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Old Town Hall Historic District


The Old Town Hall 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 documentation. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Old Town Hall Historic District is a small concentration of relatively unaltered late nineteenth and early twentieth century civic and residential buildings that represent the turn-of-the-century civic core of the town of Huntington. The Old Town Hall Historic District contains the largest collection of civic buildings within the Huntington Multiple Resource Area. In addition, the Old Town Hall Historic District also contains a church, a cemetery and an archeological site that reflect the village's 1653 settlement and early nineteenth century growth and thus reveals the town's broad patterns of architectural and urban development from the mid-seventeenth to early twentieth centuries. Located in the north central section of the unincorporated village of Huntington, the Old Town Hall Historic District is adjacent to Huntington's central commercial and business core. The Old Town Hall Historic District contains ten contributing elements: eight buildings and two sites. The only non-contributing property in the Old Town Hall Historic District is a modern commercial building.

The Old Town Hall Historic District is located in the middle of the three valleys around which the town of Huntington and its various villages have developed. The buildings in the Old Town Hall Historic District are located in close proximity to each other on a prominent hilltop, known as "town hill," overlooking the central business district of Huntington immediately to the west. The valley containing the Old Town Green Historic District is down the hill to the east. The boundaries of the Old Town Hall Historic District are clearly delineated as a result of the surrounding modern and extensively altered late nineteenth century properties of the central business district to the west and north. The residential areas south and east of the cemetery on Nassau Road were excluded due to their modern construction.

All of the properties in the Old Town Hall Historic District, with the exception of the Universalist Church, are located along both sides of East Main Street, a major thoroughfare in the town.

The Old Burying Ground, which includes the archeological site of Fort Golgotha (both listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 1981), occupies four acres of wooded hillside on the south side of Main Street. The Universalist Church overlooks the cemetery from the east side of Nassau Road, which runs perpendicular to East Main Street. The three turn-of-the-century residences included within the Old Town Hall Historic District line the south side of Main Street beyond the Old Burying Ground as the hill winds into the valley. While the other buildings in the Old Town Hall Historic District are positioned fairly close to the street, the three residences are set back with small parking areas or broad lawns in front of them.

The Old Town Hall Historic District is a small, cohesive concentration of civic and residential buildings which, in contrast to the other National Register listed historic districts, is urban in appearance due to its large conspicuous buildings and overall compactness. The properties in the Old Town Hall Historic District date from the town's founding in 1653 to the early twentieth century. At the center of the Old Town Hall Historic District is the Old Burying Ground which contains a unique collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century sandstone and slate gravestones, many of which are distinguished by decorative patterns, motifs, and inscriptions. Constructed in 1837, the nearby Universalist Church is a two-story clapboard and shingle Greek Revival style building with a pedimented gable end, broad entablature, paired multi-pane double-hung sash, and an enclosed entrance porch with pilasters and parapet. The Rogers House (c.1885), Funnell House (c.1885) and Stewart House (c.1895) are handsomely detailed, well-crafted examples of the American Queen Anne style of architecture situated next to the church at the eastern end of the district. They exhibit such stylistic characteristics as shingle and clapboard sheathing, irregular and varied fenestration, wraparound porches, and ornamental wooden trim. The one-story Trade School (c.1900) are fine examples of the Tudor Revival style popular at the turn-of-the-twentieth century. Both buildings are located near the center of the Old Town Hall Historic District and have half-timbering and stuccoed gable ends, decorative vergeboards, round-arched entrances, and bay windows. Built in 1910, the large two and one-half story brick former Town Hall is Neoclassical in style with its monumental porticoed front, marble trim, modillioned cornice, and clock tower, and is the centerpiece of the Old Town Hall Historic District.

Significance

The Old Town Hall Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as a small compact concentration of buildings and sites that reflect the growth and development of the unincorporated village of Huntington from its mid-seventeenth century settlement to the early twentieth century. With a large majority of buildings dating from c.1885 to 1910, the Old Town Hall Historic District is particularly significant as the turn-of-the-century civic and residential core of Huntington. In addition, the Old Town Hall Historic District contains the Greek Revival style Universalist Church (1837) and the Old Burying Ground, which dates from the village's settlement in 1653 and also includes the archeological site of the Revolutionary War fort, Fort Golgotha (both National Register listed 1981). The Old Town Hall Historic District is the most significant concentration of historic properties remaining in Huntington's central business district. The buildings are well-crafted, highly detailed examples of popular nineteenth century and early twentieth century styles. The Old Town Hall Historic District contains some of the most well-developed, architecturally sophisticated period buildings in the town and it remains a distinguished and largely intact historic enclave in the multiple resource area.

Although home burial was the early custom in seventeenth century Huntington, the Old Burying Ground was in use as a cemetery by 1700. Located on the rise known as "town hill," the Old Burying Ground has been a prominent local landmark throughout Huntington's history. The Old Burying Ground was used as a cemetery from the town's founding in 1653 until the mid-twentieth century. The four-acre cemetery contains a distinctive collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century sandstone and slate gravestones which exhibit a variety of historic decorative patterns, inscriptions and motifs. From the events that transpired in the cemetery at the end of the American Revolution, it is apparent that the cemetery occupied an important place within the community at the time. In November of 1782, the British constructed a fort, known as Fort Golgotha, in the middle of the Old Burying Ground. During their one-year occupation of the fort, the British did considerable damage to the cemetery using some of the tombstones for tables and ovens and destroying others. Today the archeological site of Fort Golgotha is largely indistinguishable from the cemetery itself. The cemetery and fort site were listed on the National Register in 1981.

As the village of Huntington grew and prospered in the early nineteenth century, the Universalist Church was constructed in 1837. Built by a group of worshippers who had broken away from the Calvinist faith, the building was one of the first Universalist churches built on Long Island. The church was used as a place of worship until 1868 and now serves as the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter house. The Universalist Church is one of two Greek Revival style buildings included in the Huntington Multiple Resource Area (Velzer House, an individual component). The absence of many fully developed high-style examples of Greek Revival architecture in Huntington was due to the prevalence of the local conservative building traditions throughout the town with the result that "settlement period" architecture predominates in the village. Many residences, however, exhibit eclectic Greek Revival style details or are modest local interpretations of the style. The Universalist Church is a relatively formal example of the style in the village exhibiting such easily identifiable characteristics as a pedimented gable end, broad frieze, pilasters, and parapet.

The area surrounding the Old Town Hall Historic District developed slowly through the nineteenth century as the commercial and business core of the village shifted from the east valley, where the original settlement took place (see Old Town Green Historic District), to the middle valley. The area was not extensively developed until the mid to late nineteenth century when Huntington gained popularity as a fashionable summer resort and consequently experienced its first real period of prosperity and construction. During this time, two and three-story brick commercial buildings were built throughout the middle valley forming the densely developed central business district that remains, in a very altered state, today. In 1900, the village of Huntington had a population of 12,000 and Main Street/New York Avenue was recognized as the center of town. The Water Works Company was started in 1892; the Gas and Electric Company the following year and the trolley system built in 1896. The village was no longer promoted in real estate brochures and magazines as a "vacation spot," but as the "ideal suburb" of New York City.

The turn-of-the-century prosperity and growth resulted in the construction of numerous architect-designed civic structures. Designed by the prominent New York City firm of Cady, Berg and See, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building (1892) and the Huntington Sewing and Trade School (c.1900) are fine examples of the Tudor Revival style of architecture. The Memorial building served as the first town library. Responding to the influx of young people into the community and the town's need for educational facilities, Miss Cornelia Prime, a prominent local citizen and benefactor, donated money to have the Sewing and Trade School built. Shortly after its construction c.1900, the school was flourishing with one hundred and fifty students and eight faculty members.

The prominent firm of Cady, Berg, and See was responsible for the design of numerous civic, college, and commercial structures in and around the New York City area from approximately 1880 to 1900, when See left the firm. Cady and Berg continued their partnership until the former's death in 1919. Although the firm specialized in school and college buildings, notably at Yale, Williams and Wesleyan, they were equally famous for their designs for the American Museum of Natural History (1890) (National Register listed) and the original Metropolitan Opera building (1883) (no longer extant). The Memorial Building and the Sewing and Trade School reflect the firm's ability in using the forms and details characteristic of the Tudor Revival style of architecture. Both buildings exhibit fine craftsmanship and highly detailed decorative features. These are two of only five examples of this style included in the Huntington Multiple Resource Area (Mrs. Thomas Jevons House, Delamater/Robinson House, Donnell House — all individual components).

The Stewart, Rogers and Funnell Houses are rare surviving intact examples of the large residences built by prominent businessmen and civic leaders on the immediate outskirts of the central business district at the turn-of-the-century. Large homes in similar late nineteenth century picturesque styles once lined "town hill" as it led into the eastern valley, but most of the homes have been demolished or lost their architectural integrity due to alterations and additions. The middle-class counterpart to this neighborhood still exists, however, along West Neck Road (see West Neck Road Historic District). Constructed between c.1885 and 1895, the dwellings are well-crafted, highly detailed examples of the Queen Anne style of architecture. The Stewart House was designed by the architectural firm of Lefferts, Jarvis and Conklin, active on Long Island at the turn-of-the-century. Although the Huntington Multiple Resource Area contains many fine examples of the Queen Anne style or architecture, the Stewart, Rogers, and Funnell Houses are distinguished by their large size, high level of craftsmanship, degree of ornament, and historical associations.

The most conspicuous symbol of Huntington's turn-of-the-century growth is the Town Hall, built in 1910 by the prominent New York City architect, Julian Peabody. A representative example of Neoclassical style public architecture, the Town Hall is distinguished by a monumental entrance portico with colossal Corinthian columns. Julian Peabody (1881-1935) was best known as the senior member of the firm Peabody, Wilson and Brown from 1924 until his death. A Harvard graduate, Peabody studied in Paris and worked in New York City as a draftsman before starting his own firm. In addition to the Huntington Town Hall, Peabody designed the Cold Spring Harbor Library in 1913 (an individual component in the multiple resource area), an apartment house at Broadway and 76th Street (1913), and the alterations to the Hotel Astor (1921). The town hall and library display Peabody's finesse and skill in using the classical forms and decorative details characteristic of the period and style.

The construction of so many civic buildings at the turn-of-the-century documents Huntington's emergence as a well-established and prominent community along Long Island's north shore. Furthermore, the use of architects to design the civic buildings reflects the town's prosperity and relative wealth. The Old Town Hall Historic District contains the largest collection of architect-designed, high-style buildings within the Huntington Multiple Resource Area. Ranging from the Old Burying Ground to the town hall, the properties in the Old Town Hall Historic District reflect the changing architectural styles and patterns of development in Huntington from the mid-seventeenth century to the early twentieth century.

  1. Austin O'Brien, New York State Division for Historic Preservation, Old Town Hall Historic District, component of Huntington Multiple Resource Area, Suffolk County, NY, nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Old Town Hall Historic District Map

Street Names
Main Street • Nassau Road • Route 25A

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