Delanson Historic District
The Delanson 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 © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Delanson Historic District consists of nineteen properties located on both sides of Main Street (Route 395) in the incorporated village of Delanson. (All nineteen properties are contributing and there are twelve contributing outbuildings, yielding a total of 31 contributing elements in the district.) The district is primarily residential but also includes a church and one former commercial structure. The structures, generally two-story frame structures with clapboard siding built between c. 1860 and c. 1890, exhibit stylish features associated with a variety of picturesque American architectural styles popular during the late nineteenth century. The buildings reflect the village's two-decade period of rapid growth and prosperity brought on by the advent of rail transportation in the early 1860s. The district encompasses the town's only concentration of picturesque, late Victorian era architecture.
The village of Delanson, settled in 1861 when construction of the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad was begun, is located in the south-central section of the town of Duanesburg, one-half mile north of the hamlet of Quaker Street. Its Main Street is Route 395, running north from Quaker Street to Route 20. The Delaware & Hudson Railroad runs southwest to northwest, following the course of the Normanskill through the village. The district is located in the flat area between the railroad and the steep southern escarpment of the Normanskill.
The district boundaries were drawn to include the stylish residential neighborhood which developed adjacent to Duanesburg's most prosperous commercial center in the late nineteenth century. The northern boundary of the district is just south of the railroad crossing and has been drawn to exclude a modern warehouse just north of 30 Main Street and the vacant land south of the tracks which marks the site of the former station and a large hotel. North of the tracks the historic character of the village has been lost due to numerous modern intrusions and the extensive alterations of older structures. The Jenkins House (c. 1876, Individual Component) is the only intact historic structure in the northern section of the village. The southern boundary of the district is the visual terminus of the village, just north of the legal boundary of Delanson, where the densely populated village gives way to the undeveloped hillside. A low-scale, modern telephone building just south of 12 Main Street has been excluded. The eastern and western boundaries of the district are drawn to exclude the modern residential properties along East and West Shore Roads.
Historically, the village's commercial structures were concentrated near the tracks of what was then known as the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad. South of the tracks were service oriented properties and the station, east of which were the large railyards. Fashionable residential neighborhood developed along either side of Main Street. It is these properties which are included in the Delanson Historic District. The 17 residences, one former commercial structure and one church occupy small lots in the densely populated district (generally 1/4 to 1/2 acre in size) and are set back from the street at relatively uniform distances. The structures are one and one-half to two-story frame buildings and exhibit a variety of features associated with late Victorian era styles. Unlike much of Duanesburg's historic building stock, the historic resources of the village of Delanson are not modest, vernacular structures. A high degree of innovative design and fashionable embellishment in Delanson reflects the prosperity and progressive tastes of its inhabitants. Many structures reflect the influence of the Italianate style, exhibiting features such as low-pitched hipped roofs, broadly projecting and often bracketed eaves, and projecting bays and pavilions. Late Italianate and eclectic style residences in the district exhibit a greater variety of embellishment including heavily ornamented cornices, woodwork in the apex of gable ends and/or cross-gables, ornamental window trim, and elaborate porches, verandahs and/or balconies. The general store (#28 Main Street), now altered for residential use, also features ornamental woodwork, as do the district's two religious properties, the Delanson Methodist Church and parsonage.
The Delanson Historic District is a significant collection of late Victorian era domestic architecture in the historic core of the incorporated village of Delanson, the late nineteenth century commercial center of the town of Duanesburg. Delanson, settled in the early 1860s in response to the advent of rail transportation in the region, prospered until the early twentieth century when the focus of Duanesburg's economic activity shifted eastward to the city of Schenectady. The Delanson Historic District includes the only intact concentration of fashionable structures in the town. Whereas most of Duanesburg's historic building stock reflects the simplicity, rectilinearity and restrained embellishment of the vernacular tradition, the historic resources of Delanson, dating from the early 1860s to the late 1880s, reflect the influence of the more elaborate, picturesque ideals of the late Victorian period. Distinctive and unique examples of a broad range of late nineteenth century architectural styles and decorative detailing survive intact, giving the district its significant architectural character. While there are other examples of picturesque, late nineteenth century architecture scattered throughout the town, including a few isolated, rural farmhouses and several properties in the Quaker Street Historic District scattered amongst the older, vernacular structures of the hamlet, the Delanson Historic District includes the only substantial collection of contiguous, late nineteenth century properties in Duanesburg. Historically, the resources of Delanson constitute the only intact collection of historic structures in the village and reflect the brief heydey of the village as the town's largest, most prosperous late nineteenth century settlement.
By the mid-nineteenth century, patterns of development and land use in the town of Duanesburg were well established: the land was, for the most part, divided into farm lots, many of which ere well-developed, prosperous farmsteads. Numerous small, relatively self-sufficient hamlets, concentrated near the intersections of major colonial thoroughfares, were scattered throughout the town. The hamlet of Quaker Street was, during the first half of the century, the major commercial center serving the needs of the town's rural areas. With the advent of rail transportation in the region, the focus of the town's economic activity moved away from Quaker Street. When the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad Company began construction of a line between Albany and Binghamton through the Normanskill Valley in 1861, new centers of commercial activity developed around trackside locations. One such settlement was Quaker Street Depot (later to become known as Delanson), one-half mile north of Quaker Street in an area then known as Toad Hollow, where Route 395, a major north-south thoroughfare, crossed the Susquehanna line. With the completion of the first section of the line which connected Albany with Central Bridge, a station and freighthouse were erected, and the Quaker Street Depot community began to grow, especially after the line was completed to Binghamton in 1869. Dwellings were built to house the employees of the railroad and commercial services were established to meet the needs of the expanding population. Coal yards, reputed to be the largest in the world at the time, were established, and the settlement prospered. A second impetus to the development of the young community was the construction of the Schenectady & Duanesburg Railroad spur which, when completed in 1875, connected the Susquehanna line to Schenectady at Quaker Street Depot. (Both the Albany & Susquehanna and the Schenectady & Duanesburg lines were subsequently acquired by the Delaware & Hudson Company and became known as the Susquehanna Division of the D & H.) Delanson continued to prosper; additional residences and commercial structures were erected, and houses of worship, including the Delanson Methodist Church, were built. By 1890, the settlement was large enough to establish its autonomy from the parent community of Quaker Street. A new name was chosen, a contraction of Delaware & Hudson, and in 1893 the Delanson Post Office was officially established. Over the next thirty years, the community gradually organized public services such as schools, water distribution and fire protection, but it was not until 1921 that the village was incorporated.
The historic resources of the village date from the three-decade period of Delanson's railroad-related prosperity. The Delanson Historic District encompasses the historic residential core of the village, a neighborhood on both sides of Main street south of the railroad tracks. It is the only intact concentration of historic structures in the village; other historic areas, particularly the commercial section, no longer survive or have been compromised by extensive alterations or modern intrusions. (The Jenkins House, the Grey Barn, 57 Main Street, is the only other historic structure in the village retaining sufficient integrity to be included in the multiple resource area; it is an individual component.) The district includes distinctive and representative examples of a variety of popular Victorian period architectural styles, including Italianate, Carpenter Gothic, Second Empire and Queen Anne/Eastlake. The architecture of Delanson deviates from the vernacular tradition so strictly adhered to in Duanesburg throughout most of the nineteenth century. Although the basic forms and configurations established by local building tradition persisted in much of Delanson's new construction, the level of embellishment increased markedly. Innovative designs, probably derived from architectural pattern books, were also introduced; these were among the first examples of late nineteenth century, picturesque architecture in Duanesburg. Fashionable Italianate style dwellings exhibit distinctive features such as low-pitched hipped roofs with broadly projecting, bracketed eaves, large, projecting bays and pavilions, and ornamental window surrounds. Dwellings located at 15, 20 and 24 Main Street are notable examples of the period and style. The dwelling at 25 Main Street is a unique and significant structure reflecting the influence of the Second Empire style with its prominent mansard roof sheathed with polychrome slate. The influence of late Victorian era eclectic architectural fashions is reflected in the increasingly elaborate application of ornamentation, including cornice, porch, gable and eave trim. Notable examples are located at 13, 19 and 26 Main Street. The Methodist Church (14 Main Street) is a distinctive example of the carpenter mode of late Victorian Gothic, featuring Gothic-arched stained-glass windows and simple, pierced woodwork in the bell tower.
Typical of trackside hamlets, Delanson's growth waned as abruptly as it had begun. The decreased use of rail transportation and the subsequent demise of the coal yards in 1936 caused a dramatic loss of employment and a general decline in Delanson's economic prosperity. Today it is primarily a bedroom community for employees in Schenectady and Albany. Lack of substantial mid-twentieth century development has preserved sections of historic Delanson; the Delanson Historic District retains the late nineteenth century character of a fashionable, residential neighborhood.