Broad Street-Water Street Historic District
The Broad Street-Water Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Broad Street-Water Street Historic District, a T-shaped commercial area, lies along the northern edge of the Erie Canal as it runs past the village of Lyons in upstate New York. The boundaries of the Broad Street-Water Street Historic District are easily defined and encompass a section of the canal as well as structures dating from the 1830's to the 1890's.
The Broad Street-Water Street Historic District includes properties on both sides of Broad Street south of Pearl Street and both sides of Water Street from #89 and #78-84 at the western end to #35 and #38-40 at the eastern end. Parallel to Water Street the Erie Canal forms the southern boundary, and a segment of the canal behind the designated Water Street building is included within the Broad Street-Water Street Historic District.
Broad Street was appropriately named, and the structures on its west side particularly reflect the grandeur attached to this unusually wide street.
a. The former Hotel Baltzel (#27-31 Broad Street) — large three story brick structure, square and solid in form and style, stone sills and lintels on first two floors, and brick and terra cotta window heads on third floor. Identified by stone tablet at cornice level as "Hotel Baltzel," with "1888" in pediment above. Interior open stairway to upper floors now closed off. Rooms were arranged in a modified "U" around a light well. Ground floor "modernization" where local newspaper office now located, otherwise building is vacant. Site has been occupied by a hotel since the 1830's. Visually and structurally the Hotel Baltzel provides a strong terminus at the north end of Broad Street's commercial district.
b. Baltzel Block (#17-25 Broad Street) — Burned and demolished August, 1979.
c. 13-15 Broad Street — three story brick building with stepped end gable walls and relatively simple and early detailing of cornice and window framing. Alterations on first floor front facade. Built 1830-40 and is one of the earliest buildings in the Broad Street-Water Street Historic District.
d. Nusbickel Block (#3-9 Broad Street) — three story, brick commercial block anchoring the northwest corner of the Broad Street-Water Street intersection. Marble tablet centered above third story inscribed "Nusbickel 1879." Elaborate and intact cast iron storefront curves around corner to Water Street, but orientation of building is primarily onto Broad. Stone sills and window heads, large door on the south (Water Street) facade opens to elevator which served all three floors.
The outstanding structures on Water Street include:
a. Exchange Buildings (#6-12 Broad Street and #58-64 Water Street) — three story brick block dominating the northwest corner of the intersection of Broad and Water Streets. Stone tablet above third story window in center of nine-bay Water Street facade inscribed "Exchange Buildings, A.D. 1835," stone piers at ground floor, simple cornice and hipped roof. Some pulleys still remain above doors and former doors on upper levels. Iron balcony survives around four corner windows on second story.
b. Grouping of commercial buildings along south side of Water Street from #35 to #57 (including the Old Boehiem and Knowles Blocks.) These buildings are built right up to the canal bank so that their basements are directly accessible from the canal.
1. Old Boehiem Block (#51-57 Water Street) — stone piers fenestration on upper floors reminiscent of Exchange Buildings across the street. Mansard over part of block possibly a later addition. Iron balcony at two bays of second floor.
2. Knowles Block (#45-49 Water Street) — cast iron storefront on ground level from S. Shorer, Rochester." Windows of second and third stories have cut stone stills and lintels, border of colored glass in upper sash, some remaining iron balconies. Stone tablet above third story windows bears inscription "Knowles Commercial Block 1852."
3. #37-43 Water Street — Tallest and broadest building in Water Street group, cast iron front at ground level intact, as are the deep cornice and window heads. Unusually tall windows on third floor indicating use as a meeting room or "hall."
As if trapped between the buildings lining Broad and Water Streets under a blanket of 20th century neglect, a 19th century "canal era" ambience still survives with remarkable vitality and humanness. Within the Broad Street-Water Street Historic District in the village of Lyons, stone piers of the 1830's and 40's, cast iron storefronts and balconies, decorative window heads and cornices show few alterations since the days of the Baltzels, Nusbickels and Knowleses who left their names in inscriptions on the front facades of their commercial "blocks" overlooking the canal.
The focus of the Broad Street-Water Street Historic District is still concentrated on an open lot at the foot of Broad Street, the old landing place, vividly described in the following account of the opening day of the Erie Canal in Lyons.
"On the 28th (October 1825) Governor Clinton and suite arrived at the lock at the foot of Broad Street greeted by a fire of artillery. They were met by committees from Geneva and Lyons and escorted under a triumphal arch..."
On that day Broad Street and possibly Water Street were only laid out, but the building boom was yet to come. The stone and brick row known as the Exchange Buildings is the earliest documented commercial block in Lyons and of prime architectural significance in its essentially unaltered condition. The sensitive treatment of the corner sit in the Exchange Block with one free-standing pier is mirrored in the later Nusbickel Block on the opposite corner built in 1878 with a free-standing cast iron column at the corner.
The ornate and fanciful Baltzel Block (#17-25) further up Broad Street is [burned and demolished 8/1979] the gem of the Broad Street-Water Street Historic District with its multiplication of dormers, gables, weathervanes and cresting and its cast iron lion decorations particularly fitting for a building in this village. Little is known about its history or architect.
The Baltzel brothers were sons of a Swiss merchant from Alsace. The elder Baltzel had emigrated in 1842, come to Lyons, and by the time he died there in 1878, he was known as "one of the richest, most prominent businessmen in Lyons." Baltzel's shoe and boot trade was carried on by one son, Henry; and William, a second son, ran a dry goods and provisions business. The Hotel Baltzel and the Baltzel Block built after a fire on the family lot attest to the strength of the Baltzel fortune in the 1880's as well as illustrate a certain European imagination and flair in architectural embellishment.
Professor Stephen Jacobs at Cornell University describes the Broad and Water Street area as "a rare historical survival," possibly a unique one, containing "a group of unusual structures going back to the first Erie Canal boom of the 1830's which retains its nineteenth century character to a remarkable degree."
Atlas of Wayne County, NY, compiled and published by D.G. Beers and Co., Philadelphia: 1874.
Cowles, Hon. George W. ed., Landmarks of Wayne County, D. Mason and Co., Syracuse: 1895.
Jacobs, Stephen W., Letter to Lyons Village Board, December 2, 1968.
Lyons, NY and Vicinity, (known as "Grip's" Historical Souvenir of Lyons), Syracuse, NY, "Grip"; 1904.
McIntosh, W.H., History of Wayne County, New York. Everts, Ensign and Everts, Philadelphia: 1877.
New Century Atlas of Wayne County, New York, Century Map Company, Philadelphia: 1904.
†Brooke, C.E., N. Y. State Division for Historic Preservation, Broad Street-Water Street Historic District, nomination document, 1973, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.