Northville’s tourist industry has long been fueled by the waters of the Great Sacandaga Lake and chimney swifts. Now, village officials are hoping to attract history buffs.
State officials confirmed Monday that the small village center of Northville, in the northern part of the town of Northampton in Fulton County, has been recommended for inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Northville’s Historic District, the village residential and commercial core that dates back to 1819, generally covers the area around Main, Bridge and Division streets, according to village historian Gail Cramer.
“We have a little museum, which was a one-room schoolhouse that people can visit, and the area also includes an old hardware store, a hotel, a pharmacy and what was an old theater,” said Cramer. “The whole village has been pushing for this, so we’re very excited about it.”
Mayor John Spaeth, who was elected to his post earlier this month, said the designation should spark a concerted effort to improve the appearance of the neighborhood.
“We’re hoping it will serve as an incentive for homeowners and business owners to renovate their property,” he said. “If you have a historically significant structure, you’ll be able to fix things up. It doesn’t have to be necessarily a major renovation, maybe just a front porch or the facade. Anything that will allow us to draw more tourists into the village.”
According to Spaeth, business owners in the district can collect a 20 percent tax credit from the state and federal governments. Residences are eligible for the state credit only.
“The district encompasses all of our commercial zone and also a good chunk of residential area,” said Spaeth. “Our entire village might be eligible to become a historic district, but we didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew. We just wanted to get a foothold, and then maybe in the future we can look to expand the area.”
The Allen and Palmer Hardware Store has been in Northville since just after the Civil War when two Union veterans, Andrew Palmer of Northville and Edwin Allen of Vermont, paired up to open their business in 1870. Their actual hardware store was two doors down from where Shawn Darling and Leland Robinson now operate Allen and Palmer True Value.
“This particular building was built in 1885, but the business is older than that,” said Darling, who with Robinson bought the property at 112 N. Main St. in 1997. “Sam Benton owned the business for five years during the Civil War. And when Allen and Palmer came back from the war, they took over. They also bought this building and rented it out for a while. It was a half a dozen or so different businesses, including the post office, before they moved the hardware store in.”
He said he and his partner did a lot of renovation work on the place when they purchased it 17 years ago.
“We hired a mason and repointed the bricks on all four sides and three stories,” said Darling. “We also put in some new windows and a new roof, and poured a new floor into the basement. We don’t really need to do a lot of work with the place.”
Still, he said he was happy to hear that the neighborhood will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“I didn’t help initiate any of this, but I was interested and did go to the meeting,” said Darling. “I was concerned it might cause us a lot of grief, but I found out it wouldn’t affect us in the least. It’s not restrictive. It’s a completely positive move.”
Northville now sits on the shore of the Great Sacandaga Lake. But when it was first settled, around 1786, it was built on high ground. It wasn’t incorporated as a village until 1873. When state officials flooded the Sacandaga River Valley in 1930 after building the Conklingville Dam in 1929, Northville suddenly found itself on the shores of one of New York’s largest bodies of water and quickly developed into an outdoor summer destination.
Northville is also known for the thousands of chimney swifts that for decades would travel about 7,000 miles each spring from South America to return to the chimney that stood on the site of the long-vanished Hubbell glove factory. The 50-foot-tall stack has been demolished and there is now only a concrete slab about 5 feet square where it stood, but the village still attracts chimney swifts.
“We still get them, but they don’t have a central site to flock to now,” Spaeth said of the birds. “But they still come, and we still get the people coming to look at them.”
The Northville Historic District was one of 21 sites around the state recommended for the State and National Registers of Historic Places by the New York State Board for Historic Preservation.
Sites that earned recognition within the Capital Region included the Tomhannock Methodist Episcopal Church in Pittstown (Rensselaer County), Woodward Hall in Lake Luzerne (Warren County), the Farmer’s National Bank and W.H. Hughes Slate Company Office in Granville (Washington County), the Martin-Fitch House and Asa Fitch Jr. Laboratory in Salem (Washington County) and the First Congregational Church of Albany (Albany County).