Cobleskill Historic District
The Cobbleskill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Cobleskill is a large village with a population of approximately 5,000 persons. [ed: population in 2000 was approximately 4,500 inhabitants] It is located on a major southwest road, N.Y.S. Route 7, which passes through the village as East Main Street and West Main Street. Another N.Y.S. road, Route 10, known as North Grand and South Grand, bisects Route 7. The junction of these busy roads is in the heart of the village and also of the Cobleskill Historic District.
An important natural feature of this part of the village is a stream which originates in the hilly area to the north and meanders southwards to join the Cobleskill Creek. The small park bounded by Grove Street, West Main and Park Place contains a millpond created from this stream.
A variety of buildings, including an exciting array of late 19th century vernacular architecture as well as many diverse uses may be found within the boundaries of this Cobleskill Historic District. A commercial area, several residential streets, churches, an old school, a railroad depot, and a fairground comprise the main elements. Most structures are in an excellent state of preservation.
The focal point of the commercial center is the 1874 Hotel Augustan (22-30 East Main Street), now  utilized as a furniture store. The large brick hotel has Italianate features and a two-story bracketed veranda. Adjoining the hotel to the west is a fine row of brick store fronts, dating from the late 1860's. Another key building on the north side of Main Street is the 1871 firehouse (11 West Main) with its Italianate facade. On the south side of Main Street are two important buildings, the Bull's Head Inn (1 Park Place), and the Lambert Block (65 East Main).
The Bull's Head Inn was built in 1802 and is the oldest building in the village. There have been some first floor alterations but the building retains much original, finely-detailed woodwork, a ballroom, pilaster, window sashes and other features. The old Lambert Block (65 East Main) has interesting panel brickwork and corbeling. The overall integrity of the commercial area is marred by a number of intrusions, as well as a large vacant property, which resulted from a disastrous fire. However, the quality of the remaining structures and especially that of the row which includes the old hotel, provides compensation. Of the many small mills which once lined the stream, only one remains within the boundaries of the Cobleskill Historic District.
With a few exceptions, the residences on West Main Street, Washington Avenue, Elm Street, North and South Grand Streets and East Main Street date from the mid to late 19th century. There are many square Italianate villas with bracketed cornices, examples of Stick and Queen Anne styles and cottages with elaborate fretwork in the gables.
Number 67 West Main Street, has a Queen Anne turret, bracketed gables, bay windows and a generous veranda. Other Queen Anne residences which attract attention because of their handsome detailing are located at 9 Elm Street and 68 West Main. Number 4 Elm Street, is a textbook example of the Second Empire style, as is number 22 Elm Street.
On North Grand Street are located two board and batten Gothic cottages in pristine condition — numbers 24 and 28 — while farther south on this street is number 22 North Grand, a large residence combining Federal and Second Empire elements. Number 71 East Main is one of the few buildings in the village showing the influence of the Greek Revival style. On South Grand Street are located several of the village's many vernacular buildings with wood fretwork in the gales and interesting patterns of stick work siding (numbers 30, 31, and 33). What is remarkable about Cobleskill's residences in the Cobleskill Historic District is the degree of original materials remaining. Few houses have been denatured by the addition of artificial sidings or the loss of architectural detail. As a result, a veritable treasury of wood tracery, porch spindles, shingles, scallops, stick style designs, fans and brackets remains to delight the passer-by.
Two additional features which contribute to the unique composition of the Cobleskill Historic District are the railroad station and the fairgrounds.
Still owned and used by the D&H Railroad, Cobleskill's station was built in 1900. A long, low wooden building, it has a high, central hipped-roofed block with a cupola and flanking, lower hipped-roofed wings. A wide overhang supported on brackets shelters the station platform.
South of the station is located the Cobleskill Fairgrounds. The complex is unusual in that an entire complex of late 19th century buildings remains intact on the exterior, providing a reminder of the Victorian fairground such as is rarely encountered. Two small offices with bell cast gabled roofs crowned with wooden cresting and stick work flank the entrance road. At one time, a fanciful arch joined the two buildings but was removed to allow access for modern trucks. The earliest buildings on the fairgrounds were the two offices, the Exhibit Building, Grange Building, Grandstand, Judges' Stand, Farm Produce Building, Poultry Building, two Cattle Barns, and the Domestic Building. All are unified by the use of simple stick work in the gables, fan lights, Palladian windows, cupolas, finials and the like. There are, in addition, eight old Horse Barns, an early 20th century cattle barn, an open shed and a large new building (Progressland). The new building was designed to blend in with the older ones and does not constitute an intrusion.
Properties facing on Clinton Circle are not included in the Cobleskill Historic District. This are of newer dwellings is landlocked except for an entrance road and is not visible from the historic streets which enclose it.
The village of Cobleskill has an unmistakable identity which is especially noticeable in the center of the Cobleskill Historic District at the junction of Main and Grand Streets. The old hotel, the inn, the millpond and firehouse; the turrets, verandas and lacy gables of residences on tree-lined streets; the fairgrounds and railroad station; all contribute to creating an awareness of this as a special place. The importance of the Cobleskill Historic District may also be found in the picture it provides of fashionable taste between 1870 and the turn of the century, when the coming of the railroad spurred the creation of buildings with all the ebullient eclecticism of the period.
Previous to the advent of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad line in 1865, Cobleskill was merely one of a number of minor hamlets strung like beads along the length of Cobleskill Creek.
Although by 1750 there were a few farms on the creek flats and several grist mills in the area, this was pioneer country until after the Revolutionary War. These early settlers were chiefly Palatine Germans and Dutch; the 1866 map shows a preponderance of names from these nationalities.
In 1797 the town of Cobleskill was established. An important turnpike linking Albany to the southwestern part of the state followed the route along Cobleskill Creek (now N.Y.S. Route 7). By 1810, this was bisected by the Loonenberg Turnpike (now N.Y.S. Route 10) which provided access to the west for settlers from Connecticut and southeastern New York. The convergence of these roads, the presence of large fertile creek flats and the water power provided by a stream which entered Cobleskill Creek at this point, provided the impetus for a small settlement. The map of 1856 shows a few dozen buildings clustered about the crossroads.
Only a few buildings remain from the early 19th century period. In 1802, the Bull's Head Inn, was constructed by a New England master builder, Seth Wakeman, for Lawrence Lawyer, to serve as home and tavern. Originally, the building's entrance faced the public highway to the south. Upon completion of the Loonenberg Turnpike in 1810 on the north side of the building, a new entrance had to be built on the north. The Inn has served variously as town hall, meeting place, and Masonic Lodge.
No other building has been as intimately related to the history of Cobleskill. Number 63 West Main Street, a residence, is another survival from this early period.
The map of 1866, drawn one year after the arrival of the railroad, shows little change in the composition of the hamlet, but by 1875, Cobleskill had grown to one of the largest villages in the valley. It became an incorporated village in 1868.
The impact of the railroads in altering patterns of American agriculture, industry and commerce is illustrated by the changes which took place in Cobleskill. Within a period of 20 years, a large prosperous community with factories, hotels, commercial enterprises, and comfortable dwellings sprang up where the little hamlet had been. The Albany and Susquehanna Railroad had been built in order to tap Pennsylvania's coal, but it also carried Schoharie's hops, grain, hay and manufactured items to previously inaccessible markets. As western agricultural products began to supersede eastern farm products, the trains carried the milk and cheeses to which the Schoharie farmers turned for a livelihood, as well as the manufactured items needed by the west. Most buildings in the Cobleskill Historic District, while modest in scale, have retained their exterior decorative elements intact, making them a valuable record of the vernacular architecture of the period.
After the Civil War, there was talk of organizing an agricultural fair which coalesced with the formation of the Cobleskill Agricultural Society in 1876. A tract of land between the creek and the railroad was purchased and buildings constructed in 1883. The cluster of original structures still preserves the atmosphere of a Victorian fairgrounds.
Beers, D.G. and S.N. and Assistants. New Topographical Atlas of Schoharie County, New York. Philadelphia: Stone and Stewart, 1866; reprinted, Churchville, New York: Martin Wehle, 1974.
Carmer, Carl. The Susquehanna. New York: Rinehart and Co., Inc., 1955.
Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. The Railroads: The Nation's First Big Business. Forces in American Economic Growth Series. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1965.
Duane, Phil, ed. Cobleskill Agricultural Society Celebrates One Hundred Years: 1876-1976. Cobleskill Agricultural Society, 1976.
Handman, Russell G. "Assessment of the Impact on Cultural Resources of the Proposed Cobleskill Water Pollution Control Facilities." Report prepared for O'Brien and Gere, Engineers, Syracuse, New York. Copy on file at NYS Office of Parks and Rec., Div. for Historic Preservation, Albany, New York.
Noyes, Marion F. A History of Schoharie County. Privately Printed, 1964.