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Northside Historic District


The Northside Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.

Description

The area known as the Northside is a portion of Waterford located between the Village of Waterford to the north and the city of Cohoes to the south. The southern boundary of the Northside Historic District is formed by the Mohawk River, the northern boundary by the cemetery, the eastern boundary by east side of the old Champlain Canal, and the western boundary by the rear property line of homes on the west side of Saratoga Avenue.

The Mohawk River flows rapidly along the east shore of Northside; its sixteen-foot drop occasioned the development of Northside's mills. Two dams control the Mohawk waters. One crosses the river between Cohoes and Northside just east of the Roosevelt Bridge linking the two communities. The other crosses the channel to Peebles Island from the eastern shore of Northside.

A small remnant of the King Power Canal may also be seen on the eastern shore just outside of the district.

Chiefly residential in character, the Northside Historic District includes structures on both sides of Saratoga Avenue from the Roosevelt Bridge to a point just past its junction with Maple Avenue. Museum Lane, part of Fulton Street, and Canal Street are also included.

A modern supermarket at 26 Saratoga Avenue has been omitted from the Northside Historic District. There are three gas stations in district.

Architectural motifs from every period of the 19th century are represented in this primarily residential area. These range from the columned portico of the early Hugh White homestead to the Italianate brackets, cornices and fancy bargeboards of the mid and late 19th century. There are also some excellent examples of Colonial Revival influence on early 20th century homes.

The Northside Historic District contains structures both large and small — mansions of mill owners as well as modest mill workers' dwellings — from each period of growth. The mill owners' homes are largely located on the west side of Saratoga Avenue. The area is known locally as "mill owners' row."

Two of the key structures in the Northside Historic District are almost identical. These are the Hugh White Mansion and the William Mansfield Home. Both were built in 1830 in the then-popular Greek Temple style. Each is two stories high with a portico supported by four slender Ionic columns. The White home was moved from its original site opposite the Mansfield home to Museum Lane in order to preserve it from demolition. It is now the Waterford Museum.

Another important structure is the large Victorian mansion now used as the Veterans Home. Located at 194 Saratoga Avenue, it is two and a half stories high with a mansard roof, bracketed cornice and central tower topped by ornamental iron cresting.

The brick school, dating from 1897, is now in use as a firehouse. A cooperage at the north end of Saratoga Avenue is the only manufacturing operation in the Northside Historic District.

A large and potentially important area for future archeological research stretches along both sides of the Old Champlain Canal where there is now [1975] only open space. The last of many mills adjacent to this area was demolished.

Significance

The geographical location of the Northside, between Cohoes and Waterford, with a sixteen-foot drop in the Mohawk River along its east shore provided an ideal location for the development of mills. The mill owners' and mill workers' homes which were built here throughout the 19th and into the early 20th centuries preserve a valuable record of the evolution of a mill community.

Initially, the Northside area consisted of large land holdings with only the proprietors and a few agricultural workers in residence. While to the north Waterford had become an incorporated village in 1794 and to the south Cohoes was thriving, the Northside area remained undeveloped. In 1830, two fine Greek Revival temple form homes were built by landowners; one by Hugh White, brother of Erie Canal engineer Canvass White, and the other by William Mansfield. These homes still exist. The Hugh White home was moved by the Waterford Historical Society to save it from demolition and now serves as a museum.

White and Mansfield were both involved in manufacturing enterprises in Cohoes as well as Waterford. In fact, the growth of mills in the Northside area was a natural corollary to that of its geographical neighbors, and the industrial success of Cohoes provided the impetus for Northside's somewhat later development. This early relationship is still remembered in the name "Northside," as the area was located just to the north of Cohoes.

Exploitation of water power in the Northside area began about 1828 when King's Power Canal was constructed by John Fuller King. One half mile long and 53 feet wide, it was constructed parallel with the river. Two dams across the Mohawk diverted water into the canal. King's Canal continued to be important until technology changed flour milling in the 1890's and flour from the west became less expensive than locally produced flour. Slaughtering, meat packing and lumber production in sawmills powered by water were also early industries in the area. Shortly after power became available a large number of small factories sprang up, primarily around King's Canal, but also from water diverted from the Champlain Canal. The Champlain Canal was allowed to provide water for power by virtue of an agreement between the State of New York and the Town of Waterford which came about as a result of the removal of a dam across the fourth branch of the Mohawk River. This was accomplished in the 1820's in order to allow access to the Waterford side-cut of the Champlain Canal. Removal of this dam eliminated water power industries on Peebles Island, and so in recompense the State allowed Champlain Canal water to be diverted to provide power for industries downhill from the Champlain Canal in the Northside area and in the Village of Waterford.

Besides the numerous flour mills mentioned above these canals ran machine tool works; button factories; knitting mills; sawmills; dye works; ink factories; lamp black factories; a large factory for the production of fire engines; a cement plant in which hydraulic cement was made by Canvass White, engineer of the Erie and Champlain Canals; furniture factories; and a barrel factory which was directly related to shipping on the Champlain Canal and which is still in existence and still functioning; and a whiskey distillery.

The Champlain Canal, which opened in 1822, stimulated commerce in innumerable ways. The barrel factory business, which has been in existence since 1791, was stimulated by the canal, since barrels for both liquids and for flour were needed for shipment. At one point six barrel factories were functioning in Waterford during the first half of the 19th century. The Champlain Canal provided a great deal of commerce in the form of making Waterford a shipping point for agricultural products and by providing various service industries. Several large fine barns for mules were reported to have been in existence. The town of Waterford and the village together boasted no less than forty saloons and eating places catering to canal workers.

That Northside as a residential area depended upon the canal and the direct relationship of Fulton Street, Lower Clifton Street, Canal Street and other areas to the canal itself is apparent in the styles of the houses there. These houses are generally small Greek Revival cottages which date from the period 1830 to 1845 and which are believed to have housed factory and canal workers. The first major wave of prosperity and industrial expansion in the area occurred between 1830 and 1840. The second wave occurred in the period of 1865 to 1870, the third from 1880 to 1900. During these periods there were rapid expansions in industrial activity and in population with much new residential growth.

The architectural styles seen throughout the Northside area reflect the fashions current at the time and also the economic conditions of the time. The buildings extant in the area offer a view of the successive waves of economic activity and also of the strata of society at any given time. The area is particularly significant as being a true reflection of a living, evolving community with the surviving buildings representing various stages in its life cycle and various aspects of its life.

After the turn of the century, the gradual decay of small industry in the northeast affected the Northside area. Rail and road transportation made its strategic position on major waterways no longer an advantage. One by one the mill buildings along the Champlain Canal were torn down. Some businesses did survive in the area, as exemplified by the Mohawk Paper Company which is located just adjacent to the district. The homes in Northside continued to be occupied, though some were lost to the creeping "strip" commercialism almost inevitable along a major road. Residential zoning has now put a stop to this deterioration and the area remains relatively intact, a reminder of a century of industrial prosperity.

Reference

Hammersley, Sidney Earnest. The History of Waterford, New York. Brooklyn: Theo Gans Sons, Inc., 1957.

  1. Doris Manley, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Northside Historic District, Waterford, NY, nomination document, 1975, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Northside Historic District Map

Street Names
Canal Street • Fulton Street • Museum Lane • Route 32 • Saratoga Avenue

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