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Harbor Road Historic District


The Harbor Road Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Harbor Road Historic District is a large residential district situated along both sides of Route 25A in the southwest quadrant of the unincorporated village of Cold Spring Harbor. Located several miles west of the unincorporated village of Huntington, Cold Spring Harbor lies on the steep eastern shores of that harbor. Harbor Road, a major east/west thoroughfare, runs south of the village's business district and parallels the harbor for approximately two miles, forming the western most boundary of the village. The Harbor Road Historic District contains eighteen contributing buildings. The majority of the residences represent Cold Spring Harbor's earliest settlement, which was originally developed at the head of the harbor. The Harbor Road Historic District also contains four spacious, stylish residences built in the mid-nineteenth century that reflect the village's prosperity as a major whaling port. The Harbor Road Historic District contains two modern, non-contributing buildings.

The approximately one-mile-long, 45-acre, Harbor Road Historic District is centered around the intersection of North Hempstead Turnpike (Route 25A) and Harbor Road, a narrow, winding street situated on the southeastern bank of Cold Spring Harbor that separates Suffolk and Nassau County. The tree-lined road has a steep wooded embankment on the east side with a few houses nestled on it. The majority of dwellings, however, are located on long, densely wooded plots along the west side waterfront. The Harbor Road Historic District is separated from the present modern commercial core of the village, which intrudes on the western end of the Main Street Historic District, by a mix of non-historic residential and commercial structures and a strip of vacant shoreline. Undeveloped land surrounds the district to the east while modern buildings delineate the southern boundary. The harbor forms the western border.

The earliest historic component in the Harbor Road Historic District is the site of the Hewlett-Jones Grist Mill located on the property of 222 Harbor Road. Built in 1791, the mill operated until the late nineteenth century before being destroyed by fire in 1921. The archeological potential of the site remains high due to the absence of development since the fire, but the site has not been investigated at this time.

The majority of the dwellings in the Harbor Road Historic District date from the village's early nineteenth century development and are representative examples of the town's settlement period architecture. The buildings exhibit three-bay side-hall and five-bay center-entrance plans, shingle and clapboard sheathing, multi-pane windows, and interior and end chimneys. The dwellings are distinguished, however, by their relatively large size, imposing form, and restrained Federal and Greek Revival style details. Decorative features include wide friezes, attic story windows, cornice returns, entrance surrounds with pilasters/sidelights/transoms, and entrance porches with square columns and narrow capitals. The Samuel Whitson House (c.1800) and the Hewlett-Shadbolt House (c.1835) are two of the more conservative examples of this type and period with their one and one-half story squat massing and multi-bay gable roofs. Dwellings which exhibit more refined architectural details include the well-crafted and stylized entrances of the William White House (1835) and the Millsite/Store House (c.1845); the cornice and attic story windows of the Hewlett-Harvey House (c.1830 and the John Hewlett Jones House (c.1820); and the narrow vertical massing characteristic of the Federal style in the Jones-Stewart House (c.1850) and the Hewlett-Abbott House (c.1835).

Many of the mid-nineteenth century dwellings in the Harbor Road Historic District received alterations as a result of Cold Spring Harbor's sudden popularity as an affluent summer resort in the late nineteenth century. The subsequent building remodelling that occurred affected the waterfront Harbor Road properties in particular. Among the most common period alterations were the addition of side wings, bay windows, scroll-sawn brackets, wrap-around porches, and dormers. Dwellings that received extensive remodellings included St. John's Parsonage (c.1835), which received a central cross-gable with pointed-arched window and paired brackets in the 1860s, and Harbor View (1824), which was greatly enlarged by the addition of a two-story wing, bay window, bracketed eaves, and decorative front porch in the 1880s.

The Townsend Jones House (c.1855) and the Jacob C. Hewlett House, known as Owl's Cote, (1869) are two of the most stylistically advanced mid-nineteenth century dwellings in the Harbor Road Historic District. A local interpretation of the Italianate style of architecture, the Townsend Jones House features a hipped roof, overhanging bracketed eaves, frieze windows, and molded surrounds. The dwelling is significant in Cold Spring Harbor as one of the few vernacular examples of the Italianate style of architecture, "Owl's Cote" is a distinctive example of Victorian-era picturesque domestic architecture with its prominent cross-gable with king post truss, paired scroll-sawn brackets with drop pendants, gable dormers, varied fenestration, and highly decorative porch. The dwelling is architecturally significant within the Harbor Road Historic District as a fine example of its type and period.

The last phase of period remodelling occurred around the turn of the twentieth century as Cold Spring Harbor evolved from a fashionable summer resort into an affluent year-round residential community. This change is illustrated in the Harbor Road Historic District by the architect-designed interior remodelling of the Townsend Jones House. Stanford White, one of America's leading early twentieth century architects, designed the spacious interior with its broad central hall, panelled woodwork and fine classical details. Although no other dwellings along Harbor Road received such extensive remodelling, many of the residences were "upgraded" by the addition of yet more wings, dormers, and period details.

Significance

The Harbor Road Historic District is historically significant for its association with the original settlement of the unincorporated village of Cold Spring Harbor as developed by the locally prominent Jones and Hewlett families as well as aspects for representing the nineteenth and twentieth centuries residential development of the village as a whole. During the late eighteenth century, the Jones and Hewlett families established the village of Cold Spring Harbor at the head of the harbor and started a variety of industries that shaped the community's early growth and development throughout the nineteenth century. The Harbor Road Historic District contains a potential archeological site and fourteen dwellings dating from 1791 to 1869 with the majority depicting the town's settlement period architecture. Due to the relative wealth and prominence of their owners, the dwellings are slightly larger and more stylish than similar period residences found elsewhere in Cold Spring Harbor. In addition, the Harbor Road Historic District is architecturally significant for its collection of various period residences, many of which exhibit picturesque, eclectic architectural details that were added as part of the widespread remodelling process which occurred as the community became more affluent and less isolated in the late nineteenth century. In addition, the Harbor Road Historic District contains one outstanding manifestation of its transition to an affluent residential community in the early twentieth century; specifically, the interior of the Townsend Jones House, which was remodelled by nationally prominent architect Stanford White c.1900. The Harbor Road Historic District is significant within the multiple resource area for its depiction of Cold Spring Harbor's original settlement. It retains a fine collection of intact early nineteenth century settlement period buildings as well as evidence of the village's nineteenth and twentieth century evolution into an affluent residential community.

Although Huntington's economic and commercial development was concentrated inland around the town green, the town's sheltered harbors were used from its mid-seventeenth century settlement. Located west of Huntington on the steep eastern shore of the harbor, the unincorporated village of Cold Spring Harbor played a prominent role in the town's early development. In 1682, the Cold Spring River, the town's western boundary, was dammed by John Adams to power a saw mill and grist mill. The harbor to the north and the pond that was created to the south formed the physical focus and principal economic base of Cold Spring Harbor's development. Several families settled here during the seventeenth century but no architectural resources from the period survive. By the close of the Revolutionary War, only a few families had settlers on widely scattered farms throughout the area.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, several events occurred which shaped the future of Cold Spring Harbor. In 1791, Divine Hewlett and John Jones became partners in a grist mill venture while their families purchased much of the land bordering the mill pond and harbor. The Hewlett-Jones Grist Mill Site is included in the Harbor Road Historic District. Built in 1791, the grist mill was powered by water led from the lower mill pond, known as St. John's Lake, by means of a mill race canal to an over-shot wheel. A well-known local landmark, the mill operated until the late nineteenth century before it was destroyed by fire in 1921. The archeological potential of the mill site remains high due to the lack of twentieth-century development; however, it has not been documented at this time.

On March 2, 1799, Cold Spring was made a Port of Delivery by an act of Congress, highlighting the important economic role the harbor was beginning to play. By 1810, John Jones had established a network of local industries in partnership with his brothers and members of the Hewlett family. The assemblage of Hewlett-Jones enterprises included two woolen factories, a barrel factory, brickyards, shipyards, and a general store. By 1825, the community of Cold Spring Harbor was well established and relatively self-sufficient. The village consisted mainly of a cluster of buildings around the pond and inner harbors. The houses on the west side of Harbor Road were built by the Jones family while those on the east were constructed by the Hewletts. Although the dwellings that date from this period vary considerably in size and degree of craftsmanship, all are representative examples of settlement period architecture exhibiting either the three-bay side-hall or five-bay center-hall plans. The most distinguished of the dwellings exhibit restrained Federal and Greek Revival style ornament at the rooflines and surrounds. Distinctive examples include the Hewlett-Harvey and John H. Jones Houses, with their large massing, symmetrical five-bay plans, and narrow frieze windows. All of the dwellings also received some type of alteration and/or additions in the nineteenth century during Cold Spring Harbor's prosperous resort period. The residences constitute a fine collection of intact settlement period buildings important for their historical associations with the Hewlett and Jones families and the early nineteenth century settlement of Cold Spring Harbor.

In 1837, the Jones family continued to expand their local industries spurred on by the need for new markets for their products and the growing popularity of the whale oil lamp. Under the direction of John H. Jones, a group of men from the area formed the Cold spring Whaling Company in February, 1838. From the formation of the company until 1860, when the last cargo was brought into port, whaling and its related activities were the main livelihoods in Cold Spring Harbor. During the community's prosperous period as a whaling port, the present downtown Main Street area emerged as the town's main residential and commercial center and, as a result, the focus of the village shifted from the head of the harbor along Harbor Road to its present location. This nineteenth century period core of Cold Spring Harbor is partially included in the village's Main Street Historic District. Shore Road Historic District and Goose Hill Road Historic District, which constitute the two other historic districts in the village, also illustrate various aspects in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century growth and development of the community.

Properties in the Harbor Road Historic District which date from Cold Spring Harbor's period as a prosperous mid-nineteenth century whaling port reflect the town's conservative local building tradition with their timber framing, wood sheathing, and regular fenestration. However, due to the relative wealth and prominence of their owners — the successful Jones' and Hewletts — the residences also tend to be slightly larger and much more stylish than their period counterparts found throughout the village. Symmetrical massing, high quality craftsmanship, and overall attention to detail characterize the dwellings along Harbor Road. The relatively "liberal" use of well-crafted Federal and Greek Revival style details can be attributed to the community's prosperity through trade and commerce and are also an indication of the wealth and high social standing of the owners. The dwellings are significant within the multiple resource area as fine, intact examples of settlement period architecture historically associated with Cold Spring Harbor's early nineteenth century growth.

Although Cold Spring Harbor's whaling industry ended in the late 1860s, the area became popular during the 1870s as a summer retreat with its scenic beaches and tranquil wilderness attracting thousands of city visitors. The new-found source of income and rapid popularity as a summer resort had a noticeable impact on the building practices and tastes throughout the village. The dwellings in the Harbor Road Historic District, in particular, received many picturesque, eclectic details and additions due to part to their choice waterfront locations. An example of this period remodelling is St. John's Parsonage which was built c.1853 but had a central cross-gable with triangular window and paired scroll-sawn brackets added in the 1860s. Other Harbor Road residences were greatly enlarged by wings or additions and received such picturesque architectural features as bay windows, scroll-sawn brackets, and wrap-around porches.

Dwellings in the Harbor Road Historic District that were built during cold Spring Harbor's mid-to-late nineteenth century resort period are characterized by a combination of the simple design features of the local vernacular building tradition and the picturesque, eclectic qualities popular during the Victorian era. Two dwellings within the district built at this time are particularly significant as local interpretations of popular late nineteenth century architectural styles. Built c.1885, the Townsend Jones House is an example of the American Italianate style of architecture with its hipped roof, overhanging bracketed eaves, frieze windows, and molded surrounds. Built in 1869, the Jacob C. Hewlett House, known as "Owl's Cote," is an excellent example of Victorian-period picturesque domestic architecture featuring such eclectic details as a central cross-gable with king post truss, brackets with drop pendants, gable dormers, a central balcony, and a highly ornamental porch.

The final building period exhibited in the Harbor Road Historic District illustrates Cold Spring Harbor's transition from a summer resort in the late nineteenth century to a fashionable residential community for the wealthy in the early twentieth century. This evolution in the town's development was characterized by the construction of numerous mansions and estates throughout the village (many of which are included in the multiple resource area as individual components). Once again, the economic and social changes of the village were reflected in its architecture as the dwellings along Harbor Road received yet more period details and additions. The most extensive remodelling occurred on the interior of the Townsend Jones House, which was completely redesigned c.1900 by Stanford White, a leading early twentieth century architect. A member of the nationally prominent firm of McKim, Mead and White, Stanford White designed many country estates and city townhouses for the established elite of New York City. The interior of the Townsend Jones House is representative of the firm's work, which is characterized by open plans, commodious halls, an attention to detail, and a high level of craftsmanship. In addition, the interior exhibits elegant Neoclassical decorative detail which is a recurring design motif of the firm's work. The remodelling of the Jones House and the subtle alterations made to the other residences reflect the changing architectural and residential practices within the village and the continued affluence of the Harbor Road neighborhood.

The Harbor Road Historic District remains significant within the multiple resource area for illustrating the original settlement of the village of Cold Spring Harbor and its pattern of architectural and residential growth and development through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

  1. New York State Department of Parks & Recreation, Division for Historic Preservation, Main Street Historic District, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Harbor Road Historic District Map

Street Names
Harbor Road • Route 108

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