The Market Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The Market Street Historic District includes the entire, extant, nineteenth-century commercial section of Potsdam along two blocks of Market Street, the principle thoroughfare, and one block on the south side of Raymond Street, an adjacent side street. Boundaries were drawn to encompass this commercial area, and to exclude the outlying modern intrusions. The Market Street Historic District is comprised of twenty-seven buildings dating from 1820 to 1900.
The buildings exhibit a uniformity of scale, their heights ranging from two to four stories, and complementary facade treatments above the first story. All the buildings with one exception are of sandstone or brick, and are reddish in color. Noteworthy examples of Federal, Italianate, Romanesque Revival, and Classical Revival styles characterize the district. Particularly notable are the Cox Block, 5-7 Market Street, and 45-47 Market Street, executed in an elaborate Romanesque Revival style.
The structures in the Market Street Historic District provide many illustrations of the use of local building methods and materials, notably Potsdam sandstone laid up according to the early nineteenth-century slab-and-bind technique (2, 17, 30 Market Street) and as random ashlar cut stone (5-7, 45-47 Market Street and 11 Raymond Street).
The single intrusion in the Market Street Historic District is 16-20 Market Street, a single-story brick structure of contemporary design. Although its height and fenestration differentiate it from the rest of the district, its brick construction makes it relatively unobtrusive.
Most of the buildings in the Market Street Historic District are in commercial use and many have had street level alterations. The Town Hall (35-37 Market Street) is housed in a former bank, and the Civic Center is located in the Waterworks building (11 Raymond Street).
The Market Street Historic District is among the finest and most intact commercial districts in northern New York. It combines examples of the most important commercial architectural styles of the nineteenth century including Federal, Italianate, Romanesque, and Classical Revival, and major illustrations of the use of local building materials, Potsdam sandstone and Gouverneur granite. Cohesive in design and execution with complementary building heights, color and texture of materials, the buildings in the Market Street Historic District form a clearly delineated and coherent evocation of the architectural and commercial history of northern New York State.
First settled in 1806, Potsdam developed as an industrial and commercial center for the region. Located on the Racquette River and close to the Saint Lawrence River, the village has always had access to transportation and to water power. Mills developed along the banks of the Racquette River — sawmills, tanneries, and later, textile mills. Potsdam was also a major railroad terminus. With the development of the State Teachers College system after the Civil War, Potsdam became the home of the major northern branch, today known as the State University of New York at Potsdam. Combined with the presence of Clarkson College, education has emerged the principal industry of the village today.
Sources of economic growth provided incentive for the development of the commercial heart of Potsdam. The first shops were built of Potsdam sandstone cut and laid in the slab-and-binding manner in Federal style buildings. Thirty such structures stood in the Market Street Historic District at one time, a product of the 1820's and 1830's. Three remain, of which the best example is the Alyce Shop, 30 Market Street. Gradually, later structures replaced them. Number 11-13 Market Street, which once also included number 9, illustrates the Italianate style as it developed in the district during the 1860's. Another such structure is 19-25 Market Street designed by its builder, Dr. Harvey Thatcher.
Many of the buildings are directly associated with the merchant/developers who built them. Martin Van Buren Ives, who arrived in Potsdam in 1865, built three commercial structures, 39-43 and 22-24 Market Street in the Italianate style, and 45-47 Market Street in the Romanesque style. The latter is possibly based in design on the Cox Block, 5-7 Market Street, built in 1888 by Charles Cox, a local businessman who also owned a sandstone quarry. The Pert Block at 34-36 Market Street was named for its builder, a local carpenter, village assessor, and merchant.
Disastrous fires destroyed many of the older buildings and provided an opportunity for later development of architectural styles. A fire in 1890 levelled the entire block of Market Street on the west side between numbers 45 and 47. A huge late Italianate block replaced the original buildings. In 1896, the inn at the corner of Market and Main Streets burned, and in its place the present Arlington Inn was constructed in a combination of Academic Revival and late Romanesque styles. Subsequent fires in the 1940's caused the removal of upper floors and cornices such as at 39-43 Market Street.
Chapman, Marguerite Gurley. Early History of Potsdam, Potsdam, New York. Potsdam Public Museum, 1956.
Hough, Franklin B. A History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, New York...A facsimile edition with an added forward sponsored by the St. Lawrence County Historical Association. Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company, 1970.
Leete, Charles H. Potsdupinni, A History of Potsdam. Privately printed by Edward H. Leete, 1967.
Market Street • Raymond Street