Dundee Village Historic District
The Dundee Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. 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 Dundee Village Historic District consists of 71 properties (encompassing 84 contributing elements) in the historic core of the village of Dundee, Yates County. Main and Water Streets, a.k.a. New York State Route 14A, form the primary north-south corridor of the village; the community's main intersection is defined by the intersection of Main and Water Streets with Seneca Street, which runs eastward from the four corners out to the New York Central railroad tracks, and Union Street, which runs westward to the edge of the village. The Dundee Village Historic District includes all of the village's late-nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial buildings — mostly attached masonry rows on Main and Water Streets — and virtually all of the community's high style dwellings — mostly freestanding frame dwellings along Main Street (south of the commercial core), Water Street (north of the commercial core) and along Seneca Street (east of the commercial core). The older civic, religious and residential properties along Union Street have been lost or extensively altered; hence, Union Street has been excluded from the Dundee Village Historic District. In addition to the commercial and residential properties in the Dundee Village Historic District, there are four imposing churches (two of which, the First Presbyterian Church and the Dundee United Methodist Church, were recently individually listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places) and a former school (that now houses the Greater Dundee Historical Society). There are four non-contributing buildings in the Dundee Village Historic District, including a supermarket (at the northeast corner of Water and Seneca Streets); a modern commercial building on Seneca Street just east of the supermarket; and two modern commercial buildings (including a bank and a post office) on the east side of Main Street south of the central business district.
Focal points of the Dundee Village Historic District include two churches recently listed in the National Register: the Romanesque Revival style First Presbyterian Church (1894-95) and the Dundee United Methodist Church (1899). Located on the west side of Main Street, the First Presbyterian Church forms the southern anchor of the central business at Spring Street. The Methodist Church, an imposing late Victorian eclectic edifice with Gothic flavor, anchors the north end of the business district on the east side of Water Street. North of the church are two imposing nineteenth century houses that are included in the district; beyond the boundary, Water Street is characterized by non-historic commercial buildings and a large, early twentieth century school that may, in the future, be proposed for individual listing. Properties in the Dundee Village Historic District on the west side of Water Street include a large Greek Revival style temple-front dwelling (now used as a funeral home) and a small, remarkably intact, Colonial Revival style public library. Between the library and Union Street is a row of early twentieth century commercial buildings, including the former Dundee State Bank (1901) at 6 Water Street and a three-part building (1865) with late Victorian eclectic brickwork at 8-14 Water Street. The modern gas station, south of 6 Water Street on the northwest corner of the intersection of Water and Union Streets is excluded from the district.
South of Union Street, the west side of Main Street contains an impressive collection of highly intact, two- to three-story attached brick commercial buildings, most of which post-date a devastating fire that destroyed much of downtown Dundee n 1861. The Italianate style buildings at 1-5 and 9 Main Street were built shortly after that fire. Another fire in 1894 destroyed several other 1860s buildings between 9 Main Street and Spring Street; these were replaced in the mid- to late-1890s with about a half-dozen, late Victorian brick buildings (11 to 29 Main Street) that are distinguished by a variety of decorative brickwork typical of the period. Particularly notable in this group are the buildings at 11-15 and 17 Main Street, both of which were designed by the renowned firm of Pierce & Bickford and feature very ornate, finely crafted stone and brick details. The commercial row terminates at the imposing Presbyterian Church (also designed by Pierce & Bickford) at Spring Street. South of the church, the Dundee Village Historic District boundary is drawn to encompass the west side of Main Street, which features six large and remarkably intact, late nineteenth century/early twentieth century, high-style Victorian frame dwellings on fairly large village lots. Across the street from these dwellings are more late nineteenth/early twentieth century dwellings, which, although neither as intact or as fashionable as those on the west side, still retain their overall integrity of setting, location, design, materials, craftsmanship, feeling and association and are, therefore, included in the Dundee Village Historic District. The modern bank and parking lot at 32-34 Main Street are non-contributing.
The remainder of the central business district, that is, the east side of Main Street between Seneca and Hollister Streets, consists of six attached brick commercial rows and several semi-detached or freestanding commercial buildings. Only one of these buildings, a Greek Revival style frame structure built in 1833 at 30 Main Street to house a bank, survived the fire of 1861 that destroyed much of this section of the village. The remaining buildings are two- to three-story attached, Italianate style brick rows built between 1861 and the 1880s. Several — including the two large buildings between 2 and 10 Main Street — feature intact, nineteenth-century storefronts with cast-iron detailing.
Civic, religious and residential buildings along both sides of Seneca Street comprise the remainder of the Dundee Village Historic District. In general, the street features relatively large village lots flanking the tree-lined street; sidewalks run along the edges of the street, and several properties feature historic elements such as carriage steps and/or hitching posts. Highlights of Seneca Street include the late Victorian eclectic Baptist Church (1887) at 20 Seneca Street and an old, eight-room public school (1891) that now houses the local historical society. The former Episcopal Church (ca.1900), a Gothic brick building at 40 Seneca Street, now houses the Starkey Town Hall. The remainder of the street features a broad range of both high-style and vernacular dwellings that date from ca.1850 to ca.1890. Simple Greek Revival and Italianate style dwellings are interspersed with high-style Gothic, Italian Villa, and Second Empire dwellings that rival the fashionable residences on Main Street.
The Dundee Village Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as an intact collection of early nineteenth to early twentieth-century commercial, religious, civic and residential architecture in the village of Dundee, Yates County. Together, the 67 contributing buildings recall the growth and development of the village from its origin as a bustling mill hamlet on Big Stream to its post-Civil War heyday as a center of commerce, education, government and religion in this mostly rural agrarian region of southeast Yates County. With the slightly larger village of Penn Yan to the north, Dundee was — and still is to a certain degree — a convenient focal point of activity and a center of relative prosperity along the west side of Seneca Lake between Geneva (Ontario County) to the north and Watkins Glen (Schuyler County) to the south, as evidenced by an impressive collection of large and fashionable dwellings, churches and businesses, most of which display design and decorative features associated with a variety of Victorian modes. The three-block-long commercial core along Main and Water Streets (NY 14A) is characterized by a remarkably intact collection of attached masonry rows (most of which from the early 1860s to the late 1890s) that are consistent in scale, form, uniformity of cornice lines and setbacks from the sidewalks. Vernacular and high style dwellings along Water Street to the north of the central business district, Main Street to the south of the central business district, and Seneca Street to the east of the downtown core, embody a variety of characteristics associated with a broad range of architectural types, periods, styles and methods of construction. Freestanding frame buildings on well-landscaped village lots predominate; styles represented include Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Italian Villa, Second Empire, Eastlake, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival. Complementing these buildings are four large and remarkably intact examples of late nineteenth century religious architecture: the First Presbyterian Church, the Dundee United Methodist Church, the Dundee Baptist Church and the (former) Grace Memorial Episcopal (now housing the Starkey Town Hall.
The first white settler in what is now Dundee was Isaac Stark, who, during the early years of the nineteenth century, acquired two hundred acres of land south of present day Seneca Street. He built a sawmill on nearby Big Stream and dubbed his nascent mill village "Stark's Mills." Other early mill villages along Big Stream in the future towns of Barrington and Starkey included Crystal Springs and Glenora; small non-milling hamlets in the area included Eddytown (later Lakemont), Hurd's Corners (later Rock Stream) and Starkey's Corners (settled by John Starkey in 1816; later simply Starkey). Eddytown, settled in 1806, boasted the first tavern and schoolhouse/meeting house in the mostly undeveloped wilderness and was, at least during the first few decades of the century, the social, political and commercial hub of the area. A schoolhouse was built in 1820 in Stark's Mills; shortly thereafter, Stark suffered a financial downturn and all his holdings were acquired by Samuel Harpending who promptly changed the name of the village to Harpending's Corners.
Meanwhile, a variety of new and expanded mills had been erected near Stark's first sawmill and the hamlet was thriving; dozens of houses, several churches, a village graveyard (at the Baptist Church) and a variety of commercial ventures existed by the early 1830s. In 1833 the completion of the Crooked Lake Canal, which connected Keuka and Seneca Lakes, ensured the continued success of the local industrial enterprises during the antebellum era. In 1834 the inhabitants of Harpending's Corners voted to adopt the name Dundee, which became formal when the village was officially incorporated in 1848. The Dundee Record, the village's first newspaper, was created in 1843; about that time, a Plank Road was constructed connecting Dundee with Tyrone and Fowler's Point.
Very little building stock from the first several decades of the nineteenth century survives; the vernacular dwelling at 67 is believed to date from ca.1813, but also incorporates features associated with the Greek Revival style of the 1830s. A handful of impressive Greek Revival era buildings survive, including the former bank at 30 Main Street, a high-style temple-front former dwelling (now funeral parlor) at 36 Water Street, and a large, Greek Revival style frame dwelling at 46 Main Street. The latter was built by Nehemiah Rapalee, a prominent early settler (later a member of the State Assembly and a judge) in the area who originally owned almost all of the land along Main Street. Rapalee, Dundee's first postmaster, operated the local post office and a bank out of his dwelling.
The aforementioned bank is the only pre-Civil War era commercial building in the village; virtually all other early frame commercial buildings along Main and Water Streets were lost to three fires in three consecutive years: 1859, 1860 and 1861. However, the overall prosperity of the inhabitants allowed for the construction of newer and better buildings in the central business district. Much of Dundee's commercial building stock dates from the post-fire building boom: two- to three-story masonry rows with Italianate, Romanesque Revival and late Victorian eclectic features prevail. Upper story windows often feature decorative lintels or molded surrounds and almost all cornices are ornamented with elaborate brickwork, or wooden details. Terra-cotta ornamentation is also found, for example on the Murdock Block at 23-29 Main Street. Particularly notable examples of Italianate style commercial architecture include the massive blocks at 1-5, 2-6 and 16-20 Main Street.
Rail transportation arrived in 1878 and three hotels, the Harpending House, the European Hotel, and the Wilson House were soon booming. The village was electrified in 1896 when E.L. Bailey constructed the Dundee Electric and Lighting Plant on Harpending Avenue on the east side of the rail corridor. By 1898, the population of Dundee was recorded at 1,311. Some of Dundee's finest commercial buildings date from this period, particularly several that were built in 1894 to the designs of the regionally renowned firm of Pierce & Bickford after a fire earlier that year destroyed a number of Dundee's earlier commercial buildings. They are the Classically inspired Harpending Block at 11-15 Main Street with its elaborate Greco-Roman detailing, much of which is executed in terra cotta, and the Bigelow Block at 17 Main Street with its eclectic blend of Richardsonian Romanesque and Beaux Arts features.
Concurrent with the post-Civil War commercial building boom was on-going residential development, partly in the form of newer, more fashionable houses built to replace earlier Federal and Greek Revival era dwellings, and partly in the form of new development to house prosperous newcomers — especially after the arrival of rail transportation in 1878. The premier residential districts developed along Water Street, Main Street and Seneca Street to the north, south and east, respectively, of the central business district. Some of Dundee's most notable examples of mid-nineteenth century domestic architecture include the monumental Gothic Revival style dwelling at 50-52 Seneca Street (ca.1851) and a number of imposing Italianate style houses, for example, 37 Water Street, 41 Main Street and 31, 46 and 48 Seneca Street, all built in the 1850s/60s. Other embodiments of various Victorian era modes include 58 Seneca Street, an imposing Italian Villa dwelling; 41 Seneca Street; and 45 Seneca Street. The influence of the Eastlake style is found at the imposing house at 33 Main Street (1881), originally built by Anthony Harpending, the son of one of Dundee's earliest settlers. The 1890s is well-represented by the large, Queen Anne style dwelling at 43 Main Street (1899) and the Pierce & Bickford-designed house at 39 Main Street (1898) with Georgian Revival inspired features. Several dozen other late nineteenth century dwellings also survive throughout the Dundee Village Historic District, most of which are vernacular interpretations of the prevailing tastes of their respective periods.
Equally impressive civic and religious building programs also occurred during the late nineteenth century; three monumental churches were built for the local Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists, and a large, four-room school, the Dundee Grade School at 26 Seneca Street, were built to meet the spiritual and educational needs of the community.
By the turn of the twentieth century, development in Dundee had essentially leveled out; while the village and its inhabitants remained economically stable, the great boom of the nineteenth century came to a close, particularly as the importance of the Crooked Lake Canal waned after the advent of rail transportation in the region. Early twentieth century development in the historic core of Dundee is represented in the restrained, Neo-Gothic former Episcopal Church (ca.1900) at 40 Seneca Street, the Georgian/Colonial Revival style Dundee Public Library (1916) at 32 Water Street, and the imposing, Pierce & Bickford-designed commercial block at 22 Water Street (1913). Most early twentieth century residential development occurred outside of the boundaries of the Dundee Village Historic District; streets such as Harpending Avenue contain a variety of intact cottages and bungalows that are in need of further study to justify inclusion in the National Register.
In summary, the Dundee Village Historic District is a remarkably intact and cohesive collection of nineteenth/early twentieth century architecture in Yates County that, as a group, chronicles virtually every phase of the community's development. In architectural terms, the Dundee Village Historic District contains some of the finest embodiments of types, styles and methods of construction popular in the southern Finger Lakes region of New York State during the period.
Secondary residential development occurred along nearby side streets, such as Harpending Street (north of and parallel to Seneca Street). A several-block section of Harpending Street may be added to the National Register in the future. Many of these middle-class dwellings appear to survive with a high degree of physical integrity, but additional research is needed to document their significance.
†Nancy L. Todd, New York State Division for Historic Preservation, Dundee Village Historic District, Dundee, Yates County, New York, nomination document, 2006, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.