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Monument Circle Historic District


The Monument Circle Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. 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 Monument Circle Historic District encompasses 21 late nineteenth and early twentieth century civic, religious and domestic properties in the historic core of the incorporated village of Warsaw. Warsaw is the county seat of Wyoming County, a predominantly rural agrarian area in the Genesee Region of Western New York. The village is centered around the intersection of east-west Route 20A (Buffalo Street) and north-south Route 19 (Main Street) in a flat area nestled between two steep north-south ridges. The village includes several thousand buildings, many of which date from the community's nineteenth and early twentieth century heyday as the center of political, commercial, social and religious activity for the surrounding farm region and, during the late nineteenth century, as a major industrial center for the mining of salt. Although Warsaw remains the political hub of the county, modern transportation has allowed village residents to travel much farther away (e.g., to Geneseo, Batavia and even Rochester) for more diversified social, commercial, religious and educational opportunities.

Historically and currently, commercial and religious activity in the village occurs at and near the intersection of Main and Buffalo Streets. Civic and religious development occurs three blocks to the north at the intersection of Main and Court Streets. Premier residential development during the mid-nineteenth century occurred westward along West Buffalo Street while East Court and Park Streets became the fashionable residential neighborhoods of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Middle-class residential development occurs along cross and side streets spreading outward from Buffalo and Main streets, while workers' housing is found closest to the industrial concerns along the Oatka Creek and environs. Most of these areas have not yet been surveyed or evaluated, although there are three individual properties in the village that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places: The Seth Gates House (ca.1824-1840s; National Register listed in 1991), Trinity Church (ca.1854; National Register listed 3/18/1980, the U.S. Post Office (ca.1935; National Register listed 5/1//1989) and the Warsaw Academy (ca.1846; National Register listed 1/3/1980).

The Monument Circle Historic District, approximately eighteen acres in extent, encompasses the entire civic and religious complex at the intersection of Main and Court Streets (i.e., Monument Circle), all of the dwellings on both sides of East Court Street and all of the dwellings on the east side of Park Street between Farman Street and Elm Street. In general, the Monument Circle Historic District comprises the largest concentration of Warsaw's most sophisticated civic, religious and residential architecture; the overall character of the district is one of imposing monumentality. The specific character of Monument Circle is one of bustling public activity at the village hub; the character of East Court and Park Streets is one of private and sedate domestic life along broad, tree-lined thoroughfares.

Highlights of Monument Circle include the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument (ca.1876-77), the Wyoming County Courthouse (1937), the County Sheriff's Office and Jail (ca.1901), the Warsaw Public Library (1905) and the United Methodist Church (1901-02). The four buildings are monumental masonry edifices constructed of high quality materials and executed in high-style renderings of the popular architectural tastes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, sited on a small grassy plot in the middle of a traffic rotary, is a massive fluted granite column of the Corinthian order surmounted by a bronze statue of a Union soldier.

The residences along East Court Street and Park Street, like the public buildings surrounding Monument Circle, are constructed of high quality materials and are rendered in popular mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century styles. Construction materials include frame and brick. A wide variety of periods and styles is represented, ranging from Italianate style buildings from the 1850s/1860s to Colonial Revival and Bungalow style buildings of the 1930s. Transitional and eclectic interpretations of the many popular styles survive as well, such as the Augustus Frank House (ca.1849-51), an Italian Villa style mansion with board-and-batten siding. Examples of Eastlake, Shingle and Stick styles also survive along East Court and Park Streets.

The boundary of the Monument Circle Historic District is drawn to include only the most intact, stylish, larger buildings in Warsaw, most of which were inventoried during a partial intensive level survey conducted in 1975 by the Wyoming County Historian's Office. There are several side streets adjacent to the Monument Circle Historic District, including, for example, Elm Street and Farman Street, which contain a variety of substantially intact, vernacular, middle-class dwellings. This type abounds throughout the entire village of Warsaw and until a comprehensive survey of the type is conducted, those buildings along Elm and Farman Streets cannot be evaluated in the local context. If and when a survey is prepared and if the Elm and Farman Street dwellings are found eligible, the Monument Circle Historic District can be expanded to incorporate all those adjacent properties that meet the criteria.

Significance

The Monument Circle Historic District contains a broad range of architecturally and/or historically significant resources, which, both individually and collectively, chronicle the historical development of the village of Warsaw during its heyday as the county seat of Wyoming County and as the center of a booming salt industry. Since its settlement in 1803 along the Oatka Creek in the fertile Genesee River Valley region of Western New York, Warsaw has been the center of commercial, civic, social and educational activities for much of the surrounding rural agrarian region; the properties within the Monument Circle Historic District reflect the late nineteenth and early twentieth century heyday of the village's development. The Monument Circle Historic District contains a large concentration of Warsaw's finest late nineteenth and early twentieth century civic, religious and domestic architecture, including the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, the Wyoming County Courthouse and Jail, the Public Library, the Methodist Church and the high-style houses of some of Warsaw's most distinguished citizens. The imposing character of the Monument Circle Historic District is created by the high level of sophistication embodied in the buildings (particularly in terms of design, materials and craftsmanship), the broad, tree-lined streets with wide sidewalks and granite curbs, and the large, well-landscaped lots on which the buildings are sited. Park Street is particularly distinguished by the terraced lawns on the east side of the street; the terrain rises sharply to the east and the houses are perched on a continuous ridge overlooking the street below. East Court and Park Streets are quiet and private; North Main Street is bustling and public with the Civil War Monument and surrounding courthouse, jail, church and library forming a hub of community activity.

Historical Background: The first permanent settlement in Warsaw was established near the Oatka Creek in 1803 when Elizur Webster, a Yankee from Washington County, New York, arrived in the Genesee Region in Western New York and staked his claim to a section of the Holland Land Purchase. Prior to the arrival of white settlers, the area had been a popular hunting and fishing ground for the Seneca Indians. The Big Tree Treaty, signed in 1797, forced the Native Americans off the land and opened the area west of the Genesee River for settlement by white pioneers. By 1808 the town of Warsaw was created. The town of Middlebury was carved out of Warsaw in 1812 and Gainesville was broken off in 1814. Although some early settlers were of German origin, the majority of Warsaw's earliest pioneers were Yankees from New England. Mixed husbandry farming was the predominant livelihood of Warsaw's earliest settlers, as it was for most pioneers in the fertile Genesee Valley region. Crops included wool, dairy products, wheat, barley and some fruits. Many mills and small manufactories were built along the Oatka Creek; these enterprises processed farm products from the surrounding areas and produced basic consumer goods for the nearby farmers. By 1840, the town of Warsaw had several grist and saw mills, an iron foundry, a woolen factory and several tradesmen's shops.

Wyoming County was created in 1841 and the bustling mill hamlet along the Oatka Creek, incorporated in 1843 as the village of Warsaw, became the county seat. (Present-day Wyoming County had originally been the southern half of Genesee County, the seat of which was located in Batavia in the north half of the county.) The village of Warsaw burgeoned after 1841 as the newly founded county seat, while continued industrial and agrarian activity bolstered the economy.

Typical of community development patterns in Western New York, Warsaw was laid out in a regular grid plan around the intersection of two primary thoroughfares: north-south Main Street and east-west Buffalo Street. The earliest, densest development was concentrated at the four corners; this intersection remains the focal point of Warsaw's primary commercial and religious activity. The earliest premier residential development occurred westward along W. Buffalo Street, while civic development, including the first county courthouse (built on the northwest corner of the intersection of West Court and North Main Streets) occurred northward along Main Street. (The intersection of Court and Main, i.e., Monument Circle, remains the focal point of civic and religious activity in the village, and comprises the core of the Monument Circle Historic District.

Warsaw flourished during the middle third of the nineteenth century as lawyers and bankers flocked to the county seat and merchants and entrepreneurs arrived to capitalize on the increasing consumer needs of the expanding population. Soon more settlers arrived, attracted by jobs and services available in the bustling community. Churches to serve several denominations were quickly built, the Warsaw Academy (1843; National Register listed) was built to serve the educational needs of the region, and various social and cultural institutions were established. The Erie Railroad arrived in 1850, ensuring the continued prosperity of Warsaw at mid-century.

Modern public utilities appeared in Warsaw at a relatively early date for the region — a water system was installed in 1869, a gas plant was established shortly thereafter and gas street lighting was installed in 1871. In 1891 electric lights replaced the gas lighting system and telephone service was introduced in the 1890s.

By far the most significant economic event in Warsaw during the last quarter of the nineteenth century was the discovery of salt in 1880. Eight salt wells were established during the next few years, thereby creating many jobs. Warsaw's population rose from 1,900 in 1890 to 3,300 in 1892.

The Monument Circle Historic District is an architecturally and historically significant reminder of this late nineteenth century heyday in Warsaw, reflecting the prosperity generated first by the arrival of the railroad and then by the booming salt industry. Individually, the buildings retain a high degree of integrity of location, setting, design, materials, craftsmanship, feeling and association and most embody the distinctive characteristics of their respective types, periods and/or styles. The Wyoming County Courthouse and the Wyoming County Sheriff's Office/Jail (ca.1937 and 1901, respectively) are historically and architecturally significant as monumental civic buildings, the Methodist Church (ca.1901) is architecturally significant as a representative example of early twentieth century religious architecture, while the Warsaw Public Library (ca.1905) is significant not only as an imposing classical civic building but as a Carnegie library, built under the auspices of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The granite and bronze Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument (1876) is significant as a representative example of post-Civil War commemorative sculpture.

The remainder of the Monument Circle Historic District includes a broad range of architecturally significant examples of late nineteenth/early twentieth century domestic architecture, including the Charles Ketchum House (ca.1913, 38 Park Street, an imposing Colonial Revival style dwelling with a Spanish Revival inspired, terra-cotta tile roof, the Whitley-Ramsey House (ca.1890, 50 Park Street), an elegant Richardsonian Shingle style dwelling with a large and fashionable carriage house, and the George Washington Frank House (ca.1901, 66 Park Street), a large Shingle/Colonial Revival style dwelling built for one of Warsaw's most renowned local entrepreneurs. Pre-dating the majority of buildings in the Monument Circle Historic District are two particularly noteworthy dwellings, the Augustus Frank House (ca.1849-1851, 140 North Main Street) and the Rev. Joseph Nassau House (ca.1863, 46 Park Street). The Frank House is an outstanding example of mid-nineteenth century eclectic architecture, combining elements of the Picturesque, board-and-batten Carpenter Gothic style and the imposing Italian Villa style. The Nassau House is a quintessential Italianate style house with its cubic form surmounted by a prominent cupola.

The Monument Circle Historic District survives with a remarkably high degree of integrity of location, setting, design, materials, craftsmanship, feeling and association. Together the 21 historically and architecturally significant residential, religious and civic buildings remain important reminders of Warsaw's prominence as the county seat of Wyoming County since 1841 and as the center of a booming salt industry during the late nineteenth century.

References

Albany, New York. Division for Historic Preservation. Research Files.

Robinson, Laura Bristol. History of the Centennial Celebration. Warsaw, NY 1803-1902. Warsaw, NY: Warsaw Centennial Association, 1903.

Yarrington, James R. Wyoming County, NY: An Architectural History. Canandaigua, NY: Arts Council for Wyoming County, 1984.

Young, Andrew. History of Warsaw, NY. Buffalo: Sage & Sons, 1869.

  1. Nancy L. Todd, New York State Division for Historic Preservation, with info submitted by David Lane, Warsaw Historical Society, Monument Circle Historic District, nomination document, 1992, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

See Map

Street Names: Court Street East, Court Street West, Elm Street, Main Street North, Park Street

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