Waddington Historic District
The Waddington Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. 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 village of Waddington is located along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, midway between Ogdensburg and Massena, in St. Lawrence County. The historic development of this small village of approximately 2000 inhabitants is primarily concentrated within a six block area now sandwiched between the St. Lawrence Seaway and parallel NYS Route 37, the major east-west artery along the Seaway coast. The village's commercial/business center and core of activity is located along LaGrasse (Main) Street, a wide boulevard which traverses the village (north-south) from Route 37 to the Seaway. The Waddington Historic District, which contains eleven buildings (all contributing), is located at the southern end of this commercial core on LaGrasse Street where there is a marked transition from commercial to residential architecture. The commercial area bordering the Waddington Historic District is characterized by a range of typical nineteenth century commercial architecture which has been heavily modified over the years. The Waddington Historic District boundaries have been drawn to include the intact cohesive concentration of nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings which comprise the primarily residential section of LaGrasse Street. The Waddington Historic District is linear and confined to properties facing onto LaGrasse Street, encompassing seven buildings along its west side and four along its east side. These historic properties include eight residences, two civic buildings and a church all built between 1816 and 1919. Except for two corner buildings at Route 37 and LaGrasse Street, the buildings within the Waddington Historic District are set close to the road on small village lots. The Waddington Historic District boundaries are defined by NYS Route 37 to the south; rear lot property lines on either side of LaGrasse Street to the east and west; and the downtown commercial area to the north. No non-contributing features are located within the district boundaries.
The range of architectural styles, property types, and building materials represented within the Waddington Historic District provide a microcosm of the overall historic and architectural development of the village. Represented within the Waddington Historic District are excellent regional examples of Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and Classical Revival architecture, as well as an assortment of vernacular architecture. Stone, brick and frame buildings are equally represented within the district.
The earliest extant buildings in the Waddington Historic District — St. Paul's Episcopal Church (1816), James Thayer House (ca.1820) and George Redington House (ca.1825) — are all built of native stone and clearly reflect the local building tradition of the Federal Period. These three buildings have survived with a high level of their original architectural integrity, and represent excellent examples of Federal style architecture in the North Country. The stonework on all three buildings is very similar, consisting of rock-faced, coursed ashlar with flat-arched lintels above the windows and round arches above the doors. St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the oldest church building north of the Mohawk River and local landmark, is prominently sited on the northeast corner of Route 37 and LaGrasse Street.
Opposite St. Paul's Episcopal Church, on the northwest corner of Route 37 and LaGrasse Street, is another village landmark, the Town Hall. Built in 1884, this unusual building, also built of native stone (rock-faced random ashlar), embodies architectural elements more typical of religious architecture. Two massive square asymmetrical towers, which flank an arcaded portico over the second-floor entry, project from the corners of this gable-fronted, rectangular building. Centered over the portico is a full-story, round arched window.
Three buildings to the north of the Town Hall is the Hepburn Library, the most recent building in the Waddington Historic District. Built in 1919, this impressive brick Classical Revival building with oversized Palladian windows and monumental portico represents an anomaly to the otherwise nineteenth-century character of the streetscape.
The remainder of the buildings in the Waddington Historic District are residential and represent a range of architectural styles that achieved popularity between ca.1840-1887. One (ca.1840) is a modest frame Greek Revival cottage with a Victorian period wrap-around porch, a second one (ca.1887) with its asymmetrical composition, projecting bays, variety of finishes and decorative embellishments is an outstanding example of Queen Anne inspired architecture in the community, and a third (1870) is a fine local example of Italianate inspired architecture despite the recent enclosure of second-story windows.
Three buildings (ca.1840, ca.1870 and ca.1860) are all rather modest vernacular buildings which, although not architecturally distinctive, contribute to the historic character of the Waddington Historic District in size, scale, setback and as representations of local nineteenth century building traditions. The ca.1840 brick gable-fronted residence with projecting two-story bay, is one of the earliest buildings in the Waddington Historic District; however, due to late-nineteenth century modifications, it appears as a much later building. The ca.1870 building is a typical mid-19th century gable-fronted frame residence with an ell wing. The ca.1860 building is a two-story gable-fronted frame residence distinguishable by its unusual jerkinhead roof and Italianate-inspired porches.
The Waddington Historic District retains a high level of integrity. Its historic setting, layout, landscape and architectural features remain substantially intact, and it retains a visually cohesive historic character.
The Waddington Historic District is historically and architecturally significant as a highly intact and cohesive collection of residential, civic and religious architecture which chronicles one hundred years (1816-1919) of development within this small village along the St. Lawrence Seaway. In addition to containing some of the earliest extant buildings in the village, the Waddington Historic District also represents a wide range of architectural styles including excellent examples of Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Classical Revival as well as vernacular interpretations of Victorian eclecticism.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church along with the James Thayer House and George Redington House represent the earliest stages of development in this community. Built between 1818 and 1825, all three buildings represent distinguished, intact examples of Federal Period architecture as well as reflecting local building traditions in the use of native limestone. Of special local historical significance is the George Redington House, built in 1825 by one of the early prominent figures in Waddington's history. Redington, who moved from Vermont to Waddington with his family in 1800, was a lawyer, lumber merchant, land agent, assemblyman, and judge. Local legend tells of how the frame wing on the south elevation, constructed a year after the house, was built by Redington almost "overnight" to obstruct plans for the extension of Maiden Lane across Main Street and directly alongside his house.
By 1830 Waddington was a well-settled, comfortable community. Water-powered industries along the river were flourishing; a variety of merchants had established themselves along Main Street; and St. Paul's Episcopal Church was still the only church edifice in the village. However, the years 1841-1880 were the years in which the town best fulfilled the purpose of its own existence. The village became the commercial core of a growing farm community. Its mills transformed farm products into commodities; its stores distributed them. Sawmills, woodworking factories and an iron foundry also provided finished materials for a commercial market. By this time Waddington also had its own brickyard and limekiln. All the brick and brick-lined houses in Waddington are built of the local product. In 1863 Henry Ripley James established what was to become one of the last major industries in Waddington. James, who owned two newspapers, converted a grist mill into a paper mill to provide a supply of paper. This mill provided a major source of employment for both men and women in the village until a fire destroyed the complex in 1883.
The majority of the residences within the Waddington Historic District were built during this time of prosperity and reflect the range of architectural styles which spanned this period. Excellent regional examples of Greek Revival, Queen Anne and Italianate residential architecture are represented in the Waddington Historic District, as well as an array of vernacular residential architecture. A two-story gable fronted vernacular building built ca.1860 with a distinctive jerkinhead roof currently houses the office of the Town Historian as well as the Moore Museum, repository for the memorabilia from Waddington's history.
In 1884, shortly after the town established its independence from the township of Madrid, the Town Hall was constructed to conduct the business of the newly-formed township. This unusual stone building, with its rectangular shape, gable front, projecting towers and oversized round-arched window centered over the entry, more closely resembles religious rather than civic architecture. It was built by Isaac Johnson, an emancipated slave, who learned the masonry trade while in slavery in . Johnson made his home in Canada and traveled back into border towns such as Waddington and Ogdensburg where he was responsible for the construction of many stone structures in the area, including a four-arch stone bridge between the towns of Waddington and Madrid (no longer extant).
Coincident with the construction of the new Town Hall was the destruction of a major staple industry, the paper mill established by Henry Ripley James in 1863. In 1884 the mill burned down and was not rebuilt. This catastrophe punctuated but did not cause the beginning of Waddington's decline; the decline of this thriving commercial and agricultural center had already begun. The increasing demands of the down-state cities for milk and dairy products coincided with the invasion of the market by western wheat and beef. Since rail transportation was not available to Waddington until 1909, industries that were able to survive suffered from lack of access to markets for their goods. By the early 1900's it was clear that Waddington's relatively small-scale industries could not compete with the large city factories that were the beneficiaries of modern invention, the concentration of capital and extensive rail networks to service a variety of markets.
This collapse of Waddington's industrial base is evident from the very limited number of structures in the village built after 1900. The Hepburn Library, built 1919, is the exception. It is one of six libraries in St. Lawrence County donated by Barton Hepburn. This large impressive building, which is an excellent example of Classical Revival civic architecture, is a very prominent feature of the streetscape.
With the exception of the historic waterfront industrial area, which was destroyed by the St. Lawrence Power and Seaway Project in 1959, the village of Waddington appears very much as it did one hundred years ago. The Waddington Historic District with its range of architectural styles, property types, and building materials represents a very intact and cohesive microcosm of the historic socio-political and architectural development of the village throughout the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The Waddington Historic District is significant for its architecture, its associations with the early settlement of the area, and its continuity as the cultural center of the community for over one hundred years.
Hutchinson, A.E. Along the Trail and into the Past. Adirondack North Country Association, 1986.
Tedford, P. and T. Fife. Waddington: A Look at our Past. Ryan Press, Ogdensburg, NY, 1976.
Albany, NY. Division for Historic Preservation. Research Files.