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Old Town Green Historic District


The Old Town Green 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 Old Town Green Historic District is a small residential enclave situated along the east side of Park Avenue in the northeast quadrant of the unincorporated village of Huntington. The Old Town Green Historic District is dominated by the broad village green which lies on the west side of Park Avenue. The Old Town Green Historic District contains fifteen contributing elements: fourteen buildings and the town green, which is considered a site. Seven of the eight dwellings and one potentially significant settlement period tavern archeological site formed the core of Huntington's original settlement in 1653 while the remaining dwelling is a product of the area's continued growth in the mid-nineteenth century. These residences remain as some of the town's most intact examples of settlement period architecture and reflect the local vernacular building tradition that dominated Huntington's architecture from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. The Old Town Green Historic District also contains one non-contributing building.

The Old Town Green Historic District lies in the easternmost of the three valleys around which the town of Huntington and its various incorporated villages have developed. Dwellings in the Old Town Green Historic District extend south from the intersection of View Acre Drive along the east side of Park Avenue to the intersection of Woodhull Road, where properties border both sides. A small stream runs through the village green ending at a pond at the south end of the district. Elm trees line both sides of Park Avenue, a major thoroughfare which serves the town.

The boundaries of the Old Town Green Historic District were drawn to include all of the surviving relatively unaltered dwellings dating from the town's original settlement in 1653 through the mid-nineteenth century in the area immediately surrounding the town green. The Old Town Green Historic District is surrounded in all directions by densely built-up, non-historic residential areas.

The majority of the dwellings in the Old Town Green Historic District are two-story three- or five-bay clapboard residences with gable roofs which are set back from the street on relatively large, well-landscaped lots. Residences are separated from the street by hedges or picket fences. The dwellings date from the town's founding in 1653 to the late nineteenth century (1881). With the exception of the 1881 Scudder House, all of the residences are representative examples of the area's conservative, traditional building practices and are distinguished by their lack of ornament. As examples of settlement period architecture, the buildings exhibit the following architectural characteristics: timber-framing, gable roofs (often with saltbox profile), massive interior or central chimneys, and regular fenestration.

Many of the dwellings exhibit the three-bay side-hall entrance plan such as the Powell-Jarvis House (1795), the William Schenk House (c.1790), the Appleby House (c.1850), and the Ebenezer Jarvis House (c.1830). Other residences feature the five-bay central-entrance form exemplified by the Zophar Ketchum House (1846) and the Jarvis-Fleet House (c.1702). Some of the buildings have smaller side wings added at a later date, a common practice in the town as evidenced by the Zophar Ketchum House and the Ebenezer Jarvis House.

The Jarvis-Fleet House is distinguished from the others because its smaller side wing, constructed in 1653, is actually the original building on the site. Named for its original owner, Richard Latting, the wing is the oldest extant structure in the town of Huntington and, although slightly altered, still exhibits early settlement period architectural characteristics. The two and one-half story, gambrel-roofed main structure, added c.1702, is significant in the town as an early example of the five-bay, four-room, central-hall plan. A non-residential example of settlement period architecture is the Colonial Arsenal built c.1745 and enlarged in 1748 and 1765. In 1979, the arsenal was restored to its 1776 configuration featuring a flaring front overhang, a large central interior chimney, and a shingled exterior.

Built in 1881, the Scudder House represents the most recent historic phase of residential development immediately surrounding the village green. The Scudder House reflects the popular local practice of applying picturesque, eclectic late nineteenth century details to a locally common three-bay center-hall plan dwelling. The residence is decorated with a small central gable, decorative bargeboard, paired windows, and a bracketed front porch with scroll-sawn corner braces.

One potentially significant archeological site in the Old Town Green Historic District is Platt's Tavern site (c.1650). The site of Platt's Tavern, built c.1650 and demolished in 1860, has experienced a series of different uses and is currently covered by an asphalt parking lot and small modern commercial building. Although the site has not been tested or evaluated, it is included within the historic district because it is a well-recognized local historic resource.

The large town green located on the west side of Park Avenue at the northern end of the district is also a component of the Old Town Green Historic District. The six-acre green has retained its original configuration since the founding of the village. Now used as a town park, the green has groves of trees and the stream which originally attracted settlers to the area.

Significance

The Old Town Green Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as a relatively intact remnant of Huntington's initial mid-seventeenth century settlement which includes early dwellings and the original village green. Dating from c.1653 to 1881, the twelve contributing components reflect Huntington's growth from its initial settlement to the late nineteenth century. The majority of the buildings in the Old Town Green Historic District are architecturally significant as intact, representative examples of settlement period architecture and the area's conservative local building traditions. The 1881 Scudder House represents the most recent historic phase of residential development around the green and the popular local practice of applying picturesque, eclectic late nineteenth century architectural details to settlement period dwellings. Archeological remains at the site of Platt's Tavern, may have potential in documenting eighteenth-century social practices. The town green has been preserved as a public open space since the town's founding in 1653 and retains much of its original configuration. With its intact streetscape and collection of historic buildings, the Old Town Green Historic District is important within the multiple resource area for recalling the town's earliest settlement and illustrating its local vernacular building tradition.

The land on which the Old Town Green Historic District is located was purchased on April 2, 1653 by Richard Houldbroke, Robert Williams, and Daniel Whitehead. The men, all from Oyster Bay, bargained with the Matinecock's Chief Ras-e-o-ken for the land from Cold Spring Harbor in the west to Northport Harbor in the east and from the Sound south to the present-day Old Country Road. This land agreement with the Indians has become known as "the Old First Purchase." Shortly thereafter, the men divided the territory into parcels of one-hundred acres, known as "hundreds," and assigned them to the men who had already settled with the boundaries. The only surviving structure from this period is a wing built c.1653, known locally as Richard Latting's wing, that is part of the Jarvis-Fleet House (1702). Several properties within the Old Town Green Historic District are located on original "hundreds" parcels including the Powell-Jarvis House (1795), the Zophar Ketchum House (1846), and the Ebenezer Jarvis House (c.1830).

Of the three valleys around which the town of Huntington grew, the Old Town Green Historic District is located in the broad eastern valley which was chosen as the first village site because of the spring-fed stream that still meanders through the green. Known throughout village history as the "town spot," the green is included in and serves as the northern anchor of the Old Town Green Historic District. The common still retains its original configuration and its original land, plus some additional acreage at the north end added in the early twentieth century. Originally an open space, the green was completely fenced in 1663 after the settlers decided at a town meeting to keep all of the cattle penned there. By the early eighteenth century, however, the town green contained only a corral for stray animals. Since then, it has remained as open space. The common was used as a parade ground by the Huntington Militia from 1653 until the mid-nineteenth century. During the British occupation of Huntington, the town spot was used by the King's troops as a campground and supply depot. Today, the town green remains virtually intact and historically significant within the multiple resource area for its associations with Huntington's original settlement and early growth.

The town of Huntington developed around the town green in the late seventeenth century. By 1659, the small village had a dam built across the stream and a mill constructed. By 1673, there were sixty-five families settled in and around the village. A second, larger dam was built later in the seventeenth century and lasted until 1752 when Zophar Platt built a mill dam across the head of the harbor. This dam survived until the early twentieth century. In 1715, the tiny community erected the Old First Church on the hill, known as "town hill," leading into the valley. This church stood until 1782 when the British, headquartered in Huntington, demolished it and used its timbers to build Fort Golgotha amidst the town's burying ground (both sites included within the Old Town Hall Historic District and previously listed on the National Register, 1981). In 1784, the First Presbyterian Church was built on town hill separating the middle and eastern valleys. (The church has been included within the multiple resource area as an individual component.) Early town records reveal that the tiny community centered around the green was served by two millers, a victualler, a cooper, a mason, a tanner, a brickmaker, and a weaver. Most of the eighteenth-century businesses were operated out of homes or small structures built to the rear of lots. The majority of the residents were farmers who cultivated the fields surrounding the green.

By 1790, when George Washington visited Huntington, it had a population of 2,000. By 1810, the population had risen to over 4,000. During the early nineteenth century, the middle and western valleys as well as Cold Spring Harbor were developing as the commercial centers of Huntington and the area surrounding the green was diminishing in importance. As the focus of urbanization shifted, the eighteenth-century character, ambience, and configuration of the Old Town Green area was preserved. Although none of the early commercial properties survive, many of the residences from the first three generations of the town's history remain intact.

The residences surrounding the green were built by some of Huntington's earliest settlers and represent the most unaltered concentration of typical settlement period dwellings in the multiple resource area. Some of the original families who are represented in the Old Town Green Historic District include the Jarvis', the Fleets, the Sammis', the Lattings, the Ketchums, and the Rogers. In general, the dwellings in the Old Town Green Historic District span the first three generations of colonial settlement within the town. One of the earliest buildings constructed by the first generation of settlers was Platt's Tavern (c.1650) at the corner of present-day Park Avenue and Main Street. The tavern served a variety of functions as a local meeting place, inn, and auction house. President George Washington dined there with the town's dignitaries on April 23, 1790 during his tour of Long Island. The location of the tavern is included within the Old Town Green Historic District although its archeological potential has not been investigated.

The wing of the Jarvis-Fleet House is the only remaining building constructed by the first generation of colonial settlers. Built in 1653 by Richard Latting, who was banished from the town for "turbulent conduct" in 1660, the wing retains its settlement period form and architectural characteristics. The main section of the Jarvis-Fleet House, added in 1702 by whaling captain William Jarvis, is a typical example of the second generation of buildings in the town. The two and one-half story residence is one of the earliest examples of the five-bay, four-room central-hall plan in the town. Some of its eighteenth-century woodwork is displayed in Henry Ford's Greenfield Village Museum in Deerborn, Michigan. The dwelling is also significant in the history of Huntington as the site of the town's first general store from 1736 to 1846.

Another example from the second generation of buildings is the Colonial Arsenal built c.1745. Enlarged several times since its construction, the arsenal was restored to its 1776 configuration in 1979. Despite alterations, the arsenal retains historical significance for its role as the town arsenal during the Revolutionary War. The two other examples of eighteenth-century architecture are both distinctive representations of the three-quarter house plan of the Federal period. The William Schenk House was constructed c.1790 by the Reverend William Schenk, minister of the Old First Church. The Powell-Jarvis House, built in 1795, was constructed by local carpenter Timothy Jarvis and presently serves as the home of the Huntington Historical Society..

The remaining properties in the Old Town Green Historic District date from the third generation of settlers (mid-nineteenth century) and include the Ebenezer Jarvis House (c.1830), the Zophar/Ketchum House (1846), and the Lucian Appleby House (c.1850). The Appleby and Jarvis Houses are examples of the three-quarter house plan and exhibit restrained Federal style entrance surrounds. Both residences have side wings added at a later date. The Zophar/Ketchum House illustrates the conservative trend in Huntington's architecture with its blend of eighteenth and nineteenth century details including a five-bay central-entrance plan, full door surround with pilasters and sidelights, frieze windows, and low, horizontal massing.

Built in 1881, the Scudder House represents the last historic phase of residential development around the village green. By the late nineteenth century, the town of Huntington had prospered and become less isolated and, as a result, its conservative local building practices and traditions had given way, often in odd combinations, to the popular picturesque styles and architectural details of the Victorian period. The Scudder House reflects the popular local practice of combining picturesque, eclectic architectural elements with the typical modest settlement period building form. The Scudder House is distinguished by a small central gable, vergeboard, and ornamental front porch. The cautious application of decorative details and the persistent use of the local building practices reflects the area's conservative architectural tone and overall reluctance to adopt the fashionable late nineteenth century architectural styles.

The Old Town Green Historic District remains architecturally and historically significant as a fine, intact cluster of some of the town's earliest settlement period dwellings, each of which reflects the area's local vernacular building tradition.

  1. New York State Department of Parks & Recreation, Historic Preservation Division, West Neck Road Historic District, nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Old Town Green Historic District Map

Street Names
Main Street West • Park Avenue • Route 25A

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