The Verbeck House (20 Church Avenue) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Photos by Living Places, Sept., 2007.
The Verbeck House is located on the west side of Church Avenue (New York Route 50), the principal southern access to the village of Ballston Spa. Surrounded by tall shade trees, the large, rambling structure is similar in scale, setting and materials to neighboring residences, none of which possesses the integrity of the Verbeck House.
A two and one-half story, asymmetrical, Queen Anne style residence built in 1889, the Verbeck House is a four-bay by six-bay frame structure above a rock-faced stone foundation. The exterior sheathing of narrow clapboard is divided by bands and panels which emphasize the structural system. The fields of the building's numerous gables are sheathed with shingles, as is the open second-story porch at the rear of the house. Fenestration is regular, generally consisting of tall, double-hung windows arranged in bands and surmounted by a variety of decorative lintels. Two-story bays project from the east (front) and south elevations, and a three-bay, one-story raised porch with balustrade shelters the formal east entrance. A cornice with modillions surrounds the house below a slate roof, and a tall corbeled exterior brick chimney accents the south elevation.
The interior of the Verbeck House remains substantially as built, retaining nearly complete integrity of design and materials. The formal entrance consists of a six-panel door surrounded by stained-glass sidelights and transom. The central hall extends nearly the length of the house, giving access to the flanking formal parlors, library and dining room. An ornate walnut staircase with turned balusters is also located in this hall. The ornate parlor mantels as well as the doors, wainscoting and moldings throughout the house are of cherry. The hall is characterized by richly detailed early Art Nouveau style wall coverings in an embossed floral pattern. Three first and second floor doors at the west end of the hall contain stained-glass panels which duplicate the floral wallpaper of the hall.
Among the numerous other significant interior features are rare combination gas/electric chandeliers and wall sconces, stained-glass transoms, original bathrooms and plumbing features, functioning steam radiators, oak floors trimmed with parquetry, an intact butler's pantry, and servants' quarters in the attic story.
No outbuildings are located on the property, and there is no historical or physical evidence that dependent structures ever existed on this lot.
The Verbeck House is architecturally significant as a documented example of the work of prominent regional architect Marcus F. Cummings. Built in 1889 for James Verbeck, a prominent Ballston Spa attorney, the rambling twenty-five room Queen Anne style house is one of the last buildings designed by Cummings before his retirement in 1891. The Verbeck House represents a significant stylistic departure from Cummings' earlier, more familiar Italianate and Second Empire style residential designs. With its interior remaining substantially intact, the Verbeck House is a distinguished example of late nineteenth century residential design by a master architect.
Marcus Fayette Cummings was the most prolific architect practicing in northeastern New York State during the period 1862-1880. Born in Utica in 1836, Cummings obtained practical design and construction experience working in Utica, Baltimore, Buffalo and St. Louis during the 1850s. Following the devastating fire of 1862, Cummings established a highly successful architectural practice in Troy, securing commissions for numerous commercial, civic, institutional and residential designs in Troy and the surrounding region. Cummings published two noted pattern books (Architecture, with Charles C. Miller in 1865, and Architectural Details in 1873) which greatly influenced Italianate and econd Empire style design during the post-Civil War decades.
Marcus Cummings designed few residences from 1869 until his retirement in 1891 and none between 1879 and 1888. The Verbeck House in Ballston Spa and a house in Troy were the last two residential commissions completed by the architect. The massing, materials and detail of the Verbeck House reflect the influence of the Queen Anne style upon Cummings in his later years. The rare documented Ballston Spa residence provides an interesting, significant contrast to the more prevalent and well-known designs characteristic of Marcus Cummings's earlier career.
Designed for attorney James Verbeck, the house at 20 Church Street remained in the Verbeck family until 1977. This long continuity of ownership has contributed to the preservation of many significant interior features as well as overall integrity of design, materials and craftsmanship. The Verbeck House is an important unaltered example of late nineteenth century residential architecture.