North Main Street Historic District
The North Main Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The North Main Street Historic District is located in the north section of the village of Moravia and consists largely of residential properties on North Main Street and a portion of Keeler Avenue. The North Main Street Historic District contains 44 contributing buildings, one contributing object, and two non-contributing buildings. The majority of dwellings within the North Main Street Historic District were built between 1870 and 1890 and display the features associated with Italianate style architecture.
The village of Moravia is situated at the southern tip of Owasco Lake in Cayuga County, New York. Predominantly an agricultural region, the village lies between Ithaca and Auburn on the north-south State Route 38 and northwest of Cortland. Moravia became attractive to settlers because of the availability of natural resources. The most significant of these was Mill Creek, which runs through the center of the village in an east-west direction.
The North Main Street Historic District reflects the prosperous period of development that Moravia experienced in the post-Civil War era. John Stoyell, the first settler in Moravia, owned most of the land that is now the village. As more settlers arrived, he sold off lots in the southern half of Moravia but retained the land in the northern half until his death. William Keeler, prominent businessman and founder of the First National Bank in Moravia, bought the Stoyell land in 1863, subdivided it, and was responsible for its subsequent development along North Main and Keeler Streets. The buildings are typically situated on small village lots and relatively close to one another. They are consistent in size, massing, and set-back with the exception of several large brick residences.
The "Brick Store," at No. 1 North Main Street, forms the southern anchor of the North Main Street Historic District. Built circa 1830, it is an intact example of a Federal style commercial building. The building retains a high degree of integrity, exhibiting original 12-over-12 light windows on the second floor and a hoistway with a wooden windlass in the attic. It is the only non-residential property in the North Main Street Historic District.
The majority of the residences within the North Main Street Historic District are wood frame Italianate style houses of modest size. Most of these are located on the west side of North Main Street. They generally fall into two forms; L-shaped with a hipped roof or L-shaped with gabled roof. Typical examples of the former are located at Nos. 23, 25, and 29 North Main Street and 6 Keeler Avenue. Examples of the L-shaped plans with gable roofs are located at Nos. 30 and 32 North Main Street and 5 Keeler Avenue. All exhibit the various characteristics associated with the Italianate style such as tall narrow windows and bracketed eaves. Other Italianate forms are more asymmetrical, such as No. 38 N. Main Street, or a rectangular block, such as Nos. 34 and 36 N. Main Street.
Five imposing brick Italianate style residences are located at Nos. 12, 14, 18, 26, and 28 North Main Street. Nos. 12 and 14 N. Main Street exhibit similar details. Both are L-shaped with paired brackets between which are small round arched vents or windows. The segmental lintels are brick with pendants. The entrance of No. 12 North Main Street is set in a pointed arched brick architrave but the front porch has been removed. In spite of the loss of the porch and some windows, this building retains many of its Italianate details and its imposing massing. No. 28 North Main Street is similar in plan to No. 12 North Main Street. No. 28, like the other brick residences, features segmentally arched windows and bracketed eaves but the lintels are fashioned of wood and the sills are of cast iron.
The Hewett House, No. 26 North Main Street, displays irregular massing, with a two-story, three-sided bay on the facade. The pointed arched entrance incorporates a hood supported by ornately carved brackets. The windows are surrounded by brick lintels with cast iron keystones, impost blocks and limestone sills. No. 18 North Main Street is provided with a generous setback on a large corner lot. This brick Italianate Villa style house features paired arched windows, arcaded porches, and an elaborate cast iron balcony.
The Artemus Cady House at No. 7 North Main Street exhibits Italianate features, such as bracketed eaves and Italianate style porch, though it was originally constructed circa 1830 in the Federal style. This rectangular wood frame structure is clad in wood shingles added in the first half of the twentieth century, has a front gable roof, and rests on a stone foundation. It is three bays wide with a full-width porch supported by square columns topped by brackets. Next to this early house is a Queen Anne style house with a steep hipped roof and rectangular massing. Although aluminum sided, this house retains many Queen Anne details, such as the turret at the center of the facade, gable dormers, bay windows, and turned porch trim. The size, setback, and material of this later residence allows it to blend well with its older neighbors. The majority of the residences within the North Main Street Historic District retain late nineteenth century carriage barns built in conjunction with their respective houses. The barns are generally one and one-half to two stories in height, and are sheathed in a variety of materials including board and batten siding.
In spite of some deterioration of properties above West Avenue and reversible alterations to several residences, the North Main Street Historic District retains a high degree of integrity and continuity. Most properties retain typical features associated with the Italianate style. Those not of the Italianate style are compatible in size, setback, material, and massing, and are intact, representative examples of late-nineteenth century architecture. The two buildings constructed during the early nineteenth century are in good condition and also retain a high degree of integrity.
The North Main Street Historic District is architecturally significant in the context of Moravia's Social and Economic Development (1865-1941) for its outstanding collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture, and its compact and early twentieth century architecture, and its compact and unaltered historic streetscapes. The North Main Street Historic District reflects the scale, use of materials, architectural design and setting typical of residential neighborhoods in the village during the prosperous decades which followed the introduction of railroad service to the village in 1870. Several historic buildings in the district pre-date 1870, and relate to Moravia's Settlement and Development (1789-1865) context. Overall, the North Main Street Historic District represents one of Moravia's best-preserved historic residential enclaves.
The northern portion of what later became incorporated as the village of Moravia was settled by John Stoyell in 1789 and remained largely undeveloped during the first half of the nineteenth century. A two-story brick store building (1 North Main Street) and an adjacent residence (7 North Main Street) were built at the northwest corner of Main and Cayuga Streets circa 1830 by Artemus Cady and remain today at the southern end of the historic district. The residence was later altered in the fashionable Italianate style. The vernacular Federal style store building remains largely intact and stands as Moravia's oldest surviving commercial building. Cady was prominent in Moravia's early community affairs and served as a Town Supervisor, Postmaster, and Board member of the Moravia Institution.
William Keeler, a prominent local businessman, obtained the Stoyell family holdings in the vicinity of North Main Street in 1863 and subdivided and initiated residential construction in the area by 1870. Many of the new lots were occupied by Italianate style or Italian Villa style residences by the 1880s. The rapid development of this section of the Village and the high quality of its architecture reflect the prosperity enjoyed by the village as a result of railroad transportation and growth in manufacturing. Several infill houses were built through 1900, and significant outbuildings were built as late as circa 1910.
Although several late nineteenth century residential styles are represented in the North Main Street Historic District, the Italianate style predominates. The large brick Italianate houses on the east side of North Main Street belonged to successful Moravia businessmen. Wallace G. Wolsey, a successful blacksmith, constructed the house at N. 14 North Main Street. A flood in 1863 destroyed his blacksmith shop but, according to the Cayuga County Courier, he immediately erected a new shop plus a new carriage shop. In 1871, he reportedly sold a brick house on Church Street, and another in 1878 on Keeler Street. This may indicate that he also was a builder and/or speculator.
The house at No. 12 North Main Street is closely associated with William E. Keeler, although it is not clear whether he actually lived in this house. He owned most of the land in the North Main Street area after purchasing it from the John Stoyell estate in 1863. For a time he lived in the old Stoyell House which is located to the east of No. 12 North Main Street, Keeler was a founder of the First National Bank and a trustee of the Congregational Church. An active citizen, he also helped found the Powers Library, the Indian Mound Cemetery, and the Moravia High school.
Hector H. Tuthill constructed the house at No. 18 North Main Street in the 1860s before William Keeler began his development of the area. Tuthill and his partner, Joseph Dresser, owned a foundry. In addition, Tuthill was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1879-80 and served as President of the First National Bank of Moravia. His father, H.C. Tuthill was a locally prominent politician, and early proponent and investor in the Southern Central Railroad.
The house at No. 19 North Main Street is associated with Mrs. M. Andrews, a Spiritualist and Medium. During the 1880s, Spiritualism was popular and several Moravians were associated with the faith, such as Morris Keeler. The Andrews House was the center of Spiritualist activities and local legend recalls that Mary Todd Lincoln visited Mrs. Andrews on one occasion.
The number of businessmen residing in the North Main Street area during the late nineteenth century corresponds with the prosperous business trends in Moravia at this same time. Besides the above mentioned citizens, more modest residences in the neighborhood can also be traced to local merchants and tradesmen such as L.D. Sayles who owned a general store and lived at No. 29 North Main Street. A commercial salesman, W.A. Nye resided at No. 25 North Main Street. Located at No. 30 North Main Street was the residence of a mason, Henry H. Alley and later by W.H. Ferguson, the owner of a tobacco store. Mortimer Dennis, a carpenter, owned the house at No. 36 North Main Street. All of these houses were constructed during the 1860s and 1870s in the Italianate style.
The North Main Street Historic District reflects a strong link to the commercial and industrial history of late nineteenth century Moravia and is architecturally cohesive in appearance. The properties retain a high degree of integrity with no intrusive elements.