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MA in Historic Preservation

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To obtain a complete copy of this thesis please contact Goucher College Special Collections & Archives at or (410) 337-6075.


This thesis has researched and compiled comprehensive documentation from which relevant material can then be extracted to satisfy the criteria for nominating the historic village ofEssex, New York as a National Historic Landmark. Essex has been acclaimed as one of the most intact Greek Revival communities in America and has been listed as a National Register Historic District since 1975. Even casual visitors experience the "feel" of the past as they walk the streets and marvel at a place where nearly 85% of all structures built since 1765 remain standing with almost no twentieth-century intrusions. Chapter I of this thesis presents a compendium ofhistorical documentation including the theme of maritime commerce. Essex prospered by the development of commerce on Lake Champlain during the first half of the nineteenth century, from 1820 to 1860. As the Champlain Canal opened in 1822, Essex alone on Lake Champlain had the geographical and financial position to maximally profit. This was because Essex possessed two fine natural harbors and was on the road that connected to the major natural resources of the Adirondacks to the west. Thus Essex became the principle port on Lake Champlain in the first part of the nineteenth century. Chapter II investigates the importance of the cultural environment in Essex, specifically the remarkable fact that the rural edges are still intact, with little edge or strip development and most of the original surrounding agricultural patterns still evident. Chapter III studies the significance of Greek Revival architecture in Essex, presenting documentation of building construction dates, construction types, and building use. Nearly 70% of the buildings in Essex are in the Federal and Greek Revival styles, having all been constructed prior to the Civil War. There is a high degree of integrity in the built environment in Essex, with nearly 87% of buildings retaining their original use and over 90% in their original location. Chapter IV explores the significance of Essex in comparison to twelve most similar existing National Historic Landmark districts. Each is compared and contrasted with Essex. Questions poised to nationally prominent scholars are answered with their comments highlighting the strength of Essex's integrity and significance. Chapter V examines the most closely related rural historic villages in America such as Waterford, Virginia and Old Deerfield, Massachusetts and compares their historic themes and historic preservation efforts to those of Essex. Chapter VI presents the conclusions that the Greek Revival architecture of Essex is largely extant and intact, and meets the criteria for the designation of Essex as a National Historic Landmark.