Historian details Burdett's architecture
MONTOUR FALLS--Unusual among rural communities, the streets of Burdett display a range of architectural styles illustrating its origins as a late 18th century settlement and gradual development into a prospering village, now celebrating its bicentennial. One of the lectures celebrating the occasion, "Beautiful Burdett: Colorful Architecture and Enduring History," was presented Sunday, Jan. 12 by historian Marty Evans at the Schuyler County Historical Society's Brick Tavern Museum.
The earliest settlers to the area formerly known as Hamburg, Tod's Pole, Pikes Pocket and other appellations arrived between 1791 and 1799, finding one deserted log cabin. The main draw was Hector Falls, also called Cranberry Creek, which established its presence as a mill town and center of commerce. A wool mill was erected in 1801, and there may have been as many as nine mills along the creek. The residents chose to forego the generic, white clapboard homes typical of the period, endowing Burdett with a colorful, extensive architectural history persisting to the present, though many of the structures have undergone considerable renovation.
The oldest house in Burdett, designated by a New York State Historic Marker, dates from circa 1810 and was built over a log cabin, with two or three subsequent additions. The former tavern and inn was also a station on the underground railroad, as indicated by a now-sealed tunnel connecting with a nearby barn, as well as an illustration bearing various symbols, discovered when wallpaper was removed.
The Georgian style of architecture (1714-1830) embraces the "golden ratio" of symmetry and proportion, with windows aligned horizontally and vertically. Ornamentation is minimal and often absent on the exterior. The former Jackson Hotel at the corner of Main and Church Streets, built in the early 19th century, is one such example.
A more sophisticated and ornate variation on the Georgian style, Federalist, appeared between 1780 and 1830. While maintaining the symmetry and layout of Georgian homes, it incorporates elaborate moldings and rounded or arched windows.
With a stabilized economy in the mid-19th century, Burdett adopted many Victorian styles, which include Italianate, Second Empire, Gothic, Queen Anne, Romanesque and others. Italianate (1840-1885) was a popular choice for the nouveau riche; wooden scroll brackets, made affordable by mass production, were easily applied. Its identifying features are a low-pitched roof with overhanging eaves and decorative brackets; tall, narrow windows and, often, a square cupola.
The Burdett House B&B exemplifies the Queen Anne style (1880-1910), characterized by abundant wood decoration, turrets, half-timbered sections, steeply pitched roofs of irregular shape and patterned shingles. Also on Main Street can be found an example of Victorian Painted Lady, named after a style popular in a region of San Francisco, with its multicolor themes. The simpler Victorian Folk (1870-1910) is noteworthy for the spindlework detailing on its porches, symmetrical façade and gable roofs. The box-like American Foursquare (1890s to 1930s), featuring center dormers and wide porches, can be found in the area where railroad tracks once ran.
Twentieth-century transitions found in Burdett include Craftsman (1905-1930), with its low-pitched, gable roofs, porch roofs supported by square columns, and pedestals or columns extending to ground level; the simple, sparse Bungalow (1905-30), frequently constructed with natural materials; the steep roofs and asymmetrical fronts of American Cottage, popular after World War II; and Modern Saltbox, a variation on the colonial style.
Form follows function in Mid-Century Modern (1933-1965), a category featuring ranch and split-level dwellings. Angular shapes, flat roofs, large windows and minimalist aesthetic are hallmarks of this style.
Storefronts with Victorian influences, dating from the mid- to late 19th century, are easily recognizable, with their inset doors and display windows. The former incarnations of Berta's Café, the current birthing center and Barry Family Cellars included, respectively, a mercantile, finishing school and post office.
Smok'n Bones is all that remains of the Tile Block, which was destroyed by an explosion involving acetylene torches in 1909. Fire consumed the Miller block, and the devastating flood of 1935 eliminated any chance of its resurrection.
Construction of Burdett's Presbyterian church began in 1826, and lack of funds delayed its completion until 1838. The Methodist church, built in 1845, was renovated extensively in the 1870s. The two brickyards in Burdett yielded material for the Hollenbeck Smith house on Lake Street, built in the 1890s, and the 1844 Martin House, the former headquarters of Burdett Telephone.
Early photographs of some of these buildings can be found in the current exhibit at the Brick Tavern Museum, which continues until Jan. 23.