The Market Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
Palmyra's one block long sloping Market Street runs north-south between Main Street and Canal Street. The boundaries of the Market Street Historic District encompass the properties of #106-108, #110-112, #114-116, #118-118 1/2, #120, #124, #126, #136, #140 on the east side of the street and #105, #107-109, #111-113, #115, #137 on the west side.
The Market Street Historic District includes mixed residential and commercial structures. With the exception of #111, an early twentieth-century building, they date from a fifty year period between the 1830's and 1880's; and consequently buildings with details from the Federal period are juxtaposed with those which have cast iron store fronts. There are two small vacant lots on the east side of the street between #136 and #126 and a large lot between #115 and #137 on the west side of the street which is part of Palmyra's Neighborhood Development Program.
The majority of buildings fall into two general categories:
Two story frame dwellings or shops. Mostly free-standing, gable roofs, rectangular plans frequently with rear additions. Simple wooden cornices and window trim. Generally dating from 1830's-1840's and concentrated at lower (northern) end of street. Some twentieth century changes, either modern siding or enlarged windows.
Two to three story attached commercial buildings, some with cast iron storefronts (flat roofs except #111, which has a mansard roof and front dormer) cornices corbeled brickwork below cornices. Arched window moldings on second floor. Generally dating from 1820's-1880's and concentrated at upper (southern) end of street near Main Street. Some were built to replace wooden ones destroyed by fire.
The continuity of the Market Street Historic District is established by the above structures which link together four outstanding buildings which are described individually.
#105 — Two and one-half story cobblestone building, rectangular in plan, three bays wide on the street facade. Flat roof, bracketed cornice and stone trim. First story wooden storefront with bracketed cornice. Reputedly first used as a tin shop, built c.1830. Presently used as apartments.
#137 — Cole-Johncox House — Two story free standing dwelling, front facade brick laid up in American bond, basically rectangular in plan with lower two story kitchen wing to the rear. Three bays wide on Market Street facade, stone trim, doorway with fanlight and sidelights, south side of building re-faced in early twentieth century with brick laid up in running bond, two inside chimneys on north side. Gable roof. Original stairway and much original woodwork-doors, trim and mantels, apparently original small paned window sash on second floor of rear wing. Built c.1830.
#120 — The Old Ritter Store — Two story building. First story sand stone storefront, second story brick laid up in American bond, flat composition and tin roof, stone window sills and lintels. Stone name-block inscribed "M. Ritter Variety Store" on second story. Frame section at rear of building now used as residence. Built c.1830 by M. Ritter who later lived next door at #118-118 1/2.
#140 — Sybil Phelps House — Three story brick commercial building with dwelling above second and third stories. Two bays wide, two story wings on north and south sides, flat roof, elaborate bracketed and paneled cornice with segmental pediment. First story cast iron storefront. Second story French windows open onto delicately detailed iron balcony. Built c.1845 by William Doran and owned since the late 1860's by Phelps family.
The Village of Palmyra, although first settled in the late Eighteenth Century was actually "put on the map" in the mid-1820's when the Erie Canal was constructed along the north side of the village. The Market Street Historic District linking Main Street to the canal, illustrates the immediate stimulus the opening of the canal had on Palmyra's commercial development.
The street was laid out in 1828 soon after the canal was opened, and it was appropriately named Market Street as along it were established shops and small businesses — variety store, tailor, tin shop, marble factory and saloons — interspersed with residences which were often lived in by the shopkeeper.
The immediate replacement of commercial buildings after the fire at the south end in the 1870's is indicative of Market Street's continued economic vitality throughout the Nineteenth Century. However with the decline of the importance of the canal and eventually of Canal Street with its lumber yards, coal yards and packing companies Market Street's commercial activity subsided. It became little more than a narrow side street bypassed by the mainstream of traffic. Today, gaps remain where several of the old buildings have been removed and yet the architectural continuity and the Nineteenth Century flavor of the street still remains. The relative lack of importance of the street in the Twentieth Century has saved its buildings from serious modernizations. The overall character of the street is enhanced by four buildings that merit individual recognition — the Cole-Johncox House (#137), a small but remarkably elegant federal period house; the Sybil Phelps House (#140), noted for its handsomely designed cast iron storefront and ornate iron balcony on the second floor; Ritter Variety Store (#120), distinguished by an unusual cut sandstone first floor facade and well-preserved name block on the second floor; and the cobblestone shop (#105), a now rare instance of the use of that material for a commercial building.
The roots of Palmyra's economic history we see in its Market Street Historic District while the full-blown prosperity of this canal town is found in the later Nineteenth Century commercial blocks lining the adjacent East Main Street Commercial Historic District.
Cook, T. Palmyra and Vicinity. Press of Palmyra Courier-Journal, 1930.
Files of N.Y. Division of Historic Preservation and Historic Palmyra Inc.
Shelgren, Patterson & Marzec. "Feasibility Study for the Relocation/Restoration of the Cole-Johncox House, 137 Market Street, Palmyra, New York." October 2, 1972.
Werner, Constance. "Reconnaissance Report on the Preservation of Buildings in the Main Street Urban Renewal Project Palmyra, New York" New York State Council on the Arts. Undated.