Greenport Village Historic District
The Greenport Village 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 © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The incorporated village of Greenport is located on Long Island's north fork approximately one hundred miles east of New York City. The village is bordered on the south by Greenport Harbor; on the east by Sterling Basin, a deep-water inlet; and on the west by a forested area called Moore's Woods. State Route 25 forms Greenport's northern boundary and connects the village to western Long Island. Greenport is the northern terminus of the Shelter Island Ferry, which provides access to Long Island's south fork through Shelter Island and Sag Harbor. Greenport's most notable physical attributes include its picturesque waterfront location and its dense concentration of buildings in a rural, sparsely settled area.
The Greenport Village Historic District consists of a dense concentration of (primarily wood frame) residential and commercial structures radiating out in a fan shape from the village's Main Street waterfront business district (on the south). This large district comprises Greenport's historic eighteenth century core and surrounding areas of nineteenth and early twentieth century development. The Greenport Village Historic District includes all of Main Street, First Street and Carpenter Street, the 600 block of Second Street, and structures on east-west streets that intersect with Main and Carpenter. The Greenport Village Historic District is defined on the east and south by Greenport Harbor and on the north and west by adjacent residential and commercial areas comprised of altered historic or modern structures. The Greenport Village Historic District represents the largest, most intact concentration of historic resources in the village.
There are 264 buildings within the Greenport Village Historic District, with 254 contributing historic structures and ten non-contributing structures. The entire collection of historic resources represents all periods of settlement and growth in the village. Sterling Street, just south of Sterling Bay, comprises the nucleus of Greenport's early settlement. Although somewhat altered, Sterling Street contains examples of simple frame Long Island residences dating from the mid-eighteenth century; examples include 190 Sterling Street (c.1750) and 165 Sterling Street (c.1760). Lower (south) Main Street is the most densely developed area within the Greenport Village Historic District and contains primarily frame commercial structures dating from Greenport's rapid mid-to-late nineteenth century development. Some are primarily functional, exhibiting few stylistic details (102-106 Main, c.1880); 111 Main, c.1845; 112 Main, c.1895; 118 Main, c.1900 138 Main, c.1870). Other commercial structures are more ornate; examples in this group — 208 Main (c.1860), 210-212 Main (c.1880), 219 Main (c.1850) — were constructed or remodelled in the Italianate style.
The middle section of Main Street (between Park Street and Broad Street) and Carpenter Street retain dense collections of residences representing the various phases of nineteenth century village development. Although many of these structures are simply designed, some illustrate popular American architectural styles including the Federal period (635 Main Street), the Greek Revival (505 Main Street and 634 Carpenter Street), and the Italianate (433 Main Street).
Upper Main Street (south of Webb Street), First Street, and sections of Bay Avenue and Central Avenue contain large concentrations of mid-to-late nineteenth century, middle-class village residences. Many of these primarily single family frame houses were modestly decorated in architectural styles fashionable during the last half of the nineteenth century. Simple and ornate variations of the Italianate and Second Empire styles are widely represented along First Street, and mid-nineteenth century Greek Revival residences can be found in each of the areas mentioned above.
Northern Main and Sterling Street in Greenport's Murray Hill neighborhood contain notable turn-of-the-century (1900) examples of the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles including 802 Main (c.1900), 809 Main (c.1895), 817 Main (c.1900), 843 Main (c.1900), 857 Main (c.1900), contrasting in scale and detail with several largely intact early twentieth century Bungalows — 171, 173 and 182 Sterling Street. An intact vernacular Bungalow also appears at 642 Carpenter Street. Notable examples of the Colonial Revival style are found at 14 Broad Street (c.1910) and 152 Central Avenue (1903).
Turn-of-the-century houses constructed for the working class, rather than for merchants, ship captains, or ship owners, are primarily located on cross streets east and west of Carpenter. Included in this category are two duplexes at 126-128 and 135-137 Ludlam Place, both with simple Queen Anne style detailing, constructed by local architect/builder Jesse Reeve. In addition, examples of a mid-nineteenth century local residential building type consisting of a two-story, three-bay, gable-roofed house, often L-shaped in plan, are found throughout the district. This house type was frequently used by local builders and often incorporates simple Greek Revival and Italianate style details. Components of this group include: 912 Main, c.1850 (built by Hudson Corwin); 141 Central Avenue, c.1890; and 617 and 621 Second Street, c.1875 and 1870 respectively.
Generally, the Greenport Village Historic District is densely developed yet low in scale (two to three stories). The buildings which constitute the district represent the largest concentration of relatively unaltered historic resources within the village. The structures which lie outside the Greenport Village Historic District to the west in both the commercial (Front Street) and residential areas have experienced extensive alteration and/or these areas contain new construction and do not possess sufficient architectural integrity to be included within the Greenport Village Historic District.
The Greenport Village Historic District encompasses most of the older commercial and residential core of Greenport and contains a large, dense collection of largely unchanged structures which date from circa 1750 to the 1930's. Included within the Greenport Village Historic District are remnants of Greenport's early rural settlement, the most intact section of the village's waterfront business district, and the large residential areas which spread out around Main Street. Various architectural types and styles are represented in the district beginning with simple eighteenth and nineteenth century settlement houses, a large representative mixture of mid-to-late nineteenth century residential design, a small Main Street commercial district, and architecturally distinctive churches and institutional buildings. The Greenport Village Historic District contains 264 structures which recall the community's early settlement and rapid nineteenth and early twentieth century development.
Greenport was first settled in the late seventeenth century as part of the town of Southold by former residents of Connecticut's New Haven Colony. Nearby Sterling Creek, its sheltered inlet relatively free from winter ice, attracted early settlers. The pre-Revolutionary settlement of Greenport was called Sterling, and included large farms and several inns frequented by travelers from Connecticut. The historical settlement is evident today in the names of Sterling Street, Avenue and Basin.
Agriculture was the area's economic mainstay until the third decade of the nineteenth century. The 1820 sale of the large (Captain David) Webb farm initiated a surge of land speculation, accelerated by the pre-1850 arrival of the Long Island Railroad's main line. Greenport, including old Sterling, became New York State's second incorporated village in 1832. By 1838, the present configuration of the village was nearly complete.
With the extension of Main Street past Sterling Street to the harbor, commercial activity became concentrated in the waterfront area. Shipbuilding and whaling flourished in the mid-nineteenth century. Construction during this period included commercial and residential buildings for suppliers and outfitters, residences for captains and wealthy shipowners.
When whaling declined, the focus shifted to the processing of fish for oil and fertilizer. Large non-extant brick factories just west of the village had a positive effect on Greenport's economy early in the twentieth century. The harvesting of seed oysters, employing at its height over a thousand men and women, thrived until the 1950's when a major storm and a small worm called the oyster drill caused local companies to declare bankruptcy.
Although scallop harvesting, begun in 1857, is still an important cottage industry in the village and boat building and fishing continue, nothing has taken the place of the oyster boom. Tourists, however, attracted by the village's geography, history and unpretentious lifestyle, bolster Greenport's summer economy.
The buildings included in the Greenport Village Historic District illustrate Greenport's growth and development from its pre-Revolutionary agrarian beginning through the heyday of its shipyards and whaling industry to the late nineteenth and twentieth century role of the village as a transportation and supply center. The early residences along Sterling Street recall the area's pre-Revolutionary settlement; larger surrounding residential neighborhoods recall Greenport's nineteenth-century prosperity. The North Main Street neighborhood as well as parts of the central business district illustrate the village's late nineteenth and early twentieth century growth as a transportation and supply center.
As a result of Greenport's growth and prosperity during the nineteenth century, local interpretations of popular nineteenth century architectural styles — Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Shingle style, and Queen Anne — prevail throughout the Greenport Village Historic District. Other building periods within the village are also represented. Eighteenth and nineteenth century settlement period dwellings are primarily situated along Main Street above (north) the business district and on Sterling Street (between Main Street and Sterling Basin). These wood frame, undecorated houses are representative of settlement period construction throughout Suffolk County. Most are small, simply designed structures with three-bay, side entrance and five-bay, center entrance hall plans; all have wood sheathing and many have later side and/or rear wings. All of Greenport's settlement period houses are locally important historic resources which recall the village's rural settlement and growth and are particularly significant in their present, densely built-up village setting.
Most of the mid-to-late nineteenth century houses in the Greenport Village Historic District are located on the east and (primarily) the west sides of Main Street between Bay Avenue and Broad Street. First Street, Bay Avenue, Central Avenue, Sterling Street, Ludlam Place, and sections of Main Street and Second Street all contain large and varied collections of structures dating from this period of development. Largely unaltered examples of middle-income residences occur on each of these streets and represent the village's nineteenth century prosperity. These picturesque village streets contain a wide range of architectural styles, from good examples of recognized nineteenth century American architectural idioms to modest interpretations of the same including restrained Federal and Greek Revival residences, simple and elaborate Italianate houses, and a variety of Queen Anne and Shingle style examples.
The houses on Main Street (north of Sterling Street) and Broad Street are generally situated on larger lots and reflect the village's upper-middle income, turn-of-the-century (1900) and early twentieth century residential development. The houses are large, wood frame and designed in (primarily) restrained Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles. The overall appearance of these well-maintained streets conveys a sense of spaciousness unlike most of the village's other residential areas.
The only unaltered section of Greenport's business district is also included within the Greenport Village Historic District. It includes Main Street beginning at the waterfront (on the south) and runs north to approximately Center Street. A variety of (primarily two-story) commercial building types are represented and include simply designed, nineteenth-century retail and small warehouse structures, a handful of decorative nineteenth century stores, and a smaller number of substantial and distinctive nineteenth and early twentieth century institutional and civic buildings. Many of the nineteenth century wood frame houses located at the northern end of the Main Street business district are now being used as both commercial (first floor) and residential (upper floors) structures.
Distinctive examples of the work of prominent local architects and builders remain from several periods of village development. Contributions of members of the Corwin family, descendants of whom still reside within the Greenport Village Historic District, span a period of seventy-eight years, from the residence at 634 First Street (1830, built by Burton Corwin) to the 1908 chapel of the First Presbyterian Church (D. Stanley Corwin, builder). Stylistically, local builders of record are associated primarily with turn-of-the-century Shingle style and Queen Anne residences, although the name of one builder working in the Federal style (Orin Wiggins, 636 Main Street, c.1820) was recorded. Greenport has one residence known to have been ordered from a Sears, Roebuck catalog — 611 Main Street, c.1905.
The Greenport Village Historic District contains a large collection of relatively intact commercial and residential structures which represent the community's settlement and subsequent periods of nineteenth and early twentieth century expansion. Many architecturally distinctive types and styles are found in the district including simple eighteenth century houses, commercial buildings reflecting Greenport's nineteenth century prosperity, and numerous examples of nineteenth and early twentieth century residences designed in fashionable American architectural styles. A variety of historic resources from the Greenport Village Historic District's settlement, nineteenth century and early twentieth century periods of development all contribute to the significance of the area as a reflection of Greenport's historic growth from a small rural settlement to a thriving waterfront village.
Bayles, Richard. Historical and Descriptive Sketches of Suffolk County. (publisher unknown, 1874).
Carse, Robert. Rum Row. (New York: Rinehart and Company, Inc., 1950).
Jefferson, Wayland. Southold and its People in the Revolutionary Days. (printed by the Long Island Traveler, 1932).
† Austin O'Brien, New York State Division for Historic Preservation, Greenport Village Historic District, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.