The Main Street 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.  Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Main Street Historic District is a large, primarily residential neighborhood situated along this busy thoroughfare in the center of the unincorporated village of Cold Spring Harbor. Located several miles west of the unincorporated village of Huntington, the community of Cold Spring Harbor lies on the steep eastern shores of that harbor. The village's small central business district is at the western end of Main Street while the eastern end, where the Main Street Historic District is found, is largely residential. The Main Street Historic District consists of thirty-one contributing buildings; there are two non-contributing properties. The buildings in the Main Street Historic District date from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries with the majority built between 1855 and 1890. These properties constitute the largely intact historic core of the village and illustrate the community's development from a major whaling port in the early nineteenth century, through its popularity as a fashionable summer resort in the late nineteenth century, to its emergence as an affluent residential suburb at the turn of the twentieth century.
Main Street is approximately a half-mile long thoroughfare which runs east/west through the center of the village. The western two blocks of the street compose the village's small commercial district which contains modern buildings and extensively altered historic properties. However, a few intact historic commercial properties at the eastern end of the business district are included within the Main Street Historic District. The residences closest (west) to the business core are generally small in size, date from the early to mid-nineteenth century, and are situated close to the street on narrow village lots. The dwellings farther east are larger, date from the mid to late nineteenth century, and are situated farther back from the street on generous village lots. The landscaped plots and tree-lined street enhance the Main Street Historic District's historic, picturesque village setting.
The Main Street Historic District is separated from the Harbor Road Historic District to the southwest by modern commercial structures and a strip of vacant shoreline. The Shore Road Historic District is separated from the Main Street Historic District to the northwest by the altered commercial blocks and undeveloped land. Altered historic structures and vacant land surround the district to the north while non-historic residential areas border the district to the south. The Goose Hill Road Historic District is separated from the Main Street Historic District to the northeast by modern residences which line the eastern end of Main Street and from the eastern boundary of the Main Street Historic District.
Nine buildings at the western end of the Main Street (Numbers 135-143, 153-157, 169, 181, 148, 152, 156, 174 Main Street and 6 Spring Street) are representative local examples of early nineteenth century settlement period architecture. The timber-framed, shingle or clapboard sheathed buildings are generally two and one-half story, three-bay, side-entrance plan dwellings with restrained Federal and Greek Revival style details at the cornice line and entrances. Many of the buildings have received additions (in some instances, nearly doubling their size) and late nineteenth century decorative details such as bay windows, scroll-sawn cornice brackets, door hoods, and picturesque porches (such as numbers 135-143, 169 and 181 Main Street). Properties that differ from the three-bay, side-hall plan include the S.W. Scofield House and J. Velsor House. These symmetrical, five-bay center-hall dwellings were built c.1850 and remodelled in the 1860s by the addition of large central wall gables with round-arched windows and brackets with drop pendants. The dwellings retain their broad friezes, multi-pane sash, and interior end chimneys characteristic of settlement period architecture.
The Main Street Historic District also includes two religious properties built in the 1840s. The 1842 Methodist Episcopal Church displays a combination of modified Greek and Gothic Revival style details with a broad cornice and returns, corner pilasters, central projecting bell tower with round-arched openings, and pointed-arched windows. The 1844 Baptist Chapel is a distinctive local interpretation of the popular Greek Revival style of architecture with its pedimented gable, corner pilasters, and broad frieze. Although converted to a residence in the 1960s, the Baptist Chapel, like the Methodist Church, retains architectural integrity.
Eleven dwellings (Numbers 180, 184, 208, 215, 226, 227, 245, 246, 274, 279 and 284) in the eastern portion of the Main Street Historic District (from Spring Street to Goose Hill Road) exemplify late Victorian building types and tastes. Known as "Ship Captain's Row," these spacious homes reflect the wealth and prominence of the ship-captain owners in their abundant display of picturesque, eclectic, late nineteenth century architectural details. The residences are embellished with vergeboards, pierced/turned sawn woodwork, irregular and varied fenestration, asymmetrical massing and a variety of exterior sheathing. The dwellings vary considerably in size and detail from the modest J. Douglas House (c.1870), which recalls the town's settlement period architecture with its two-story, three-bay side-hall plan embellished only by scroll-sawn bargeboard, to the imposing Captain John Walters House (c.1870), which is a large, three-bay residence with attached wing decorated by a gambrel-roof cross-gable, paired cornice brackets, round-arched windows, and elaborate pedimented door surround.
Two properties in the Main Street Historic District reflect the village's early twentieth century development as an affluent residential community. Built in 1907, the C.O. Requa House is an architect-designed dwelling reflecting both the Shingle and Queen Anne styles of architecture. The residence features a prominent gambrel cross-gable, a second-story overhang, shingle sheathing, and bay windows. The former Robert W. DeForest Gatehouse (c.1910), originally built as part of the nearby, yet now separated, DeForest Estate known as Wawapek; modern residential development now separates the gatehouse from the remaining estate. The gatehouse has been included in the Main Street Historic District as a contributing historic building as a result of its distinctive period residential design and its similarity in size and uniform setback to the surrounding historic houses. The remaining DeForest Estate is a contributing historic component in the Shore Road Historic District. The gatehouse is unusual in the local context because its design was based on a traditional Gaspe fisherman's cottage, with flaring eaves that form an entrance hood along the facade, a central entrance with sidelights and scalloped fanlight, and a massive exterior brick chimney.
The Main Street Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as the intact historic village core of the community of Cold Spring Harbor. Its collection of historic resources illustrate the community's development as a major seaport/whaling center in the early nineteenth century, a fashionable summer resort in the late nineteenth century, and an affluent residential neighborhood at the turn of the twentieth century. The buildings included in the Main Street Historic District date from c.1830 to c.1910 and depict the changing architectural styles and practices from settlement period dwellings constructed in the conservative local vernacular building tradition to the eclectic, picturesque styles of the Victorian period. In addition, they reflect an important aspect in Cold Spring Harbor's overall development in that the community's early settlement was situated further south at the head of the Harbor and gradually shifted to Main Street during the nineteenth century as a result of improved transportation and access. The majority of the twenty-seven buildings included in the Main Street Historic District were built between 1855 and 1890 and as a group are architecturally significant within the multiple resource area as a unique collection of highly decorative late nineteenth century dwellings built by local ship captains and known as "Ship Captain's Row." In their large size and high degree of craftsmanship, the dwellings reflect the wealth and social position of their owners and the late nineteenth century community of Cold Spring Harbor in general. Finally, with its intact streetscape and well-maintained, tree-lined landscape, the Main Street Historic District is a remarkable survivor in this highly developed area as it retains its historic appearance as a late nineteenth century village.
Although Huntington's economic and commercial activity was concentrated inland around the town green, the town's sheltered harbors were used from its mid-seventeenth century settlement. The unincorporated village of Cold Spring Harbor, located on the steep eastern shore west of Huntington, played a prominent role in the town's early development. In 1682, the Cold Spring River, the village'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. Although several families settled here during the seventeenth century, no architectural resources from the period survive. By the close of the Revolutionary War, only a few families had settled 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 the land bordering the mill pond and harbor. (The Hewlett-Jones Grist Mill Archeological Site is included in the Harbor Road Historic District.) On March 2, 1799, Cold Spring, as it was then known, 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 several members of the Hewlett family. By 1837, the Hewlett-Jones enterprises included two woolen factories, a barrel factory, brickyards, shipyards, and a general store. Cold Spring Harbor's original late eighteenth and early nineteenth century settlement as developed by the Jones' and Hewletts is represented in the Harbor Road Historic District.
In 1837, the Jones family continued to expand their industries spurred on by the need of 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. Until 1860 when the last cargo was brought into port, whaling and its related activities were the main livelihoods in Cold Spring Harbor.
A prominent member of the Cold Spring Whaling Company and an entrepreneur in his own right was Richard M. Conklin. A lawyer, Conklin owned large land holdings to the north and south of Main Street. During the 1830s, Conklin foresaw the tremendous demand for goods, services, and accommodations as a result of the whaling industry and began selling small village lots along Main Street. As a result, the settlement of Cold Spring Harbor shifted from the head of the harbor to its present location. An 1836 United States Coastal Survey indicates ten structures in the Main Street commercial block. The businesses established in the small commercial center provided supplies for the long whaling journeys and included mills, barrel factories, storehouses, forges, and repair shops. (Some of these structures survive at the far western edge of Main Street but have been excluded from the Main Street Historic District due to their loss of architectural integrity.)
The transformation of the village as a result of the highly profitable whaling industry can be seen in the tremendous building boom that took place from 1830 to 1860. Most of the buildings are located at the western end of Main Street and reflect the local conservative building practices of the settlement period. The three-bay side-hall and five-bay center-hall dwellings are distinguished by restrained Federal and Greek Revival style details. As compared to their settlement period counterparts in and around the unincorporated village of Huntington, these structures form a more cohesive historic group as a result of their similar construction dates, design, and uniform plot size.
During the 1840s, two religious structures were built to serve the thriving village. In 1842, the Methodist Episcopal Church was built in a combination of modified Greek and Gothic Revival style details. The Baptist Chapel, built in 1844, is a local interpretation of the popular Greek Revival style of architecture. With their architectural integrity intact, the churches are historically significant as the only religious/civic reminder's of Cold Spring Harbor's prosperous period as a whaling center.
During the 1860s, the eastern end of Main Street, from approximately Spring Street to Goose Hill Road, was developed by Moses Rogers, whose house is included within the district at 196 Main Street. A local entrepreneur, Rogers foresaw the housing pressures created by the thriving whaling industry, divided his property into small lots, and sold them to retired whaling and coasting captains. The result is a collection of eleven dwellings along both sides of Main Street known locally as "Ship Captain's Row." These residences exhibit a variety of picturesque decorative details that reflect their Victorian-era construction. Located on larger lots and set further back on the street than the older properties at the west end of Main Street, the dwellings in Ship Captain's Row are also more substantial, more stylish, and exhibit a higher degree of craftsmanship.
Distinguished examples of residences in Ship Captain's Row include the Captain Henry Scott Newman House (1876) with its protruding central cross-gable, bracketed cornice, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The spacious Captain John Walters House (c.1870) features an unusual gambrel cross-gable roof, paired scroll-sawn brackets, and round-arched windows. The relatively large size and attention to detail on the residences reflects the prosperity and high social standing of their owners as well as that of the community as a whole. The dwellings are architecturally significant within the multiple resource area as fine, well-crafted examples of the popular picturesque Victorian-era architectural styles and for their unique historical association with an important segment of Cold Spring Harbor's mid-nineteenth century population.
Ironically, as Ship Captain's Row was being built in the late 1860s, Cold Spring Harbor's whaling industry was actually ending. By the mid-1870s, however, the village found a new source of income and prestige as it developed into a fashionable summer retreat. With the eastward expansion of the railroad and the increase in shipping on Long Island Sound, the area's beaches and tranquil setting became available to city residents who flocked to the village. The community's sudden popularity as a summer resort and the tremendous economic boom which accompanied it had a widespread impact on the architectural styles and building practices within the village. Residences built during this period were often local interpretations of the popular style of the period; for example, the Walters-Benny House (c.1885) exhibits a variety of eclectic details reminiscent of the Queen Anne and Shingle styles of architecture. For the most part, however, the older buildings within the Main Street Historic District were simply enlarged (in some cases doubled) and distinguished by the addition of picturesque, eclectic details.
By the turn of the century, Cold Spring Harbor had developed into a relatively affluent residential community with many of the more prominent summer visitors building mansions and estates along the village's shoreline. As a result of Main Street's dense nineteenth century development, turn of the century construction was limited. The town's public library (an individual component on the National Register), was built at the far western end of Main Street. In 1907, C.O. Requa, a local businessman who had accumulated a fortune in the coffee and tea business, had the Connecticut firm of Brown and VonBeren design his residence at 325 Main Street. Combining features of the Shingle and Queen Anne styles of architecture, the Requa House is a distinctive and rare example of early twentieth century design in the Main Street Historic District.
From 1898 to 1900, Robert W. DeForest, a wealthy businessman and noted philanthropist, built his estate atop the bluff above Shore Road. Known as "Wawapek," the estate is included within the Shore Road Historic District. Around 1910, DeForest had a gatehouse built at the Main Street entrance to the estate. Under separate ownership since the early twentieth century and now physically separated from the DeForest mansion by modern construction, the gatehouse is included in the Main Street Historic District. (The Main Street entrance to the estate no longer survives.) The residence is stylistically unique within the multiple resource area as an example of a Gaspe fisherman's cottage. The Gaspe Peninsula is an area of eastern Quebec known for its traditional European building practices; its architecture is characterized by the use of materials such as cobblestone and thatch and designs are often distinguished by overhanging eaves. The cottage represents an aspect of Cold Spring Harbor's most recent historic development as a wealthy residential community.