The Athens Historic District was listed onto the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Text below was adapted from a copy of the original nomination document [‡]].
The Athens Historic District is locally significant as a well-preserved concentration of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American residences, especially in the Greek Revival and Queen Anne styles. The district is one of the best -preserved concentrations of dwellings in Bradford County, with very few intrusions or changes in land use. Most of the dwellings in the district occupy long linear lots that were laid out in the eighteenth century, and are located along either side of South Main Street and back up to either the Chemung or Susquehanna Rivers. In addition to dwellings, the Athens Historic District also contains public buildings and sites, including churches, a cemetery, a library/museum, and a public park with an architect-designed soldiers' monument, which served the local community. The period of significance extends from 1801 to ca. 1935. The beginning date is 1801 because it is the earliest known construction date in the district, specifically of the Saltmarsh Tavern at 742 to 744 South Main Street. Toward the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century, construction in the south residential district of Athens generally came to an end. However, one well-executed, brick Tudor Revival residence was erected in 1935 at 750 South Main Street. The building is a good example of an early twentieth century residential style, and is the only one of its kind in the district. Consequently, the end of the period of significance is extended to this date, 1935. The district contains two resources previously listed in the National Register: the Protection of the Flag Monument, and the Spalding Memorial Library/Tioga Point Museum.
The Layout of Athens and Early Settlement
Located on a peninsula between the Chemung and Susquehanna Rivers, Athens was the site of the Native American village of Teoaga, and was also known as Tioga Point. General John Sullivan established a fort at Athens during his punitive campaign against the Iroquois in 1779. The exact location is unknown; however the fort is believed to be within the boundaries of the Athens Historic District, possibly at the site of present-day 742 to 744 South Main Street (the Saltmarsh Tavern). Sullivan's route for the invasion of Iroquois country, itself an older Native American path following the west bank of the Susquehanna River, was used as the principal transportation route into the Athens area. Euroamerican settlement of Athens began shortly after the Revolutionary War ended in 1783. The first documented Euroamerican settler became established in Athens in 1784.
There were competing claims between Pennsylvania and Connecticut to land in Bradford County (including Athens) and in the Wyoming Valley to the west. The right to purchase and settle lands was originally claimed by both colonies based on vagaries in their respective royal charters and their competing claims not finally settled in Pennsylvania's favor until the early nineteenth century. In fact, it was the Connecticut Susquehanna Company that surveyed and laid out the town plan of Athens in 1786, "in anticipation of a future growth induced by the natural advantages of its location and surroundings." Nineteenth century chroniclers described this broad and fertile valley between the two rivers as "the most attractive and desirable place within the county for ... [the pioneers'] farms and future homes". The lots - 53 of them - extended from the Susquehanna River on the east to the Chemung River on the west. This is depicted on an anonymous, undated manuscript map on file at the Spalding Memorial Library/Tioga Point Museum. As shown on this manuscript map, the early town layout survives largely intact today, with linear lots running perpendicular to the two rivers. The dividing line between the lots on the west and the lots on the east corresponded with the main thoroughfare, which is today's South Main Street. Nearly all of the original 53 lots appear to all be included within the boundaries of the Athens Historic District.
In spite of the Connecticut Susquehanna Company's hopes, Athens' early growth was slow. According to Craft, a number of the original proprietors and lot owners were never long-term residents of Athens; Craft provides no reason for this lack of residential stability. Visiting in 1795, the Duke de la Rochefoucauld described Athens as an insignificant village of eight or ten houses that was crowded with travelers. To accommodate the travelers, a tavern had been established in Athens by 1788 and a hotel was built in 1794. Although they are apparently no longer standing, it is likely that these buildings were within the confines of what is now the Athens Historic District.
In 1797, Luzerne County established Athens Township. The Susquehanna and the Chemung Rivers divided the township into three unequal parts: the part between the rivers (this would include present-day Athens and Sayre Boroughs), and the land on the east side of the Susquehanna River, and on the west side of the Chemung River. Bradford County was established from parts of Luzerne and Lycoming Counties in 1810.
The Impact of Transportation and Industry on Nineteenth Century Residential Development in Athens
There were two important factors in regional growth and development in nineteenth century Bradford County: I) the discovery of coal in the southern part of the county and 2) improvements in regional infrastructure. Improvements to the transportation network began in 1802 when George Welles, a prominent local entrepreneur, had two principal roads surveyed (1802) to the north of the Athens Historic District, one along the east bank of the Chemung River and the other along the west bank of the Susquehanna River. He named the roads Tioga and Susquehanna Ways, respectively. Susquehanna Way may have become Water Street as shown on an 1868 map, and today it is called River Street. Welles also laid out "Union Street" as the main thoroughfare, which is most likely present day Main Street. Several cross streets were also established in the early nineteenth century, at unspecified locations. Some of the side streets in the district were laid out by this time, including Harris, Hopkins, and Chemung Streets. Today's Tioga Street was also laid out, and was then called South Bridge Street.
By 1810, a stagecoach route that carried mail weekly from Sunbury, Pennsylvania to Painted Post, New York ran through Athens. Improvements to the transportation network continued in 1820, when a bridge was built over the Chemung River, connecting Athens Township to the town portion of Athens. This crossing, located at the southern edge of the district, was the first river bridge to be constructed in Bradford County. The other essential crossing would be located over the Susquehanna River. Although the Pennsylvania legislature incorporated a company to construct a bridge over the Susquehanna in 1827, the bridge was not actually constructed until 1841.
With a stage route and operating bridge, the local economy began to grow. One of the first industries in Athens Township area was the milling of grain and lumber, an industry that had begun in the late eighteenth century. Commercial specialists in the early nineteenth-century Athens Township included blacksmiths, brick-makers, carpenters, coopers, distillers, millers, millwrights, shoemakers, tanners, and weavers. By 1821, of the 220 taxpayers, 165 or 75 percent were farmers. Aside from industry and agriculture, other leading occupations in Athens Township were blacksmithing and shoemaking, carpentry, distilling, and the merchant trade. On March 28, 1831, Athens was established as an incorporated borough.
Many of the larger houses on South Main Street in Athens were built by financially successful citizens who prospered in local industries and businesses. During the relatively prosperous era between ca. 1825 and ca. 1850, a number of substantial dwellings were erected in the Athens Historic District, particularly south of Harris Street. These included 615, 618, 721, 729, 736, and 743 South Main Street, which were constructed in the Greek Revival style. 615 was the grandest in scale and was built by Chauncey N. Shipman, who was influential in the community due in part to his 1848 to 1856 partnership with Col. Charles F. Welles in the Junction Iron Works, located to the north of the district at the corner of Bridge and Elmira Streets in Athens. Col. Welles, who would later become involved in the North Branch Canal Extension, built the large and grand Italianate residence at 617 South Main Street. In 1827, George A. Perkins, a pharmacist, occupied the house at 729 South Main Street.
In 1842, a visitor described Athens as
"now one of the pleasantest villages in Pennsylvania ... [It] extends across an isthmus between the Tioga and Susquehanna Rivers, about two miles above the confluence. Above and below the town the land widens out into the meadows of surprising fertility. The long Main Street runs lengthwise of the isthmus and is adorned by delightful residences and verdant shades and shrubbery. There is an academy here and Presbyterian, Episcopal and Methodist churches. There is a substantial bridge over each of the rivers (Craft 1878:278)".
At the time, the population of the borough was 435.
This description mentions an academy, which was built in 1815 on the site of the present day Soldier's Monument Park, across the street from Spalding Memorial Library within the Athens Historic District. Rebuilt again in 1843, a contemporary rendering depicted the Academy as a two-story Greek Revival edifice with an elaborate bell tower. Composer Stephen J. Foster was one of the Academy's more famous pupils. His older brother, William B. Foster, Jr., was an engineer overseeing construction of the North Branch Canal and brought Stephen with him in 1840 to enroll in the Academy. The Academy building was demolished in 1925.
Although coal had been discovered in the county in the late eighteenth century, it was not until the construction of the North Branch Extension Canal in 1856, and the subsequent laying of railroads, that the exploitation of this important resource affected Athens by encouraging growth in the borough and other nearby communities. The North Branch Extension Canal ran from Wilkes-Barre to the New York state line. At the north end of the canal in Athens, a dam was built spanning the Chemung River at present-day Harris Street in the Athens Historic District. The dam formed a pool where boats could lie in slack water, and two chutes were built perpendicular to Harris Street (on the west side of the district) to allow riverboat traffic to pass by the dam. In addition to coal, regular freight on the Canal included lumber, tanned products, wheat, and produce. The North Branch Canal Extension continued to prosper until 1865, when a flood destroyed it. The mining of Bradford County coal had an indirect impact on the Athens Historic District, as several of the residences in the district were built as a result of the wealth due to hauling local coal on the Canal.
Soon after the Canal was completed, the Erie Railroad built a station in Waverly, just two miles north of downtown Athens. By 1869, the railroad ran in a north-south direction to the west of Athens along the old canal, then passing along the Athens Tannery near the Chemung River Bridge, and continuing north until it crossed over the Chemung River into the town proper near present-day North Street, to the north of the Athens Historic District. There was a railroad depot to the north of the district in Athens by about 1870. The railroad made more urbane areas, such as Philadelphia and New York, easily accessible to residents of the Athens residential district. In addition, a trolley line to the north of the Athens Historic District soon connected Athens to nearby communities to the north.
With these further improvements in local infrastructure, the local economy continued to prosper, with the greatest growth occurring in the industrial sector of the economy. The industrial expansion that characterized the mid- to late nineteenth century provided the wealth to design and construct the most elaborate dwellings in the Athens District, mostly in the Queen Anne style. Many of the town's most prominent citizens, and those in management or ownership positions in important industries, lived in these houses within the Athens Historic District.
One such example is the Kellogg home at 711 South Main Street. In 1878, Athens had an estimated population of approximately 1,500, and about 200 members of the male population were employed at the Kellogg Iron Works. The company manufactured bridges as well as various types of wrought- and cast-iron work, and designed railroad bridges for other places around the country. The iron works was located on Satterlee Street in downtown Athens near the railroad depot and many of the workers lived in dwellings in the northern part of Athens. Mr. Kellogg, the owner of the factory, resided in Athens in a gable-and-wing, Queen Anne style residence, which he built on a large lot that backed up to the Susquehanna River along the east side of South Main Street.
The 1869 Beers Atlas of Bradford County further clarifies the pattern of land use in Athens during this period of sustained growth. The north-central quarter of the town, from Harris Street to Bridge or Public Street, formed the principal commercial core of the town, with interspersed dense residential development. The area to the south, which included most of the Athens Historic District, was much more residential in nature, although the pattern of development was less dense. This same pattern of land use continues to the present day.
By the late nineteenth century, the Athens Historic District was a community that included dwellings, two churches, an academy, and a cemetery. It would retain this appearance, not experiencing much new construction for a short time due to declines in local industry. After over a century of logging, nearby forests were depleted, and the lumber and tanning industries began to wither. At the turn of the century, the Union Bridge Company was moved from Athens, and the North Branch Canal had long since been out of service. Finally, many of the great nineteenth-century landholders in the area had died, leaving behind their mansions and elegant dwellings on the main street of town, all which comprise the bulk of the Athens Historic District.
The east side of present-day South Main Street between Locust and the Old Athens/Riverside Cemetery (nearly across from Harris Street) was relatively undeveloped until the end of the nineteenth century. The large tract, which had been Judge Edward Herrick's estate, previously contained one large residence on the bank of the Susquehanna River. In 1897, the land was subdivided and Edward Street was laid out. By the early twentieth century, the curved Edward Street was lined with Queen Anne influenced, Colonial Revival, Foursquare, and other vernacular residences. Locust Street was added as another side street to the east of South Main around this time, and new residences began to fill in this triangular area. A number of other short side streets that cross South Main Street were subsequently added and were soon thereafter lined with twentieth-century dwellings. It appears that construction along these streets was complete by 1920.
By the turn of the century there were several civic building campaigns in Athens. In 1897, the Spalding Memorial Library/Tioga Point Museum was built on the lot across from the Academy. The library and museum, at 724 South Main Street, was built on the lot that had been a "public square" throughout the nineteenth century. In 1902, the Protection of the Flag Monument was erected across the street from the library/museum on the Academy lot.
Construction in the Athens Historic District seemed to almost cease after the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century. In 1935, a brick, Tudor Revival dwelling was constructed at 750 South Main Street, where a Greek Revival-style house had previously stood. Other changes to the district that occurred in the second quarter of the twentieth century included the removal of the academy in 1925. In addition, beginning in 1929 and continuing up through 1980, six different commemorative features were installed at the Academy lot near the Protection of the Flag Monument.
Athens after the Mid-Twentieth Century
Athens Borough continued to develop during the 1950s and 1960s, particularly along Elmira Street, which runs diagonally off Main Street to the northwest of the district, and was designated a business district in 1992. Within the Athens Historic District, relatively little residential development occurred. One small side street, Windsor Court appears to have been built up in the mid-twentieth century.
In the spring of 1972, both the township and Athens Borough were devastated by tropical storm Agnes. The central business district, north of the Athens Historic District, was affected the most. Much of the area to the south of the Tioga Street Bridge, which crosses the Chemung River from the district, was developed in the late twentieth century as lots were subdivided. The storm had little effect on the southern Athens area. The lower part of the peninsula, south of the district, consisting of a broad, flat plain, continued to be farmed through the end of the twentieth century.
The Athens Historic District is locally significant under Criterion C in the area of Architecture as it retains the most cohesive and well-preserved group of residential dwellings in Bradford County reflecting styles common to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Gothic Revival styles. In addition, many of the buildings were designed by architects for their owners, several of which were prominent local businessmen These dwellings retain integrity of setting, being setback on long linear parcels that align South Main Street and its associated side streets, with most of the parcels backing up to either the Chemung or Susquehanna Rivers. The district also includes a number of public buildings and sites, which provided religious, civic, or recreational services to the community including: two churches, a cemetery, a library/museum, and a public park with an architect-designed soldiers' monument.
The industrial expansion that characterized the mid- to late nineteenth century provided the wealth to create these buildings in the Athens Historic District. Many of the town's most prominent citizens and those in management or ownership positions in important industries lived in these houses within the Athens Historic District. Queen Anne seemed to be the prevailing style of the day, with examples including 630, 723, 756, 764, 772, and 773. The dwelling at 735 South Main Street is one of the only Stick-influenced residences in the district.
There are several architect-designed properties in the Athens Historic District. The Trinity Church Parsonage at 701 South Main Street was designed by architects Pierce and Bickford from nearby Elmira, New York. The Spalding Memorial Library/Tioga Point Museum, a Colonial Revival and Classical Revival-style building, was designed by architect Albert H. Kipp of Wilkes-Barre. The Protection of the Flag Monument, a classically inspired commemorative war memorial across the street from the library, was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White and their agent, Lewis C. Albro, and was sculpted by George Thomas Brewster. The Queen Anne style residence at 723 South Main Street was designed by architect William H. Day, of New York City.
The collection of domestic architecture in the Athens Historic District is the highest quality residential district in Athens Borough and Athens Township, and in Bradford County, although it is not the largest. Within Athens Borough, there are no other areas containing dwellings as old as those in the Athens Historic District. Compared to the remaining southern portion of the district, wherein the layout has changed very little since the nineteenth century, the downtown area just outside the district to the north has witnessed more change, particularly after a devastating flood in 1972. Just outside the district to the north, several blocks of historic buildings of South Main Street have been razed and modern buildings and/or parking lots occupy these former sites.
Moving up to the 400 through 200 blocks of South Main Street, most buildings are commercial rather than residential, and many have experienced alterations. Elsewhere in the Borough of Athens, there is a variety of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century residences that possess only moderate architectural integrity. (For example, during a recent survey of River Street, none of the properties from 108 River Street to 212 River Street (inclusive) were found to be eligible by the PHMC (April 17, 2000). They were all residences, and many lacked historic integrity. While some of the dwellings on Paine Street (also located to the north of the district), are good-quality representations of Queen Anne and other less ornate late Victorian styles, the grouping is not nearly as large or as concentrated as the Athens Historic District. The village of Sayre, just two miles north of Athens, developed later than Athens, and its domestic architecture is not as varied or as grand in scale as that found along South Main Street in Athens.
The Athens Historic District strongly differs from the Wyalusing Borough Historic District, located to the southeast of Athens in Bradford County. Unlike the Athens Historic District, Wyalusing features both residential and commercial properties, and boasts a fine downtown business district. Although Wyalusing has a similar variety of residential styles as Athens, there seem to be fewer properties from the earlier periods and the setting is dissimilar, with even the largest of residences in the Wyalusing district having relatively shallow setbacks compared to the expansive, tree-lined frontages on South Main Street in Athens.
An area of Troy Borough, located to the southwest of Athens in Bradford County, is considered by the PHMC to be an eligible historic district (September 19, 2002). However, unlike the Athens Historic District, the Troy district it is focused around the downtown commercial area, and in general is a later district with most buildings dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There are several earlier buildings present, but the Troy district has very few of the early to mid-twentieth century properties that are found in Athens and also lacks the quantity of good examples of the Greek Revival and earlier, transitional styles. Also, unlike Athens, the town is not isolated on an isthmus, and the historic architectural integrity of the Troy district as a whole is not as high as that of the Athens Historic District. Nearby Towanda, the county seat, has a much larger and more varied historic district than Athens does. While Towanda's district does retain good integrity, the district has a different character and includes a substantial commercial area, unlike the Athens Historic District in Athens.
The Athens Historic District should be considered highly sensitive to precontact archaeological deposits. Numerous precontact artifacts as well as Native American remains have been reported throughout this area. A total of five archeological sites have been previously recorded within the District. The first three are the Tioga Point Museum Site (36Brl, at the Spaulding Memorial Library), the Murray Garden Site (36Br2), and the Ahbe-Brennan Site (36Br42, between 615 and 617 South Main Street).
Two additional, recently recorded archaeological sites are the WIN Site (36Br220) discovered during excavation of driveway at 6 Windsor Court, on the east side of South Main Street and the Maurice Property (36Br245) at 723 South Main Street on the west side of the street between the Murray Garden and Ahbe-Brennan sites. Although two Native American burial locations are known to be within the nomination boundary, their precise locations were not described in the Tioga Point Museum Site Summaries. The site described in Site Summary No. 179 was discovered ca. 1900 to 1901 during the excavation of municipal water pipes along Main Street near the Spaulding Library/Tioga Point Museum. The other burial location, listed in Site Summary No. 175, was discovered ca. 1904 to 1905 near the Murray Garden Site during a gas pipeline installation. Some of these sites are described in Louise Welles Murray's publications.
In addition, both professional and avocational archaeological excavations have been carried out within this area. Unfortunately, little of this information has been published. The artifacts and field notes for many of these excavations are held either at the Tioga Point Museum in Athens, or at the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Native American artifacts and human remains were unearthed while excavating the foundation for the Spaulding Memorial Library/Tioga Point Museum in 1895 (Tioga Point Museum Site (36Brl)). Human remains excavated at the Ahbe-Brennan burial site were reinterred there in a reburial ceremony held under the auspices of the Onondaga Indian Nation in July 1933.
Archaeological excavations were conducted at the Murray Garden Site (36Br2), 615 South Main Street) in 1882 and 1895, 1931, and 1933 respectively. James B. Griffin, a significant figure in the history of American archaeology, directed the fieldwork during 1931 while finishing graduate studies at the University of Chicago. This research was funded by a grant from the National Research Council, obtained by Louise Welles Murray of the Tioga Point Museum.
In 1933, Donald Cadzow, State Anthropologist for the Commonwealth, provided oversight for later excavations of this and other sites in the Athens area. The Murray Garden Site yielded a large quantity of intact Late Woodland cultural features and artifact deposits.
The Athens Historic District should also be considered sensitive to historic archaeological deposits, although no historic archaeological sites are currently known. The precise location of Sullivan's Fort, constructed in 1779 for his successful expedition against the Iroquois during the Revolutionary War, has not been documented, but there is sufficient historical information to assume that it is located within the District. Historic archaeological deposits associated with late eighteenth and early nineteenth century occupation of this area are likely to exist within the District.
The Athens Historic District is in the Borough of Athens, Bradford County, Pennsylvania. The district reflects American architecture of the nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries and includes high style and vernacular examples of the Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Gothic Revival styles. Queen Anne is the most prevalent style, and wood and brick are the favored building materials. Although it is mainly a quiet residential district, it also contains public buildings and sites, including churches, a cemetery, a library/museum, and a public park with an architect-designed soldiers' monument. The district contains 98 contributing resources and 19 non-contributing resources. The period of significance is 1801 to circa 1935. The district contains two previously listed resources: the Protection of the Flag Monument (listed June 8, 2001), and the Spalding Memorial Library/Tioga Point Museum (listed February 18, 2000). Overall, the district possesses integrity of design, location, setting, and materials. The Athens Historic District has witnessed very few changes over time, and as such retains a strong sense of character and feeling as a nineteenth to twentieth century residential neighborhood.
Athens is just south of the New York State border and is west of the Pocono Mountains. The Borough of Athens, Bradford County, is located in northeastern Pennsylvania on a peninsula between the Chemung River to the west and the Susquehanna River to the east. The majority of the northern portion of the borough is developed with moderately dense neighborhoods, a central business district, and an industrial area. The Borough of Sayre adjoins Athens to the North. To the south and toward the isthmus is another residential area containing the Athens Historic District. Below this area are the "flats," a broad and fertile plain that culminates at Tioga Point where the Chemung and Susquehanna Rivers converge. Most of the side streets, including Elm, Harris, Hopkins, and Chemung Streets, and Hopkins Court, also run perpendicular to and terminate at the respective riverbanks. Locust Street is the only exception, which is a half street that extends to the east off of South Main Street.
The bulk of the district, which includes the area from Harris Street to the southernmost boundary at 772 South Main Street, largely encompasses the 53 lots laid out in the 1786 survey of the town. A large number of these lots appear to conform to the original lot layout, which ran perpendicular to South Main Street, with Susquehanna River to the east and the Chemung River to the west, respectively.
The Athens Historic District begins at the southern end of the downtown commercial district. It is centered on South Main Street for the length of the District, and is generally bounded by Elm and Locust Streets on the north, the Chemung River on the west, and the Susquehanna River on the east, with a change in architectural character to the south. With only a few east-west cross-streets in between, the southern boundary of the district lies below Tioga Street. The two rivers, which enter Pennsylvania from the north, also delimit the edges of Athens Borough.
South Main Street is an ample two-way street, with one lane in each direction, and sidewalks present throughout the area. There are a variety of mature trees along this main thoroughfare, some of which are the flowering type. Most of the smaller side streets, such as Elm, Harris, Chemung, and Hopkins Streets have sidewalks as well, but Windsor Court lacks them entirely.
Lot sizes at the northern end of the historic district, which is near the downtown commercial area, are of moderate size, typically about 50 feet wide and 125 to 150 feet deep or more, with setbacks of about 15 to 20 feet. To the east, lots along Edward Street are large, with some being 500 feet deep up to the Susquehanna River.
Within the district, beginning at 618 South Main Street (on the west side) and 711 South Main Street (on the east side) and continuing to the south, the residential development is of a different character. Here there are larger structures occupying larger parcels, all of which touched either the Chemung or Susquehanna Rivers. Although the Athens Historic District begins north of Harris Street, where some of the lots are smaller, the district is primarily characterized by larger lots and buildings, with grassed lawns and large trees along the street. Building styles below are described in general chronological order of style.
One of the earliest buildings in the district is on the Chemung River side (west) of 722 to 744 South Main Street. This side-gable, vernacular, Georgian-influenced building was reportedly built in 1801 and functioned as the Saltmarsh Tavern. Although the exterior scale and massing are the same, later additions include two front dormers, a three-quarter front porch (late nineteenth century), and some replaced windows and a second door (mid-twentieth century).
Greek Revival is one of the common styles in the district, and includes high-style residences as well as ordinary or vernacular renditions. Greek Revival styles were generally constructed from 1825 to 1860. There are several buildings in the district that possess both Federal and Greek Revival-style features, which could be considered "transitional" buildings. A typical local rendition is at 727 South Main Street. This is a two-story frame building (ca. 1813) with a symmetrical three-bay facade punctuated by engaged two-story pilasters, and a fanlight window over the door and on the gable end. Most buildings of this style have front-gable roofs with pilasters. A similar form is found on 736 South Main Street (ca. 1840), with fluted pilasters and a decorative cornice emphasized through the use of modillions. The buildings at 736 and 760 South Main Street (ca. 1835) also have fanlight transoms over the front door and the front gable end. A more vernacular example, with a massed plan and centered gable on the main facade, is at 729 South Main Street, built in 1827 by pharmacist George Perkins.
The most high style Greek Revival building in the district is at 615 South Main Street, which was erected in 1841 to 1843. It is one of the most imposing buildings in the town, with a full height entry porch supported by wood Ionic columns. The core is side-gabled with a full entablature. While most residences in the district, particularly of this style and period, are frame buildings, 615 South Main Street was built with brick. Many Greek Revival buildings from this period have side wings, such as the one at 713 South Main Street (ca. 1845).
Another side-gabled, but less formal Greek Revival dwelling is at 632 South Main Street. Dating from ca. 1829, it is wood-clad with its symmetrical elevation embellished only at the entrance by a simple molded entablature and narrow sidelights and pilasters. No. 743 South Main Street utilizes a gable-front and side wing, with a full pediment beneath the gable, a small entry porch with entablature and Doric columns, and a frieze band of small square windows in the rear (ca. 1840 to 1850). No. 752 South Main Street is another, somewhat more diminutive example of a Greek Revival house from ca. 1830, with a pyramidal roof and only six-light fixed windows on the second floor, half the size of the windows on the ground floor. Hopkins Street, which crosses approximately half-way down South Main Street, appears to be one of the earliest of the side streets, and there are several nineteenth-century residences there ranging in style from Greek Revival to Queen Anne.
There are several examples of the Gothic Revival style in the district, and these generally date from 1840 to 1880. The residence at 748 South Main is a relatively small frame building, clad in wood shingles, with a centered gable. Dating from ca. 1865 to 1870, it has a symmetrical facade and full-length, paired French windows. Another frame example dating from the same period (ca. 1862 to 1866) with a centered gable is found at 738 South Main Street. 717 South Main is an earlier, more complex brick building (ca. 1857). It has a compound asymmetrical facade with a main front gable and clipped side gables, with decorative elements such as wood shingles at the attic level on the gable ends and shouldered drip moldings on the windows.
There are several notable examples of the Italianate style in Athens, a style that was built from about 1840 to approximately 1885. Built in 1851, 617 South Main Street is one of the most high style buildings in the district. Laid up in brick, it has a low-pitched hip roof with overhanging eaves supported by paired decorative brackets. Between the brackets are foliated ironwork screen attic vents. In keeping with this feature, there are foliated iron porch supports on the full-front porch. Also built of brick but on a more moderate scale with an irregular plan is 620 South Main Street, built ca. 1860. Commercial Italianate architecture is present in the brick buildings of "Patrick's Block," from 702 to 704 (ca. 1860) and 706 to 710 (ca. 1860) South Main Street. Part of Patrick's Block features wood, semi-elliptical hood moldings and window frames, and brick corbelling along the roofline.
Queen Anne is a predominant style in this district. It was prevalent from about 1880 to 1910. During the late nineteenth century, many residents in Athens were accumulating wealth due to the shipping industries, the newly arrived railroad, and downtown businesses. The Queen Anne style was generally popular and was used on downtown urban lots and also the larger lots on South Main Street. Most of these are frame dwellings and others are brick, typically with two to two and one-half stories.
The turn-of-the-century Queen Anne house at 630 South Main Street (ca. 1895 to 1911) features classical columns rather than spindlework as porch supports. It has asymmetrical massing, a hipped pyramidal roof, multiple cross-gables, a polygonal tower, a Palladian window in a gable dormer, and a wrap-around porch. Other good examples of the decorative forms on South Main Street are at 634 (ca. 1900), featuring scalloped shingles on the gable ends and on the canted bays; No. 711 (ca. 1872), and with a dominant front gable and spindlework on the wrap porch and decorative vergeboard. The house at 723 South Main features multiple clustered chimneys, was built in 1882, and was designed by William H. Day, a New York City architect. Nearby, 720 South Main Street (ca. 1883 to 1885) has detailed cornice moldings and complicated rooflines. More restrained Queen Anne versions with relatively sparse decorative work include 707 (ca. 1897 to 1903), 709 (ca. 1892 to 1897), and 764 South Main Street (ca. 1900 to 1910). Tioga Street, which runs perpendicular to South Main Street, was an early road and now carries the S.R. 199 bridge over the Chemung River. The only property on it is a Queen Anne-style residence (ca. 1880).
Another late Victorian style in the district is the Stick-influenced house at 735 South Main Street (ca. 1882 to 1890). It has wide overhanging eaves and extensive decorative woodwork, including cross-bracing, brackets, vergeboards, horizontal belt courses, and stick-like roof brackets. There are some modest, late Victorian residences in the district from this period that could be classified as vernacular Victorian. Some examples include three frame, front-gabled houses at 745 to 749 South Main Street (ca. 1900). Local directories from 1907 to 1928 indicate that the occupants included a farmer, a carpenter, a laborer, and an electrician.
The district contains a number of Colonial Revival residences, ranging from stylish to vernacular and dating from the late nineteenth century to the first quarter of the twentieth century. The Dutch Colonial Revival theme is common and typical features include gambrel roofs and flared eaves. A modest version of this is found at 739 South Main Street (ca. 1915 to 1926), which also has a pent over the first floor and a shed dormer. The more complex, three-story house at 740 South Main Street (ca. 1883 to 1904) is another example, with a front gable end framed by the steeply flared roof's heavy cornice returns, and engaged pilasters which run the horizontal length of the building. Another example of this style is at 762 South Main Street (ca. 1920), featuring a continuous shed dormer and a classically-influenced porch with a segmental portico.
The relatively small (narrow) and short side streets that cross South Main Street exhibit mostly twentieth-century buildings, as most of these ancillary streets were laid out much later than South Main Street. The east side of present-day South Main Street between Locust and the Old Athens/Riverside Cemetery (nearly across from Harris Street) was relatively undeveloped until the end of the nineteenth century. The large tract, which had been Judge Edward Herrick's estate, previously contained one large residence on the bank of the Susquehanna River. In 1897, the land was subdivided and Edward Street was laid out. By the early twentieth century, the curved Edward Street was lined with Queen Anne-influenced, Colonial Revival, Foursquare, and other vernacular residences.
With few exceptions, residences on the side streets are less grand than those lining South Main Street. Compared to South Main, the houses on the side streets, including Harris, Chemung, Locust, and Elm Streets are on smaller lots and nearly all are of frame construction. Windsor Court is the most recent of all the side streets, and was probably laid out in the mid-twentieth century.
The Foursquare house type is present, but relatively scarce, within the Athens Historic District, whereas this house form is found in somewhat greater numbers in the residential area to the north. Generally, such houses began to be built at the turn of the twentieth century, and continued for nearly twenty more years. The first two decades of the twentieth century were a relatively slack building period in this part of the town to the south of Elm and Locust Streets. The Trinity Church Parsonage at 701 South Main Street typifies the Foursquare house type with a broad hip roof and dormer, symmetrical facade, and full-front porch. It was built in 1910 and was designed by the architectural firm of Pierce E. Bickford, of Elmira, New York. 716 South Main Street (ca. 1904) features brick construction, a full width wrap porch with Ionic columns and a rusticated stone base, decorative rafter tails at the rooflines, and bay and oriel windows. More modest Foursquare residences are found at 18 Locust Street (ca. 1912), 609 South Main Street (ca. 1905), and 117 Edward Street (ca. 1911).
Other first-quarter twentieth-century buildings types include several Craftsman and/or Bungalow houses, including 108 Chemung Street (ca. 1920), 119 Edward Street (ca. 1911), and 607 South Main Street, (ca. 1912 to 1914), 758 South Main Street (ca. 1910-1920), and 770 South Main Street (ca. 1914-1918), the last of which features leaded art glass windows. 108 Chemung Street features a long, low-pitched roof with an engaged porch.
There are two religious buildings in the Athens Historic District, the First Presbyterian Church at 622 South Main Street, and the Trinity Episcopal Church at 703 South Main Street. The style of both is a Gothic Revival, front-gable/side-steeple form. The Episcopal Church was constructed of stone from 1860 to 1861, and the Presbyterian Church was built with bricks on a stone foundation in 1881. The Presbyterian edifice is a high-style example, with the tower serving as the entrance and vestibule, and a patterned slate roof and textured brick corbelling located under the eaves and the water table. Although two, one-story rear additions were added in ca. 1920 and again in 1999, they do not detract substantially from the overall architectural integrity of the building. The earlier Episcopal Church is less ornate, and has pointed arch windows, stone buttresses, and a castellated parapet on the square tower. Both churches are good examples of nineteenth-century ecclesiastical architecture, and each have nearby parsonages that are also contributing resources in the district.
The Spalding Memorial Library/Tioga Point Museum is the sole public building in the Athens Historic District. The facility was listed individually in the National Register on February 18, 2000, and it is generally located in the center of the District, with large residences on each side and a small park across the street. It is an excellent example of a classically inspired civic building, exhibiting elements associated with the Colonial Revival and Classical Revival styles of architecture. It features round arch windows and a fanlight over the main entrance, swag details, as well as a full-height pedimented portico supported by Ionic columns. The nomination stated that this brick veneered edifice was built in 1897, and has landscaped surroundings with mature trees and perimeter plantings. The ground floor serves as a public library and second floor houses the Tioga Point Museum, a study facility and repository housing local historic and pre contact artifacts.
There is a small park across the street from the Spalding Memorial Library/Tioga Point Museum. It is formerly the site of the Athens Academy, and is sometimes known as the "Academy Lot", or "Athens Academy Lot". The Protection of the Flag Monument in the park was listed in the National Register on June 8, 2001. Six other commemorative features, including a flagpole, two state historical markers, a bronze plaque, and two late war memorials occupy the park. The park itself was previously included in the Protection of the Flag Monument nomination, and thus is not included in the resource count for the Athens Historic District.
The Riverside Cemetery/Old Athens Cemetery lies on the east side of South Main Street and stretches toward the Susquehanna River. It is a relatively flat landscape with few trees between the headstones. Ornate cast iron fencing is present on several family plots, and most funerary monuments consist of low, rectangular stone slabs, either rounded or square at the top. The earliest gravestones date from the late eighteenth century and the latest are from the first decade of the twentieth century. Many individuals associated with the settlement and physical development of Athens are buried at this cemetery. The collection of monuments and their placement within the cemetery reflect the trends in gravestone manufacture during the span of the cemetery's activity. The cemetery is classified as a contributing site.
Nineteen of the district's 117 properties are non-contributing, and many of these are historic buildings that have lost their architectural details from post-1972 flood rehabilitations. These resources are primarily on Elm Street and a few of the other small side streets. Concentrated areas of such buildings were excluded from the district, particularly at the north edge of the district. Within the district, other non-contributing buildings are from the post-1935 era, and are small-to-modest residences, such as those on Windsor Court. While some buildings have witnessed additions such as rear wings, these buildings still retain their overall massing, scale, and architectural character. On South Main Street itself, there are very few non-contributing historic buildings; the total is approximately one percent.
However there are a few exceptions, such as 725 South Main Street (ca. 1900), where the main facade has been altered by filling in the ell. The altered gable roof at 705 South Main Street changed the historic quality and feel of the building. It was built ca. 1869, with later changes and/or additions from 1885 to 1892, 1911, and 1926. These changes detract from the integrity of the original design, and the building is considered noncontributing.
For the resources in this primarily residential district, garages are the primary outbuilding type and were not counted. These are considered unimportant to the architectural character of the district, and are typically well off of the street. These include modem, replaced, and some mid-twentieth-century buildings for housing one or two cars; other types include former carriage barns, which are now used as automobile garages.
‡ Archibald, Lauren C., Lawrence, John W., and Weinberg, David L., Athens Historic District, nomination document, 2003, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Elm Street • Harris Street • Hopkins Street • Locust Street • Main Street South