Wyoming Village Historic District
The Wyoming Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination documentation. [†] Adaptation copyright © The Gombach Group, 2010.
The Wyoming Village Historic District is organized much like a New England village around a small triangular green. The T-shaped district includes approximately seventy structures along the two principal village thoroughfares — Main Street and Academy Street.
The Wyoming Village Historic District boundaries are drawn to include the heart of the community where the 1838 inn (1 S. Academy Street), the turn-of-the-century bank (5 S. Academy Street), a series of stores, the village "Fire Tower" (10 Tower Road) and the Presbyterian Church (1 N. Academy St.) are clustered around the triangular green. Also in the Wyoming Village Historic District is a sampling of the best residential architecture on Main and Academy Streets.
The most dominant building on the village streetscape is the Presbyterian Church. This crisp, handsome white church is a western New York State adaptation of the New England-Church-on-the-green. A large frame building, it was completed in 1830 and has some Federal features (simple front door and fanlight) as well as some later ones (the elegant narrow paired windows lighting the nave). The interior was remodeled in 1852 and the spire rebuilt in 1870. A handful of houses in the Wyoming Village Historic District show Federal influence and are basically two-story white frame buildings, with center doorway, five bays wide on the front facade and usually one bay wide on the sides. The notable examples are: The Newell-Bradley-Bishop House at 73 Main Street, the Dillon House at 14 S. Academy Street, the Cushing-Hooker House at 30 S. Academy Street, and the Chad Ewell-Squires House at 31 Main Street.
The 1817 Middlebury Academy (listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places) also has Federal features but is better known for its monumental Greek Revival portico which was probably added several years later. Two other buildings in the Wyoming Village Historic District have striking Greek Revival characteristics:
The Ferris-Arnold House (6 N. Academy Street) — one and one-half story frame building on an unusually high basement, flush board siding with quoined treatment in wood delineating the three front bays, front entrance with side lights and transom, high front porch with paired fluted columns, balustrade along roofline. On interior, early wallpaper depicting scenes from Sir Walter Scott novels. Formal gardens still evident on south side of house.
Dodson-Swanson House (36 Main Street) — large two-story house with centered four bay wide Doric portico, flanking wings with porches also supported by fluted Doric columns. Side wings probably enlarged to present two-story heights later in 19th century, or early 20th century.
The majority of the houses in the Wyoming Village Historic District date from the second quarter of the nineteenth century and were mostly built by small tradesman, merchants and retired farmers. They retain their simplicity today in keeping with the modest means of the residents throughout the years. The two rows of century-old maples that line Maple Street add an aura of splendor amid the simple frame houses.
Some of the unusual structures dating from this mid-nineteenth century period of growth in the village include:
Seaver-Trumpfheller House (14 N. Academy St.) — 2-1/2 story asymmetrical frame house with Victorian barge boards and other elaborate carving around windows and entrance porch.
46 Main Street — built as the first district schoolhouse in the village, operated since 1916 as a farm supply and hardware store by a family named Handyside. Simple one-story structure with narrow clapboards, three bays wide, simple doorway, gable roof with considerable overhang, louvered cupola.
Ianella-Dutton House (32 Main Street) — two-story frame house with elegant woodwork on porches and in gables similar to 14 N. Academy Street.
Warren-Main House (31 S. Academy Street) — one and one-half story board and batten cottage with Gothic trim at the gables. Early twentieth century Colonial Revival porch added by architect Bryant Fleming (Fleming's office was in the Middlebury Academy building across the street).
The Main Street churches burned late in the nineteenth century. The Baptists replaced their church at 28 Main Street with a substantial brick building about 1876, and the Methodist Church at 16 Main Street was built in 1893 and is a frame building with Gothic detailing, finials and pointed windows.
The two twentieth century buildings of particular note are the "Fire Tower" and the Village Hall both of which were built in 1902 as gifts to the village from the Coonley-Ward family who lived just outside the village. The "Fire Tower" is a one and one-half story brick building with a steeply pitched pagoda-like roof. The Village Hall is much as it was when described by a visitor in 1903: "Village Hall is an impressive brick building of French provincial architecture, with sturdy buttresses running up to high dormer windows and rather sharply sloping roofs. To the right of the entrance-lobby is a large clubroom, and on the floor above this a room of equal size houses an excellent small natural history collection formed by Professor Ward. Most of the remaining space in the building is given over to an assembly room, some sixty by forty feet in size, with timbered walls and ceiling the full height of the structure, and with a state at one end. Kitchen, cloakrooms, musicians' gallery, and stage dressingrooms complete the interior arrangements. Few communities of whatever size can boast of such a handsome and useful public hall."
The village is lit day and night by 30 gas lamps which use natural gas drawn from near-by shallow pockets under a 99-year contract.
The village of Wyoming was built on New England traditions, and was molded by the economic forces of its rural setting. At the turn-of-the-century it was taken under the philanthropic wing of a family who summered on its outskirts. Thus within the Wyoming Village Historic District is an unusual blend of unself-conscious vernacular simplicity and highly sophisticated academic thought.
Set in the rich, well-cultivated Oatka Valley, Wyoming village was the first such community in the Middlebury Township and dates back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Holland Land Company surveyed and parcelled the land under the management of Joseph Ellicott who was based in nearby Batavia. The first settlers in the township were New England farmers, mostly from Massachusetts and Vermont. Silas Newell who bought the future village site in 1809 was from Rensselaer County in eastern New York State near the Vermont and Massachusetts borders. Newell started the community around a small stream which became the source of power for a sawmill and grist mill.
For the first twenty years (1809-1829) the village was casually known as "Newell's Settlement," and the most prominent village building dating form this period is the Middlebury Academy (listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places). This three-story brick structure was built by local citizens under Silas Newell's direction.
The village grew in a T-formation as is reflected in the boundaries of the historic district. It was planned around a triangular green. The most important buildings — the inn, which was originally operated by Joseph Newell the founder's son, the Presbyterian Church, shops and one of the most elegant village residences, the Ferris-Arnold House — were grouped around the green, later to be joined by the turn-of-the-century brick bank building and "Fire Tower."
In the 1830's when Silas Newell built his house at the east end of Main Street (#73) it was on the village outskirts, but within the next thirty or forty years the block filled in with more houses most of which were relatively modest. Many of the students at the academy boarded in these village houses, and the income generated by the students' tuition and board was a significant factor in the village economy through the academy's peak in the 1860's. In addition, by attracting students from all over the state and elsewhere the academy brought the village an exposure to outside academic trends.
The occasion of Frederick Douglass's visit to Wyoming during the Civil War illustrates the differing of attitudes between groups in the village. Douglass was scheduled to speak at the Presbyterian Church but was denied the pulpit there after considerable discussion and is said to have spoken from the high front porch of the Ferris-Arnold House.
In 1858 a family named Look, whose children and grandchildren were to influence greatly the next seventy years of village life, moved into a spacious farmhouse called "Hillside" just outside the village. Six generations of Looks, Avery, Coonleys and Wards were brought up at the family place from 1858 to 1928, and they took an increasingly active role in the promotion of the arts and quality of life in the village.
It was customary for interesting summer guests at "Hillside" to give a recital or lecture in the village during their stay, and the "Hillside" guest book bulged with the names of many notable personalities of the day: Andrew Dickson White, diplomat and founder of Cornell University; Henry Nobel McCracken, President of Vassar College; Booker T. Washington; Rochester Architect Claude Bragdon; sculptor Daniel Chester French to name a few.
During the first weekend in September 1900, several prominent suffragist leaders adjourned to "Hillside" after a business meeting of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association in Rochester. Mrs. Avery's guests included Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, Rachel Foster Avery, Alice Stone Blackwell, Harriet Taylor Upton, Laura Clay and Catherine Waugh McCulloch. On Sunday evening Dr. Shaw preached at the Baptist Church and on the Monday evening several of the party spoke at a Library benefit in the village. Later that year on Mrs. Avery's eighty-third birthday a local suffrage organization was founded in the village and named the Susan Look Avery Club in honor of its principal proponent.
Mrs. Lydia Avery Coonley Ward's words on the opening of her gift, the Village Hall, further underlines the concerns of the family at "Hillside" for the betterment of village life. She wrote on October 18, 1902: "Is not the Hall beautiful!...Our little village is allied to the great world in a new and definite way for the far peoples of the earth have sent their offerings of ebony and satin-wood to keep the skill and cunning of their art in perpetual evidence. Italy, France, Switzerland, England, China, and Japan are all represented here. Stones fossils of the past, birds of the air and shells of the sea, have come to abide beneath our roof. We have the heritage of the past even on our opening day."
From the founding of the Academy to the construction of the Village Hall, Wyoming was a remarkably endowed rural village with concurrent strains of the vernacular and the urbane harbored in its history and architecture.
Beers, Francis. History of Wyoming County, 1880.
Browne, Waldo Ralph. Chronicles of an American Home: Hillside (Wyoming, New York) and its Family 1858-1928. Privately printed: 1930.
Newspaper files and museum records of Middlebury Historical Society.
† Cornelia E. Brook, New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Wyoming Village Historic District, Wyoming County, New York, nomination document, 1974, National Park Service, National Register of Historic places, Washington, D.C.