Being listed on the National Historic Register can bring a range of opportunities to a community: once on the Register, municipalities may be eligible for a range of government grants and homeowners within the Historic District may be eligible for New York State historic preservation tax credits to assist in the maintenance and preservation of their historic properties. Being listed on the National Register also means that towns have certain protections, without limiting development and activities consistent with the town zoning or comprehensive plan. Otsego 2000 has worked with municipalities and citizens’ groups across the county to establish several National Historic Register districts, including the Lindesay Patent (Cherry Valley) and the Glimmerglass Historic District. Indeed, Otsego County arguably has the most acres designated as historic districts of any New York county, with over 36,000 acres either designated as historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places or deemed eligible to be listed. The links below provide maps of the districts in Otsego County, along with summaries of the districts’ histories. Take some time to explore the hamlets and landscapes of Otsego County!
Glimmerglass Historic District
Richfield Springs Historic Districts
The Cherry Valley Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. The village of Cherry Valley is located at the headwaters of the Cherry Valley Creek near a saddle of land which divides Cherry Valley from Mohawk Valley.
The Cherry Valley Historic District is historically and architecturally significant as an intact concentration of historic buildings, sites and streetscapes which together chronicle the development of a regionally important center of transportation, commerce, industry, and agriculture in central New York State between 1778 and 1928. Settled in the mid-eighteenth century on New York’s western frontier, Cherry Valley assumed strategic significance during the Revolutionary War. The village grew to dominate trade and commerce within a large region southwest of the Mohawk Valley and flourished in the early nineteenth century as a key junction in the state’s burgeoning network of turnpikes. Later in the century, the village became a regional center of manufacturing and still later it prospered as a leading center of the state’s lucrative hops industry.
The layered history of the village is traced by sites and monuments commemorating its earliest history and by its historic architecture, which includes significant examples of eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century stylistic expressions from each phase in the development of the village. The Cherry Valley Historic District also includes examples of vernacular building traditions, including a number of distinctive commercial and industrial buildings constructed of native limestone.
The Fly Creek Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. The Fly Creek Historic District encompasses three mill hamlet clusters now considered a single hamlet, which illustrate the pattern of hamlets centered on clusters of small, family-owned, water-powered mills at road crossings identified in the MPD. Different families, including the Marvins, Jarvises, and Badgers developed mill seats on Fly Creek and Oaks Creek around which settlements coalesced and merged into a single entity. These families also traded potential seats from the early settlement period into the 1830s. Hamlets like Fly Creek clustered around these service centers in frontier regions as settlement pushed westward through New York State in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
With many small, independently owned businesses, the residential area that grew up in
Fly Creek was stable. It established social and religious gathering places that drew people from the outlying areas as well, reinforcing the hamlet’s centrality. As local industry failed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the service businesses, mainly stores, survived and even prospered enough to construct new commercial buildings at the main crossroads. Nevertheless, the greatest proportion of its buildings, especially dwellings, reflects the antebellum era of growth and general prosperity. The hamlet as a whole retains the feel of a mid-nineteenth century village.
The Gilbertsville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The Gilbertsville Historic District comprises the entire central portion of the Village of Gilbertsville, an unspoiled residential village located in the Town of Butternuts. Almost without exception the structures date from the 19th century. The quality of its buildings, the lack of modern intrusions, the small parks and many trees, make this one of the most beautiful and historically intact villages in Otsego County.
The energy and drive of English settlers and their descendants, together with a location which provided waterpower and good farmland, have combined to create and sustain the village of Gilbertsville. The first settlement in the village of Gilbertsville occurred in 1786 with Abijah Gilbert. It is said that his family was prosperous and had more than the normal degree of education for that day. The interest of the first settlers in education was stamped upon the community at an early date: a school house was among the first buildings in the village in 1818 and was renovated for use as the first public library in Otsego County in 1888. An academy constructed in 1840 made Gilbertsville the educational center of a large surrounding territory.
The English derivation of the settlers has had a noticeable influence upon the architecture of the village in its general appearance, the white frame houses and green spaces of the village remind the visitor of a New England village. Buildings from all the various stages of the community’s development remain essentially unchanged, creating a record in architecture of the history and growth of the village.
The Glimmerglass Historic District was placed on the National Historic Register in 1991 and enlarged in 1999. The 15,000-acre cultural landscape encompasses parts of the Towns of Otsego, Springfield, and Middlefield, as well as the Village of Cooperstown. It encompasses the physical and social sphere of Otsego Lake and its immediate environs. The Glimmerglass Historic District is defined by layers of overlapping historic features, representing a span of over two hundred years. The district is an outstanding, intact, and clearly defined cultural landscape characterized by a distinctive set of natural features and an overlay of built features reflecting historic land use patterns.
Three notable families are connected with the district: the Coopers, Clarks, and Hyde Clarkes. James Fenimore Cooper, one of the most acclaimed and influential American novelists, spent his formative years and much of his life in Cooperstown, and the landscape of the Otsego Lake environs became the backdrop for Cooper’s most well-known works, The Leatherstocking Tales, which later gave name to the region. It was James Fenimore Cooper who memorialized the landscape as “Glimmerglass.” The Clark and Hyde Clarke families are significant for their substantial contributions to the development of the region. The Hyde Clarke family dominated settlement in the northern portion of the district from the Colonial period, building Hyde Hall in 1802, one of the most distinctive properties on the Lake. The Clark family could be called the district’s most important philanthropists, establishing the distinctive character of the district over the centuries.
The district is an important cultural resource as the setting for James Fenimore Cooper’s influential stories about American development and the American natural environment, making the district a wellspring of the American imagination. In addition, the district represents a largely intact historic landscape illustrating diverse uses – prehistoric hunting ground and toolmaking area; eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century agricultural region, and nineteenth and twentieth century summer resort.
The Lindesay Patent Rural Historic District was listed on the National Historic Register in 1995. Covering 9,200 acres of the Town of Cherry Valley and a northern portion of the Town of Roseboom, the historic land use patterns and property parcels within the district remain much the same today as when the English crown granted the patent to John Lindesay and his partners in 1738. Settlement in the Lindesay Patent was one of the first permanent European settlements on the Allegheny Plateau. Settlement began in 1740 but continued slowly — by the time of the American Revolution only fifty families lived at the site. In 1778, the town of Cherry Valley was massacred by Seneca and Tories led by a British captain, and the few surviving families left the settlement. This traumatic event has loomed large in town history, securing it a place in the birthing of the United State. After the war some survivors returned to the community and by the end of the eighteenth century, it became an important turnpike crossroads.
Today the Lindesay Patent’s landscape remains predominantly agricultural; by looking at the land-use patterns over the course of the past two centuries one can see how the Lindesay Patent demonstrates how a community grows over a long period of time. Although details have changed and the balance of open and wooded land shifted, the area remains an intact working landscape, with working lowland farms illustrating the tradition of agriculture in the area.
The hamlet of Middlefield is situated in a predominantly agricultural area of Otsego County midway between the villages of Milford and Cherry Valley. The hamlet is centered around the intersection of two narrow secondary roads approximately 2000 feet east of the Cherry Valley Creek at an elevation of approximately 1270 feet.
The Middlefield Hamlet Historic District’s relatively intact collection of twenty-six significant Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Gothic Revival style buildings and the close physical relationships which unite them provide an increasingly rare illustration of typical settlement and development patterns in early nineteenth century rural communities. Such settlements thrived on the rapid growth of an agricultural economy, the exploitation of natural resources and a burgeoning network of roads and turnpikes which facilitated trade. These self-sufficient centers provided essential services within their limited locales such as milling, blacksmithing, tanning leather and lodging, and they served as convenient centers for health care, education and worship. In Otsego County, many hamlets similar to Middlefield expanded beyond recognition due to the advent of railroads after 1870 and later, 20th century highway and road developments.
The hamlet was settled in the 1790′s. The settlement grew up on the east side of the Cherry Valley Creek along an important stage route connecting Unadilla and Albany via Milford. The availability of water power at this location was important to the early prosperity of the settle ment, encouraging the development of saw mills, grist mills and tanneries. Growth in Middlefield appears to have halted by 1870, and by 1903, the hamlet had experienced a considerable decline in population and economic activity. This decline is reflected by the complete absence of late nineteenth century buildings in the historic district. Today, the hamlet is becoming a desirable residential community and a number of historic houses have undergone, or are scheduled to undergo, major rehabilitations or restorations.
The sulphur springs around which the town developed were well known to local Iroquois, but are believed to have been found by Europeans in 1754; the location did not become the focus of permanent settlement until the 1790s. In 1808, the extension of the Third Great Western Turnpike (today’s Route 20 Scenic Byway) through the settlement brought greater exposure to the springs and encouraged additional development. In 1870, the arrival of the railroad heralded a new era of growth and wealth in the village, which continued into the first decade of the twentieth century. New hotels and boarding houses were built to accommodate the 2,000-3,000 guests who arrived each summer, and expensive summer estates were built in and around the village. Between 1860 and 1890, the year-round population of the village increased fourfold – from 400 to more than 1600 residents.
The village of Richfield Springs has three National Register Historic Districts: the West Main Street Historic District, listed in 1994; East Main Street Historic District, listed in 1995; and the Church Street Historic District, listed in 1997. Each of these districts highlights important elements of Richfield Springs culture, architectural history, and social history.
The West Main Street district contains a historic range of architectural styles, with examples of Italianate, Gothic Revival, Stick style, Queen Anne, Shingle style, and Colonial Revival architecture, as well as vernacular interpretations of Greek Revival and Second Empire style architecture. Intact streetscapes include a largely unbroken row of nineteenth century commercial buildings along the south side of West Main Street and an intact nineteenth century residential enclave along West James Street. The 1940s and 1950s were years of loss for historic resources in Richfield Springs, with the demolition of many of the historic hotels of the village. With this exception, however, there have been comparatively few changes to the historic fabric of the West Main Street Historic District since the Second World War. The district continues to reflect the social, economic, and distinctive architectural development of the village between 1830 and 1940 and represents an important symbol in efforts to recognize and preserve Richfield Springs’ distinguished past.
The East Main Street Historic District represents similar architectural styles to the West Main Street district with relatively few intrusions, and retains its historic scale, setting, and landscape character to a significant extent. As the sulphur springs grew in popularity in the 19th century, demand for lodgings supported the construction of new and larger hotels, including Page’s Tavern in 1823 (site of Spring Park) and the American Hotel in 1830. By the mid-nineteenth century, existing hotels were enlarged and new hotels were built with capacities ranging from 100 to 500 guests each. A business district emerged along Main Street west of Lake Street, and residential development gravitated toward the eastern and western approaches to the village along the turnpike, particularly along East Main Street. The only extant building from this initial period of development in the East Main Street Historic District is the house at 19 East Main Street, which later became associated with the Carey Cottages resort. Built in 1836, the house illustrates a standard two-story, five-bay center entrance configuration typical of residential construction during this period in Central New York.
The Church Street district, a distinctive intact neighborhood associated with the nineteenth and early twentieth century, demonstrates important elements of ethnic history and architecture. Developed between c.1822 and c.1940, the Church Street Historic District is one of the three major residential enclaves in Richfield Springs and it primarily represents the late-nineteenth century middle-class residential development of the village during the height of its popularity as a summer resort. The substantial and stylish residences on Church Street illustrate the economic growth associated with the village’s success as a resort. In contrast, the more modest buildings on Sylvan Street housed working-class residents who were employed on the railroad, in the knitting mills and in the service industries. Sylvan Street is especially significant for its association with Richfield Springs’s African-American community, many members of which were employed in the resort industry. Development of Sylvan Street was initiated by the Teabout family, African-Americans who owned the majority of the property at the north end of the street and who held a variety of service jobs in the community. Church Street Historic District residences share qualities of size, scale and materials and embody a variety of popular period styles, including Greek Revival, Italianate, Carpenter Gothic, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and Bungalow.
The Roseboom Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The district comprises the historic core of the rural hamlet of Roseboom, located at the intersection of NY Routes 165 and 166 and the Cherry Valley Creek in the town of Roseboom. The hamlet is surrounded by open valley land, some under cultivation, which rises to hilltops crowned by woods. The Cherry Valley Creek itself divides the hamlet into two areas, which in earliest times had different names, but from the mid-nineteenth century have been considered one place.
Located in northeastern Otsego County in the town of Roseboom, the hamlet is about two miles south of the larger and older commercial village of Cherry Valley. The hamlet of Roseboom first developed as a mill hamlet about 1800 on the south side of the creek; by the mid-1830s, a commercial and service district developed on the north side of the creek. By the 1850s, these two areas were considered one hamlet and known as Roseboom. Virtually all of the hamlet’s built environment was in place by 1900, and the community has suffered relatively little loss since then. The Roseboom Historic District preserves the appearance and some of the services of a small rural hamlet a century later, with its general store, post office, church, meeting hall (in the old Baptist Church building), and cluster of mainly Greek Revival and Italianate style dwellings.
The South Worcester Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The South Worcester Historic District encompasses the rural, unincorporated hamlet of South Worcester and its immediate setting. The narrow, tree-lined road extends along the north side of a small east-west valley formed by the Charlotte River. Open fields occupy the flat bottomlands between the river and the buildings in the hamlet.
The South Worcester Historic District is historically and architecturally significant as a complete and unusually well-preserved farming hamlet, representative of rural development in central New York between 1810 and 1942. Located in the rugged foothills of the Catskill Mountain region, the development of the hamlet is representative of the growth of many small farming communities which thrived in central New York in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hamlets such as South Worcester served as community centers for sparsely populated rural farming districts, and provided focal points for local business, education, religious services and social activities. Today, South Worcester is recognized and valued for its distinguished and largely intact collection of vernacular architecture and the significant presence of an unspoiled rural setting.
Settlement of the valley began prior to the American Revolution, but sporadic fighting dispersed the region’s first inhabitants but settlement proceeded after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, aided by confiscated Tory lands some families returned to the valley. Although the specific pattern of fields and woodlots in the district has continually changed, the agricultural setting and preservation of open space in the hamlet remains unaltered, providing South Worcester with its cherished historic rural qualities.
The Unadilla Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The Unadilla Village Historic District is an outstanding concentration of nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture. The Unadilla Village Historic District encompasses the core of this historic village and represents a continuum of architectural development in the region between 1804 and 1940, which reflects, in its physical setting and distinguished collection of buildings, an important role both in the early post-Revolutionary War settlement and turnpike era, and the mid- to late-nineteenth century railroad era.
Unadilla’s early history is closely associated with the development of turnpikes in New York State’s central and southern-tier regions. As the primary means for channeling people and goods to New York’s interior during the early decades of the nineteenth century, Unadilla’s strategic location at the intersection of two vital early turnpike systems contributed to its commercial prominence in the region during that time period. The major road was the Catskill Turnpike, which linked the Hudson and Susquehanna Valleys.
With the completion of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad between Albany and Binghamton in 1869 came opportunity to expand the industrial base of the village. While the major industries of the area continued to revolve around farming and to some extent lumbering, the railroad provided the means for diversification within those industries. The railroads also brought thousands of tourists to the western Catskills, including many city-dwellers who vacationed at the many local resorts which proliferated after the rail line was completed. The Unadilla Village Historic District retains a nineteenth-century character that recalls the history and development of the village.
The Worcester Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The Worcester Historic District is the social and economic nucleus of Worcester, Otsego County, New York, a village small and rural in nature and which is located in a narrow farming valley at the junction of the Decatur Creek and Schenevus Creek.
The Worcester Historic District is viable and vital in the ongoing life of the community — the buildings are utilized fully for businesses, entertainment, and residences. The Worcester Historic District provides the observer with a well-preserved picture of late nineteenth century, small-town commercial center. It is illustrative of the effects that the coming of the railroad had on rural New York as well as the effects that the new tools, machines, and wood-working techniques of the Industrial Revolution had on building styles and construction in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The small pockets of habitation which existed in the Worcester area in the years before 1850 gradually grew until the introduction of the railroad through the Schenevus Creek Valley in 1865 caused a virtual economic “boom,” leading to significant development in the area in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.
The historic resources of this rural village are demonstrated in the style of the buildings: The majority of the buildings have heavily bracketed cornices and frieze bands decorated with applied moldings in various designs. Single, double, and triple windows are topped by a myriad of pediments and cornices, some of which are geometric and some in scrolled and foliated designs. The buildings complement one another and their close proximity lends itself to pleasing comparisons and contrasts.
Credit: this text has been adapted from the original nomination documents.