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Sandy Creek Historic District

Sandy Creek Village, Oswego County, NY

The Sandy Creek Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]


The Sandy Creek Historic District is the historic and present commercial and civic center of the village of Sandy Creek. The 3.7 acre Sandy Creek Historic District encompasses eleven commercial, civic and residential properties and contains fourteen contributing buildings, all of which contribute to its historic significance. The linear historic district includes the buildings at the intersection of Main Street and Harwood Drive, and extends one block east, on both sides of Harwood Drive to First Street. Main Street (US Route 11) was the historic Syracuse-Watertown Plank Road, the major north-south route in town. Harwood Drive, located south of and parallel to Little Sandy Creek, is the primary east-west street in the village.

The boundaries of the Sandy Creek Historic District were drawn to include the cohesive intact collection of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century buildings on Main Street and Harwood Drive and to conform to the rear property lines of those buildings. The boundaries were determined by the lack of architectural integrity or distinction of the nineteenth and early-twentieth century commercial buildings north and south on Main Street and west on Lake Street and by the lack of architectural integrity of the nineteenth-century residences on Hardwood Drive east of First Street.

The eleven properties in the Sandy Creek Historic District range in date between 1834 and 1928 and in style from Greek Revival to Colonial Revival. The character of the Sandy Creek Historic District is predominantly commercial. The district is dominated by two-story detached frame buildings in the Italianate or Greek Revival style. It contains seven commercial buildings, located on Main Street and the north side of Harwood Drive, three residences on Hardwood Drive, and one library building, set in a small village park at the southeast corner of Main Street and Harwood Drive. The buildings are unified by their proximity, scale, styles, materials and facade lines.

The two-story frame commercial buildings contain street-level storefronts occupied by retail and service establishments and upper-story storage space. They retain a remarkable degree of original architectural details, including storefront display windows on 8071, 8079 and 8085 Harwood Drive and 9163 and 9165 Main Street and 8071 Harwood Drive, pedimented window crowns on 8085 and 8079 Harwood Drive, and decorative cornices with brackets on 9163 and 9165 Main Street and 8071 Harwood Drive.

Of particular note are two finely crafted, high style, Greek Revival style residences at 8080 and 8084 Harwood Drive, built by William Elliott Howlett. Both feature prominent two-story porticos with square pillars and Ionic columns, hipped roofs, deep cornices and one-story side wings. The residence at 8080 Harwood Drive also retains its original cornice brackets and first floor cornice. In contrast, the one-story vernacular residence across the street at 8087 Harwood Drive provides a representative example of a modest residence of the period characterized by small size, simple front-gabled facade and lack of architectural detail. It is related to the buildings in the Sandy Creek Historic District by its period, frame construction, facade line, and use of simple pedimented window crowns, similar to those on 8085 Harwood Drive.

The Ainsworth Memorial Library building, the last building constructed in the Sandy Creek Historic District (1929), serves as the focal point of the district, due to its prominent location on the corner of Main Street and Harwood Drive, its park setting, its finely crafted Colonial Revival style details, and its important civic function in the community.


The Sandy Creek Historic District is historically and architecturally significant as an intact cohesive collection of mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century commercial, civic and residential buildings reflecting the emergence of the village of Sandy Creek as a commercial and civic center for the surrounding agricultural area and a stopping place for travellers on the historic Syracuse-Watertown Plank Road (US Route 11). Constructed between 1835 and 1928 in response to the expansion of the local mercantile and service economy, the need to rebuild after a succession of fires, and local interest in civic improvement, the historic district recalls Sandy Creek's incremental growth and prosperity during this period. In scale, style and embellishment, the Sandy Creek Historic District provides a rare surviving example of a typical main street of a small rural village of the period, few of which survive in the region today. The Sandy Creek Historic District is especially notable for two distinguished Greek Revival style residences reflecting the influence of the architectural pattern books of the period, several Italianate style commercial buildings, a Colonial Revival style library building and the overall quality of local craftsmanship. The Sandy Creek Historic District remains the commercial center of the village and most of the buildings continue in use; it has retained a high degree of integrity.

The village of Sandy Creek, originally called the Creek Settlement, began in the 1820's when pioneers from New England arrived and built modest residences, retail establishments and small water-powered industries along the south banks of Little Sandy Creek, on what is now Harwood Drive. The only surviving building from this period in the Sandy Creek Historic District is the small frame residence of William J. Cottrell, a boot and shoe manufacturer, built c.1835, which remains in its original location at the rear of 8071 Harwood Drive. With a gable roof, front porch and picket fence enclosing the yard, it was similar in appearance to 8087 Harwood Drive (pre-1854), also in the Sandy Creek Historic District.

The Syracuse-Watertown Plank Road (now Main Street and US Route 11) opened in 1849 and provided the first overland link between the burgeoning manufacturing and commercial centers at Watertown and Syracuse. It brought commercial and later tourist traffic through Sandy Creek. This traffic, along with trade based on the prosperous local farm economy, stimulated such businesses as hotels, blacksmith and harness shops, and stores. This commercial activity concentrated around the crossroad at Main Street and Harwood Drive, which remains the commercial center of the village. The buildings which survive from this period are located on Harwood Drive, including Captain James Thompson's two and one-half story frame blacksmith shop (No. 8085, 1847-1854) and modest one-story vernacular frame residence (No. 8087, pre-1854), the Italianate style Otis Block (No. 8079, c.1854), the Greek Revival style residences of Julius Robbins (No. 8084, 1857), and Horace Scripture (No. 8080, c.1861), and the two and one-half story frame blacksmith shop of Mason P. Kenyon (No. 8079, c.1861). In 1879 a vernacular frame building (c.1867) was moved down the street to its present site, 8073 Harwood Drive, a more advantageous location for Elizabeth McKee's combined residence and millinery shop.

The Sandy Creek Historic District is distinguished by the outstanding quality of local design and craftsmanship of the Robbins and Scripture residences, two Greek Revival style houses at 8080 and 8084 Harwood Drive (1857 and 1861) built by local master builder William Elliott Howlett, who built houses and school buildings from the 1850's through 1870's. These buildings reflect the influence of the pattern book architecture of the time in their style, proportions and massive pillars and columns. The combination of square pillars and round columns and the use of hipped roofs and Italianate style cornice brackets represents Howlett's distinctive interpretation of the popular styles of the day. The refined details, such as fluted columns with carved Ionic capitals, attest to Howlett's skill as a craftsman. The Julius Robbins and Horace Scripture residences, along with the P.M. Newton residence (1851) (individual component), are the only intact examples of Howlett's work in Sandy Creek. The prominent location in the village, elaborate detailing and fine craftsmanship of these residences attest to the wealth and prominence of their original owners. Since the prosperity of both Robbins and Scripture was related to agriculture, they also testify to the importance of agriculture in the local economy. Julius Robbins owned a general store, specializing in the sale of farm equipment. Horace Scripture was a real estate developer and a horse trader as well as a gentleman farmer with a stock farm and tenant farms. He was the first vice president of the Agricultural Society and the Oswego County Fair and also County Superintendent of the Poor.

A series of fires in the 1880's and 1890's and 1890's destroyed a number of buildings on Main Street, including two hotels. The fires opened prime commercial sites and created the immediate need to convert remaining buildings into hotels to accommodate travelers on the Syracuse-Watertown Plank Road. In 1884, the former blacksmith shop at 8085 Harwood Drive was converted to a hotel called the Watkins House. The following year, the gable roof was replaced by a mansard roof to increase floor space for a ballroom on the top floor. The mansard roof collapsed under a heavy load of snow in 1929 and was replaced with a gable roof, like the original. In 1891 the former Mason P. Kenyon Block was converted to a hotel called the Sandy Creek House, which became so prosperous that it expanded into the adjacent Otis Block, and by 1889 the two buildings were joined by an addition to become 8079 Harwood Drive. The Sandy Creek House was well known for its food and accommodations and is reputed to have served Theodore Roosevelt when he was governor of New York.

Two buildings survive from the period of rebuilding after the fires: 9165 Main Street (1898), which housed the P.M. Newton General Store, and the building at 9163 Main Street, which housed E.L. Nye's undertaking service and furniture store as well as the U.S. Post Office. Both buildings retain their original Italianate style, form and such details as projecting cornices with brackets, storefront cornices and some storefront fenestration.

In 1907 the William Cottrell residence, 8071 Harwood Drive (c.1835), having been converted to commercial use in 1895, was expanded with a two-story Italianate style addition on the front, reflecting the style of the two buildings across Main Street (9165 and 9163) and the Otis Block at 8073 Harwood Drive.

In 1912, a fire destroyed the commercial block on the southeast corner of Main Street and Harwood Drive and gutted the Horace Scripture House (8080 Harwood Drive). While the Scripture residence was immediately restored, the land on Main Street was cleared, planted and dedicated as a village park. It remained an open green space until 1928 when a former resident, the Hon. D.E. Ainsworth, donated the Annie Porter Ainsworth Memorial Public Library to the town of Sandy Creek and directed that it be located on the park site. The one-story brick Colonial Revival style library building and the park setting create a focal point within the Sandy Creek Historic District. The dedication of the park and library at this prominent location in the village reflects the growing civic pride in the community and the influence of a national interest in civic improvements in the early twentieth century.

Since little development has occurred in the town of Sandy Creek since 1928 and the village remains a civic and commercial center, the buildings in the Sandy Creek Historic District retain an outstanding integrity of design, materials and detail. The alterations of 8071, 8079 and 8073 Harwood Drive, which occurred during the period of significance of the district, reflect their continuing and changing use in the village and do not detract from their historic significance. In scale, proportions, stylistic continuity and the repetition of harmonious detail, the Sandy Creek Historic District retains its mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century character.

  1. JoAnn Beck, St Lawrence Eastern Ontario Association, Sandy Creek Historic District, nomination document, 1986, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Harwood Street • Lake Street • Main Street