Photo: House in the East Side Historic District.
The East Side Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
Catskill is an incorporated village situated thirty miles south of Albany on the west bank of the Hudson River. The county seat for Greene County, the village lies on the Catskill Creek near its confluence with the Hudson. While a few major residences are visible from the river, most of the village is hidden from river view by a hill. Business and residential sections rise on both sides of the broad creek which flows southeast through the village. The eastern side of the creek has a higher population density than the west side and contains the main business section. A bridge spans the creek at Bridge Street; south of the bridge along both sides of the creek are the surviving docks and present-day marine facilities serving pleasure boats.
The East Side Historic District, located entirely on the east side of the creek and between the creek and the river, contains about five hundred commercial, residential, governmental and religious structures. Now, as in the past, the major business section is Main Street, which runs parallel to Catskill Creek. Stores and apartments, residences, the county government complex, churches, banks, and firehouses are located on Main Street, a small-town main street in the truest sense. Residential streets form a grid against the hillside and on top of the hill. Along the top, Spring Street, formerly the Albany and Greene Turnpike, leads out of the village to the north. The narrow, old residential streets leading down a steep grade to Main Street add a picturesque quality to the village. Along the creek is Water Street where, north of Bridge Street, are brick warehouses and former mills as well as residences. South of Bridge Street are old frame structures once used by the night-boat-line, the Catskill Steam Transportation Company. Churches and church-related buildings are located throughout the East Side Historic District. A large, fenced cemetery stretches from Thompson Street to New Street. Residential density is greatest on the hillside, inasmuch as the level top of the hill has traditionally been the site chosen for residences by merchants, bankers and lawyers, who built large homes with spacious lots. At the extreme northern end of this section, on Spring Street, is the Thomas Cole House, a designated National Historic Landmark.
Except for a few locations on the hill, the district has typical village density. Lots are small and structures on Main Street are contiguous and open directly onto the sidewalks. The structures, of considerable variety, are mostly nineteenth century in origin. The major building material of the commercial area is brick, while the residential area is predominantly of wood frame construction. Often the exposed stone foundations were constructed of locally quarried limestone. Integrity of design and materials is generally very good. Some modern siding materials have been applied or porches enclosed, but the changes are in most cases reversible and have not seriously detracted from the period quality of the streetscapes. In general, the nineteenth-century effect is very pronounced because there are few modern intrusions. The business district has suffered from some street-level storefront modernizations but increased interest in Catskill's historic character has resulted in several quality restoration projects. The large brick structures along the creek show deterioration and a few paved parking lots, particularly along lower Main Street, mark the sites of former buildings. Two church-related structures in the district are modern. Other intrusions include a few modern residences, a dry cleaner's and some additions to older buildings. The non-contributing buildings in the East Side Historic District are listed at the end of this section.
The survey of more than one thousand buildings which preceded the selection of the East Side Historic District was carried out by a non-profit group, the Association for the Preservation of Historic Catskill. Under the guidance of local professionals, with some CETA assistance, an in-depth, two-year survey was completed. The East Side Historic District is recorded in some 500 New York State inventory sheets which are on file at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Additional potential nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, not contiguous with the East Side Historic District, exist in the village and town of Catskill. Individual properties and small districts lie elsewhere in the village. Both town and village had very early settlement, have-had little twentieth-century change, and retain many historic properties which are now being researched.
The boundaries of the East Side Historic District follow topographic divisions, property lines or streets. On the west the Catskill Creek forms a natural boundary between two parts of the village which are quite different. School grounds and other low density uses characterize the west bank. For historic and architectural reasons the district's boundary was extended to the west bank to include the former railroad bridge, which now carries utility lines and a walkway. On the north end of the district the boundary was drawn to exclude areas of substantially altered structures. Behind High Street is a vacant gully. The boundary then follows the property line of the village cemetery, leaving out modern houses on streets north of that line. Several Colonial Revival houses on upper Spring Street are included. Imposing, although not as old as much of the rest of the district, they maintain the streetscape and protect the setting of the Thomas Cole House. North of Sunset Street are modern houses and a gas station. North of the Cole House property is a new synagogue adjacent to strip commercial development along the approach to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, which crosses the Hudson River. On High and Cedar Streets, Grace Court, the north side of Day Street and Pruyn Place are modest bungalows and some modern subdivisions. These are not included in the district.
The East Side Historic District has both architectural and historical significance. The district displays a wide variety and high concentration of well-preserved late eighteenth and nineteenth-century brick and frame structures, ranging from simple industrial buildings and early stores to the elaborate Victorian residences which characterize the residential areas. The district's streets display remarkably intact groupings of period structures. The resulting architectural diversity represents the full range of architectural styles popular in the Hudson Valley during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The variety and integrity of architectural styles and details, the unusual hillside setting and the uniformity of siting give the district's residential areas a distinctive visual quality. On the creek plain below the residences, the typically small-town business center, with its nineteenth-century streetscape of brick storefronts and bracketed cornices, is augmented by the presence of the domed county courthouse and nearby picturesque churches.
Because of Catskill's role in the development of the surrounding region, the district has historical as well as architectural importance. Main Street, located on the old Susquehanna Turnpike leading west from the docks inland to the mountains and the river valley beyond, has always been a transportation and commercial center where river and inland traders met. The creekside areas have buildings related to the famous Hudson River steamboats, a brickyard, old mill buildings, and a railroad tunnel and bridge. As the original county seat, Catskill was the focus of legal and political activities affecting the eighteenth and nineteenth-century history of the county. The district contains sites related to prominent nineteenth-century landscape artists. Also in the district are sites related to specific statewide events such as the establishment of the earliest railroads in the state and the beginnings of the resort industry.
Although the village's present appearance is largely that of a nineteenth-century riverfront trading center, its original settlement occurred during the mid-seventeenth century. The English takeover of the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1664 had little immediate effect on the settlers of the upper Hudson, whose economy was devoted primarily to the raising of grain. Wheat and other agricultural products were shipped to Albany and New York throughout the eighteenth century and the small Hudson River landing of Catskill served this trade. Growth was limited to only a few buildings until after the Revolution, when a flood of New England farmers and merchants seeking new economic opportunities arrived in eastern New York State. As trade and speculation increased, the sleepy landing changed abruptly into a populous village devoted to trade and shipping, a village developed by ambitious New Englanders allied with local families of Dutch extraction.
A map of 1655 shows one house on the site of present Catskill village. Before the end of the century, the Van Vechten family had built a second house and established a mill at the mouth of a tributary to the Catskill Creek. Catskill Landing, as the location was first known, had only five houses in 1787 and "was but a small and unattractive hamlet until 1792, when it began to wake up to commercial possibilities, acquired a newspaper ... and its first settled physician. ..." From that time on the village grew dramatically, and by 1799 the Duke de la Rochefoucalt Liancourt reported that Catskill was the entry "to the country round .,. and receives the produce of the back country especially through a natural gap in the mountains." This gap was the Kaaterskill Clove, in which was located a famous scenic waterfall. Hemlock bark, potash, and pearl ash were brought to Catskill Landing to be shipped along with wheat and other grain. Concurrently, a small shipbuilding industry was established at the landing. Sloop traffic was heavy. A road west to the Catskill Mountain escarpment where the most spectacular scenery could be found was opened in the 1790's. The road was also used to transport hides to new tanneries there. The Susquehanna Turnpike, leading west from Catskill around the northern end of the mountains to reach Unadilla on the Susquehanna River, was chartered in 1800. As the region's most prominent community, Catskill was named the county seat soon after Greene County was formed in 1800.
Several eighteenth-century structures remain in the village. One is the Caleb Street house at 251 Main Street. The rear section was built about 1797 and was the ferry house and inn of Caleb Street, a licensed innkeeper. In 1803 it was also a Masonic meeting place. Another historic structure from the same period is the large, three-story frame store surviving at 404-406 Main Street. This building is at the corner of Thompson Street, an old street leading away from the turnpike. Many of the early buildings were wood, pre-dating major brickyard development which occurred later. Some were small, two-story row houses or shops, fronting directly on Main Street, soon the dusty eastern terminus of the Susquehanna Turnpike. Two other surviving early buildings are associated with one at the village founders, Stephen Day. Day moved west from Connecticut in 1791, and when he came to Catskill first lived at 260 Main Street, in a hip-roof, five-bay Federal style brick house with a ground floor opening to the street. He was typical of the New Englanders behind Catskill's sudden economic success. Named a judge of the Court of Common Pleas when Greene County was formed in 1800, Day soon became a Commissioner of the Susquehanna Turnpike Company and made other investments. When, in 1803, he built the first house on William Street (presently 152 Lillian Street), he started a trend for lawyers and merchants to live "on the hill." Day promoted the 1806 incorporation of the village and became the first village president. Day's Main Street building in 1831 housed the Tanners Bank, chartered that year. The family was influential in legal affairs and investment development throughout the nineteenth century.
By 1803 the number of buildings had grown to 180 and the population reached 2000 as the village expanded up the hill. A bridge across the Catskill Creek was completed and streets and building sites were formally laid out in the same year. As early as 1808 a plow works was begun on Water Street by Josiah Butcher. The brick building at 125 Water Street still stands, now a book store. Near the plow works building is the Bogardus-Donnelly building at 110 Water Street. Built before 1821, the handsome brick residence housed storekeeper James Bogardus whose red store was at the west end of the bridge. Bogardus was a trader and sloop captain and a descendant of the earliest settler to live on the site of the village. After the Civil War, the mansion became the office for the Steam Woolen Company, whose huge brick mill buildings were then newly erected between the mansion and the creek. They stand at 111 Water Street.
Nineteenth-century economic forces shaped Catskill's continued expansion, An early tanning industry which developed in the nearby Catskill Mountains was important to the region, spurring shipbuilding and new commercial ties to the mountains. In the first third of the nineteenth century, interest in the picturesque qualities of the American landscape developed and travel to scenic locations in the mountains became fashionable. When resorts were built, steamboat, stage and railroad connections to the mountains all went through the bustling village. The resort trade persisted into the twentieth century and brought Catskill to its greatest prosperity at the end of the nineteenth century. Catskill's shipping industries felt the effects of competition from the Erie Canal after 1825, and the community's economic base thereafter shifted to greater reliance upon the local industries of brickmaking, textile manufacturing, ice harvesting, and tourism.
Serious development of a resort industry in the Catskill range eight miles west of the village began when Catskill businessmen formed the Catskill Mountain Association. A large hotel, the Catskill Mountain House, was built on a spectacular rock ledge known as the Pine Orchard, with a stagecoach road leading up to it from below. Such resort development was aided when the improvement of steam travel on the Hudson River permitted sightseers to arrive conveniently from New York City. After 1824 Fulton's monopoly on steam navigation was broken and soon the Hudson was open to competing lines. Regular steamship service by the famous Day Line began in 1863, serving major river ports including Catskill. The line survived well into the twentieth century. Among competing lines were various "night" lines, one of which was the Catskill Steamboat Company, whose office remains at 77-81 Water Street. This building is an important artifact associated with the development of steam transportation in America.
Vacationers arriving by steamer at Catskill were at first taken west by stagecoach to the renowned Catskill Mountain House and to other destinations. To accommodate them and to combat loss of business to the Erie Canal, one of New York State's first narrow gauge railroads was built by Catskill investors in 1838. It fell short of its original destination (Canajoharie) but extended far enough from Catskill to attract farm produce from a wide area. The railroad lasted only two years. Its historic route through Catskill is preserved in the route of a second narrow-gauge railroad, the Catskill Mountain Railroad of 1882, laid over the same right-of-way.
A Catskill man, Erastus Beach, grew wealthy running stage lines to the Catskill Mountain House and elsewhere. With his son, Charles L. Beach, he also controlled the Albany to New York stage and mail lines. In 1839, Charles L. Beach became manager of the hotel, and within a few years bought control of it. He retained control until 1902, ensuring continued functioning of Catskill village as a gateway to the mountains. His home was in Catskill at 52 Liberty Street. Another house associated with the resort industry is the frame residence at 11 Prospect Avenue built for Walton Van Loan, writer and publisher of famous guide books to the Catskills.
As the county seat, Catskill has retained historic buildings related to county government. After the first courthouse of about 1801 burned, a new courthouse of brick was built about 1819 facing Franklin Street at the corner of Bridge Street. This building at 2 Franklin Street and the Christ Presbyterian Church of 1808 beside it have been landmarks of the village. The old courthouse served until 1909 when a new courthouse was built on Main Street. Still revered, the former courthouse has served since 1909 as a Masonic Temple. The old county jail, built in 1804 on Clark Street, served also until the new county complex was built in 1909. The old jail, at 37 Clark, was then remodeled by a well-known local architect who added a third floor to convert it into an inn. It now houses apartments.
Between 1840 and 1880 the village lost population. New resorts and boarding houses were proliferating, drawing visitors farther afield. To meet competition, in 1880 Charles L. Beach and his son invested $100,000 in a narrow gauge railroad, the Catskill Mountain Railroad, which was to conduct passengers from the steamships to the resorts. To preserve Catskill's position as the point of entry, late in the century this railroad was connected to the mountaintop hotels by an inclined railway which superseded the outdated stage line. As a result, Catskill's business boomed until the advent of the automobile. In Catskill village, the track of this rail line was extended to the docks of the Day Line by a tunnel under lower Main Street. The tunnel is included in the East Side Historic District. Another relic of the same railroad is a bridge built by the Powers Bridge Company of Troy, N.Y. across the Catskill Creek. In early 1882 a gale "dislodged the center span of the railroad bridge at the village. The span was replaced and the bridge gang labored on through the blustery winter." The four-span, Pratt truss steel bridge, now carrying utility lines and a walkway, has survived ice jams and high water. It is included in the historic district.
The district has many surviving buildings related to the village's role as a river town and commercial center in the first half of the nineteenth century. For example, 403 Main Street, a modest two-story, three-bay brick store, was in 1821 "Mrs. Botsford's Tavern," one of many taverns needed to fulfill Catskill's role as a stopover point on the Susquehanna Turnpike. The Penfield House, at 124 William Street, thought to have been built by William Schuneman, son of a well-known area minister and patriot, was sold in 1848 to G.H. Penfield, a local banker and freighter.
The village and countryside prospered after the Civil War. Representative of this later nineteenth century prosperity is 370 Main Street, a large corner building of 1867, once the Express Office, later Sage's Repository, headquarters for a coal business and harness shop. At 53 Hill Street is the 1869 building which once housed the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first black church in Greene County. At 319 Main Street is the Gaylord Opera House of 1867, later altered after a fire and presently used as a store. Noble P. Cowles, partner in the grocery firm of Meech, Sage and Cowles, and Loan Commissioner for Greene County, built his prestigious residence about 1870 at 166 Bridge Street. Also located "on the hill" is an earlier residence, the first on the east side of Prospect Avenue (now 103 Prospect Avenue), once owned by Dominie Judd of the Presbyterian Church and later owned and improved by General W. S. C. Wiley, owner of the Kaaterskill Mill, important to village prosperity in the 1890's. At 114 North Street is the building where, by capitalizing on the still-popular story relating to Catskill's Dutch origins, during the 1890's the popular "Rip Van Winkle Reclining Rocker" was manufactured. The widely imitated chair could assume up to 200 different positions and was exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
Other changes came to the village late in the century. A nineteenth-century store building in which the Catskill Public Library was originally housed is located at 400 Main Street. The present Catskill Library, at 1 Franklin Street, is an early Carnegie library and one of the last built by the architectural firm of George W. Halcott of Worcester, Massachusetts, according to Carnegie's standard plan for a medium-sized library. Many of the village's other associative buildings are also preserved. Toward the south end of Main Street, for example, located between the residences and the creek, the Shale Brick Company's old building is included in the district. This innovative company shipped an improved, hard brick on the adjacent Catskill Mountain Railroad and brought a new industry to Catskill in the 1890's.
Because of the variety of outside settlers and investors with New England backgrounds, most of the buildings in the district are representative of northeastern architectural styles rather than the vernacular Dutch styles found in the Upper Hudson. However, local materials, such as limestone and Hudson Valley brick, were used. Deposits along the banks of the Catskill Creek provided ample supplies of clay suitable for good brick. Bricks were made on a small scale prior to about 1830, after which large brickyards using evolving mass-production methods began to appear along the creek, A formerly popular and widely available building material, quarried and dressed limestone, appeared to be less favored after the arrival of the New Englanders and began to be used only for foundations. The foundations of the Bogardus and Palmatier houses are examples of this use. There was also ample local lumber available, produced by small mills on the Catskill Creek and its tributaries. Catskill has a rich variety of frame dwellings built throughout the nineteenth century and numerous early frame stores. After 1825, however, Main Street's stores tended to be brick. Bricks, which were durable, cheap, and fire resistant on congested Main Street, also represented local investment. Major residences on the hill were about equally divided between the two materials, but more modest housing was almost always of frame construction.
The village, in general, was established first at the creek and along the old road which became the turnpike (Main Street). Federal period residences, therefore, as well as the old stores and early enterprises, are found in these areas. Paralleling the Catskill Creek through most of its length, Main Street today has three discrete units. To the north is a typical and well-preserved small town streetscape of mostly contiguous small retail stores constructed of brick and decorated with bracketed cornices. Some have storefront modifications of the twentieth century. At its north end, the street makes an oblique turn to the west towards the creek and Water Street, following the old road. At this corner is a commercial building at 463-473 Main, built about 1805, which was designed to fit the curve. A three-story, five-bay building of brick, it has decorative lintels added to the east front. Typical of this section of Main Street is a three-story, three-bay brick store built about 1820 at 393 Main. Living quarters are upstairs. The plain lintels were updated during the nineteenth century with the addition of segmental window heads and the building was topped with a typical and popular segmental cornice, Another example is the "Center Brick Block," built around 1826 after wooden stores burned in 1825, now numbered 381-387 Main Street. Dubbed a miracle of architecture by the local newspapers, the block contained five contiguous three-story brick stores, identical except for an arched entrance in the center store. Four of the five stores are little altered, the fifth was rebuilt in the 1870's.
South of these store buildings, Main Street takes on a different aspect. On mid-Main near Bridge Street are the classical facades of three banks and the domed sandstone Greene County Courthouse. The buildings here are larger in scale and the setting of buildings below Bridge Street becomes more spacious. Facing west at the corner of Bridge and Main is the 1909 County Courthouse, at 312-330 Main, an imposing Neo-classical Ohio sandstone building with a monumental portico highlighted by bas-relief carved figures in the pediment. The building is topped by a balustrade and has a well-scaled dome. Behind it is the jail, an unadorned two-story, hip-roofed building of the same sandstone. A modern wing has recently been added behind the jail. The county complex rose on a block which had been cleared of its earliest structures by a fire in 1851. Immediately to the south is the Reformed Dutch Church of Catskill. A brick church built in 1852, it has a projecting square central tower and arched windows topped by hood molds. Its 1870 brick parsonage to the south features a modillion cornice, brick corbeling, and an unusual fan-lighted front entrance. Across Main Street, at 319-321 Main, is another, very different brick church. The First Baptist Church, Catskill's most ornate church, is Gothic in detail, with two steeples, one tall and one short, and a large Gothic front window with tracery, framed by two front entrances, one under each tower. Each tower is encircled below its spire with white wooden louvres topped by miniature Gothic spires. The church has elaborate brick detailing including hood molds and corbeling; there are lancet openings set into the towers and stained glass in windows.
Immediately north of the Baptist Church is the firehouse of A. M. Osborn Company No. 2, at 323 Main, a small but nicely detailed brick firehouse of 1904. Nearby, three of Catskill's banks are located side by side, obliquely across Bridge Street from the courthouse. The oldest, at 335-337 Main, is a Federal period building housing the Marine Midland Bank at the corner of Bridge Street. The two-story brick building, laid in Flemish bond, was erected before 1830 and probably in 1819. However, its original portico has been removed and the front entrance remodeled, Next door, at 343 Main, is the 1909 Catskill Savings Bank, a Neoclassical style structure by architect Marcus Reynolds, who also designed the Tanners Bank, immediately north, which was erected a year later. The Tanners Bank, at 345 Main Street, has a marble facade topped by a parapet with sculptured rondelles in the Beaux Arts style, lending dignity to this small building. The institution is a continuation of the early Tanners Bank and is now known as the Bank of New York. Not far away on Main Street is an unaltered 1930 Art Deco insurance building at 302 Main. The pilasters, which give vertical emphasis, frame a tall central glass. The slightly stepped facade is topped with a large iron eagle.
One block behind the courthouse and opposite the jail on Bridge Street is Franklin Street. The Adamesque details of the 1819 courthouse, the highly ornate Corinthian portico of the Presbyterian Church, with its wooden capitals carved to replicate those on the Athenian Monument to Lysicrates, and the Carnegie Library with its mock-Palladian window and classical columns beside the front entrance, create a rich and dignified character which relates to the public and commercial buildings of adjacent mid-Main Street.
The character of lower Main Street becomes residential, for the most part, below Bronson Street on the west and Livingston Street on the east. Between 283 and 285 Main Street is a "brick row" of ornate, well-preserved late nineteenth century townhouses, followed by dignified and little-altered nineteenth century residences. On the south end of this architecturally outstanding block are three notable buildings. An elegant brick Second Empire residence, with three wide bays, an unusual recessed entrance, an oriel window and a double row of porches at the side, retains above its slate-covered Mansard roof the original iron cresting. South of this are two brick Federal period houses, both updated in the nineteenth century with heavy, oversize Italianate cornices. The smaller of the two houses has a gable roof behind the facade; the larger house is a very fine Federal style residence of five bays with parapet gables, an oval attic window, and an unusual recessed entrance with elliptical fan light and side lights. The home was built in 1811 for General Johnson, a Revolutionary War veteran. All three residences open directly onto the sidewalks of Main Street.
Nearby are the Caleb Street house and the Stephen Day house previously mentioned, other early residences, and also homes of the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century. Just off Main Street at the corner of Greene is a c. 1870 frame carriage house with gable roof of low pitch, roof overhang, and brackets at the cornice of the roof and under cornices topping doors and windows. The building is a good example of the Italianate style as applied to outbuildings. At 228 Main Street is the Thorpe house, a late Victorian three-bay, two-story brick mansion, with two-story bay windows, shaped window heads, and a console supported cornice over the entrance door. The style was popular and similar window treatment appears in other period houses in the village. The south end of Main Street runs along the Catskill Creek and remains residential to the edge of the district.
The East Side Historic District has many architecturally significant structures set in varied streetscapes which give added interest to the fabric of this well-preserved village. This enhancement occurs in the residential sections as well as along Main Street. The Greek Revival period is represented by brick and frame houses, (as well as stores) with gables to the street, frequently with semi-circular louvers in the gables and with classical doorways framed by Ionic columns, copied from or inspired by pattern books intended for carpenters and builders. Often, scale and ornament reflect the economic status of the original owner. By the 1840's the village had expanded significantly, and residences were being built routinely above Main Street on hillside lots.
On Thompson Street, an old road connecting with the Athens Turnpike leading north out of the village, a cemetery was established early. Many older graves were moved into this cemetery, and many people important to the history of the village, including artist Thomas Cole, were buried there. Twice enlarged, the cemetery provides a large, landscaped tranquil green space between Thompson Street and New Street. Both are high density residential streets with narrow lots containing modest frame dwellings of the nineteenth century representing the homes of tradesmen and workers.
Most common in the village are residences and stores in the various Victorian styles. Second Empire style residences of moderate size in brick were popular among the affluent near the top of the hill on prestigious streets like upper William, Prospect, and Liberty, while simpler two-story, frame, middle-income housing lined Livingston, lower Thompson, Broad, and upper Water Streets. These streets have much the same character today. Inexpensive wood embellishments such as brackets, bargeboards with drops, and railings and gingerbread on porches appear on all but the most modest homes. Around 1890, on the top of the hill, rambling but restrained Queen Anne style frame dwellings were built. Spring Street, developed from farm land along the old turnpike leading north, has several fine examples from the period which feature towers, shingled gables, open porches at the second floor or attic level, and picturesque massing.
The residential sections in the historic district have few visual intrusions. Liberty Street, a wide, tree-lined-residential street connecting Greene and Bridge Streets, has a high degree of visual appeal. The houses, ranging from a small, story-and-a-half dwelling of c. 1830 to a pair of brown-shingled, c. 1900 bungalows, represent an eclectic collection on the hillside with picturesque sitings and views from backyards to Main Street below. The houses include a small board-and-batten Gothic frame house, a few Italianate houses of the 1860's with low-pitched roofs and bracketed cornices, a soaring, three-story, brick Second Empire residence, a smaller, three-bay example of the same style immediately next door, a remodeled frame house of the 1840's with a late Mansard roof, and late nineteenth-century frame homes with Queen Anne and Colonial Revival details. At 45 Liberty Street is the residence of Col. B. B. G. Stone, a well-known artist. The modest and typical c. 1830 brick residence with its pedimented gable to the street is a three-bay Greek Revival style building with an elliptical window in the pediment, a front door with transom light, sidelights and Ionic columns, and a raised basement. The house is in well-preserved condition. One of the more unusual houses on the street is Charles L. Beach's box-like, classically influenced 1838 home, with a hip roof and narrow clapboards, which recalls English country houses of the time. Regular spacing of the houses on Liberty Street due to similar lot size and uniform setback along the tree-shaded street give unity and harmony to the setting. Visible at the north end of Liberty Street is St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church at 157 Bridge Street, a late Gothic Revival style structure built in 1885. It has an unusually high central tower with brick belfry topped by a spire.
Below Liberty, Broad Street runs from Bridge Street south to the edge of the district. The street exhibits much the same variety as those above it, but lacks uniform lot size and siting. Among the residences are some with replacement sidings. Many of the buildings on Broad Street are frame dwellings of the mid to late nineteenth century, although there are a few very early buildings among them. Two Italianate style brick residences are located on the street. At 100 Broad Street is a c. 1860 white-painted building of two stories with three bays and an ell. The entrance is in the right bay. Under the flat roof the wide overhang becomes a bracketed cornice with decorative louvers in the frieze. Tall first floor windows and shutters are typical of the style. At 170 Broad Street an Italianate style brick residence of two stories and three bays has its foundation adapted to the steep gradient of the street, with a ground floor entrance under the porch, an adaptation common in Catskill. Besides an apparently original porch and the typical bracketed cornice, the house has ornamental stone window heads similar to those on the Thorpe house on Main Street.
Another discrete unit within the East Side Historic District is upper William Street, a comfortable residential neighborhood on top of the hill. Here, well-preserved houses of several architectural styles create a successful architectural melange. One outstanding house, at 112 William Street, is the Hiram Comfort house of 1838, perhaps the most highly developed Greek Revival style residence in the village. It has a pedimented two-story portico, pediments over doors and windows, flush siding under the portico, and tall first-floor windows. Nearby is another excellent Greek Revival style house, the Penfield house at 124 William. Built of brick rather than frame, and much more restrained in its use of pediments and columns, it features a delicate doorway with columns, sidelights and a transom light. The streetscape includes a brick Italianate style villa at 135 William, with iron cresting above the first floor bay window. The house has been altered at the roof line but retains its cupola. At 130 William is a two-story, five-bay Georgian Revival style frame house. This style was occasionally used for turn-of-the-century remodelings of older houses. A non-residential structure on William Street near the top of the hill is St. Luke's Episcopal Church (1899), a combination of Romanesque and Stick style in an attractive design by Henry M. Congdon, a New York architect. Its decorative features include a rose window, slate roof, pyramidal tower and spire, gable and hip roofs, buttresses, and covered entrances with wooden brackets. Stone for the building was quarried by a quality local builder, George W. Holdridge, in his own West Catskill quarry,
Other impressive residences near to William Street on Prospect Street and upper Bridge Street are part of this unit of the village. The Pettingill house at 17 Prospect Avenue is an 1870 Second Empire brick house of three stories with a patterned slate Mansard roof, shutters, porch, and bay window. It is in intact condition except for loss of part of its central tower and serves as an excellent example of a style popular in Catskill when prosperity returned to the village around 1870. Brick for late nineteenth-century houses here was obtained from several brickyards in Catskill and its environs.
An additional category of significance in the East Side Historic District relates to the artists who lived and worked in Catskill during the nineteenth century and who developed the Hudson River school of landscape painting. The most important such property in the district is the Thomas Cold house, the residence and workplace of the artist who founded America's first school of landscape painting, the Hudson River School. The house, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965, is located at 218 Spring Street.
Cole made his first trip from New York City to Catskill in 1825. The Romantic movement in America was already underway in literature and illustration. Aquatints of views along the Hudson had already hinted at the wonders of the American landscape. Cole's first paintings of scenes in the Catskill Mountains gave him his initial financial success, and, although he and other painters also chose other wild scenes in America and overseas, Cole's first love remained the Catskill range. Cole and his associates did both romantically realistic pictures which were of recognizable scenes (often the Catskills) and huge canvases with allegorical themes which were equally popular at the time. The artists' experiments with light and depiction of atmospheric conditions led to a later school now known as the Luminists. In the Catskills, these landscape painters satisfied their love for natural subjects only lightly touched by the hand of man. One of the most famous paintings, by Asher Durand, showed Thomas Cole and his great admirer, poet William Cullen Bryant, standing together absorbed in the beauties of the mountains, which were visible from Cole's studio in Catskill.
In 1840 Cole designed St. Luke's Church, which was built in the village. The church survived a fire and was used until 1899. The altered building, now a newspaper office, stands at 28 Church Street. Cole's abilities as a designer are little known. His design for the Ohio State Capitol was used in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1836 he married Mary Bartow of Catskill and thereafter resided in Catskill until he died in 1848. His residence was the former Thomson house, built in 1815 for his wife's uncle.
Other prominent artists lived and worked in Catskill village after Cole. Artist Benjamin Bellows Grant Stone (1829-1906) spent most of his productive years in a house at 45 Liberty Street. Stone was a versatile but uneven artist best known today for his pencil sketches. He turned out some acceptable landscapes of Catskill Mountain scenes in the Romantic style and was a friend of painters Frederick Church and Winslow Homer. After studying in Boston, he married Mary DuBois of Catskill in 1857 and lived at the DuBois house the rest of his life. He painted at various sites in the village, first renting a structure now gone on the Thomas Cole property. Later he had a studio at the rear of 63 William Street where he entertained famous visitors of the art world. Stone's sketch books and papers and his wife's diary naming visiting artists have survived and are an important resource for the documentation of this period of Catskill's history.
The East Side Historic District in the village of Catskill is endowed with rich architectural resources at many levels including both the unusual and the typical. Its historic resources have value in the heritage of the village, the county, the Hudson Valley, and the state. The district displays a tapestry of architectural styles, most of which are remarkably well preserved. The district's relatively large size and integrity sets it apart from other villages along the Hudson. Here is preserved a large slice of nineteenth-century life and architecture, residential, public and commercial, in the form of a county seat and trading village oriented to both the river and the interior. Catskill's many forms from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century are important to the study and illustration of architectural development in the upper Hudson Valley. Because of its unity, integrity, historical associations, and architectural value, it is worthy of preservation and nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Beecher, Raymond. "Thomas T. Thomson - Pinckney's Enigma." The Quarterly Journal: Greene County Historical Society, Inc. (Fall 1980).
Beers, F. W. Atlas of Greene County. New York: F. W. Beers, A. D. Ellis & G. G.Soule, 1867.
(Beers, J. B.). History of Green County. New York: J. B. Beers & Co., 1884.
Evers, Alf. The Catskills. Garden City: Doubleday Company, Inc., 1972.
Helmer, William F. Rip Van Winkle Railroads. Berkeley: Howell-North Books, 1970.
Ringwald, Donald C. Hudson River Day Line. California: Howell-North Books, 1965.
Ross, Claire L., and Kozacek, Edward R. Greene County, New York. Catskill: Greene County American Revolution Bicentennial Committee, 1976.
Van Zandt, Roland. The Catskill Mountain House. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1966.
Wilmerding, John. American Light. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1980.
[‡] Ross, Claire L., NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, East Side Historic District, Catskill, Greene County New York, nomination document, 1981, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington D.C.
Caleb Street • Clark Street • Franklin Street • Hill Street • Liberty Street • Main Street • North Street • Thompson Street • Water Street • William Street