North Blenheim Historic District
The North Blenheim Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. 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 North Blenheim is located on the west side of the Schoharie Creek about five miles south of Breakabeen. It is a long linear village whose structures line Route 30. A sizable stream, the West Kill, cascades down from the hills at the western extremity of the village.
The village is separated into two sections, one known as the "Upper Street" and the other as the "Lower Street." The designation of the southern part as "Upper" probably stems from the direction of Schoharie Creek, which flows from south to north towards its termination at the Mohawk River.
A steep hillside which plunges down to the Creek, leaving no room for flatlands at that point, has caused the division into two sections. This may be clearly seen on a topographic map.
Despite this geographical constriction, the inhabitants of the Upper and Lower sections of North Blenheim are united in spirit and tradition. This is understandable, as the little community once was the largest to be found for ten miles in all directions and at one time served as the main trading center for the farms of a large area round about.
A mile below North Blenheim, the famous and fertile Schoharie Valley flatlands begin to diminish and, farther south yet, disappear altogether for long stretches of the creek. The nearest settlement to the south, Gilboa, is a small one.
Like its neighbor to the north, Breakabeen, about two thirds of North Blenheim Historic District's two and a half dozen buildings show marks of the Greek Revival influence. But unlike Breakabeen, there are no one-story temple form structures. However, there is an exceptionally well-proportioned and handsome Greek Revival Church (Presbyterian) built in 1841, flanked on either side by a residence of equal quality, all executed in wood.
The church facade is a study in striking patterns with its strongly shadowed pediment and flat pilasters interlaced by the horizontal motif of narrow wood siding. The church bell tower is square with a flat roof upheld by square columns. The two story high entrance recess is framed by attenuated Ionic columns.
The Manse on the east side of the church, and the Wilson home on the west, both well-preserved examples of similar architecture, make this an outstanding grouping. There are a number of other fine Greek Revival homes in the North Blenheim Historic District, having the pedimented central block with side entrance surmounted by projecting cornice and a one or two story wing.
Since virtually all North Blenheim Historic District's structures predate the Civil War, we find only whispers of the eclectic architecture of the late 19th century. A few square buildings with flat roofs and bracketed cornices such as the Chapman Hotel may be found. The Methodist Church and Springer's Country Store have the only decorative window lintels in the village. This church was erected in 1828 and remodeled in the late 19th century.
The little village of North Blenheim provides an appropriate 19th century setting for the pride and joy of its citizens, the Old Blenheim Covered Bridge. The latter was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
Indeed, without the concern of local citizens who mounted a campaign to save it, this important bridge would have been lost in 1930. The respect for tradition illustrated by this act seems still to exist in North Blenheim, as may be seen by the attention to the maintenance of the churches, the old outdoor pumps on several lawns, and the lack of modern intrusions.
Like its neighbor to the north, Breakabeen, which has been treated in another National Register nomination, the village of North Blenheim was settled by Palatine Germans pressing southwards and the site was probably chosen because of the proximity to both the water power on the west creek and the large expanse of flatlands just south of the village.
The history of the two villages parallel one another, and the same forces caused them to wax and wane.
The first recorded pioneers to settle in the area were the Beaucraft and Mattice families, who came during the 18th century. Henderick Mattice built a mill on the West Kill. Lambert Sternberg is another possible 18th century resident of what we now call North Blenheim.
But the main settlement of this village did not take place until after the Revolutionary War. Freegift Patchin, a Continental Army veteran, moved here and established a grist and saw mill in the last decade of the 18th century. By 1872-3, the Gazetteer listed two churches, two schools, two hotels, two stores, two wagon shops, two blacksmith shops, a harness shop, a shoemaker shop, a tailor shop, a paint shop, a grist mill, two saw mills, a sash and blind factory and about 50 dwellings. Wheat, butter, hops and broomcorn were important crops and the village was a center which serviced farm families for miles around.
As we have already noted was the case with Breakabeen, the agricultural emphasis in this region gradually shifted entirely to dairying and the small village industries were put out of business by the availability of goods manufactured more cheaply elsewhere. The story of the decline of this little village is a familiar one all over New York State.
Yet the farmlands of the Schoharie Valley were still rich enough to provide a living, so the village, though shrunken, continued to exist as a residential center. The descendents of some of the early settlers still live in the frame houses of their forefathers. To them it does not seem very long since Col. Hager fought in the Revolution, or the anti-renters threatened violence in the village because North Blenheim has changed relatively little since they were born.
Lenig, Wayne. Final Report on the Historical Environment and Potential Historical Archeology of Pumped Storage Power Facility. Prepared under contract to Uhl, Hall and Rich, Engineers. Unpublished on file at Division for Historic Preservation.
Gazetteer and Business Directory of Schoharie County for 1872-3. Compiled and published by Hamilton Child. Printed at the Journal Office, Syracuse, 1872.