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Ellicottville Historic District

Ellicottville Village, Cattaraugus County, NY

The Ellicottville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]


The Ellicottville Historic District is located at the core of the incorporated village of Ellicottville in Cattaraugus County, New York. Geographically, Ellicottville is situated in the extreme western portion of the state approximately forty miles south of the city of Buffalo and twenty miles north of the Pennsylvania state line and at the virtual center of Cattaraugus County, one of the early political divisions in the 3.6 million acre Holland Patent. The Ellicottville Historic District contains the portion of the village street plan that retains physical integrity from its historic period (c.1817-1935). The Ellicottville Historic District boundary encompasses all of the plan's two axial thoroughfares: Washington and Jefferson Streets, including the public square at their intersection, as well as portions of secondary streets immediately adjacent, specifically, Adams, Madison, Monroe, Elizabeth and Elk; surviving alleys, which were also components of the street plan, are included where intact historic buildings survive. Functionally, this includes a commercial zone on Washington and Monroe Streets east of Jefferson; a civic zone on Jefferson that extends onto Elizabeth, which contains three churches and a school in addition to governmental offices; and a residential zone on Washington, west of Jefferson (differentiated from the commercial section as West Washington). The boundary excludes portions of the historic street plan that were developed less cohesively and/or which have been substantially altered either in design or plan during recent, non-historic periods. In all, the Ellicottville Historic District contains 63 contributing and 3 non-contributing properties. This tally can be further defined as 63 principal contributing buildings, 16 contributing outbuildings, 3 principal non-contributing buildings and 10 non-contributing outbuildings. A single property without buildings is counted as one site; there are no structures recorded in the district.

Ellicottville was a thriving commercial and legal center until the New York and Erie Railroad bypassed the village and the county seat moved to Little Valley in 1868. The growth and prosperity enjoyed during the mid-nineteenth century is reflected in the Ellicottville Historic District's architecture. The "Brick Block" is the sole surviving testimony of Ellicottville's commercial response to changing times, but there are a number of residences on West Washington Street that help document village activity in this period. Understandably, these later houses are concentrated beyond Madison Street on vacant lots further from the village center where growth would inevitably occur. Most of these were cross-gable plans derived from pattern books of the period, such as the small frame houses located at 14, 20 and 21 West Washington Street; 15 and 16 West Washington began as houses of this type but now reflect more the character of late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century modifications.

The later nineteenth century was not a dormant period in Ellicottville, at least architecturally (nearly the entire commercial district was rebuilt in the 1890's), and West Washington Street displays houses either built or altered in the century's final decades. The Picturesque taste was still dominant although house styles show the influence of a number of historic revivals and modernist trends. The little Federal period house at 11 West Washington Street received a large wrap-around porch with a spindle frieze and cut-out balustrade. Its neighboring house (15 W. Washington) received a new curving wrap-around porch as well, in addition to elaborate Stick style gable ornament. The house that epitomizes the late-nineteenth century phase on the street is located at 8 West Washington. Built in 1888, it updated the standard cross-gable form with a two-story tower with a tall mansard roof inserted in the intersection of the L-shaped plan. Other houses were built in this period extending the scale of West Washington Street on to adjacent properties as the deep lots were subdivided on the side streets; notably the houses at 6 Adams Street and 7 Madison Street.

Limited growth occurred in the Ellicottville Historic District after the turn of the twentieth century as the village plan was filling up. In c.1906, the Ellis family, who had been owners of the Baker Leonard House for some time, subdivided their lot and erected a Foursquare style house west of the old mansion at 6 West Washington. The Staley N. Clarke House across the street was also redesigned at this time (c.1909) and so was the smaller cottage at 16 West Washington, only later (1933) and in the much more informal Shingle style. Two more houses were added in the 1930's: a Colonial Revival style house that replaced an older house at 10 West Washington (reason unknown) and a more modern Bungalow at 17 West Washington Street.

The Ellicottville Historic District boundary was established where the historic streetscape was visually terminated by modern strip construction at the village's western limits. The boundary includes a building at 18 West Washington Street that was the farmhouse for one of the large lots that originally ringed the village. Although it has been subdivided from its farm and now functions as a part of the village plan, its front-facing gable with ell form and large, rambling scale evinces its former function. Alterations to the c.1850 building have tended to ornament it in a late-nineteenth century village-like fashion, but the farmhouse character is still evident.

The Ellicottville Historic District boundary was drawn to include the properties that retain a substantial degree of physical integrity and reflect the distinctive historic features of the village's plan and period architecture. Its role in the county, first as a settlement, then as county seat, and later as a local industrial and commercial center, is graphically evident in the organization and architectural catalog of the district. The portion of the village contained within the Ellicottville Historic District retains a remarkable continuity of use, which has contributed to the preservation of historic fabric and character. Few intrusions from non-historic periods exist and their impact on the Ellicottville Historic District is mitigated by the strength of the district's overall historic identity.


The Ellicottville Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as an intact example of an early nineteenth-century planned village that reflects the systematic land division and development patterns of western New York State. The Ellicottville Historic District contains the portion of the plan that remains physically and architecturally intact and embodies the village's development from wilderness outpost to mature community (period of significance: c.1827-1935). Ellicottville's plan is not unique in the region, but its distinctive biaxial organization and large central square with imposing public buildings at each corner, created a place of uncommon visual interest. Named for the surveyor general of the Holland Land Company, which in 1792 gained control of 3.6 million acres of land west of the Genesee Valley, Ellicottville was created as a center for land transactions in the southern part of the enormous patent. The village was laid out according to a surveyed plan circa 1817 and was advantageously situated at the confluence of three creeks along the westward course of the Chautauqua Turnpike. In the early nineteenth century, Ellicottville prospered as the Chattagaugus County seat and retains Federal style civic and residential buildings exceptional for a village of its small size. Around mid-century, the east side of the village evolved into a commercial zone with the addition of notable business-related architecture. When it was bypassed by the New York and Erie Railroad and the county seat was moved to Little Falls in 1868, Ellicottville relied on a lumber-based economy and its role as a regional market town. The village continued to fill in and spread out, adding stylish commercial buildings and houses in the newer pattern-book modes. A devastating fire in 1890 prompted a rebuilding of the commercial zone with denser and more uniform streetscapes than are usual in the region. During this period, these buildings began to acquire second-story porches that sheltered the sidewalks; an architectural feature singular to Ellicottville. The organization and the buildings of the Ellicottville Historic District retain a high degree of integrity and recall the prominence of this community in the historic and cultural development of western New York.

The northern spur of the Allegheny Mountains in which Cattaraugus County and the village of Ellicottville reside was virtually unsettled when the Holland Land Company purchased 3.6 million acres there in 1792. The area was part of the traditional hunting grounds of the indigenous Erie Indians and, later, the Iroquois. Other than French missionaries and trappers (the explorer LaSalle is reputed to have been in the region sometime in the 1670's), few Europeans ventured in the area until the end of the eighteenth century. Most of the Iroquois were dispersed by the Sullivan Expedition in 1779, a destructive mission by the Continental Army to quell pro-British Indian uprisings. The Iroquois maintained a presence in the region, particularly the Seneca tribe whose chief Kill Buck lent his name to the Cattaraugus County community ten miles south of Ellicottville at the confluence of the Great Valley and Allegheny Rivers. However, the Indians' dominion over western New York had been broken, and the white man was hungry for land.

When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, a new era in land development opened in New York. The western lands were never clearly assigned to an existing British colony, and their ownership had long been in dispute between Massachusetts, which claimed their western boundary extended indefinitely, and New York, which was in the way. With the defeat of the British, it was up to the newly designated states to resolve the matter. The matter was of some urgency as hundreds of war veterans had been promised land as a reward and thousands of others were anxious to "move west." New York held jurisdiction but the land was to be awarded to residents of Massachusetts. Typical of New York policy, rather than distribute the land in an egalitarian way, the state sold it in large chunks to well-connected individuals, one of whom was Robert Morris, a wealthy land speculator from New York City. In 1792, Morris sold the better part of his holding, 3,600,000 acres to a group of Dutch bankers, to be known as the Holland Land Company. The company expected to subdivide the holding into large parcels and sell them quickly, but buyers did not come forward and they were forced to reconsider their strategy. Thus, the Holland Land Company began in 1799 to survey their entire property and create farm lots suitable for settlement. Thousands of pioneers heading west would gather each year in Olean on the Allegheny River to raft to Ohio, and the landowners sought to induce many of them to remain in the region.

Initially, Joseph Ellicott, the surveyor general for the company, devised a detailed plan for the systematic subdivision of the parcel. Six mile-square "towns" were plotted on a map (at this time, officially, the Holland Purchase amounted to one governmental division: the town of Batavia). Sections were divided into "lots" 1/4 mile wide and 3/4 mile long, containing 120 acres. This was all done in a very structured manner on a map, and all the lots were oriented north-south. The logic to the plan was consistent with prevailing attitudes of scientific order and social structure. It was envisioned that a wealthy individual would buy a full 1440 acre section and then assign some lots to his heirs and sell others for profit (Ellis 29). However, this proved better in theory than in practice. In many cases the rugged topography made such uniform divisions unworkable; much of the land was wasted in such a scheme. After plotting 24 townships in this manner, Ellicott adopted a revised plan dividing each town into 350-acre lots, 3/4 mile on a side, which could then be subdivided by the purchaser in accordance with topographical peculiarities (Ellis 29). It was by this latter method that Cattaraugus County was partitioned.

To transfer this pattern of lots from the map to the landscape posed a challenge to Joseph Ellicott, who had enlisted the services of his brother, Benjamin Ellicott, a surveyor from Philadelphia. From a central median dividing the parcel roughly in half east and west, the surveyors created seven ranges approximately six miles wide; towns were made by dividing these ranges into six mile square sections. During the survey, Ellicott recorded the characteristics of the lots in a set of "Range Books" that describe the terrain by slope, drainage and soil quality. Terrain was classified as "upland," either rough or able to be cultivated; "bottom land," moist or not; "plains" or "swamp." He described the soil by texture, color (brown, red/yellow, black) and depth and observed the mix of vegetation: e.g. sugar maple and basswood (occurring on black soils), beech and oak (light, thin soils) softwoods (swamps); he also noted the density of the underbrush. From the quality of the lots, Ellicott determined land values, ranging from $20 per acre for well-drained bottom lands to $3 per acre for rough upland (Chazanof).

To sell the lots, the Holland Land Company opened land offices in various parts of the region where settlers would come to identify lots and arrange for their purchase. Presumably, Ellicott and the company anticipated that these places would become local centers because villages were plotted around them. The village of New Amsterdam (now Buffalo) and the village of Batavia, which was the site of the Holland Company's main office, were laid out in 1801 (they also had an office in the Genesee Valley at Geneseo). The village of Mayfield, lying close to Lake Erie, was laid out in 1805 to act as a nucleus of settlement in that section. But, access into the enormous tract remained difficult and settlement progressed slowly. In response to poor land sales, the Holland Land Company constructed a road through their land in 1812, which originated in the east at Geneseo and terminated at the Maysfield land office on Lake Erie. Later known as the Chautauqua Turnpike, this road passed through the present towns of Farmersville, Franklinville, Ellicottville, Mansfield, Little Valley, Napoli in Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties (hence the name). The turnpike brought thousands of emigrants through the area — until the Erie Canal was opened in 1825 — and contributed to improved sales in the purchase (Ellis 34). Shortly thereafter, around 1817, the Holland Land Company opened a land office in Ellicottville.

The village of Ellicottville appeared as the result of a number of factors. First, for its location in the vast Holland Land Company holding, it had very favorable conditions. This section falls within the Allegheny Mountains and has a rather torturous topography. It was in the vicinity of the village, located at the point of confluence of the Great Valley, Plum and Elk Creeks, that Benjamin Ellicott noted, in a letter to his brother, the "greatest air and sweetest water" (Ellis 25). Second, the Chautauqua Turnpike was routed to this junction of Allegheny River tributaries. Third, it was eyed as a site for a land office servicing the southern part of the Holland Company land. Lastly, it was in the geographical center of Cattaraugus County, newly formed in 1808; it was designated the county seat in 1817 when the county assumed independent governmental and judicial status (Ellis 35). Its choice of name was appropriate, giving recognition to the man who partitioned the land and, as an active player in state politics, also engineered the political divisions.

Ellicottville's street plan had been conceptualized by this date. Historical accounts and a map autographed by the surveyor in 1825, attribute the plan to Rickertson Burlingame (Ellis 35). Burlingame had built a log house there and a Holland Land Company agent, Baker Leonard, had been sent there to establish a land office. A traveller's account from 1818 confirms a village was in the making and that a plan was being followed: Dr. Alson Leavenworth, from Connecticut, found a house (Baker Leonard's) facing the west side of a public square; the Holland Land Company's office, also on the square; and a few log houses ("Early Taverns"). County officials met in Leonard's house, which had become the local tavern, until a log courthouse and jail was built in 1818 (Laidlaw, Court House).

Based on the 1825 map of the village, the street plan was organized around axes oriented a few degrees west of true north. Washington Street was the principal axis extending four or five blocks from Plum Creek on the west to Elk Creek on the east. The north-south axis, Jefferson Street, was only two blocks long. Jefferson Street extended between Elizabeth Street, on the north, and Martha Street, on the south. Alleys bisected the space between Washington and parallel streets. Lots with fairly uniform frontage were delineated on Washington, Elizabeth and Martha Streets. Lots on the latter two streets were divided between the village plan on their interior sides and the farm lots on the periphery. The most distinctive aspect of the plan was the uncommonly large public square occupying the center of the village. This imposing feature was conferred on the nascent village because of its jurisdictional prominence as both a county seat and a land office location. It is a characteristic that distinguishes Ellicottville from the hundreds of towns that appeared in western New York during the nineteenth century. This plan also is an apt representation of the methodical manner in which the Holland Land Company's purchase was divided up and the eighteenth-century rationalist mentality that devised it and construed taming the wilderness and creating a settlement in such a theoretical way.

The square was divided into quadrants with public functions designated for each: courthouse, jail, school and church (there was only one proposed at the time). At the edge of the square on Washington Street, Ellicottville's first permanent houses were erected. There were log houses in the village (the surveyor Burlingame lived in one), but they were near Elk Creek, not in the formal center. Baker Leonard's substantial two-story frame house was built on the west side of the square facing its southwest (pre-church) quadrant. The house was so costly (getting materials to the remote site reputedly drove up the expenses) that the Holland Land Company refused to reimburse Leonard as originally bargained. The house was intended to be a way-station for land seekers, and it functioned that way, as an inn, store, post office, etc., only under Leonard's rather than the company's ownership (Laidlaw, St. John's 3). He also built the company's land office on the lot facing the northwest quadrant and the county courthouse. The company installed a new land agent in 1818 and another, Staley N. Clarke, in 1822. Clarke built a large house north of Baker Leonard's behind the land office and facing the square; he remained an important local figure for many years. A total of nineteen lots were sold in the first decade after the county seat was established (1818-1828); three were outer, farm lots, the rest were in the vicinity of the courthouse on the west side of the public square. Thus, both out of convenience and because of the central orientation of the rectangular plan, a radiating hierarchy of lots was instituted as the village slowly grew out from the public square.

Early in 1829, the log courthouse burned, and it was replaced immediately by a new brick edifice in the Federal style. The two-story building had offices on the ground floor and a large courtroom on the second floor. Its simple, rectangular form was enlivened by a gable-end facade with three shallow blind arches; it terminated at a stepped parapet that concealed the roof but not a large hexagonal cupola placed in the center of the roof. This elevation was further distinguished by a Palladian window at the courtroom level and an oval ventilator in the gable's apex. Restored after a 1968 fire that gutted the interior and destroyed the cupola, it survives as an example of rural Federal-style architecture and early civic building in western New York. (The courthouse/town hall was listed on the National Register in 1972.)

As the county was directed to separate the courthouse from the jail when they rebuilt the structure in 1829 (the state of the attached log jail after the fire has not been recorded), a new stone jailhouse was built on the square in the northeast quadrant at about the same time (Laidlaw, Court House). Also in 1829, an Episcopal congregation formed in the village. It would be another nine years before they would build the Gothic Revival style church on the parcel donated to them by the Holland Land Company in the southwest quadrant of the square. The architect of the church is unrecorded, but the small congregation was well acquainted with established churches in the east (Trinity Church in New York City donated $600 to its construction) and their movement of propagating the gospel in undeveloped areas (Laidlaw, St. John's 5). It is likely that the church borrowed one of the Ecclesiological designs available, but its construction method of piling up wide, thick planks for walls is a vernacular technique distinctive to western New York and its settlers' Yankee origins. In its time, place and sophistication, St. John's Episcopal Church equalled the court house and helped contribute to the prominence of Ellicottville's public square.

By 1835, the Dutch bankers had grown impatient with the sluggish land deal. They had expected to recover their investment more rapidly. At this time, however, there were New York investors willing to step in and take over what remained of the Holland Land Company holdings. Consequently, the Dutch sold land and mortgages to a number of local bankers and speculators and effectively withdrew from the scene in western New York, leaving a legacy in which Ellicottville is a prominent feature. Staley N. Clarke, who was the Holland Land Company agent in Ellicottville, remained active in the village as the agent of one of the new owners; the Farmer's Loan and Trust Company of New York. Nicholas Devereux, an industrialist from Utica, New York, became the proprietor of a sizeable portion of the Holland Land Company tract and built an office and residence east of the square on Washington Street. Another newcomer, William Samuel Johnson, a New York lawyer, established his office on Washington Street west of Staley Clarke's. Even though the Holland Land Company left the scene, the importance of land transactions was to keep Ellicottville thriving for many years after (Laidlaw, St. John's 5-6). Devereux's property was destroyed by the 1890 fire on the east side of the village, but Johnson's unusual house and office, with their highly individual log porches, still survive at 9 Washington Street.

By the end of the nineteenth century's fourth decade, most of the lots in Ellicottville had been sold. The earliest known view of the village (1841) pictures the courthouse and a section of the village from the south; it had begun to take form. Many houses were added to the plan in the second quarter of the nineteenth century; many of their builders were professionals, i.e. lawyers, physicians and land agents, but there was also a growing group of tradesmen and merchants as Ellicottville began to market on its position as a regional center. Houses of the period were designed in a Greek Revival style ranging from the fully-developed "temple" type located at 19 W. Washington to the more modest and vernacular houses with Classical trim, such as lawyer Anson Gibb's house at 11 W. Washington Street or newspaper publisher Robert Shankland's house at 1 Jefferson Street. Other houses fell somewhere in between, like the house at 57 Elizabeth Street with its two-story gable front embellished with a full pediment and trabeated entrance in antis. Built by the local physician, Dr. Gray (and later occupied by another: Dr. T.J. Williams), the square-posted porch, that reputedly served as an office.

This period also witnessed the evolution of Washington Street east of the square into a commercial zone. Even by the time of the 1863 atlas, this block still retained what appear to be residential properties, notably Nicholas Devereux's property on the north side of the street, but the larger lot divisions delineated on the original street plan had been increasingly fractioned into smaller, thinner and denser strips. Nearly all of these buildings were destroyed in later fires, but the general character of the small, frame commercial and trade-oriented buildings would have been similar to the one- and two-story gable fronted buildings that survive from the 1850's, such as those located at 31, 42, and 44 Washington Street.

During the early years of the second half of the century, some substantial buildings were erected in the Ellicottville Historic District. In 1852, the First Presbyterian Church of Ellicottville built a small but imposing brick edifice on Elizabeth Street, just east of Jefferson Street. With an engaged, squat tower (now with a later belfry) and wall surfaces textured with wide pilasters and friezes, the church's design is a robust interpretation of the enduring Greek Revival taste in western New York. The county built a new clerk's office the following year (1853) just south of the jail in the northeast quadrant of the public square. Though smaller, its brick walls were designed similar to the Presbyterian church with pilasters and frieze articulated in the brickwork. While its Greek Revival style would have predicated a pediment and gable roof, the present roof and belfry are a later addition, done probably when the building was decommissioned by the county and used as a church in the 1890's. In the same period (1852-53), Ellicottville's most prominent commercial building, known locally as "the Brick Block," was built on the south side of Washington Street. Unlike the Presbyterian church or the county clerk's office, this building introduced the more ornate designs of the Romantic era and modern architectural innovations like cast-iron storefronts and window hoods. Its three-story ten-bay facade forever altered the scale and appearance of Washington Street; if there was a transition to commercialism occurring there, this building would have secured its future. The Brick Block was bankrolled by a group of local lawyers and politicians and included professional offices as well as store space and a concert hall (now the Masonic Lodge). It appears to have always been divided in its ownership, making it one of the state's earliest condominiums.

The Brick Block ushered in a new architectural age in Ellicottville. Even though St. John's Church was built fifteen years earlier in a Gothic Revival taste, at that time such a design was considered more appropriate for churches than houses. However, by the 1850's, less esoteric (and religious) styles were gaining popularity; and during the following decades, the eclectic Picturesque modes of architecture were to replace the Greek Revival as the design norm. Like the Greek Revival style, the Picturesque could be interpreted in a grand or a modest fashion. In the Ellicottville Historic District, where a stable and restrained taste prevailed even in earlier periods, the architecture of the later nineteenth century is notable for its uniformity and sobriety. The Ellicottville Historic District contains a few houses from this period, mostly all two-story frame houses with cross-gable plans and (at least as they survive today) limited ornamentation, e.g. 14, 20 & 21 West Washington Street and 7 Jefferson Street. If any commercial buildings other than the Brick Block were designed in these later styles, their record has been erased by the destructive fires later in the century.

The swift progress that Ellicottville was making at mid-century was dealt a major blow when the county seat was moved to Little Falls in 1868. This event was the culmination of a number of regional shifts that gradually moved the village out of the limelight and into obscurity. When the Erie Canal was opened in 1825, most of the westward movement followed its more direct and economical path rather than the previous routes of the Allegheny River and Chautauqua Turnpike. Those earlier routes brought Cattaraugus County, and specifically the rafting "port" of Olean, into prominence, but the canal virtually put an end to this method of westward travel. Ellicottville experienced a dramatic beginning as a land-office center, yet the Holland Purchase never fulfilled its expectations as its too-gradual development dampened the enthusiasm of quick-profit speculators. The opening of the New York and Erie Railroad in 1851, which was routed through Cattaraugus County, renewed some of its lost vitality. However, it bypassed the more uneven terrain around Ellicottville and bent to the south, giving rise to Great Valley and what was to become Salamanca. But, if the people of Ellicottville could at least continue to distinguish their town as a legal and governmental center, even that consolation evaporated when the county seat followed the trend and moved to be close to the new artery of travel and communication.

With its county service function terminated, Ellicottville relied on local industrial (the lumber industry had developed a number of facilities east to the village center along Great Valley Creek) and commercial activities for continued prosperity. These were not small and the village remained solidly viable, but surely many lawyers, politicians and land agents followed the government offices to Great Valley. The change in economic and social focus is evident in the village plan and the Ellicottville Historic District: development clearly shifted to the east, away from the public square and well into the commercial zone, including the industrial zone beyond.

Business thrived in the village in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. The development is difficult to measure beyond the increasing density shown in period atlases. The fact that the entire commercial section of the village was rebuilt immediately following the 1890 fire suggests that business and real estate values were quite sound. Yet because so much of the original architecture of the east side of the village was lost in the 1890 fire, a leap must be made from the sedate and picturesque character of the village prior to the transformations of the 1860's and 1870's to the modern commercial era of the turn-of-the-century.

In the 1890's, the Brick Block, which was spared by the fire, was the model for new construction. The north side of Washington Street was leveled by the disaster, but the south side was spared only to be rebuilt anyway to meet new fireproof building codes and keep up with the new look the street was assuming. Old wooden buildings with their low two-story profile and old fashioned, Greek Revival style front gables were abandoned in favor of two- and three-story multi-bay brick blocks (often a composition of two or more distinct buildings) that took their inspiration from the Brick Block even if they incorporated more current ornamentation. A two-story seven-bay brick block on the southeast corner of Washington and Monroe Streets illustrates the trend and the Ellicottville Hotel rebuilt in 1890 opposite the original Brick Block, mimics its massing and scale. Other buildings filling the voids between large corner buildings maintain the scale and provide solid wall lines on both sides of the street that give Ellicottville's downtown a sense of grandness few villages equal. Notable in this group are the buildings forming a row on the north side of Washington Street from #18 to #32, a row originating at the Brick Block including numbers 13 through 23, and the row at 32-42 Monroe Street. To make the transformation complete, the Ellicottville Bank was rebuilt in 1890 (now replaced by a 1927 building), and the free school in the southeast quadrant of the public square was rebuilt in 1887. The town hall had taken over the old courthouse and was used for a myriad of local functions including the local opera house, which occupied the second-story courtroom.

On what had clearly become the residential side of the Ellicottville Historic District, some of the remaining undeveloped lots on West Washington Street received houses. Some continued in the eclectic Victorian modes, such as the cross-gable house with an ornate mansard tower at 8 W. Washington Street or the Stick style house at #15. Others introduced newer, modern styles to the district, especially the Queen Anne: 7 Adams Street, 3 and 11 Jefferson Street, 7 Madison Street as well as influenced additions and changes to older buildings as exemplified by the porches added to 11 and 15 West Washington. Later, the impact of the Four Square house is evidenced at 6 West Washington Street on a lot subdivided from the original Baker Leonard lot for the daughter of the then owner. Nevertheless, while the commercial zone experienced an intensification and architectural transformation in the late nineteenth century, the residential areas of the district progressed rather quietly.

The twentieth century occasioned little change in the core of the village. In the Ellicottville Historic District, the original street plan was essentially filled to capacity; growth occurred in fringe areas (the farm lots outside the village on the north side of Elizabeth Street and the south side of Martha Street had been subdivided by this point and joined the dense pattern of the village) or along the roads that led in from the outside. Changes in the district during this period were usually at the expense of something older. Fire was often the cause of change. The Catholic church, which occupied a small frame building in the industrial zone on Washington Street east of the Great Valley Creek, built a substantial new Gothic church of stone in the center of the village on Jefferson Street after its old sanctuary burned in 1909. It and its Tudor style rectory added to the array of civic buildings there (it replaced a house that was there by the 1860's). In a few instances, old commercial buildings were replaced: the 1890 bank was replaced by a modern Colonial Revival style edifice in 1927; and two other stores built at about the same time at 13-17 and 14-16 Washington were accommodated inobtrusively into the monolithic walls of the business corridor. One distinctive addition occurred in the commercial streetscape: second-story porches that canopied over the sidewalk. Whether they originated to shelter pedestrians during the inclement winter months or to provide an amenity for upper level living units, these porches have developed as a curious Ellicottville characteristic. A Colonial Revival style house at 10 West Washington replaced a previous house on the lot and a Bungalow type house was inserted towards the western edge of the district at 17 West Washington. Even though these buildings postdate the century mark of the village's history, they were sited and conceived within the traditions of the district, in terms of both its plan and changing architectural fashion. Only two buildings in the Ellicottville Historic District fail to conform to the sense of continuity in Ellicottville: a Ranch type house at 2 Jefferson Street and its neighbor to the south, the post office; both are less than 50 years old and are non-contributing.

Despite evidence of more than one hundred years of changing architectural fashion, the Ellicottville Historic District exhibits a distinctive period character and reflects its special history as a center for land speculation in southwestern New York State in the early years of the American republic The plan and many of the early buildings survive as significant reminders of the pattern and character of settlement and political organization in southwestern New York. It is also important for its association with the Holland Land Company, particularly in the systematic manner in which the village was planned and developed. Ellicottville's position as a county seat gave it a large public square and a distinguished Federal period court house. As a center for land speculation and local government and politics, Ellicottville has an unusually high number of prominent and stylish buildings. As it evolved in the mid- and late-nineteenth century, and particularly after a fire destroyed most of it in 1890, the village's commercial district has a streetscape of exceptional unity and a scale. All these features are contained within the historic district. This small western New York village is directly linked to the period of great westward migration, the eagerness for land, and the speculative method by which the west was divided. The Ellicottville Historic District is distinguished not only for its place in this history, but also for the enduring community it became.


Albany, New York. New York State Archives. Joseph Ellicott's Range Books (16 vols.), 1797-1799.

Buffalo, New York. Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. Unattributed paper: "Joseph Ellicott, the Holland Land Company — the Township Surveys 1797-1799." n.d.

Chazanof, William. "Joseph Ellicott and the Holland Land Company." Unattributed Diss. found in the files of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, n.d.

Ellicottville, New York. Ellicottville Historical Society. Notebooks on local history written and compiled by Lena Reynolds, n.d.

Ellis, Franklin. History of Cattaraugus County, New York. 1879.

French, J.H. Gazetteer of the State of New York. 1860.

"History of Early Taverns in the Village." The [Ellicottville] Post. September 1960.

Laidlaw, William K. St. John's Church of Ellicottville. Published by the author, 1946.

________, The Old Cattaraugus County Court House and Ellicottville Town Hall. n.p., 1969.

  1. Larson, Neil, architectural historian, Ellicottville Historic District, nomination document, 1991, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Adams Street • Elizabeth Street • Elk Street • Jefferson Street • Madison Street • Monroe Street • Washington Street