COUNTY STREET NATIONAL REGISTER HISTORIC DISTRICT DOCUMENTATION UPDATE New Bedford, Bristol County, MA Client:    New Bedford Historic Preservation Commission & New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park Team:    Kathryn Grover & Neil Larson Date:    June 2007 The County Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and the 785 properties within it were documented only with their addresses. The district comprises the core of residential architecture that survives from the 18th- and 19th-century development of this remarkable maritime city. The 1976 nomination form contained but three pages of narrative description of this varied and nuanced building history. The historical context for the district was equally inadequate and ignored the rich social history embodied by the buildings. The significant role that African Americans, Cape Verdeans and other minorities played in the economic and cultural history of the city also was overlooked. New Bedford’s historical commission desired to have better documentation of the history and integrity of component buildings, as well as a stronger context for evaluation. With the National Park Service’s Whaling Museum operating largely open-air in the city, a more detailed analysis of the architecture and history would contribute to their interpretive plan.  The Massachusetts Historical Commission provided a grant to the City to accomplish these goals. Architectural historian Neil Larson and historian Kathryn Grover assumed the separate tasks of addressing the architecture and historical contexts for an updated nomination form. Larson reviewed the 30-year-old inventory forms that existed for most of the properties and created a spreadsheet containing relevant data, such as date of construction, building type and form, materials, and design features. This data was verified in the field to address inaccuracies and any changes that had occurred in the intervening years. (For example, it was interesting to discover that many of the oldest houses, which were in poor condition and had been resided 30 years ago have been restored on the exterior, while many of the more common dwellings, which had essentially intact wood-shingle exteriors back then, recently have acquired vinyl siding.)  Based on this analysis, Larson wrote a detailed assessment of the architecture in the district. Likewise, Grover researched the general background of the city and delved into the household histories of numerous building types and wrote an context statement that covered the full range of social, economic and ethnic groups who populated the area from the late 1700s, when whaling was starting to transform New Bedford into a diverse and vibrant town to the early 1900s when the city became the largest producer of cotton cloth in the world. DOWNTOWN LIBERTY HISTORIC DISTRICT NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATION & LIBERTY SIGN LAW Liberty, Sullivan County, New York Team:  Jill Fisher & Neil Larson (LFA) Client:  Village of Liberty Date:   June 2005/September 2005 The Village of Liberty has been undergoing economic revitalization over the past couple of years with an emphasis on historic preservation.  Expansion of a small National Register district established in the 1970s was deemed important to provide a broader range of historic properties with the tax incentives for sprucing up the downtown.  With major street improvements also being undertaken by the New York Department of Transportation, updating the sign law was timely and in keeping with the general upgrading being sought by the community.  New sign regulations needed to be cognizant of the character of the village’s historic downtown as well as the gateway areas leading into the village.  The approach to the sign law was to recognize the character of different districts within the village, tailor regulations for each, and reference a profusely illustrated Sign Guidelines document designed to assist businesses in understanding how to select effective signage that would be approved. MAXON MILLS NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATION Wassaic, Town of Amenia,  Dutchess County, New York Client:  Wassaic Historical Agriculture    Crossroads, Inc. Team:  Neil Larson & Jill Fisher Date:   June 2005 The Maxon Mills Feed Elevator is a rare surviving example of a small commercial feed supply enterprise that provided individualized feed supplements to dairy farms in eastern New York and western New England.  After World War II scientific methods were applied to crop and dairy herd management in the region, and Maxon Mills filled the niche of delivering nutritious feed supplements that were not available on the farm.  Erected in 1955, the eight-story elevator contains a total of 58 bins of various sizes constructed with solid walls of stacked planks.  LFA wrote and defended a National Register nomination for this unusual resource.  Broader architectural and historic contexts needed to be developed for the structure, and since parts were built after 1955, it needed to be shown to be of exceptional significance.  In the face of local opposition to preserving the elevator, LFA worked diligently with its client to ensure the nomination progressed to a successful listing. DOWNTOWN PEEKSKILL HISTORIC DISTRICT NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATION Peekskill, Westchester County, NY Client:  City of Peekskill Team:  Neil Larson & Jill Fisher Date:    September 2003 The City of Peekskill had already established a local historic district and design guidelines for its central business district but determined that designation of the area as a National Register Historic District would be beneficial.  The nomination documented the Hudson River town’s importance as an early hub of land transportation routes and showed how this shaped the downtown in the 19th century.  The nomination also identified important mid-20th century Art Moderne structures that were previously undervalued for their contribution to the district’s architectural significance. MENDON NORTH AVENUE RURAL HISTORIC DISTRICT  & MENDON CENTER HISTORIC DISTRICT NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATIONS Mendon, Worcester County, Mass. Client: Mendon Historical Commission Team:  Neil Larson & Jill Fisher (LFA) Date:   March 2003 These are two distinct but related nominations to the National Register of Historic Places that were successfully listed in early 2003. Mendon is in the unusual situation of having retained much of its surrounding rural landscapes essentially intact, including eight historic farms extending along North Avenue that provide a pastoral gateway to the village center. The town’s proximity to Boston and the increasing development pressure this has engendered suggested that measures needed to be taken to protect these old and rare landscapes. The National Register listings document that these areas are not simply visual amenities or desirable environmental conservation areas, but also have significant historic value based on the 300-year history of their agricultural use.  In addition to its open space, Mendon Center retains the landscape patterns of the 17th century village from which it originated.  Yet its most visible significance is as a remarkably intact Federal Period New England village.   Between the two nominations, a compre-hensive understanding of the community’s rich heritage was achieved.  Local leaders are actively using this information to ensure that future development respects these irreplaceable historic resources. ELEPHANT HOTEL NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK NOMINATION Town of Somers, Westchester County, NY Client:  Town of Somers Team:  Neil Larson & Terry Ariano, Somers Historical Society Date:   June 2004 The Elephant Hotel was built c. 1820 by Somers resident Hachaliah Bailey, who with his elephant, Old Bet, introduced the traveling animal menagerie to the United States.  This distinctive Federal-style building became the center of circus development in the Northeast.  The Town of Somers bought the hotel in 1927 and has sensitively preserved the building while using is as its town hall ever since.  The nomination was initiated to enhance the town’s ability to raise funds for the building’s continued preservation.  A national level of significance was established for the building through its association with American circus history. SOMERS HAMLET HISTORIC DISTRICT NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATION Somers, Westchester County, NY Client:  Town of Somers Team:  Neil Larson Date:   November 2003 The Somers hamlet developed at a rural  intersection of two important regional turnpikes, one leading from the Hudson River to  Connecticut and another leading south to New York City.  It became a popular stopping  place for cattle drovers and, when native son Hachaliah Bailey bought an elephant in  1805, it became a center for menageries of exotic animals.  Over the years, the  turnpikes became state highways, and suburban sprawl invaded Somers.  When  Pepsico and IBM built huge corporate headquarters in the town in the 1980s,  population growth threatened to undermine the rural quality of the hamlet.  The  nomination was the culmination of a years-long local effort to recognize the significance  of the hamlet and help preserve its historic resources.  CENTRAL STREET HISTORIC DISTRICT NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATION MAIN STREET HISTORIC DISTRICT NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATION Town of Millville, Worcester County, Massachusetts Client:  Millville Historical Commission Team:  Neil Larson and Jill Fisher (LFA) Dates: 2002 & 2006 LFA completed two historic district nominations in this historic industrial community located in the Blackstone River Valley in southern Massachusetts.  The industries are gone but evidence of the intermingling and interaction of owners, managers and workers is richly portrayed in the districts’ many distinctive residences.  Separated by the river and the evolving transportation corridor (canal, railroad & highway) paralleling it, the two districts each contained over 100 contributing features, and represent most of the old village.  The success of the nominations has strengthened the community’s commitment to preserving its industrial-era heritage and has greatly improved its identity within the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Area. NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATION FOR THE VAN BENSCHOTEN FARM & GUEST HOUSE   Margaretville, Delaware County, NY Client:  Peter and Carol Molnar, owners Team:  Neil Larson Date:   May 2002 The owners of the historic Van Benschoten Guest House, were interested in nominating their B&B, to the National Register of Historic Places.  They justifiably felt that such designation would heighten interest on the part of the traveling public and enhance the B&B’s marketability. The Nelson Van Benschoten House was found to be built in c1890, despite local legend that claimed it was much older.  It is a distinctive example of the farm architecture in the Town of Middletown and Delaware County at the end of Delaware County by the end of the nineteenth century.  As the central element of the 239-acre farm that Van Benschoten had assembled, the house reflects his success as well as his pride of place.  Situated high on the southerly slope of Margaretville Mountain, the house takes advantage of dramatic views of the Catskills.  Its refined but restrained style reflects the impact summer tourism was having on the local economy and the influence of boarding house design on farmhouses built to accommodate that function.  Surrounded by neat farm buildings and expansive pastures, meadows and fields, the house epitomizes the civilizing of the Catskills.