Main-Partition Streets Historic District
The Main-Partition Streets 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. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Main-Partition Streets Historic District has both historical and architectural significance. Buildings from a variety of periods remain in the district, providing a wealth of historical association and an architectural record of nineteenth-century building styles. The buildings reflect aspects of the broader social and commercial changes that altered the face of upper Hudson Valley communities during the nineteenth century.
Although the oldest mill in Saugerties was established in the seventeenth century, little development occurred then. After Palatine Germans joined the early settlers of Dutch extraction around 1710, two mills, one on each of Saugerties' bordering streams, were established. However, as late as 1811 the hamlet contained only twenty-one houses. In the 1820's, when many Hudson River communities began to grow, a businessman named Henry Barclay sparked the expansion of the community by establishing the Ulster Iron Works and a paper mill. In 1831 the rapidly growing village incorporated under the name of Ulster, a name that was changed to Saugerties in 1855. Before the Civil War the iron works, processing pig iron and scrap, employed three hundred people working round-the-clock shifts. Most building sites in the business district were occupied by that time. Manufacture of paper, calico prints, and white lead and paint, and shipment of hides helped support the community as a whole and made possible a busy business district. Lining the streets above the docks and mills were various tradesmen typically found in nineteenth-century villages. When the early industries failed after mid-century, paper processing, brick making and the shipment of gunpowder, farm goods, river ice, and, especially, bluestone from area quarries replaced them. The village population stabilized at about 4,000 around 1870 after forty years of sharp increase and remained almost unchanged for one hundred years. Due to the lack of twentieth-century growth, the district has few modern structures. The nature of the population, however, changed with the work available. Irish, Germans, and, later, Italians established themselves as workers in the mills, quarries, and brickyards as well as in the village. Late in the century Saugerties became a popular landing and hostelry for tourists going to boarding houses in the Catskill mountain foothills.
Fortunately there have been no major fires or other disasters in the district. Many buildings of special historical interest remain, including a 1780's public house, the Barrett-Johnstone Building, which housed a ballroom used for a courtroom and village elections, another inn, the Phoenix Hotel of 1827, now a bus station, and the still-functioning Exchange Hotel, built before 1840. Among the oldest store buildings is Lamb's Hardware Store on Market Street which was associated with the Russell family, nineteenth-century merchants. A bank of the 1850's still occupies its original building and historic churches anchor each end of the district on Main Street. The J. K. Merritt Dry Goods Store retains its faded painted wall sign from the nineteenth century. Other tradesmen's buildings of the late Victorian era are clearly labeled on rooftop pediments: Dr. J. H. Reed 1890 (a drug store); I. Lazarus, Clothier; Jacob Brede 1876 (a bakery). The historic bluestone sidewalks are unusual relics of the bluestone shipping period of the 1800's.
The Main-Partition Streets Historic District contains numerous buildings of special architectural interest. Perhaps the most noteworthy mid-century building on Main Street is the Scofield-Halpert Building, a two-story, five-bay stuccoed brick store topped by an extravagant segmental arch. The little-altered 1850's facade includes two storefronts separated by a center entrance to the upper floor. The entrance is intact with its original door. The second-story paired, round-headed windows accented by a hood molding have a strong stylistic relationship to the two well-preserved churches of the same decade on the same street. The First Congregational Church, of stuccoed brick scored to simulate ashlar, has a central entrance tower and nave with center aisle. Its Romanesque Revival exterior is highlighted by the use of semi-circular arches are repeated in the larger Reformed Church on the east end of the district. This church has a soaring spire atop its tower situated at the side of a gabled facade. Next door, its 1858 Parsonage retains an intact facade with bracketed cornice and porch and, once again, paired, round-headed windows, here set in a gable dormer. On Market Street is a Federal period, Flemish-bond fronted brick store with pedimented gable and oval window. On Partition Street another notable building has an early second-story iron-railed balcony typical of the 1860's. Balconies were a common feature where living quarters were included over stores but, because of deterioration, have usually been removed. Hidden behind the row of stores on Partition Street is another rare survival, a large brick livery stable now used for small-scale manufacturing.
The district also has valuable late Victorian buildings on Main and Partition Streets. The E. Whitaker Block Building retains cast-iron cresting above a mansard roof; the cornices of the Van Buskirk, Dr. Reed, Jacob Brede and Lazarus Clothier buildings are topped by named and dated pediments once considered indispensable to an up-to-date establishment. Of outstanding architectural value and technological interest are two buildings with complete iron fronts. The galvanized sheet-iron fronts were shipped from Mesker Brothers Iron Works in St. Louis, Missouri. Mesker Brothers of St. Louis was a large-scale manufacturer of iron building fronts and architectural elements. The fronts for brick buildings were promoted for their durability, appearance and inexpensiveness, as well as for fire resistance and convenience. On Partition Street, the Lazarus Clothier Building has a full Mesker facade including two pediments and Mesker insignia at the bases of the storefront pilasters at street level. The International House Building on Main Street has a similar front of half the size. Both are further identifiable because of their similarity to the building facade featured on the company's 1892 catalog. The fronts were originally shipped all over the United States and are a valuable discovery.
Pressure for changes such as increased height of buildings and replacement with modern structures has been minimal. There remain a variety of styles and unaltered details that preserve the sense of a small-scale, densely built business district in a typical nineteenth-century riverside village.
Additional historical and architectural information on individual structures can be found in the New York Statewide Inventory which is on file with the Division for Historic Preservation.
 Endnote: Mesker Bros. Iron Works. Tenth Edition (St. Louis: 1892), catalog cover.
Altenau, Hildegard E. "Population History of Saugerties, New York." (Major Project, Bard College: 1978).
Beers, F. W. Atlas of Ulster County, New York. New York: 1875.
Mesker Bros. Iron Works. Catalog. Tenth Edition. St. Louis: 1892.
Sylvester, N. B. History of Ulster County, New York. Philadelphia: 1880.
† Dunn, Shirley W., Main-Partition Streets Historic District, nomination document, 1980, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.