Academy Hill Historic District
The Academy Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Portions of the text below were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
"...Scores of ... beautiful homes and structures mark a style of architectural taste and skill that would do credit to any large place."[‡]
The Academy Hill Historic District in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, is a locally significant concentration of architecture spanning the years ca. 1806 to 1937. The district is significant to Monroe County and the Pocono Region of Pennsylvania for its fine late 19th and early 20th century residential architecture including excellent examples of Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, American Foursquare, and other styles. These buildings together with a small number of homes an public buildings of the early 19th century and the 1920's and 1930's also reflect the settlement and growth of a key residential area in the Monroe County seat.
Academy Hill is a locally outstanding collection of late 19th and early 20th century high style residential architecture. Within rural Monroe County, only the Borough of East Stroudsburg contains an area of residential development of similar age and building styles. The neighborhood there, centered along Prospect and Analomink Streets, is far less well preserved than Academy Hill as a result of subdivision of many buildings into rental units or fraternity houses for nearby East Stroudsburg University. The Academy Hill neighborhood is larger, and has a greater concentration of outstanding architecture, than East Stroudsburg, or indeed, any other community in Monroe County, because its position as the premier residential neighborhood of the county seat attracted those interested in building stylish dwelling at the end of the 19th century. The Monroe County Historic Sites survey of 1978-80 identifies no other district of comparable architectural merit in the county.
Stroudsburg is the oldest town in the region, founded a generation before Monroe County was created. In 1799, the lands surrounding the 18th century settlement of Jacob Stroud were subdivided to create "a number of lots of fifty feet front and 221 feet in depth". Jacob Stroud advertised his subdivision on October 17 of that year in the American Eagle, a newspaper published in Easton, then the county seat for the entire area. The advertisement stated that Stroud would "dispose on very reasonable terms to mechanics and others, who will build upon [the lots]. A condition of building within three years will be part of every contract, and therefore no person need apply for a lot unless he is determined to become an improver of the town which will hence forward be called Stroudsburg".[‡‡] Thus from the inception of the community, a tradition was established of home ownership and local improvement which influenced the later development of the town.
After Jacob's death in 1806, his son Daniel took up the Stroud family's interest in establishing a town. Daniel gave order to the unsold lots by laying out the broad main street through town and stipulating that prospective buildings must be set back at least thirty feet from a public sidewalk. Streets were laid out in a grid pattern on a direct north-south and east-west axis, and named for Daniel Stroud's children. Stroudsburg had attracted enough people and commerce by 1815 to incorporate as a borough, and it was the popular choice for a county seat when Monroe County was created in 1836.
The town's institutional life was enhanced by Daniel's offer to donate land to any religious denomination desirous of building a church. Within the first quarter of the 19th century, Stroud's generosity enabled Presbyterians, Methodists and Quakers to establish houses of worship. His next gift on behalf of the people of the town was a lot for a school. The establishment of Stroudsburg Academy in 1839 answered the growing community's educational needs.
Real change and growth did not come to this small town until 1856, when the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad was completed, linking Stroudsburg by rail to New York and other major eastern cities and towns. It remained a small, insular town, and the land encompassing the Academy Hill Historic District was largely undeveloped until after the Civil War.
The first clear map of the town and its buildings dates to 1858, and depicts a community focused on Main Street. At about that time, Stroudsburg owners and builders began to make distinctions among land uses. Commercial uses were clustered on Main Street; industrial uses, tied to the water power of the McMichael's and Analomink Creeks, were located along their banks to the south and east of Main Street. Residences began to be built on the higher ground above Main Street, along streets laid out to at least part of their present length, and today's historic district began to take shape.
Sarah Street, one of Daniel Stroud's original streets, contained two full blocks of houses on its north side by the 1870s. In the late 1870s, Thomas Street, one block to the north, was transformed from a lane leading to the Academy to a full-fledged residential street; a few years later, Scott Street, yet another block north, was laid out for its present length. In the early 20th century, Fulmer Avenue was created at the crest of the hill overlooking Stroudsburg; the rocky prominence afforded a magnificent view but was never fully developed because of the terrain. These streets were exclusively residential, except for the schools and a church, and they were consciously developed as an oasis of green within the town. Street trees and generous front yards were part of the earliest development, and these conventions were respected as later houses filled in the blocks.
From about 1870 until 1930, Academy Hill grew to its present appearance. Between 1874 and 1920, the population of Stroudsburg increased from 1,800 to 5,300 people, many of whom made their homes in the district, where the rapid introduction of street lights, city water, electricity and trolley service created an archetypal suburban neighborhood of comfortable and modern houses. The very heart of the district, Thomas Street, was noted particularly as "a street of homes. Its beautiful trees and well kept lawns, as well as its elevation make Thomas Street a very restful place to live." [‡‡‡]
The residents of the Academy Hill neighborhood represented a cross-section of the local work force, including professionals, entrepreneurs, and laborers. The 1895 Directory indicates the democratic nature of the neighborhood, a fact clearly reflected in the diversity of its architecture. From this source we can see that the livelihoods of those living on Academy Hill were as varied as their names and ethnic origins. Among men, there were lawyers, doctors, several employees at the Monroe County Courthouse, store owners and clerks, a photographer, masons, blacksmiths and teamsters, an electrician, employees of the car shop and of the woolen mill, and several identified as "Laborers". Single women pursued occupations such as dressmaker, laundress, teacher, or stenographer, and often took in boarders.
Although the tourist-based resort economy of the Pocono Mountains was already a strong force at the turn of the century, the occupants of Academy Hill were nearly all connected with the more traditional economic activities of the region, based upon mills and small industries. With the development of rail road connections to east coast cities, Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg saw the introduction of many industrial operations in the latter 19th century. The combination of trolley and passenger rail service at the turn of the century also efficiently linked the residents of Academy Hill to the larger world. Perhaps more than any other single factor it was this economical and easily accessible public transportation that made Academy Hill such a desirable and stable neighborhood for such an economically diverse citizenry.
Stroudsburg in general, and Academy Hill in particular also enjoyed many up-to-date conveniences by the turn of the century. The 1880's were watershed years for development of public services within the district. In 1887, the Stroudsburg Borough Council appointed a committee to provide lamps, posts, and oil lighting for borough streets. The Monroe County Gas Company was established in 1890, to supply gas for heat and light. A rudimentary municipal water system, established in 1875, was greatly enlarged in 1889. Also in 1889, the Stroudsburg Electric Light and Power Company was incorporated. So strong was public support that within five months a plant was constructed, poles and wires erected, and the first buildings connected to the system. All of these amenities made possible the construction of modern "comfortable" houses, of the type so characteristic of the Academy Hill District.
When Jacob Stroud offered lots for sale in Stroudsburg with encouragement to build, those first houses were no doubt only the most basic structures, built for shelter rather than show. One of the earliest extant houses in Stroudsburg is in the district at 614 Sarah Street, ...a good example of the simple vernacular buildings first present in the community. It was made of log, but covered with clapboard to present a more finished appearance, suitable for a house in town. The facade reflects interior room division rather than the forceful symmetry of 18th century buildings influenced by the Georgian style. This house, and most of its neighbors on the 600 block of Sarah Street, were built with the facade on the lot line. It suggests the original builders anticipated an urban density which was never really reached in Stroudsburg beyond Main Street; furthermore, it dates the houses to before Daniel Stroud's 1806 division of land, which required a minimum setback of thirty feet.
Early in the development of Stroudsburg, brick was available as a building material, and the urban brick houses of Philadelphia and Easton clearly served as the ideal for more prosperous home builders. The house at 612 Sarah is a modest version of the type, with a three-bay facade, side-hall entry, and simple, decoration in the form of a wooden molded entablature across the top of the facade. More elaborate is the clearly Federal style brick townhouse at 602 Sarah, probably built about 1820. This house also has the characteristic three-bay, side-hall plan, but its height, proportions, and details, such as pilastered and pedimented dormers, paneled frieze, and front door surround, make it the most architecturally sophisticated structure in Stroudsburg from the first half of the 19th century.
The other early 19th century brick buildings in the district include the simple schoolhouse built for the area's Black children, and a small two-bay townhouse which although built as late as 1860, reflects the artisan's dwellings of Philadelphia and New York from a century before. Another three-bay brick house on Sarah Street built at mid-century is modestly enlivened by low relieving arches over the window and door openings. There is no other explicit "stylistic" ornament, and again, the narrow single pile gable-roofed house with rear service wing is well within the range of traditional building types developed for urban settings in the 18th century.
Not until after Stroudsburg was linked by railroad to the cities of the east coast did its architecture reflect fashionable taste of the 19th century. Even so, there was a considerable time lapse between the appearance of particular styles in urban centers, their publication in pattern books or builders books, and their adoption in this community. While the 1840's and 50's saw the development of the Romantic movement in the arts, emphasizing asymmetrical, "picturesque" forms and the free borrowing of motifs from Gothic, Italian, Greek and Oriental art for American architecture, these ideas were not translated into built form in Stroudsburg until after the Civil War.
The earliest houses on Academy Hill to incorporate the Romantic ideals in even the simplest form were three built in a row along the north side of Thomas Street opposite the old Academy. They all use the gable end facade, a device introduced to American domestic architecture with the Greek Revival style in the first third of the 19th century. These are clapboard houses built on an open wooden frame, a departure from the solid log or brick buildings erected earlier. The houses retain a traditional three-bay side-hall floor-plan in front, and have a narrow projecting rear service wing, giving the house an overall "L" plan. Detailing in any overt stylistic sense is minimal — a round arched attic window on one, deeply projecting, molded eaves on others — but all were no doubt constructed with generous front porches which served as the focal point for the imaginative wooden detail which has come to be popularly identified as "Victorian". The original porches on these three examples have been removed or rebuilt in simpler form over the years, but they survive in great numbers on other houses in the district.
The outstanding architectural example of the Romantic movement is at 626 Scott Street, at the head of Seventh Street, commanding a view of much of the Academy Hill district. Built about 1880, it is a Gothic-inspired house, fitting A. J. Downing's mid-19th century description of a "picturesque cottage". It features jig-sawn barge-board, large eaves brackets, pendants, molded window hoods, some Gothic arched windows, all in an astonishing state of preservation. The projecting gable end facade is encircled by a porch with decorative trim and chamfered posts.
The gable-fronted three-bay frame house became a very papular form through the 19th century all across America. It lent itself easily to a variety of stylistic allusions through the addition of simple details at porch, windows, and door, and provided an efficient housing type easily constructed by builder-developers on the narrow lots characteristic of the country's burgeoning towns. Examples in Academy Hill abound. The house at 520 Sarah Street was built later in the 19th century (ca.. 1890) and retains its Stick Style porch detail and Queen Anne style window detail. Lacy brackets enrich the same basic house at 316 Seventh Street, while the house at 710 Scott Street fairly cries out for warm summer evenings in its nearly floor-length front windows opening onto a porch of exceptionally fine piers with cut-out designs supporting a dentate cornice. The same floor-length facade windows appear at 716 Sarah Street, a mid-19th century "L" plan dwelling with affinities to the pattern-book houses promoted by Downing, Sloan and others. It has Italianate bracketed eaves, and a pointed-top attic window in the front-facing gable, in addition to the generously sized front porch, which has been rebuilt and probably simplified since the original erection of the building about 1870.
Concomitant with construction of these gable-end houses, frame houses were still being erected in Stroudsburg following the simple three-bay side hall plan with gable roof and minimal ornamentation on the pattern of the earlier brick houses. In the Academy Hill district, many of these vernacular dwellings date from the 1870s, '80s, and '90s, indicating the strength of local building tradition. The house at 727 Scott Street is a well-preserved example dating from 1875-1884, revealing its Victorian-era construction only by a bay window projecting from the west side.
This simple single family house, also combined easily into the double houses which began to be constructed in the district in greater numbers as the 19th century progressed. Two side-hall plan houses sharing a party wall, but in other respects just like the nearby single-family dwellings, provided less costly accommodations. Examples on Scott Street illustrate the point. Other double houses were constructed with more attention to current architectural fashion. Steep roof peaks centered over each unit or on the building itself recall the Romantic era's Gothic taste. These are found on double houses on Sarah Street, Scott Street, Seventh Street and Wallace Street. Other double houses in the district are given architectural interest and make at least a passing reference to Victorian taste by the use of generous bay windows on the first or second floors.The biggest building boom on Academy Hill occurred in the years between 1884 and 1905, when fully half of the houses were constructed. During this time, builders and their clients were increasingly prone to look to published pattern-book sources and build in current taste rather than relying on the vernacular models which had served so long. At the end of the 19th century, the earlier revival styles were replaced by an exuberant architectural eclecticism, with a proliferation of ornament and materials characterizing individual buildings Outstanding examples in Academy Hill include the neighboring Queen Anne style houses at 606 and 608 Thomas Street. One is built in brick, the other clad with a combination of clapboard and shingles; both utilize the same basic plan incorporating a projecting facade gable with corner tower, and decorative wrap-around porches. The Wyckoff House at 514 Thomas Street features a large bay window extending up into a tower, a Palladianesque window composition in the front-facing gable, and a three-dimensional foliate motif applied in the pediment above the columned porch entry.
The most architecturally complex house of this era in the Adams House, built in 1893 at the corner of Thomas and Wallace Streets. It is shingled over a high rusticated base, and dominated by an irregular roof-line with steep gables, dormers, and towers. It is reminiscent of the highly eclectic work of Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, and although it is not by him, it seems clear that the unknown architect of this house was greatly influenced by him.
No architects have been identified for any of the buildings in the historic district, but two local builders are known to have been active there. Both C. C. Marsh and Shiffer Brothers advertised in the 1895 Directory as contractors and builders in Stroudsburg. Shiffer's advertisement stated "Plans, Specifications, and Estimates furnished for Residences, Stores, and Public Buildings",[‡‡‡‡] suggesting that he used available pattern books for design and construction specifications. No single building has been attributed to either builder, but similarities of detail within the district make it tempting to associate certain buildings with the same hand.
For instance, many buildings of the turn of the century have a characteristic, yet idiosyncratic roof construction, a pyramidal or broad hipped roof, sometimes peaked and sometimes truncated, into which is butted a pedimented gable which projects off-center on the facade. Frequently the projecting gable shelters a bay window at the second floor level. This roof construction is found on houses with Queen Anne detailing. On some of the largest houses in the district, the work of a single builder or designer may be identified in the characteristic form of a broad bay window extending to form a tower clad with shingles under a broad hexagonal roof. This may be seen at the Wyckoff House and on two houses on Scott Street. The latter are both masonry houses, which were more rarely built at the end of the 19th century. They may be the work of the Shiffer Brothers who advertised themselves as masons and carpenters; C. C. Marsh claimed only to be a carpenter.
The house at 600 Scott Street, built between 1905 and 1912, is a virtual dictionary of forms and materials of the Queen Anne style, and rightly culminates both the era and Sixth Street, which is lined with gable-fronted houses. It has a rusticated stone base, yellow brick and wooden shingle walls, and a half-timbered gable. The varied windows and doors are also in keeping with the eclectic taste of the late Victorian era. The porch, however, with its Corinthian columns and classic balusters, points to the growing interest in classical architecture at the end of the 19th century which would eventually turn popular taste away from the multiplicity of the Victorian era and toward the relative simplicity of the Colonial Revival style.
The Colonial Revival style was an attempt to return to America's architectural roots, after a century's infatuation with foreign design and forms. However, it was not the simple, vernacular pioneer dwelling which was adopted as the model for the turn-of-the- century's "Early American" house, but rather the formal, English-Georgian mansion of the upper-class colonials. The Colonial Revival style was intimately associated with the Anglo-European "founding fathers" of this country, during an era that saw huge numbers of immigrants arriving in the United States. In Stroudsburg, two very grand houses introduced the style to the district.
The first was the remodeling of the Old Academy by the prominent local attorney, Cicero Gearhart. After the academy (built in 1839) closed in 1884, it was used as a boarding house for migrant workers on the New York & Western Railroad. The railroad, running from Stroudsburg to Wilkes Barre, took eleven years to be completed; by that time the Academy was in a state of great disrepair. However, Gearhart bought the building and converted it into a spacious house for his family, which included six children. In 1903, Gearhart sold the property to W. B. Eaton, who continued working on the house, adding the porticoes off each side, and moving the main entrance around to the west side.[‡‡‡‡‡] The building originally had a broad front lawn down to Sarah Street, and a rear yard extending through present Thomas Street. Part of this land was subdivided off in the mid-19th century for building lots; as a result, the academy's rear elevation is right on the Thomas Street lot line. Its siting forward of other houses on the street, its size, and the bold classical detail of porch columns and entry arches gives this building a great deal of architectural presence in the district, appropriate to its historic significance.Across Thomas Street- from- the Academy, another attorney also built his home. A. Mitchell Palmer, who became Attorney General of the United States under President Woodrow Wilson, began his Colonial Revival mansion in 1901, shortly after his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy Maryland family. The house recalls the Georgian frame houses of New England, like the Hunter House in Newport, R.I. (1748) or the Webb House in Wethersfield, Ct. (1752), with its broad gambrel roof and symmetrical facade. It is not an exercise in architectural reconstruction, however, for the broken swan's neck pediment over the center dormer, and the broad verandah-like porch across the facade are strictly Colonial Revival. In the 1920's, a substantial addition was made to the rear of the house. The Palmer House and the Old Academy occupy the largest residential lots in the district, accommodating these grand houses in a spacious and appropriate setting.
More modest examples of the Colonial Revival style were built on Academy Hill in the 1920's. All are brick and feature a symmetrical, three-bay facade. These houses lack the decorative exuberance of their Victorian-era neighbors, but their pleasant proportions and solid workmanship reinforce the quiet simplicity of their minimal decoration.
During the time between the appearance of the Colonial Revival in high style examples and in middle-class housing, the builders and clients of more limited means often chose the "Foursquare" house. This house type, named for its square plan and boxy exterior appearance was a modern house in every sense of the word in the early 20th century, and it proved enormously popular across the country. The Foursquare was considered "the most house for the least money", combining gracious, open floor-plans within a relatively compact area, and many conveniences — bathrooms, kitchens with built-in cabinets and appliances, efficient central heating, and closets — the first commonly available American house to do so.
In Stroudsburg, the Foursquare was widely built, and it appears with frequency in the Academy Hill district filling in previously unbuilt lots between the older Victorian era structures, particularly on Scott Street. Many were constructed in brick, and because of the solid construction and functional layout, they have survived in an outstanding state of architectural integrity. Some of the best, and best preserved examples in the district include 552 Scott Street, 536 Scott Street, 500 Scott Street, 729 Scott Street and 108 Sixth Street. The Foursquare type was also used for double houses, the most notable being 539-541 Scott Street, executed in orange-yellow pressed brick, and featuring stained glass transoms on the over-sized front windows. The Foursquare double house at 516-118 Scott Street is unusually finished with pressed galvanized shingles, typically used for roofing. The detailing of Foursquares is generally confined to the front door and entry porch. While simplified classical elements may suggest the influence of the Colonial Revival, the Foursquare is purposefully reticent in its decoration, proclaiming in its clean lines and functional detailing the modern spirit.
By about World War I, the lots within the Academy Hill district were largely filled. A scattering of new structures were introduced in the 1920's, and any impetus to tear down the older structures to erect new houses on the choice lots of Academy Hill was stifled by the Great Depression. On the eve of the depression, the last buildings were constructed in the district — the Ramsey School in 1928 and the Stroudsburg Municipal Building in 1931. Ramsey School replaced the 1884 Stroudsburg High School, lost through a fire in 1927. Its greatly simplified Collegiate Gothic architecture may be considered part of the 20th century vernacular architectural vocabulary for institutional structures. Its scale and setback harmonize with its setting on Thomas Street; its open playground extending along Sixth to Scott Street suggests an urban square or park, and sets off the houses facing it to advantage.
The Stroudsburg Municipal Building, containing offices, fire equipment, and police station, was built on the site of the mid-19th century Hicksite Friends Meeting House. The municipal building's architecture cannot be called stylish, in spite of the somewhat colonial-looking steeple perched above the center tower. The rest of the building is in the commercial vernacular of the 1920's and 30's with its flat roof, brick walls, and repetitive windows. Nevertheless, it has proven itself to be a functional building, and a complete interior renovation in the early 1980s has extended its useful life into the next century.
The Academy Hill Historic District is visually dominated by the houses of the late 19th century, the period of greatest growth, and perhaps greatest significance in the community. After World War II, the automobile and the interest in new, rather than "used" housing, created sprawling suburban developments outside Stroudsburg, just as happened everywhere else in the country. Many of the houses in Academy Hill were carved up inside for multi-family use. But the appealing environment that had been created by earlier generations had a strong hold on the popular imagination, and very few buildings were allowed to deteriorate; remarkably, only four houses within the district's boundaries have been lost since 1930. The street trees were replanted as they aged and died; substantial portions of the bluestone sidewalk were allowed to remain; out of pride or simply stubborn resistance to change, the architectural details stayed, and were maintained. Today, the result is a neighborhood with considerable awareness and pride in its historic qualities, and a determination to preserve it that way into the future.
‡ Dr. J. Lantz. Picturesque Monroe County, Pennsylvania.Stroudsburg PA: Morris Evans, Publisher, 1897, p 14.
Academy Hill District is located in the Borough of Stroudsburg, north of Main Street (State Route 209) and the Monroe County Courthouse. It is a 19th and early 20th century residential neighborhood, focused on Scott and Thomas Streets, and bounded by roughly by Eighth Street, Fulmer Avenue, Fifth Street, and Sarah Street. Of the district's 140 principal buildings, all but six were built as houses and remain residential today, in a mixture of single-family and multi-family use. Exceptions are a site in school use since the 1880s, a church and the town hall, two structures built as schools and now converted to residential use, and a former carriage house also converted to a home. For the most part houses are tightly sited on lots averaging 50' x 100', allowing for only modest front and side yards. Although six blocks are served by rear alleys, giving access to a large number of outbuildings now used primarily as garages, several other lots have neither driveways nor outbuildings.
The rectilinear grid of streets are approximately 50' wide,, and heavily shaded with mature deciduous trees. The grade rises perceptibly to the north, necessitating numerous stone retaining walls and allowing high, embanked basement stories in many locations. With the exception of a paved school playground, there is no public open space.
Houses are predominately wood frame construction, with slate gable roofs, heights are typically 2 1/2 stories, and plans are mostly "L," "T," or rectangular, with a scattering of more irregular and complex examples. Distinctive versions of Late Victorian Eclecticism predominate, featuring steep gables, varied fenestration and wall cladding, jig-sawn ornament, and almost obligatory porches. A smaller number of early 20th-century houses includes examples of the American Foursquare and the vernacular Colonial Revival. Notable houses falling outside these categories include: a brick Federal style house; a large picturesque house indebted to the influence of Frank Furness; and several high style Colonial Revival examples. The district is distinguished from its surroundings by its position between commercial development south of Courthouse Square and later residential development north of Scott Street; by the unifying nature of its architecture and siting; and by its unusual state of preservation. Houses exhibit an arresting amount of original architectural fabric, including slate roofs, intact porches and wooden detailing, bluestone walks and even surviving blue-and-white enameled house numbers. Although aluminum siding and insensitive alterations are not entirely absent, overall integrity is exceptional and "house pride" is strong.
But for a recent twelve-unit townhouse development, 139 of the 140 principal buildings in the district are classified "Contributing," an unusual condition for any district. Of this total, five are identified as "Key" buildings because of their special architectural or associative qualities. Over eighty percent of the buildings were constructed between 1875 and 1923, one of the facts that contributes to the district's striking visual cohesiveness.
Five of the eight buildings that existed in the district by 1858 are scattered along the north side of Sarah Street between Eighth Street (formerly Green Street) and present-day North Sixth Street (formerly Centre or Jacob Street). These houses exhibit none of the picturesque attributes of the Italianate and Gothic Revival styles that had begun to dominate American domestic architecture by the mid-19th century. Instead, they represent a conservative folk-building tradition that had evolved no later than the Federal period. They are boxy structures built on end-gable rather than front-gable plans, with either 3-bay side-hall facades or more casual and vernacular fenestration patterns.
Because the last quarter of the 19th century was a period of tremendous growth in Stroudsburg, it is not surprising that architectural eclecticism dominates any stylistic categorization of the district. In the Academy Hill neighborhood most of these eclectic houses were not architect-designed, but were the product of high-style influences filtered through pattern books and executed by the talents of local carpenter builders.
The most apparent high-style influence derives from the Queen Anne. Irregular massing (often incorporating turrets or towers), prominent roofs, commodious porches and variegated wall cladding characterize the district's Queen Anne-inspired houses, including. The size of these houses and their amount of ornament indicates owners of at least comfortable middle-class means.
From this same period are many houses in a simpler and even more vernacularized mode that can be described as "planbook," (also recently dubbed the "tri-gabled ell"). These are derived from various models offered in architectural pattern books of the day, characterized by front-gabled facades (usually 3 bays with side-hall entries and porches) and L or T plans. Trim, usually minimal, may be Gothic, Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne/Eastlake or a combination of several influences.
A significant number of houses from this Late Victorian period are double dwellings. Some are simple rectangular blocks with roof ridges parallel to the street, harkening back to the district's earliest houses; others are distinguished by features that clearly articulate their double function, most often paired facade gables, and the distinctively steep "Gothic" gable. Another double house variation is found where each set of paired entrances is centered beneath a large cross gable; the facade of the latter house is framed with semi-octagonal bays, one of the many devices used to impart interest to otherwise simple and boxy shapes. One of the most impressive Academy Hill double houses relies for its effect on size, scale and the clear articulation of minimal detailing. Its gable roof, end-returns, dormers and large windows impart a dignified, vaguely Colonial Revival impression.
Less desirable than the double house in economic and social class terms was the multi-unit dwelling. Found more commonly in areas of greater urban density, this "tenement" type is represented in the district by three examples. All three brick houses were built between 1905 and 1912 for mill laborers. The term "tenement" is not pejorative in this context; these are practical well-built dwellings. The most ambitious of the trio, on Wallace Street, is handsomely trimmed with a high, rusticated stone basement, matching sills and lintels and simple, neoclassical porches.
In addition to these tenements for working class residents, the early 20th century saw the construction in the district of numerous "modern" middle class houses, markedly different from their Late Victorian predecessors. The American Foursquare is especially well represented in Academy Hill. Most are two-family versions executed in brick. Apart from simplified neoclassical porches, historicized ornament is usually absent from these examples, although one displays a Federal Revival door and portico.
At the same time that domestic architecture was venturing into a non-ornamental, "modern" style via the Foursquare, there was also a strong historicism in the development of the so-called Period Revival styles; several within this category were built in Academy Hill. Of the many variants of the Period Revival, the Colonial Revival was by far the most popular in the Academy Hill area, as it was through most of the eastern United States. Essentially identical (apart from differences in fenestration and detailing) are four brick houses that illustrate one of the most popular early 20th-century middle-class types, all built on a 3-bay, center-hall plan. They are more or less "Colonial," depending on the amount and accuracy of their detailing ([one] for example, has a Federal Revival door and portico similar to the entry treatment of the Foursquare described above). Regardless of their outward appearance, however, they are recognizable for their rational space planning and a full complement of technological amenities, the first time that district residents could take for granted such modern conveniences.
Another historical revival of the early 20th century was inspired by old England. Academy Hill includes a very fine example of the English-inspired Period Revival in a small, stone picturesque cottage. Only one other expression of this genre is found, a large Tudor Revival house from 1937, making it the most recently constructed "contributing" building in the district, although architecturally, certainly related to the period of significance and not to the Modern era.The Bungalow, enormously popular elsewhere during the first third of the 20th century, is absent entirely in Academy Hill, and only one wholly Craftsman-inspired house exists. A few Craftsman details, notably doors with vertical panels and vertical muntins in its window in the top quarter are found around the district, either as original installations in a vernacular interpretation of the Craftsman style or as a later addition.
The houses examined thus far constitute the all-important "background" buildings essential to a district's visual cohesiveness. A number of focal-point or "key" buildings also exist, some, eluding easy classification. The earliest is the original academy for which the district is named. Remodeled for residential use at the beginning of the 20th century, it is now an imaginative exercise in the Colonial Revival, reminiscent of some high-style suburban Philadelphia work of the period. Directly opposite the old academy stands a large frame Colonial Revival house on one of the district's most ample lots. The deployment of its Palladian motifs and other ornament reflects its construction date of 1901. The architectural importance of these two houses cannot be overestimated. They represent the rejection of Late Victorian Eclecticism in favor of the neoclassicism of the Colonial Revival, an enthusiasm that would color middle class housing in the district throughout the first third of the 20th century.
The district's most eccentric house represents precisely the kind of picturesque eclecticism that wealthy builders favored in the decade prior to the ascendancy of the Colonial Revival. Its incredible array of steep gables, dormers, chimneys and odd window shapes suggests the hand of a skilled designer and specifically recalls the influence of Frank Furness. It was built about 1893, and the oversized lot includes the house and one of the rare examples of a stylistically complementary outbuilding in this district.
The three remaining buildings of unusual merit as different from one another as they are from anything else in the district. The earliest of the three is a brick Federal house built on a standard 3-bay, side-hall plan with paired and bridged chimneys. Its proportions and detailing are exceptionally fine for such a provincial location, suggesting an owner of some standing. The urban appearance of the house is explicable when one recalls that this part of Sarah Street was the most densely developed edge of the district during the first half of the 19th century.
The next house dates from ca. 1860, although its appearance recalls urban vernacular buildings of the 18th century. Its saltbox shape is unique in the district, and it is most notable for the high brick wall enclosing the side and rear yard, an addition of the early 20th century. It is one of the few 19th-century brick buildings in Academy Hill, giving it an urban appearance which suggests that the builder anticipated Stroudsburg's development would soon produce a city like Easton or Philadelphia.
Within twenty years, it became clear that Academy Hill would not be an urban residential area but more like a suburban one. The last of this trio of key buildings is an archetypal 19th century suburban house, encapsulating the theories and treatises of Downing, Davis, and other contemporary, proponents of the detached, single family house. It is a type of house known to the 19th century as a "Cottage", featuring the jig-sawn ornament at the front gable known as barge-board, and Gothic-inspired arches and hood moldings such as are rarely seen on a secular building.
In this house, the influence of the 19th century Romantic movement is unmistakable. But the entire Academy Hill district bears its imprint as well, in the trees which line the streets, in the fanciful towers and turrets, bay windows, and moldings which enliven the grandest houses, and in the lacy wooden trim found on the porches of even the simplest houses in the district.
The large majority of the noncontributing buildings are frame or cement block garages built after the period of significance. These garages are generally sited at the rear of lots, and are small in size compared to the contributing houses in the district.
A twelve-unit townhouse development in the southeastern portion of the district detracts from the character of its immediate setting. Fortunately the low (two story) scale of the building limits its ability to seriously affect the integrity of the district.