvings, particularly around the front (east) entrance.
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