State and Eagle Streets Historic District
The State and Eagle Streets Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The State and Eagle Streets Historic District is located in one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in the village of Mt. Morris in Livingston County, New York. The State and Eagle Streets Historic District encompasses 19 contributing primary properties (16 houses, one parsonage, and two churches), one contributing site (grave site with granite marker at St. John's Church), and four contributing outbuildings (one shed, two garages, and one carriage barn). There are two small-scale, non-contributing houses (one of which is post-World War II and the other is mid-nineteenth century with extensive alterations), and six non-contributing outbuildings (three sheds, two garages, and one greenhouse). Predominantly a rural agrarian community during the early nineteenth century, Mt. Morris grew rapidly during the mid-nineteenth century as a stop along the Genesee Valley Canal. The village currently (and historically) serves as the center of commercial, religious, civic and social activity for the surrounding town. Mt. Morris today is primarily residential in character with commercial businesses and light industry.
The State and Eagle Streets Historic District spans two blocks along both sides of State Street and includes a portion of the west side of Eagle Street. The boundaries were drawn to include the cohesive concentration of remaining buildings on State and Eagle Streets associated with the residential development of the village in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The State and Eagle Streets Historic District's boundaries follow along the rear lot lines of the properties fronting State Street on both the north and south sides. Clinton Street forms the eastern boundary of the district. The rear property lines of the houses included on the west side of Eagle Street form the western boundary of the district. Clear visual and physical discontinuities define the State and Eagle Streets Historic District boundaries. The eastern boundary is drawn to exclude the commercial buildings to the east of Clinton Street. These buildings are excluded due to their use as commercial space in sharp contrast to the quiet ambience of the residential section of State Street. Secondary residential neighborhoods are located to the north of the district. The dwellings in these areas are generally more modest in design and decoration, and lack the high degree of integrity found within the State and Eagle Streets Historic District. Prospect Hill, which rises above the rear of the properties on the west side of Eagle Street, forms a visual and geographic separation between the State and Eagle Streets Historic District and areas further to the west. While Chapel Street, outside the State and Eagle Streets Historic District to the south, has some prominent individual buildings such as St. Patrick's Church, the Elim Gospel Church, and the Village Baptist Church, many of the houses here have lower levels of integrity due to modern alterations.
The State and Eagle Streets Historic District is characterized by a high degree of integrity; there are only two non-contributing primary buildings. The streetscape along State Street is an important feature of the district, with its broad, tree-lined thoroughfare flanked by well landscaped lawns. Setbacks in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District are generally uniform with the exception of some of the more large scale buildings, which have deeper setbacks. The State and Eagle Streets Historic District has a mix of both large scale, high style buildings and more modest, vernacular ones. Dating from ca.1840 to ca.1910, the contributing buildings in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District range from one and one-half to two and one-half stories. The majority are of frame construction, while a small number are brick. The houses in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District exhibit a range of mid- to late-nineteenth century and early-twentieth century architectural styles including Carpenter Gothic, Italianate, Stick, Queen Anne, Georgian Revival, Neoclassical, and American Foursquare. A few of the dwellings are vernacular, with few or no discernible stylistic features. The Romanesque Revival and Gothic Revival were used for the design of the two churches in the district.
There are a number of visual focal points within the State and Eagle Streets Historic District. The north side of State Street features two large scale residences with deep setbacks at #22 and #32. The frame house at 22 State Street, built ca.1840 (or possibly earlier), is believed to be one of the oldest surviving houses in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District. It features a curving Colonial Revival style front porch, added in the early 1900s. The Georgian Revival brick house at 32 State Street retains an early-twentieth century rock-faced concrete block wall (one contributing structure) at the front property line. The brick Romanesque Revival United Church (1854-55), at the northwest corner of State and Stanley Streets, serves as an important visual "anchor" at this corner. The church features a square tower in the center of the facade. Another important building on the north side of State Street is #34 at the corner of Eagle Street. Built ca.1845, this side-gabled brick house is one of the oldest buildings in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District. Its most distinguishing feature is the full-height, Neoclassical style pedimented portico, the product of an early-twentieth century remodelling.
Notable buildings on the south side of State Street include: the Carpenter Gothic St. John's Parsonage (1867) at 23 State Street with its steeply pitched roof and ornamental bargeboards; the Gothic Revival style St. John's Church (1857) at the southeast corner of State and Stanley Streets, featuring a prominent corner tower with tall slate clad spire; the Queen Anne style O'Leary House (1897) and carriage barn across the street at #27; and the Italian Villa house at 35 State Street (ca.1852-1872). (St. John's Church and the Parsonage were National Register listed in 1991.)
Focal points on Eagle Street include: the American Foursquare/Colonial Revival house at 8 Eagle Street (ca.1910); the Carpenter Gothic house at 10 Eagle Street (ca.1852); and the Italian Villa house at 12 Eagle Street (ca.1852-60).
There are only two non-historic, primary buildings in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District. One is the modest frame Ranch style house at 17 State Street from the post World War II era. This small scale house is non-contributing due to age only. The other, located at 31 State Street, is a modest, extensively altered, mid-nineteenth century frame dwelling.
The State and Eagle Streets Historic District is an architecturally and historically significant concentration of nineteenth to early-twentieth century residential and religious buildings in the incorporated village of Mt. Morris. Encompassing Mt. Morris's oldest and most distinguished residential enclave, the State and Eagle Streets Historic District includes 19 contributing properties along both sides of a two-block section of State Street and along a portion of the west side of Eagle Street. Dating from ca.1840 to ca.1910, the buildings embody a wide variety of distinctive features associated with a broad range of popular American architectural periods, styles, and methods of construction. As a group, the buildings are distinguished by a high level of architectural sophistication and possess a remarkable degree of integrity of design, materials, and craftsmanship. The wide tree-lined street (State Street) and well landscaped village lots add to the integrity of the setting. Together the properties reflect the historic development of Mount Morris's foremost residential neighborhood as the village grew from its incorporation in 1835 to its mid- to late-nineteenth and early twentieth century prominence as a bustling commercial and industrial center. The State and Eagle Streets Historic District derives additional historic significance for the association of several properties with some of Mt. Morris's most prominent citizens.
Settlement along the street that later became known as State Street began as early as 1810, when pioneer settler Deacon Jesse Stanley built a frame house on the present front lawn of 22 State Street. This appears to have been one of the earliest frame houses built in the village. Stanley settled in what was then known as "Allan's Hill," and purchased seven acres of land within the present limits of the village. His son-in-law, Mark Hopkins, also built a frame house on the north side of present State Street. Hopkins was the first land agent of the Mt. Morris tract. Neither of these houses remains.
It is interesting to note that State Street was initially intended to extend farther west of Eagle Street as shown on the 1852 and 1858 village maps. By the 1872 map and later maps State Street is shown ending at Eagle Street. The idea of further extending State Street to the west was abandoned due to the steep incline of Prospect Hill.
The development of the residential enclave along State and Eagle Streets parallels the growth of the village of Mount Morris. Laid out in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, State Street developed into a broad, tree-lined boulevard. This became the village's foremost residential neighborhood.
The oldest extant building in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District is believed to be 22 State Street, built ca.1840 or quite possibly earlier. The house has undergone numerous alterations through the years. The original portion appears to be the side-gabled, four-bay-wide block. The symmetrical fenestration, shallow eaves, fanlight, and side-gabled form suggest that the house may have been built in the Federal era, dating it from well before 1840. The Greek Revival wings with Doric order posts may be slightly later additions (the west wing has been removed). The Colonial Revival front porch was most likely added in the early 1900s. The house has been owned by various prominent citizens of Mt. Morris. Early in its history, part of the house was used as a boarding house run by a Mrs. Mason, while the other part was occupied by Jesse A. Peterson. Mason's boarders included young ladies who came to Mt. Morris to attend Miss Aurelia Moses's and Miss Mary B. Allen's school, among them was Judge Carrol's and Dr. Fitzhugh's daughters of Rochester.
Norman Seymour, owner of a hardware store and local history buff, lived here with his wife Frances Metcalf. (Metcalf had previously lived here with her uncle, James R. Bond, after her father's early death.) The Seymours were married in this house in 1843. Norman Seymour was one of Mt. Morris' most eloquent orators. He made a public speech at the time of Lincoln's funeral service, on the return of the soldiers from the Civil War, and numerous historical addresses. He was one of the chief promoters of the Livingston County Historical Society. He also wrote articles for area newspapers. Seymour was once collector of the port in the village for the Genesee Valley Canal, a postmaster, a member of the Board of Education, and a trustee of the Presbyterian Church and the Cemetery Association. The Seymours held band concerts on the front lawn of their State Street home.
Another prominent owner of 22 State Street was John C. Winters Jr., who lived here from 1919 to 1935. Winters was an assemblyman and co-owner of the Winters and Prophet Canning Factory in Mount Morris.
The brick house at 34 State Street also appears to be one of the oldest surviving buildings in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District. It may have been built as early as 1845 for the Stephen Summers family who owned the property up until 1877. Subsequent owners have included Morgan Hammond and Frederick M. Mills. This five-bay-wide, side-gabled brick house features a foundation of coursed cobblestones. The wide frieze band and cornice returns may be original to the house, indicating that this was originally Greek Revival in design. The house was remodelled in the Neoclassical style in the early 1900s by the removal of an earlier one-story full-width porch and the addition of an impressive full-height, pedimented portico with Ionic columns.
Many of the State and Eagle Streets Historic District's most important buildings date from the second half of the nineteenth century. These picturesque buildings establish the overall Victorian character of the historic district. A broad range of remarkably intact dwellings built around the Civil War era reflect the influence of a variety of picturesque styles popular in America during the period. The quality design and craftsmanship of these buildings represent the State and Eagle Streets Historic District's prominence as the most prestigious residential neighborhood in the village.
St. John's Episcopal Church is architecturally significant as a distinguished example of mid-nineteenth century Gothic Revival church architecture in Mt. Morris. Designed by W. Hamlin and built in 1857 by W. Hinman, the church embodies a wide variety of Gothic characteristics including buttressed masonry walls surrounding a massive hammer-beam truss system; a steeply pitched roof with ornate slate patterning; asymmetrical massing; a multiple-staged corner bell tower with a tall spire; pointed-arched windows of stained glass; and pointed-arched entries. St. John's Episcopal Church retains a high degree of integrity in its setting, location, feeling association, design, materials, and craftsmanship. The State and Eagle Streets Historic District has two additional examples of Gothic-inspired architecture: St. John's Parsonage at 23 State Street (ca.1862) and the house at 10 Eagle Street (ca.1852). Both are of frame construction and feature asymmetrical massing; steeply pitched cross-gabled roofs with ornate bargeboards; label moldings at the windows; and ornate porches. These frame buildings represent the Carpenter Gothic style, which was a product of the proliferation of architectural pattern books, the evolution of the balloon-framing system, and the abundance of lumber as a building material. The most distinctive features associated with this style are the emphasis on verticality and the prolific use of scroll-sawn wooden ornamentation. These houses embody the theories associated with the Picturesque movement of the mid-nineteenth century, which promoted an imaginative romantic approach to architecture as popularized by designers and writers such as Alexander Jackson Davis, A.J. Downing, Calvert Vaux, and H.W. Cleveland and the Backus brothers.
The parsonage was built by a Mr. Summers about 1862 using plans and working drawings furnished by Henry W. Cleveland and William and Samuel D. Backus. Cleveland and the Backus brothers were noted mid-nineteenth century authors and designers who published Village and Farm Cottages: American Village Homes in 1856. The builder of 10 Eagle Street is not known.
The United Church (former Presbyterian Church) at the northwest corner of State and Stanley streets is an outstanding example of the Romanesque Revival style. The first Presbyterian Church in Mount Morris was organized in 1814 by 14 people. Services were first held in the village's schoolhouse. The first Presbyterian Church building was erected in 1832 at another lot further east on State Street, and later destroyed by fire in 1852. The present brick church at the corner of State and Stanley streets was constructed in 1854 by builder, John P. Gale, and was officially dedicated on February 1, 1855. The church embodies the distinctive features of the Romanesque Revival style including bold massing, a square tower, round arches above doors and windows, and an arcaded corbel table.
Outstanding examples of the Italianate style in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District include the brick house at 16 State Street (ca.1872), and the frame houses at 35 State (ca.1852-72) and 12 Eagle (ca.1852-60) streets. The style was loosely inspired by the rural architecture of northern Italy. The plans of architect Alexander Jackson Davis as reproduced in Andrew Jackson Downing's books of the 1840s and 1850s helped to popularize the style. Characteristic features of the style shown at 16 State Street include cubic massing, a low-pitched hipped roof with broad overhanging eaves, and segmental arched window openings. The frame houses feature the prominent square tower characteristic of a sub-type of the style known as the Italian Villa. Although the historic integrity of 35 State Street has been compromised by the addition of asbestos-cement siding, the building retains the typical round and segmental arched window and door openings in the tower. 12 Eagle Street retains the original front porch, a fanciful cast iron balcony balustrade, and bracketed eaves. This was the home of Rev. Levi Parsons who was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Mt. Morris for 45 years and was one of the editors of the Mt. Morris Centenary.
The vernacular frame house at 18 State Street (ca.1880-90) is the only example of Stick style inspired design in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District. Retaining a moderately high degree of historic integrity, the building features a steeply pitched, cross-gabled roof with decorative trusses in the gable ends. The decorative truss work was meant to mimic the interior structural framing of the house.
The most outstanding house in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District and perhaps in the entire village is the O'Leary House at 27 State Street, significant for both the quality of its design and craftsmanship, and for the high levels of architectural integrity on the interior and exterior. This high style Queen Anne frame house was constructed by builder Peter Aex in 1897 for Cornelius O'Leary. The house was built for the sum of $7,500. The 1891 Livingston County Directory lists Cornelius O'Leary as the owner of a restaurant and saloon on Chapel Street, Mt. Morris. Cornelius O'Leary, Jr. and his wife Florence moved into the house in 1898. O'Leary and his business partner Frank Conlon ran a successful Packard automobile agency in Mount Morris. He was also Livingston County Sheriff from 1895 to 1897 and served in the U.S. Army during World War I. It has remained in the O'Leary family throughout its 97-year history. The house is a classic "textbook" example of the Queen Anne style, with its asymmetrical massing, steeply pitched roof of irregular shape, round tower, wrap-around porch with spindled balustrade, contrasting wall materials (clapboard and decorative wood shingles), numerous bays, one-over-one, double-hung wood sash, and corbelled chimneys. The contributing frame carriage house further adds to the integrity of the property and is a relatively rare, intact survivor of this specific building type. It is a cross-gabled frame structure with a square cupola rising above the main roof. The louvered openings of the cupola and the window above the loft door on the front of the building are round-arched.
The cross-gabled frame house at 15 State Street (ca.1880) is also Queen Anne but it does not possess the same high level of integrity as 27 State Street due to the installation of asbestos-cement siding and the removal of a portion of the front porch. The remaining porch at the entrance features delicate turned posts, and a spindled frieze.
A few of the buildings in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District have no discernible architectural style and thus are termed vernacular. These include simple frame houses at 29 State (ca.1852), 33 State (post 1902), and 39 State (ca.1852). Of this group #29 features the most elaborate woodwork including label moldings over some windows, dentils, and front and side porches with delicate carvings.
Mount Morris continued to prosper during the first quarter of the twentieth century as illustrated by the fine examples of Georgian Revival, Colonial Revival, and American Foursquare in the district. Houses from the early 1900s are scattered among older dwellings as lots were subdivided and developed by new owners. These buildings contrast with the predominant Victorian-era character of the State and Eagle Streets Historic District and reflect a variety of trends popular in American residential architecture during the early 1900s.
The house at 32 State Street is an excellent interpretation of the Georgian Revival style of the early twentieth century. The style of this house represents the rebirth of interest in the early English houses of the Colonial era. It retains a high degree of integrity of design, materials, and craftsmanship. Its setting is also intact, featuring a rock-faced concrete block wall along the front property line and a deep setback on a large lot with many mature deciduous trees. Characteristic features of the style include a symmetrically balanced facade, an accentuated center entrance with fanlight and Doric columns, six-over-one, double-hung sashes with keystones, a modillioned cornice, dormer windows, parapet end walls with center chimneys, and a side porch with Doric columns.
The cross-gabled frame vernacular house at 6 Eagle Street (ca.1910) features a Colonial Revival-inspired front porch with fluted square Doric columns, and a wide entablature.
The design of the house at 8 Eagle Street (ca.1910) features elements of both the Colonial Revival and American Foursquare. The house retains a high level of architectural integrity. The front porch with its Doric columns and entablature, and the front dormer window with classical keystone motif in the apex are elements of the Colonial Revival, while the cubic massing and hipped roof with wide overhanging eaves are associated with the American Foursquare style. A simpler example of American Foursquare can be found at 37 State Street (ca.1910) which features the same square massing and hipped roof design. The American Foursquare was a popular architectural style for residences in the United States from the late 1890s into the 1920s. The simple, square form was economical to construct and provided a large area of living space, thus making it a popular house type for America's middle class. The popularity of the style was spread by builder's magazines, mail-order plan companies and the pre-cut, ready-for-assembly housing industry.
The State and Eagle Streets Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as an intact village residential neighborhood, which retains significant streetscapes and buildings illustrating the growth and development of the village over time. Together, the buildings in the State and Eagle Streets Historic District possess architectural sophistication and a high degree of integrity of design, materials, setting, and craftsmanship.
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† Nancy L. Todd, New York State Historic Preservation Office, Division for Historic Preservation, State and Eagle Streets Historic District, nomination document, 1995, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.