The Roxbury Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The hamlet of Roxbury in the town of Roxbury, Delaware County, New York, lies in the upper Catskill Mountain region along the East Branch of the Delaware River (a.k.a. Pepacton River), about eight miles south of its headwaters. The East Branch flows in a generally southerly direction, carving a valley varying in width from 1000 to 1500 feet wide through mountains rising 500 to 600 feet from the valley floor. The Roxbury Historic District encompasses the entire area developed as the hamlet of Roxbury from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, including commercial and residential areas, railroad related features and right-of-way, Kirkside Park, and the adjacent Shepard Hills Golf Course, which is laid out on the side of the steep mountain that frames the hamlet on the west side of the river.
The hamlet grew up first along Main Street (NY 30), the main route through it. This runs generally north-south following the river's course along its east bank. Near the south end of the hamlet, CR 41 and Vega Mountain Road (formerly called Elm Street) form a four-corners intersection with NY 30. CR 41 crosses a bridge over the East Branch and then turns south to parallel the river's west bank. Locally, the route below this south turning bend is called Locust Street. Vega Mountain Road crosses the west-flowing Vega Creek and bends southeasterly to climb the flank of Vega Mountain, one of the mountains defining the valley where the hamlet lies. Residential streets branch from these main roads. These include Roosevelt Avenue, Spruce Street, Lake Street, Ridge Road Spur, Park Street, Shepard Lane, Stratton Falls Road, and Railroad Avenue.
The Roxbury Historic District encompasses, updates, and considerably expands the earlier Main Street Historic District, which included a group of fairly high status residential buildings, two churches, and the Tudor Revival style Roxbury Central School. The Main Street Historic District, listed on the National Register in 1988, included properties on both sides of Main Street generally between the Dutch Reformed cemetery on the north end and the Roxbury Central School on the south. In addition to the previously listed properties, the expanded district's boundary includes the largely intact commercial district at the main intersection of Main Street (NY 30) with CR 41 and Vega Mountain Road, nineteenth century houses located south of that intersection on NY 30 (this stretch used to be called Orchard Street), on Locust Street (CR 41 south of Bridge Street), and all of CR 41 to Railroad Avenue. It also includes a small cluster of buildings at the north end of the hamlet (which was a former commercial center), the later side streets off Main Street (NY 30), and the planned landscapes of Kirkside Park and Shepard Hills Golf Course. The railroad-related buildings at the southwestern corner of the district, which have recently been listed on the National Register (Ulster and Delaware Railroad Depot and Mill Complex), are also included in this new listing as representative of an important period of the hamlet's development. Reflecting a pattern typical of many small rural hamlets, several farms on the outskirts of Roxbury were incorporated into the hamlet during the historic period. Two of these properties frame the district on the north and south; a third is along the railroad right-of-way. Together, these properties illustrate the overall historic development of the hamlet of Roxbury.
Much of Roxbury's built environment can be generally characterized as vernacular in design, executed in a variety of framing techniques, and dating mainly to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The hamlet's buildings are representative of rural interpretations of the predominant stylistic tastes of that roughly century long period, beginning with the Federal style, continuing through the Greek Revival and Italianate styles popular at the mid-century, and on to the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles, which predominate at the turn of the twentieth century. There are some later Craftsman Bungalow-influenced examples too. Most of these properties, including houses, commercial buildings, religious and civil buildings, occupy characteristically sized hamlet lots of a less than half an acre. Many retain outbuildings, most often carriage sheds and garages. On main thoroughfares, houses of different styles and dates generally intermingle rather than forming concentrations, suggesting a gradual process of infill along the early highways of Main, Bridge, and Locust Streets. Some nineteenth-century shop and mill buildings, evidence of the hamlet's industrial history, survive within the hamlet. Agricultural properties retain dairy barns and other outbuildings. The large railroad depot complex includes a passenger/freight station, mill, creamery, ice house and tracks; the Ulster and Delaware Railroad right-of-way parallels the East Branch as it passes through Roxbury. The railroad tracks survive and this portion of the line is now in use as a recreational rail ride.
Owing to the hamlet's having been the birthplace of Jay Gould, who became a prominent and wealthy financier, and the summer home of his daughter, Helen Gould Shepard, Roxbury also retains some unusually high style buildings and landscapes. These include the stone Jay Gould Memorial Church (1894), the elaborate Tudor Revival Roxbury Central School (1939), the Shepard Hills Golf Course, and Kirkside Park. Additional architect designed, or redesigned, buildings include Kirkside and the YMCA (1911), now the Roxbury Arts Group building, on Vega Mountain Road. Further, as some Catskill Mountain hamlets like Roxbury were popular summer destinations for urban people, a small summer hotel trade with associated buildings developed; summer residents still play a role in the hamlet's community life. The juxtaposition of these architectural trends, exemplifying different socio-economic strata, makes Roxbury both representative of many Catskill hamlets and villages and unusual in the overall context of New York State, with different parts of the hamlet illustrating parts of the whole of the hamlet's growth and change over time.
The main commercial district is concentrated at the intersection of Main Street (NY 30) with CR 41 and Vega Mountain Road. Frontal gable, frame Greek Revival style commercial buildings, many remodeled with late nineteenth century false fronts, face onto Main Street, with the false fronts providing the impression of a turn-of-the-century four corners. Bridge Street retains a slightly earlier Greek Revival style storefront (c.1840; used as the post office) building, which was moved back from Main Street to make way for the Burhans store at the northwest corner of the main crossroads about 1850. South of the corner on Main Street, an additional commercial building composed of three blocks retains its earlier Greek Revival forms though it was renovated with non-historic materials in the late twentieth century.
Additional commercial, civil, and religious buildings and houses radiate from this historic commercial core. The largest number of buildings in the hamlet face onto Main Street north of the main crossroads with a generally consistent density to the north end of the hamlet, where Main Street (NY 30) crosses the East Branch of the Delaware River. Running north from the central school, frame houses, the former Methodist meeting house (moved to the site in 1857), the former Odd Fellows Hall (used for a variety of purposes before and after this use, including commercial and residential), and a few more commercial buildings line the street. A number of the houses date to the mid-nineteenth century, including the unusual stone house on the east side. Two elaborate turn-of-the-century Queen Anne style houses occupy large lots on the east side just north of the commercial core, while a simpler example stands a little further north on the west side. North of the large school lot stands the 1858 late Greek Revival style Methodist Church with its associated cemetery behind. Across from the frame vernacular houses on small lots running to the intersection of Lake Street. On the west side, the large stone Jay Gould Memorial Church occupies a large lot contiguous to the Kirkside estate developed by Helen Gould Shepard beginning in the 1890s.
While the section of Main Street running from the school to Kirkside is characterized by buildings dating to the last quarter of the nineteenth century and later, the area north of Kirkside to the river crossing retains many houses in the Greek Revival and Italianate styles, popular in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, on generously sized lots, especially on the east side of the street. Many properties retain carriage sheds of roughly similar or slightly later date; a few have later garages. This part of the hamlet retains wide sidewalks lined by mature trees. The houses are set well back from the street and the verge lawns are also broad, providing an overall sense of generous proportions. An extensive cemetery, apparently once linked with the Dutch Reformed Church, occupies a large lot on the east side of Main Street in this part of the hamlet. An early tavern and farm and an early storefront anchor the far north end of the hamlet. Between the cemetery and the former tavern, houses post-dating the historic period stand on small subdivided lots.
Returning to the commercial core and continuing west on CR 41, there are generously sized frame dwellings dating as early as the mid-nineteenth century and as late as the early twentieth century (excepting a small house on the south side post-dating the historic period), an additional commercial storefront on the north side, and the Masonic Hall. A former mill and its store stand on the east bank of the East Branch of the Delaware River. The span crossing the river itself dates to the second quarter of the twentieth century. The earliest route bends south after ascending to the first terrace above the watercourse's floodplain and passes a handful of mid-nineteenth century houses, one associated with a shop building facing it across the highway. These are interspersed with later Italianate and Queen Anne style houses filling in spaces between the earlier buildings. A motel post-dating the historic period stands on the inside corner of the bend.
The railroad right-of-way parallels the East Branch on its west bank. Railroad Avenue and Bridge Street connect with it from CR 41, and retain frame houses post-dating the opening of the railroad in 1872. The houses lining Bridge Street are generally large, upper middle class examples in the Italianate and Queen Anne styles, while those on Railroad Avenue are late nineteenth century vernacular working class dwellings. Working class houses smaller than those on Railroad Avenue, but of similar date, also line the north side of Park Street, a short elbow street opened around the turn of the twentieth century. Farm outbuildings, including a large, gable-roofed dairy barn (converted to a house and shop) with a twentieth-century milk house and silo, a second smaller barn, and a stable stand at Park Street's elbow overlooking open land now used as playing fields by the central school. An additional lane originates west of the dairy barn and runs north between the river and the railroad. Called Shepard Lane, it was developed mainly in the post-historic period with single-story frame houses. A vernacular frame house (c.1900) and a greenhouse converted to a dwelling are reached by a driveway crossing the railroad to Shepard Hill Road.
Returning again to the main crossroads, Vega Mountain Road (formerly Elm Street) retains frame buildings related to all periods of Roxbury's development from the mid-nineteenth century on. These include three Greek Revival style houses, a late nineteenth century house, and the former YMCA, an architect designed building commissioned by Helen Gould Shepard. Running south on Main Street (NY 30) from the main crossroads, nineteenth and early twentieth century houses, a purpose-built service garage, and the Roman Catholic Church fill in around a handful of early farm properties marked by Greek Revival style frame houses and associated outbuildings on the east side of the highway south of the hamlet four corners. House lots in this area tend to be larger than those north and west of the main crossroads. Exclusive of the early farms, development occurred mainly in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Late Queen Anne style houses mingle here with early twentieth century Craftsman style influenced buildings. A number of these houses retain carriage sheds and garages associated with their construction periods.
Additional side streets dating to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries branch both east and west of Main Street (NY 30) north of the school. The earliest and most southerly of these is Lake Street. This bears east and turns sharply north to parallel Main Street. Lake Street retains a mid-nineteenth century farmhouse and its stable on the east side. Houses dating mainly to the first quarter of the twentieth century occupy surrounding lots on the east side of the street; three trailers and pre-fabricated houses stand on the west side. Additional houses post-dating the historic period line the Ridge Road Spur, which continues the line of Lake Street south of Ridge Road. The latter route runs eastward up the hill out of the hamlet. The next side street intersecting Main Street is Spruce Street. This runs west almost to the river and is lined by small, mid-twentieth century frame houses. Like Lake Street, Roosevelt Avenue enters Main Street from the east and turns sharply south rather than north to parallel the back lines of Main Street lots. Houses near the bend, including Bungalows and late Queen Anne style houses, date to the early twentieth century, while ones further south post-date the historic period.
The Roxbury Historic District includes two turn-of-the-century designed landscapes. Kirkside Park, laid out in the first decade of the twentieth century, straddles the East Branch of the Delaware River adjacent to Helen Gould Shepard's summer residence, Kirkside. The park includes two bridges, pathways, a small island, a rustic style gazebo, and plantings first executed by Ferdinand Mangold (1828-1905), the Gould family's gardener at Lyndhurst, the family estate in Tarrytown, Westchester County. The second planned landscape is the Shepard Hills Golf Course located on the hillside west of the hamlet contiguous to the Kirkside Park property. It is accessed by a winding dirt road originating near the intersection of Bridge and Park streets. The road crosses the railroad right-of-way and a creek with a picturesque falls. It turns at the hairpin, a sharp bend cut into the red sandstone and reinforced with additional cut native stone. The road climbs steeply and levels out as it re-crosses the creek. The small lake on the hilltop is created by damming the creek. The nine-hole course ranges over the rolling contours of the mountain top on open greens between lightly wooded areas. A stone gambrel-roofed cottage (built 1911) serves as the clubhouse. A contemporary frame garage provides some storage space, while other late twentieth century storage buildings are hidden on the grounds. These two properties enclose the western edge of the hamlet of Roxbury, providing a transition between it and the surrounding landscape.
The Roxbury Historic District is significant as a distinctive intact example of a rural Catskill Mountain hamlet. Roxbury developed as two separated enclaves in the early nineteenth century; however, by the mid-nineteenth century, the hamlet was a single settlement laid out along NY 30, a major north-south transportation route that follows the East Branch of the Delaware River through the Catskill Mountains. Its setting, plan, and built environment illustrate its development in the early nineteenth century as a locally important commercial and industrial center, its subsequent growth as a railroad hamlet, turn-of-the century "improvement" by Helen Gould Shepard (daughter of Roxbury native and financier) Jay Gould, and roughly contemporary popularity as a summer resort. The hamlet is characterized by commercial and residential architecture representing the entire period of significance (1800-1953) and specifically includes remnants of the two original commercial areas (at the north and south ends), nineteenth and early twentieth century residences between them and on parallel side streets, a complex of railroad-related resources, several farms on the periphery that have been incorporated into the hamlet, and two large-scale designed landscapes. Like many regional hamlets that developed along the Delaware River's many tributaries, Roxbury is especially distinguished by its setting. The linear hamlet extends north and south, filling in the narrow river valley, and is framed by steep hillsides on the east and west. As in other mountain hamlets, the developed area extends part way up the surrounding hillsides. While in some communities pastures and farm fields occupy these in-between areas, in Roxbury, an early twentieth century public golf course provides the transition between village and country.
The hamlet of Roxbury lies near the geographical center of the town of Roxbury in Delaware County, New York. The town was set aside from the contiguous town of Stamford in 1799, two years after Delaware County was delineated in 1797. These events, along with numerous other roughly contemporary geopolitical subdivisions in central New York State, reveal the rapid settlement of the entire region in the post-Revolutionary era, necessitating the institution of local government entities to establish and maintain infrastructure, mainly highways, and to keep a semblance of law and order. Like many such towns, Roxbury's main settlement group came from New England, and the town itself was named for Roxbury, Connecticut, where a number of its people originated. The hamlet lies mainly on the east bank of the Pepacton, or East Branch of the Delaware River. The valley formed by this waterway was noted by D.J.N. Wright in his centennial essay on the town as one of three main routes into the red sandstone hills of Delaware County. The hamlet lies roughly eight miles south of the top of the watershed near the hamlet of Grand Gorge. The valley descends through the town of Middletown; at Arkville, the East Branch bears west southwest to join the West Branch. Here it meets the prominent Esopus Creek valley, which runs southeast to Kingston on the Hudson River, linking the region with that much earlier settled valley and its well-traveled route to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean.
Records of the first quarter century of the hamlet's development are scarce. In 1813, Spafford's Gazetteer of the State of New-York noted that the town of Roxbury was a post village, and within its town boundaries were six grain mills, eleven sawmills, a fulling mill, and a manufactory making grass scythes and other iron farm implements. Spafford's 1824 edition noted that there was a post office near the center of the town at a place called Beaver Dam Village; its location suggests this was the early hamlet of Roxbury, but the connection is not made by later writers. Gordon's 1836 Gazetteer notes two post offices in the town, at Roxbury and Moresville, further north on NY 30. Gordon described Roxbury as centrally situated" with a Presbyterian church, a Methodist church, two taverns, two stores, a tannery, an iron foundry, a clothing works, and twenty-five dwellings.
By this time, Roxbury was certainly the more locally prominent of the two hamlets. The town's first known twentieth-century historian, Carolyn Evelyn More, claimed that the hamlet's earliest commercial core lay at the north end of the present day hamlet, and that the larger commercial district at the crossroads of NY 30 and CR 41 developed in response to the railroad's arrival in 1872. More suggests that the "pioneer store and tavern" kept by Benjamin Frisbee in 1798 on the site of the now gone Roxbury Hotel at this corner were anomalous in their relationship to the later commercial district, but the argument seems forced. A simpler interpretation of the evidence might be that early centers developed in both locations, but the crossroads location of the southern cluster and possibly its physical characteristics, including more space and a slight elevation above the floodplain, led to its becoming the larger of the two commercial districts during the second quarter of the century. While the earliest commercial district may have centered on the main route's crossing with the East Branch, the Gould map of 1853, the surviving architecture, and even More's own dating of individual buildings, reveal that the larger commercial district at the crossroads was well established at least by the mid-1840s and probably earlier than that.
The first known map of Roxbury is Jay Gould's Map of Delaware County, published in 1853. This map delineates the hamlet as a single settlement characterized by two clusters of buildings loosely linked by a highway paralleling the east bank of the East Branch of the Delaware River. The small frontal gable store just south of the river crossing on the east side of the river, labeled R. Van Dyke Store, and its associated farmhouse survive today. The latter, built c.1823, was a tavern run by William Decker for a time. Decker also ran a store in an earlier building on the adjacent site, but this building burned and was replaced a little later. Incidentally, the Gould map records Decker's widow (Jane More Decker) residing further south on the opposite side of the road next door to her brother Jonas. Mrs. Decker's house was one of about ten in the northern grouping, which also includes the old Reformed Dutch Church, a blacksmith's shop, a shoe shop, and a cabinet shop. The last is the building, a former cabinet shop, moved north to a location near the river by Nelson K. Dart in the late 1860s for reuse as a wagon shop. At the south end of the hamlet, the map shows a variety of commercial buildings, the hotel, professional offices, and houses clustered between CR 41 and the Vega Creek to the north as well as eastward up Vega Mountain Road, which parallels the creek. Additional structures, including the school, the old Methodist Episcopal meeting house, the Roxbury Academy, and houses continued a short way north of the creek. Across the East Branch, more businesses and dwellings flanked the road now designated CR 41, which was the only highway in that area. The tannery noted by Gordon was probably established about 1830 on the west side of the river, where it could draw the large amounts of water necessary for its operation.
The 1869 Beers Atlas of Delaware County shows a larger number of hamlet buildings, especially houses, than Jay Gould's survey completed thirteen years earlier. These include a cluster of four houses on the east side of Main Street abutting the south end of the northern cluster and additional houses filling the space now occupied by the Roxbury Central School's grounds. South of the main commercial district, additional houses on large lots flank the highway. This map also shows the proposed route of the railroad that would eventually connect Kingston on the Hudson River with Oneonta on the Susquehanna River, though the road did not reach the latter, by then a well-established railroad depot town on the Delaware and Hudson, until 1900.
The proposed railroad reached Roxbury in 1872. It was projected in 1865 and incorporated as the Oswego & Rondout Railroad a year later in 1866. Construction began at the Kingston end in Ulster County, crossing the Shandaken Mountains at Pine Hill in 1871. After a drawn out court battle over finances in the early 1870s, the Rondout & Oswego's name was changed to the New York, Kingston, and Syracuse in May 1872 by an act of the New York State Assembly. The company floated a four million dollar consolidated mortgage bond issue, but a month later in June 1872, the company was auctioned off at the request of share holders. It was bought for $750,000 by the Farmers' Loan and Trust Co. and immediately reorganized as the Ulster & Delaware.
Franklin Hough noted in his gazetteer for 1872 that the railroad passed through Roxbury and that the town had been bonded for $150,000 for the privilege. The depot, apparently not yet built when he was writing, was to be established 100 rods (1,650 feet) from the village. This suggests that Bridge Street, running from CR 41 to the depot and possibly also Park Street, a tiny elbow of road running north from CR 41 and quickly turning west to the depot area, were laid out soon after Hough's account. The forms of the earliest houses along both streets, including large late Greek Revival and Italianate style examples on Bridge Street and diminutive vernacular frame houses on Park Street, support this premise. From Roxbury, the railroad continued generally northward to Grand Gorge, paralleling the East Branch. There it turned northwest, headed for Stamford, the highest point on the road at 1,888 feet. It reached Hobart on the West Branch of the Delaware (on NY 10) in 1884 and Bloomville further south along that watercourse in 1891.
While the hamlet of Roxbury appears to have grown gradually for a considerable period before 1872, the railroad seems to have boosted the local agricultural economy and also the small summer tourist trade. Both trends led to further expansion of the hamlet as a service center. Shifts in the agricultural economy, as farmers moved from mixed agricultural production aimed at supporting the individual family unit to larger-scale commercial dairy farms, particularly known for the equality of their butter, and the expansion of the hamlet itself are fairly easily documented through agricultural statistics and observation of the hamlet's built environment, but a genuine understanding of the summer tourist trade's development is more elusive. Alf Evers records that as early as 1846, Roxbury capitalized in a small way on the developing Catskill tourist trade based on an interest in America's natural scenery. Half a century later, in 1898, Dr. J.N. Wright noted that the hamlet had a "large number of first-class villas and cottages" that were "every season filled with summer guests." In a backward look, historians Evelyn More and Irma Mae Griffin noted that between 1870 and 1880 "city dwellers discovered the possibilities of Roxbury in the Catskills as a summer vacation spot," but they did not emphasize the summer tourist trade, suggesting that it supplemented Roxbury's economy rather than forming a mainstay, as it did in other Catskill communities. The county history compiled and printed by W.W. Munsell in 1880, however, made no mention of a summer tourist trade, emphasizing instead the Ulster & Delaware's role in shipping Roxbury's butter for the fancy trade and cheese, and listing the wide variety of local businesses, including a hotel on the site of the "pioneer tavern," two hardware stores; two dealers in dry goods, groceries, and agricultural implements; a marble works; two grist mills, both owned by Robinson and Son; two wagon shops; two blacksmith shops; a harness shop, a drug store, two cooper's shops, a sash and blind factory, a jewelry store, a cabinet shop, a boot and shoe store, two shoe shops, and two milliners and dressmakers shops. A historian of the Ulster & Delaware states that "Roxbury never catered seriously to summer trade by building huge boarding houses or hotels," noting that the hotel on the site of the first tavern and "Shady Lawn," a dry boarding house built by J.J. Keator to accommodate seventy-five guests, were the only hostelries of any size.
Roxbury's built environment and street plan illustrate its general development and expansion during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century. Until railroad's arrival in 1872, Roxbury's street plan consisted of Main Street (NY 30) intersecting with CR 41 and Vega Mountain Road. The east-west course of CR 41 on the west side of the river was extended westward to connect the main commercial district with the railroad. This street is now called Bridge Street, even though it does not cross the bridge (CR 41 does). Interestingly, Bridge Street's north side is lined with large, fairly elaborate frame houses in the Italianate and Queen Anne Revival styles popular in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s, suggesting that despite the potential noise of the railroad, this was a prestigious address for a period after the railroad's arrival. These are faced by later, less stylish examples across the street suggesting that the cache wore off later on. The adjacent railroad-related complex, previously listed on the National Register as the Ulster & Delaware Railroad Depot and Mill Complex, is characterized by a group of frame buildings lining the tracks opposite Bridge Street, including the freight/passenger depot (built c.1872, remodeled c.1889-1894), the Robinson and Preston Steam Flour and Feed Mill (built 1880s), the Slauson-Decker-Sheffield Company creamery (built 1870s), and the ice house, apparently used by the creamery and possibly built by the railroad company. The freight/passenger depot is the earliest structure in the complex. It is dwarfed by the mill and creamery, which reflect the railroad's primary use after the route was established. The first fluid milk shipment of twelve forty-quart cans was made on the first of April 1878. Creameries were established at Stamford and Hamden that year. The feed mill mixed and sold feed for local dairy herds, while the creamery stored and processed locally produced dairy products awaiting shipment to New York City. The creamery building at the Roxbury depot was used first as a paint factory and then as a feed store with a sawmill nearby. Slauson-Decker-Sheffield took the building over in 1913 and operated it as a creamery from 1913 to 1939, when it closed. Afterwards the building was used as part of A.K. Enderlin's lumber yard. After 1900, when the U&D reached Oneonta (a primary switching area on the Delaware and Hudson Railroad), which connected New England with Midwestern grain producing areas, Roxbury dairy products could enter the Boston milkshed as well as the New York City milkshed.
In addition to Bridge Street, Railroad Avenue and Park Street were laid out west of the river and near the railroad. Railroad Avenue, about a quarter mile south of Bridge Street, extended west to the railroad from CR 41 south of Bridge Street. Four vernacular frame houses dating to the late nineteenth century line this street. Park Street, a narrow elbow of a street sliced between earlier house lots just west of the bridge, accessing a dairy farm developed after the railroad's arrival, and then turning sharply west to the railroad. Small vernacular frame houses line the north side of this street near the railroad. Shepard Lane runs north from the bend in Park Street. This may have been a farm lane related to the dairy farm at the bend; at its far northern end, it crosses the railroad to access a turn-of-the-twentieth century vernacular frame house (123 Shepard Lane). The remainder of the houses on Shepard Lane, mainly single-story frame buildings, post-date the historic period. The names of both Park Street and Shepard Lane suggest a relationship with developments associated with Helen Gould Shepard's philanthropic activities in Roxbury beginning in the mid-1890s.
Helen Gould Shepard was the third child and eldest daughter of financier Jay Gould (1836-1892), who grew up in Roxbury in the 1840s. Gould began his career in his father's hardware store on Main Street. In 1853, he published a history of Delaware County and surveyed and published the first detailed map of the county. Gould exercised his talent for finance through shrewd investment in the newly developing railroads of the era. While many men lost fortunes in such speculation, Gould accrued an enormous fortune. From 1880, he resided in Tarrytown (Westchester County) at Lyndhurst, a Gothic Revival mansion designed by Andrew Jackson Davis. He retained an interest in Roxbury, however, and when the Dutch Reformed Church next to the large cemetery at the north end of the hamlet burned in 1891, he offered to build a new stone church for the congregation.
Gould retained Henry J. Hardenburgh to design the new church, which was constructed south of the old site on a large lot on Main Street purchased by the Ladies Social Society. Four houses were moved from the site to clear it, two onto other Main Street sites and two to newly opened Lake Street. By this period, Hardenburgh's New York City practice was well established. He is best known for the Dakota Apartments (1884), the Western Union Building (1884), the Astor Office Building (1885), the Waldorf Hotel (1892), the Astor Hotel (1896), the Plaza Hotel (1906), all in New York City. He also designed the Willard Hotel (1898) in Washington, D.C. and the Copley Plaza (1912) in Boston. In the 1870s, Hardenburgh designed buildings for Edward Clark in Cooperstown, including the Fenimore Hotel (1874; demolished c.1925) and Kingfisher Tower (1876). He designed the new church in Roxbury in the English Gothic style at Gould's behest, and ground was broken in September 1893. The St. Lawrence marble building was dedicated to Gould's memory by his children in October 1894, as Gould died on the 2nd of December 1892.
The construction of the Gould Memorial Church inaugurated a period of building that filled most of the remaining gaps in the hamlet's streetscape. On Main Street, two prominent Queen Anne style houses were built on the east side just north of the main crossroads. A smaller example was built opposite and a little further north. Most of the mid-nineteenth century commercial buildings at the crossroads were remodeled with false fronts elaborate with millwork detailing. New buildings in the commercial district included the Golden Seal building and the Roxbury Bank, opened in 1905. These two buildings represent Roxbury's commercial development at the turn of the twentieth century. The Golden Seal Assurance Society was organized in 1902 as a short term endowment insurance agency. It was reorganized in 1910 as a regular insurance company providing life, health, and accident insurance. Organized in Roxbury, the society consisted of more than seven hundred lodges, or camps, and Roxbury was Number One. The office closed in 1930 and was taken over by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and Chicago Fraternal Life. The Roxbury bank was built and organized in 1905. The company used this building until the third quarter of the twentieth century, when the new bank was built further north on Main Street.
New streets, too, were laid out within the hamlet. Lake Street, originating nearly opposite the current site of the central school and bending abruptly north to parallel Main Street, was apparently laid out about the same time as the new Gould Memorial Church was built, as two houses from the church site were moved there. Lake Street appears to have been fairly rapidly developed as most of the houses on its east side overlooking a creek were built around the turn of the twentieth century. Infill with post-World War II houses occurred on the west side on lots abutting Main Street lots. Further north, Roosevelt Avenue was probably laid out about 1900 based on its name (for Theodore Roosevelt?) and the earliest houses built there. This may have begun as an east-west street as there is a clear break between early twentieth century houses on that portion and later built houses on the north-south extension paralleling Main Street. The Ridge Road Spur, running south from Lake Street and paralleling Main Street, demonstrates a similar development pattern with single-story post-World War II houses on small lots there too.
In addition to these small side streets in the heart of the hamlet, Orchard Street, the local name for NY 30 south of the main crossroads with CR 41, also saw much subdivision of former large properties and farms around the turn of the century. The 1869 Beers Atlas shows farms and houses owned by Hiram Meecker, Dr. S.S. Cartwright, E[dward] Burhans, and H. Ganoung. The later houses filling the spaces between these stand on generously sized lots, many with carriage sheds. Based on architectural style — mainly late Italianate and Queen Anne — these houses date to the turn-of-the-twentieth-century expansion of Roxbury. The Meecker and Cartwright farms continued farming into the mid-twentieth century. The former Meecker property, called Orchardside in the Beers Atlas, once had a large early twentieth century dairy barn, which is now part of a plant nursery. Also on Orchard Street, possibly named for the Orchardside Farm, stands the Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Good Counsel. Mrs. Almeron Cartwright sold the lot to the Albany diocese in 1924; the former Cartwright house next door became the parish house. The late Shingle style church, similar in design to the contemporary St. Philip Neri in Grand Gorge, was dedicated on the 2nd of August 1925. The establishment of these two churches in Roxbury reflect the diversification of the local populace in the first quarter of the century.
Helen Gould (1870-1938), daughter of Jay Gould, played an influential role in the early twentieth century development of the hamlet of Roxbury, where she spent increasing amounts of time until her death. After she married Finley Shepard in 1913, he also played a philanthropic role in Roxbury. Most of Helen Gould's activities in Roxbury were geared toward the often immeasurable, but nevertheless noticeable, improvement of quality of life. She worked to enhance educational and recreational opportunities for Roxbury residents. Her improvements included providing a home for the Roxbury Library in the former John Burr Gould House on Vega Mountain Road (formerly called Elm Street) in 1895, establishing the Roxbury YMCA and the construction of its first home on Vega Mountain Road (this building now houses the Roxbury Arts Group) in 1911, the development of Kirkside Park, and the laying out of the Shepard Hills Golf Course.
Kirkside Park was contiguous to the lot occupied by the Gould Memorial Church and the 1865 frame Greek Revival style house Helen Gould purchased in 1896 and remodeled for her own use. The house was considerably enlarged and embellished. The property came to include several outbuildings, including the first purpose-built garage in Roxbury and a small house moved from Vega Mountain Road to clear the site for the new YMCA in 1911; the latter was used at Kirkside as a guest cottage. The adjacent park, completed about 1910, occupied nearly twelve acres of level, open land straddling the East Branch of the Delaware River and extending from the Kirkside property to the base of the mountain rising on the west side of the hamlet. Ferdinand Mangold (1828-1905), gardener at the Goulds' Tarrytown property, Lyndhurst, is thought to have played a significant role in its development until his death. By 1915, the park included a small island in the river, stone retaining walls along the river's course, rustic style bridges, winding paths, shade trees, and elaborate garden beds with both formal and informal arrangements. Period postcards depict a landscape of formalized rustic appearance. Until Helen Gould Shepard's death in 1938, the park was regularly used for public functions. Her house, Kirkside, was acquired by the Dutch Reformed Church as a retirement home for ministers in 1948. The church also acquired a portion of the park; the remainder was, at last, deeded to the town as public parkland in 1981.
The mountain west of Roxbury was the location of a farm owned by Marshall Dales at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1907, R.H. Vaughn of Passaic, New Jersey built a dam on the hill two hundred feet above the hamlet to create a ten-acre lake for fishing, boating, winter ice cutting, and auxiliary water for fire fighting. Known as Dales Lake, it was completed in 1908. Helen Gould bought the strip of land alongside of it the same year, and then all of the property shortly thereafter. The foundation for the stone Dutch Colonial Revival house used as the club house for the golf course was laid in 1911. The house was planned originally as a guest cottage. The golf course was laid out in 1916 and completed in 1920. The designer is so far unknown. Early on, the golf course was called Mount Helena; it was later renamed Shepard Hills. The golf course is reached by a steep road near the railroad depot. Picturesquely designed, the road crosses a handsome waterfall downstream; the same creek supplies the lake above and bends sharply in a hairpin turn cut into the hillside and reinforced with local red sandstone.
Miss Gould, later Mrs. Shepard, also helped finance the first lighting system in the hamlet. She was the primary stockholder in the Roxbury Gas Company, which opened its first plant in 1903. This was superseded in 1922 by electric lines. She is also said to have purchased the slate for the sidewalks on Main Street and to have bailed out the Roxbury Bank during the Great Depression of the 1930s. One wonders whether she might also have played a financial role in the 1894 redecorating of the Methodist Church by artist G.W.K. Marsden.
The last major building project carried out in Roxbury was the new central school built in 1939 using funds from the Public Works Administration, a direct relief federal agency. During the 1930s the town struggled to provide space and suitable educational opportunities for its children, with nine one-room schools in the outlying areas and the 1913 frame school building in the hamlet supplemented by rooms in the Masonic Hall and the YMCA building on Vega Mountain Road. Governor Lehman's "Little New Deal" for New York State tapped into the federal relief program, allocating approximately $46 million for school projects. The program preferred projects that involved demolishing old frame schools and replacing them with fireproof masonry buildings. In 1938, Roxbury Central School accepted a grant of $133,650 from PWA.
The cost of the new building, $297,000, included demolishing the older frame school and two houses further south to create a large lot for the Tudor Revival school designed by H.O. Fullerton of Albany, New York. Born in 1896 in Cleveland, Ohio, Fullerton completed his training at the University of Michigan in 1920. He designed a Georgian Revival style office building in Albany for his firm in 1935 and worked there until his death in 1965. Fullerton's work included more than fifty public and private schools, including schools in Delhi (Delaware County), Jeffersonville (Sullivan County, National Register listed) and Livingston Manor (Sullivan County), office buildings, and churches. His schools, generally monumental buildings executed in the Colonial Revival style, stand out in their small communities for their scale and finely detailed interiors. Despite Fullerton's expertise with the classically inspired styles, the Roxbury school board chose Tudor Revival to harmonize with the Gould Memorial Church. The school opened in 1939; it was significantly expanded in the 1990s. Its large expanse of playing fields runs along the East Branch.
In the post-World War II era, Roxbury's built environment changed little. The Ulster & Delaware Railroad ceased running in 1932, but it continued to ship dairy products until after World War II. Its final closure coincided with the decline of dairying in the region, which brought shifts in the local economy. This shift in agricultural profitability in the past half century has led to an economic stasis or even decline. New construction is limited exclusively to small post-war houses built on a variety of lots, ranging from tiny to relatively generous, on Ridge Road Spur, Roosevelt Avenue, Spruce Street (cut south of the stone church and the Kirkside grounds in the 1920s or 1930s), Main Street north of the large Dutch Reformed cemetery, and on Railroad Avenue on the west side of the river. Taken as a group, these number roughly thirty new dwellings. Most of Roxbury's residents live in houses predating the first decade of the twentieth century, and Roxbury's surviving businesses are run out of buildings of similar date. This accounts for the high degree of integrity in the hamlet, with relatively little infill and no large-scale change in the post-war period. Roxbury retains the character of a rural Catskill hamlet providing commercial, religious, civil, and social opportunities for its residents and those living in the surrounding area. In common with other Catskill hamlets, its development as a summer resort is illustrated by the redevelopment of many mid-nineteenth century houses on Main Street. More unusual is the hamlet's association with the Gould family and the variety of large, handsome properties built in Roxbury in the period 1893 to 1938.
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‡ Ravage, Jessie A., (document prep) and LaFrank, Kathleen, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Roxbury Historic District, Roxbury NY, nomination document, 2003, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Carriage Hill Road • Crest Drive • Lake Street • Main Street • Park Street • Ridge Road • Roosevelt Avenue • Route 30 • Sheppard Lane • Spruce Street