Monday, April 23, 2018

An Unknown Colonial Type

 This house was located on Billsboro Road, south of Geneva. It was destroyed by fire on April 22, 1931.

The New Country Life - A Magazine for the Home-maker in the Country
Volume XXXII, June, 1917

                  An Unknown Colonial Type
                    By Christina Livinston Rose
    George Moore says that art is dead, killed about 1880 by ease of locomotion. Never again shall we have art until modern civilization has come to an end, until communication between communities ceases, and segregation is restored.
    As I, an ardent western New Yorker, was endeavoring to digest these sentiments in a recent magazine, suddenly I thought, “Why! That means our cobblestone houses! What more obvious example of art produced by a segregate people than this form of decorative veneer? Here are no bricks brought from England, to build the early settlers’ homesteads, but shingle from the shores of their own Lake Ontario.
    From Oswego to Lewiston, a distance of 150 miles, men of substance, during the first half of the nineteenth century, built their houses of cobblestones, beautifully rounded, water-worn, reddish-brown stones, from one and a half to three inches in diameter. Geologically it is known as Medina sandstone, and is found on the shores of Lake Ontario.
    Simpler farmhouses followed the fashion in a less costly by using the larger, rougher cobblestones, lighter brown in color, and found almost anywhere in this glacier-belabored region of western New York. There are enormous deposits of them on the beaches of the ancient glacial lakes, which preceded Lake Ontario, or in eskers, which are long, winding ridges, as steep as a hogback, formed by streams in openings under glaciers, or in cracks in the ice.
    But every one who lives in a cobblestone house - no matter how far from Lake Ontario - insists the his stones came all the way from that body of water. One honest woman I did find. “Where do you suppose they got all the stones for your house?” I asked casually.
    “Oh, they just picked ‘em off the place,” she answered.
    The varied colors of the ordinary, common cobblestone are far more satisfying to the eye than the uniform reddish-brown of Lake Ontario’s more expensive variety.
    I cannot discover who was the first man that was indigenous enough to use these pebbles on his own dwelling, but I’m sure he was a father. One day he bought home some of the smooth, round stones for the children to play with in their sand pile, and later he was rewarded with an idea.
    Near Lake Ontario they claim that the pioneer of the art was one Cyrus Wetherhill, English carpenter, stone-mason and builder, whose work was described in February, 1916 Country Life. The fashion for these bejeweled dwellings spread inland sporadically for 25 miles. People may call it a rude form of art, but it required expert knowledge of masonry to lay the stones properly.
    Most of my information about cobblestone houses I gathered from the  owner of a renowned cobblestone house in the depths of the country.
    “Don’t you ever feel seasick when you think how these stones were tossed and rolled about before they were worn round?” I asked as I examined minutely with her the lovely, smooth stones of which her house was built.
    She smiles, and passed her hand caressingly over the wall. “They’re a pretty nice color, aren’t they? She said proudly. Every stone was glowing a rich, brownish red, snugly ensconced in its bed of cream plaster. “You know,” she continued, “some folks think they’re painted. One lad, going by in her car - I think she was from Boston - stopped to look at the house; she said they didn’t have anything like it down her way, and asked me why I didn’t paint them a different color. She was surprised when I told her that was their natural color.”
    “Well,” she replied, “the oxen used to make a trip up to the Ridge Road of the lake [the beach of the post-glacial Lake Iroquois] in a day - that-s about eighteen miles from here; we’ve got the old yoke out in the barn now. They’d buy the stones by the bushel, and come back with them the next day. The stones were all put through a potato-sifter - that’s why they’re so perfectly even. And you know the way they used to build these houses, don’t you?”
    “Well, first they built a wall of fieldstone and plaster, eighteen inches thick; the that was all done, they began on the cobblestones, laying the first row all around the house and letting the plaster* get thoroughly dry before they could begin on the next row.”
   “Are there nice old mantelpieces in the house?” I asked.
    “Oh, grand! But do you know we haven’y a single real fireplace except one down cellar. Round 1850 they didn’t build fireplaces [news to me!] The old lady, whose husband built the house, was set on having a fireplace; her husband built one for her down cellar, and there it is still, with its hooks and crane.”
    I found later that the “grand” mantelpieces were very wonder - acorns sprouting from all sorts of impossible places; 1850 was getting perilously near 1880.
    There are at least three distinct styles in cobblestone houses - the Georgian, the Gothic, and the Jigsaw. Examples of the last variety we find with the most elaborate details, replete with all the ugliness of a dying art. But always it is an ugliness full of the mysterious charm that we find so endearing in our ugly friends.
    I had been told of a Georgian cobblestone dwelling on a hillside above Seneca Lake. Two spinster friends of mine friends had tried in vain to buy it. I was searching for it one afternoon when I came on a promising crossroad. “Can you tell me if there’s a cobblestone house up this hill? I asked two men who were repairing a fence corner.
     “Yes, keep straight up on this road, and you’ll find it,” the elder of the two told us.
    “You’re sure there is one?” I asked again, conscious of my temerity, but having to leave the road hiding along the lake for a by-path of doubtful charm.
    “I certainly am,”he answered, “I live in it.”
    We climbed the steep ascent, and found a heaven - somebody’s heaven. The house sat quite far back from the road. It was not “embowered in lilacs,” nor “nestling under the lee of the hill”; cobblestone houses leave those feminine characteristics to wooden farmhouse; but it was all dignity and aloofness - exactly the kind of house that ought to have produced a great statesman or a president.
    Two giant horse chestnuts guarded the opening in the privet hedge, and incidentally greatly impeded my photographic operations. The broad brick path, overgrown with grass, led to a quaint paneled doorway, without the usual sidelights. The whole effect - the proportions of the pediment, and of the pillars supporting it - filled me with delight.
    The  mistress, having heard us snorting up the ill, emerged from a Doric-pillared piazza that looked down over broad and sloping pastures to the blue lake.
    “It’s the old Armstrong place,” she said in answer to my inquiries; “they were prominent people round here a hundred years go - there aren’t any of ‘em left now. We haven’t been here long. Lots of people have wanted to buy the place since we came, but we’re not going to let it go.”
    Inside the mistress of the house showed us over it. We found it all interesting, but admired most perhaps the wood with its lovely design of oak leaves over doorways and windows. At last we reluctantly bade farewell to the owner, and made our way down the hill.
    Cobblestone art died about 1860, killed by the War perhaps, or by the cityward movement of those times, and never revived because, meanwhile, Mr. Moore’s fatal 1880 had intervened.
    But the unique beauty of these old houses ought to be an inspiration to present-day builders in sections where cobblestones abound. When Ivey covered - as they should be - the soft red and brown coloring of the stones seen through the dark green of the vies gives an effect similar to that of a Persian rug. 
    It might tax the skill of the modern mason, however, to duplicate the mathematical precision of the early work. In the best of these old houses there is almost no variation in the size of the stones; they are perfectly matched and blended in color, and the mortar ridges between the courses are as regular as if cast in form.  Some of them put their best foot foremost by having the smallest and choicest of the stones at the front of the house.
    On my cobblestone expedition, one thing always puzzled me. I laid it before a wise native. “Why have I only in all my explorations found the third generation living in its ancestral cobblestones?” 
    The wise man replied. “You never find a cobblestone house on poor land. Only the rich farmers could afford them. The third generation usually finds itself well enough off to retired to the city, and thus you find most of our beautiful old cobblestone houses occupied by aliens.”


Friday, April 6, 2018

How to Repair a Cobblestone Wall

How to Repair a Cobblestone Wall
(From Old House Online August 10, 2011)

The rural countryside of New York boasts a wealth of historic architecture—often in pristine condition. Besides textbook examples of styles, there are also innovative uses of local building materials and methods, which created distinctive, regional vernacular styles.
One of these methods was cobblestone construction, a technique that used smooth, round stones as a decorative veneer on houses, churches, public buildings, barns, and outbuildings, and as foundations for wood structures.
Although they can be found in several states near the Great Lakes, the greatest accumulation of cobblestone structures is in central and western New York, especially the Erie Canal corridor. The technique is thought to have been brought to America by English masons. Due to an abundance of cobblestones available from clearing fields and the shores of Lake Ontario, it proved to be well-suited to the area.
Today, these structures are esteemed by fans of historic architecture, but they offer challenges when repairs are necessary. Cobblestone construction formed solid masonry walls, typically about 18" to 24" thick (usually thickest at the foundation, thinning toward the roof). The center of the wall was rubble stone and mortar, and the interior wall often was plastered directly to the rubble, or to lath installed on furring strips.
Cobblestones were laid in horizontal rows with mortar applied in a V-point style that enhanced the overall appearance of the wall. Besides understanding the peculiarities of cobblestone construction, this decorative pointing is difficult to replicate, and improperly applied mortar is often the first visual clue to a job gone wrong.
The rural countryside of New York boasts a wealth of historic architecture—often in pristine condition. Besides textbook examples of styles from Greek Revival to Arts and Crafts, there are also innovative uses of local building materials and methods, which created distinctive, regional vernacular styles. One of these methods was cobblestone construction, a technique that used smooth, round stones as a decorative veneer on houses, churches, public buildings, barns, and outbuildings, and as foundations for wood structures.
Although they can be found in several states near the Great Lakes, the greatest accumulation of cobblestone structures is in central and western New York, especially the Erie Canal corridor. The technique is thought to have been brought to America by English masons working on the Canal from about 1817 to 1825. Due to an abundance of cobblestones available from clearing fields and the shores of Lake Ontario, it proved to be well-suited to the area.
Today, these structures are esteemed by fans of historic architecture, but they offer challenges when repairs are necessary. Cobblestone construction formed solid masonry walls, typically about 18" to 24" thick (usually thickest at the foundation, thinning toward the roof). 
The center of the wall was rubble stone and mortar, and the interior wall often was plastered directly to the rubble, or to lath installed on furring strips. Cobblestones were laid in horizontal rows with mortar applied in a V-point style that enhanced the overall appearance of the wall. Besides understanding the peculiarities of cobblestone construction, this decorative pointing is difficult to replicate, and improperly applied mortar is often the first visual clue to a job gone wrong.
Located in the countryside a few miles south of Rochester, New York, the 1832 Federal-style Cole farmhouse has endured several attempts to repair significant vertical cracks between its cobblestone walls and stone quoins. Previous inappropriate repairs include caulking the cracks and the use of hard Portland cement mortars and buttresses to keep the corners plumb. The homeowners had attempted to mitigate the walls’ deterioration by installing gutters and downspouts to take water away from the house and also by improving the grade to prevent rainwater and snow melt from pooling at the foundation. 
To address the existing cracks and reverse the shoddy repair work, they brought in mason Marty Naber of Naberhood Restorations of Honeoye Falls. Marty immediately discovered another root of the problem: The quoins—rectangular ashlar stones laid in alternating directions—were not adequately keyed into the walls to resist failure. Unlike on other buildings, where quoins were merely used to imply strength, quoins on cobblestone buildings provide a plumb and square corner that’s impossible to achieve with the stones alone. 
The alternating arrangement of the quoins creates pockets for the walls to mesh into. On this house, there wasn’t enough difference between the quoins’ length and width, nor were the quoins tall and thick enough, which meant the pockets weren’t deep enough to adequately secure the walls.
Using a hammer and chisel, Marty carefully removed the old repairs and deteriorated mortar at the junction of the quoins and the cobblestones. Some areas were removed to a depth of 10" to 12", but Marty cautions that it would be easy to remove too much—experience with and sensitivity to historic architecture are necessary to know when to quit. In addition, using hand tools helps to avoid removing sound materials that might be ruined with mechanical tools. Marty carefully removed the cobblestones and set them aside to be replaced in the wall.
Before beginning the infill, Marty saturated the cleaned areas with water to prevent the remaining old mortar from absorbing moisture from the new. To ensure that the new material would be sympathetic to the old house, Marty used a specially mixed hybrid mortar—consisting of two parts lime, one part ordinary Portland cement, and seven to nine parts mason's (sharp) sand—and rubble stones scavenged from a nearby field. 
Starting at the bottom, he replaced the missing rubble stone and mortar, pushing the new material into the voids with any tool that would work—trowels, tuck-pointing tools, even a stick. He worked in layers, giving each one roughly half an hour to set before continuing the process. The cracks are gone; once the mortar cures completely, the new repairs will be indistinguishable from the original wall.
After the wall infill was complete, Marty carefully set the original cobblestones in a fresh bed of mortar. Many a contemporary mason has tried to replicate the detail of cobblestone pointing, and most have failed. Marty admits that it took many joints to figure it out—along with appropriate materials and technique, timing is key to success, and the slow-drying, lime-rich mortar allowed him ample time to work.
After setting the stones and packing in mortar around them, Marty then over-packed the joints—in other words, filled them with an excessive amount of mortar. As the mortar slowly set up, Marty used a level as a straight-edge to score horizontal lines across the middle of the joint, marking what would become the high point. 
With this threshold set, he cut away the V-shaped joints—beginning with the horizontals and then the adjoining verticals—with a variety of trowels and other tools (from dental picks to a kitchen knife), carefully carving away the mortar around the cobbles. As the mortar dried, he dressed each joint and stone with a soft, dry bristle brush to remove any mortar remnants and trowel marks, creating an aged, organic appearance that blends seamlessly with the original wall.

Improperly keyed quoins and years of inappropriate repairs had caused major cracking (visible above) on the corners of this cobblestone house in upstate New York. Stonemason Marty Naber restored the walls by removing old mortar and caulk and replacing it with new lime-based mortar.

Marty began the repairs by carefully removing old caulk, mortar, and rubble stone with a hammer and chisel. The cobblestones were set aside and later fitted back into the wall.

After allowing the mortar to set up slightly, Marty used a soft, dry paintbrush to dress each joint, creating a more organic appearance.

The cracks are gone; once the mortar cures completely, the new repairs will be indistinguishable from the original wall.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Restoring Cobblestone Buildings

                           By Jim Salmon 
    As Home Inspectors, we are always seeing things we have never seen before. No matter how long we stay in this interesting business there will always be homes and construction techniques which amaze us. As for me, whenever I think I have seen everything, something strange and different comes up.
   Approximately 12,000 years ago, the last modern ice age receded from North America. Mammoth glaciers carved huge ridges and hills from Minnesota to Wisconsin to New York and Massachusetts.
   Left in its wake were large boulders - some of which were pounded into cobblestones, small fist-sized stones or a stone which can be held in one hand. As the ice receded north into Canada, large bodies of fresh water we know as the Great Lakes were left behind to polish these cobblestones for an eternity.
   Sometime around 1825 near Rochester, New York a country mason began collecting these small "cobblestones" and built walls with them. Soon cobblestone homes were popping up all over western New York and by 1830 it was an accepted construction method. As a result of an inexhaustible supply of cobbles, this trade spread fast throughout the Great Lakes region. The homes were built with materials harvested from nearby fields and forests. A cobblestone wall means the home was 100% hand-made from bottom to top. Between 1825 and the start of the Civil War, approximately 1,000 cobblestone and mortar buildings were crafted in the northeastern United States. From its origin near Rochester, these buildings appeared to the west into Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and even some in Canada. They also dot the landscape to the east across New York state. I have been privileged to inspect 30 of these unique structures in my career. Many cobblestone buildings have been remodeled and updated and just as many still have the same dirt on the floor from 1825. They come in many sizes - from very tiny to large 3000 square foot homes with several additions. Most are residential homes, but some are commercial office buildings, churches, schools, museums or just plain unoccupied historical buildings.
   No two of these interesting buildings are made the same and if we could go back in time and talk with these masons, we would find that they were very proud of their work. Many guarded their techniques with their lives. Special tools were crafted to make their own unique finished look. Of all the cobblestone buildings that I have inspected, only one had major structural failures - most have stood the test of time. The awful winter weather of western New York and the northeast can bring disastrous results to masonry products. Each mason had his own style of constructing the actual mortar joint. Some of the mortar joints were trawled to a point with 6 sides around a single stone producing a hexagon look. The stones were laid in rows using natural lime mortar.
   The reason many of these structures still remain today is the quality and hardness of the mortar and the way in which it was applied. Natural lime mortar was made from limestones mined from quarries located near the construction sites. The lime was mixed with sand and water to specific formulas. Many differences of opinion exist as to which formula worked best. The actual process of making the lime powder was exhaustive. First the lime was pounded into small pieces and burned in a lime kiln. Water was added and the mixture was allowed to age from several weeks to as much as a year before it was used. How well the mortar held up under weather depended on the quality and purity of the sand and limestone used as ingredients.
   Cobblestone buildings can be framed as a wall only or as a veneer to wooden framing. Remember no two are the same. Most stone walls range from 12" to 24" thick. They begin with what is called a rubble wall of stones laid first with no particular pattern. This beginning wall can be made of various sized stones, usually larger than the fist-sized cobblestones. Most of the time records show only one or two masons worked on a home at the same time. Too many workmen would mean the walls might go up too fast and not have time to dry properly causing early failure or even a collapse. Usually it was best for one mason to work methodically giving all mortar time to set up properly. Besides, most of these craftsmen were not eager to teach their trade to others.
   Between the rubble wall and outer wall is where most failures occur. Water penetration and the freeze and thaw cycles will cause the outer cobblestone wall to crack and become loose which would eventually cause movement and failure. This is why when modern restoration repairs are made most of the outer stones are removed to allow the rubble wall to be restored providing a sound base for re-installation of the cobblestones.
   Several of these homes, but not all, have the foundation as the beginning of the stone wall which indicates the subsequent wood floors do not sit on the foundation. Any negative grading situations or foundation damage can be seen as affecting the whole structure. The floor joists are usually mortared into the wall indicating foundation movement would be joist movement. Uneven floors with some extra slope are not uncommon. On-going pointing maintenance is essential for this type of building. Anyone who would live in a historical home like a cobblestone, would most likely be interested in preserving the original look and at the same time make modern upgrades.
   Each one of these homes has a slightly different shade of mortar. Matching the color closely makes a much better result to pointing maintenance. Cracks are the single most evident sign of failure. Pointing will seal out moisture to a cracked area but will not insure against future failures. Usually small cracks pose only normal maintenance concerns. Cracks in excess of 1/16" and those that form a circle or show differential shifting are the ones to direct your attention to. Any bulges, bowing or loose and missing stones indicate a failure of the inner rubble wall which is pushing on the outer veneer of cobblestones.
   The earliest cobblestones structures had the corners the same as the walls, a rubble wall with outer cobblestone veneers. These were prone to failure from having to turn the corner. Later techniques saw large square pieces of lake stone used to give the corners improved support. The finished cobblestones came in several varieties. Red sandstones which had been polished by the lake were used in several ways. A herringbone pattern was popular. Horizontal stones laid flat were also often used.
   It is always important to pay particular attention to very old floor joists and support beams, as well as exterior wood trim and moldings. If you mix 175 year old wood with a stone foundation you are bound to find some decay. What makes this type of a home inspection challenging is that many of these homes have been added onto with modern construction and methods. You are constantly switching back and forth in your mind from 1825 to the 1900's.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Cobblestone House in Chenango County


                         This is the only known cobblestone house in Chenango 
                         County, built in 1850 and known as the Billings farm.
                         It is located at County Route 630 Route 14. The Billings
                         family were early settlers and prominent farmers in
                         the area. It is being restored by Joanna Mulas.
                           The Billings house in the 19th century.  Such houses
                           were status symbols.
                                   Photo courtesy of Robert L. Matteson, Smyrna Town Historian                                            

This house is stylistically an extremely rare example of  the Regency Gothic style of architecture with its Gothic columns and wavy Gothic cornice trim with tiny pendants, on a Greek frieze with Greek acanthus leaf patterns. This was a style popularized in Britain by the noted architect John Nash in his cottage designs (1790 to 1835). His designs  may have come over to New York State with the wave of British trained architects migrating here in the 1830s and 1840s. 


                            Facing south. Kitchen windows and garage door
                            are modern.

                                                      Facing north



  What would look better, and be better, on our farms than stables, turnip houses, piggeries, etc. constructed of materials which would not perish in ages, and which could be obtained and put up at an expense within the ready of almost every independent farmer! The stone must be picked up at all events and we might as well put them together for a building.  -- Genesee Farmer, January 13, 1838

The Cobblestone House on the Hill


This Greek Revival House near Smyrna, is located at 630 Chenango County Route 14, Smyrna. "John F. Billings built on his farm in 1850 a large and commodious cobblestone house, which was then said to be the finest house in the county. It is also said to be the only house of its kind in the county."P. 467, History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York" by James H. Smith. Published by D. Mason & Co., Syracuse, N.Y. 1880.

Comments, suggestions and photos and information are welcome. Contact Richard Palmer at Railroad@twcny.rr. com. This is an on-going project.  

         Did cobblestone masons come from the Erie Canal?
                            By David Hanna (PhD)*         

    This claim has been been made and repeated often since the 1960s. While it would seem to fit more or less time-wise, it actually doesn’t really hold water in terms of a skill set or job opportunities available in their field.
     Building cobblestone houses is undoubtedly a very special skill set, even an art form. One would classify it as "folk art" really, but still a very sophisticated type of folk art. Just the skill and imagination required to select and arrange rounded stones in the various decorative arrangements as these master craftsmen did, required both incredible talent and much imagination. They must have been the cream of the crop in terms of the building crafts. It is incredibly fussy work, a true art form. 
    A canal stone mason is someone completely different. He is part of an early industrial craft where there was much demand for canal locks, aqueducts and viaducts in the nascent transportation industry, not to mention giant stone factories and shop buildings. This skill set involved a chain of craftsmen working on major projects : a stone block cutter, a stone block trimmer, and a stone block mason, using limestone exclusively. The latter craftsmen used cranes and pulleys, engineering drawings and supervision, and of course hydraulic cement in the case of canal locks. 
   There simply is no connection between the two skill sets, other than the fact that they were masons. Most likely, these stone masons would have gone on to other transportation and industrial projects elsewhere, such as the plentiful factory buildings that resulted from the Erie Canal building, or more logically the surge of canal lock building that went on in New York State’s branch canal system or the Pennsylvania’s Main Line canal in the 1830s and 1840s, amongst others, even into the 1850s. In other words, these canal masons had more than enough work to do after 1825 in their field of expertise.
    This brings up the second powerful argument against the transfer of canal stone masons to cobblestone building masons is that the 1830s and 1840s represent the peak of cobblestone building. This period also represents the peak of New York State branch canal stone masonry work, followed by the huge doubling and lengthening of locks, plus big aqueduct construction on the Erie Canal in the 1840s and 1850s. How could these so-called same stone masons be employed on two major local fronts simultaneously, focussing on specific canal projects while scattered across hill and dale in the surrounding countryside? The canal to house transfer theory simply does not hold water at all if one thinks about it a bit. The canal stone masons had more canal work than they could handle from 1825 to 1860, a full lifetime career in fact.
    One is tempted to be facetious here and suggest that if you approached an Erie Canal stone mason in 1825, showed him a pile of nice cobblestones and asked him to build you a  house with them, he would probably have picked up a few cobbles and thrown them at you along with a few choice swear words. It is time to definitively jettison this bad theory for once and for all. It has been mindlessly repeated far too long already. Let’s bury it under a cobblestone grave monument !
                           'Native' and 'Immigration' Theories
   So where did the cobblestone masons come from then? Two more probable theories suggest themselves to us. We could call one the Native theory and the other the Immigrant theory. 
   The Native theory, held by many and yet to be proven, is that native-born house masons from New England, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, all census-proven sources for migrants to Upstate New York in the early 19th century, areas where fieldstone houses were abundant, somehow became interested in the plentiful cobblestones found in heaps of glacial till in Upstate New York (where the continental glaciers halted 20,000 years ago); and the even more perfectly rounded cobblestones found along the southern shores of Lake Ontario.
   Intrigued by the plentiful source, these native-born fieldstone artisanal house builders experimented with the cobblestones and learned how to master this new technique using the smaller more rounded stones. But it would have been a skill set that developed locally because of the plentiful availability of the resource (well-rounded cobbles). This theory at least is plausible. Only a census tracking of the known cobblestone masons to these migration sources might lend this theory some credibility.
   The Immigration theory is not really known, but refers to the origin of cobblestone building in England. This is a regional vernacular masonry technique germane to the Essex and Sussex regions in south-east England. These people had been practicing this skill for centuries (same source : glacial till at the edge of the continental ice sheet full of rounded stones). It is also known from the census research that after the War of 1812 (starting in 1815), there was a surge of migration from England to the US and Canada, many arriving directly, others crossing the very permeable border along the St. Lawrence River. In other words, British immigrants were encouraged to come to Canada, especially in light of the War of 1812, but once arrived, you couldn’t stop them from passing into the United States where economic opportunities were far greater, especially in neighboring New York. This immigration leakage is well documented in Canadian migration literature.
   This theory also has yet to be proven and can only be run to ground by detailed census work proving that known cobblestone builders in New York were from England, via Canada or not. Of course, the truth could be a combination of the two, where perhaps some English masons started applying the technique and native-born masons quickly picked it up and pushed the technique beyond what had been done in England. Only pure research (a great thesis project suggests itself here) can run this theory to ground definitively. For now, they will serve as the most plausible sources for such a unique regional skill.
 What is undeniable is that cobblestone houses of the sophistication and development level found in this very localized part of New York State (Niagara to Utica, but mostly around Rochester area), is unique. It is a testament as to what an incredible place Upstate New York must have been in the 1810-1860 period and beyond. Besides those unique cobblestone houses, one also finds the best Greek Revival houses and the best Italian Villas (especially the Tuscan villa type) ever seen anywhere, and in huge quantity. And let's not forget that other unique building type, the octagon houses, which are almost exclusively from Upstate New York as well. These remarkable houses are a testament to the prosperity and dynamism of Upstate New York due largely to the success of the Erie Canal (1825) and the great railroad network established by all the inter-linked ancestors of the New York Central Railroad in 1841 (Boston and New York to Buffalo and beyond by the 1850s).
    The amazing house builders of New York State, during the 1815-1890 period deserve special recognition and perhaps none more so than the cobblestone masons of 1815-1860. This is a very precious heritage and every remaining cobblestone building, whether a house, barn, school, church, tavern, shop, hops dryer, railroad pumphouse, cemetery mausoleum or monument deserves special recognition and treatment. This blog, along with all the published work done on cobblestones since the 1960s, help this process along.
*Professor Hanna is a specialist in heritage studies, vernacular architecture and transportation history at the University of Quebec at Montreal.

                                              4573 Route 92, Cazenovia                          

                  Brief History of Cobblestone Architecture 
                                   By Richard F. Palmer
    Ancient history tells us that the use of cobblestones dates back to the third century when the Romans used them to construct coastal fortifications.  Waterborne flint cobblestones were found in abundance in the English countryside. Natural lime mortars were perfected, but the stones were not laid in defined courses as was done in later periods.
   During the 11th century the Normans and Saxons built walls of flint cobbles or "flint heads")  in rough courses. During the Middle Ages came cobblestone streets, houses and outbuildings. Hundreds of years late American craftsmen, using the European precedent, refined and improved cobblestone building techniques that incorporated coursed, uncoursed, dual courses and heringbone patterns. Cobblestone  houses and other structures have long been a source of curiosity in central and western New York. for decades. There are more than 700 throughout New York State, ranging from Madison to Orleans counties. Cobblestone architecture is unique among the varied architectural styles to be found in this region. Records preserved by the Cobblestone Society of Childs, New York indicate that 90 percent of all cobblestone buildings are found within a 100-mile radius of Rochester. The late Carl Schmidt of Scottsville was the foremost authority on cobblestone construction, authoring many books and articles dating back to the 1930s.
    In his definitive book, "Cobblestone Masonry," Schmidt noted that because of innovative methods used by masons in this region, there developed a cobblestone masonry which distinguishes it from "all previous small-stone masonry."This includes European methods, as well as those used locally."
  A frequent question asked by the initiated has been  "Why are these old buildings confined to this region, who built them, how and when?" Generally the golden years of the cobblestone era were from about  about 1825, when the Erie Canal was opened, to the 1860s. There are, however, examples from a later period scattered here and there including Vermont, Canada and the Midwest. It is not known where or when the first cobblestone houses were built.  The earliest date stone found so far is 1832. 
   Why cobblestones? First, because they were plentiful. They had been rolled, rounded and left by the glacier that had passed over the region, As settlers came and cleared land for homes and fields, the glacier-carried stones had to be reckoned with. Along with using them to build miles of dry-stone wall fences, some were incorporated into building foundations and they gradually applied to above-ground construction. 
The rough field stones were used at first. As the skill and artistry of the masons developed, water-washed stones were gathered  from gravel pits. Then the builders looked to the shoreline of Lake Ontario where nearly 100 miles of washed stones of every form could be collected. We have dismissed the notion that many masons came into the region to work on the Erie Canal. It is an entirely different craft. Some records indicate the masons came from England.
   Each mason developed an individual style and technique, preparing his own mortar. The real secret of a good cobblestone wall depended on the quality of mortar used. Whether fact or fancy, it has been said that often if a visitor came around, a mason would stop everything and wait for them to pass so as not   have his special skills observed. The average mason was paid between $1 and $1.25 per day, plus board, for a 10-to-12-hour day. The work was tedious and exacting, more so as cobblestone structures became more elaborate.  Only the more wealthy landowners could afford them.
  The more that one studies the cobblestone era, the more interesting it becomes. Just driving around to difference sections to look at the variety of buildings and note their special architectural features can develop into an interesting pastime. There are more than 700 cobblestone structures in New York State, chiefly in 25 counties. Wayne County holds the record of more than 150  Monroe, Ontario and Orleans counties have about 100 each and the remaining counties from 20 to 50 each.  The best reference sources include Cobblestone Quest: Road Tours of New York's Historic Buildings by Rich Freeman; and Cobblestone Landmarks of New York State by Gerda Peterich.  Unfortunately these are out of print but are available through some rare book dealers as well as on the Internet. Also they are on the shelves at many libraries in upstate New York. The Cobblestone Society has a museum and resource center on Route 104 in Childs, N.Y. Their website, which offers a wealth of information, is Many local historical societies have published booklets and brochures offering self-guided tours of historic homes that include cobblestone houses. This blog is a random look at cobblestone structures around the region, giving their specific locations. It is a "work in progress."
   Of the 1,000 cobblestone buildings remaining, approximately 90% are within 75 miles of Rochester, New York. But, if you have the chance to inspect a cobblestone in Chicago, Minneapolis, or wherever, be prepared to enjoy yourself because these beautiful buildings are a testimony to the ingenuity of our forefathers. 
  The Civil War generally marked the end of cobblestone construction in the northeast. Modern wood balloon framing was gaining in popularity. Modern bricks were being mass produced and Portland cement would dry much faster than natural lime mortar. A cobblestone building simply became too costly and time consuming to construct. 

   Residents of these historic buildings generally are pleased when their houses are admired from the exterior, but the right to privacy of the occupants should be respected when viewing these structures.

 Tentative List of Existing Cobblestone Structures by County
Albany -      3
Cayuga -     23
Chemung -  1
Chenango - 1
Cortland -   2
Genesee -   22
Herkimer - 6
Livingston - 21
Madison - 6
Monroe - 106
Montgomery - 1
Niagara - 47
Oneida - 5
Onondaga - 12
Ontario - 101
Orleans - 90
Oswego - 5
Otsego - 1
Saratoga - 1
Seneca - 20
Steuben - 2
Wayne - 170
Wyoming - 11
Yates - 9


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cobblestone Buildings Outside of New York State


The Gifford-Davidson House, also known as “Stone Cottage,”  at 363-365 Prairie St., Elgin, Illinois, was built by James Gifford  in 1850. However, if so, it's clearly a retrofit of the Second Empire style popular I the 1860s through 1880s. It was placed on the National Register in 1980. The house was designed by Edwin F.
Reeves, a native of New York. It is within the Elgin Historic District. Gifford was a native of central New York and was one of the founders of Dundee, Yates County, N.Y. He moved west to Kane County, Ill. in 1835 and was one of the founders of the town of Elgin, Ill. He was a prominent businessman, built roads
and furnished wood used to fuel steamboats.

The Herrick  cobblestone house at 2127 Broadway, Rockford, is believed to be the oldest residence in that city. Very little is known of its builder, Elijah L. Herrick, who came from Massachusetts in the mid 1830s. The stones were taken from the nearby Rock River. Herrick may have learned about cobblestone construction while passing through New York State on his trek west. It was placed on the National Register in 1980 and the Illinois Historic Sites survey in 1978.


Cobblestone Buildings of Washtenaw County, Michigan
                           By Grace Shackman
    Cobblestone Farm on Packard Road is one of at last seven cobblestone houses in Washtenaw County. Highly distinctive but incredibly laborious to build, they're examples of a folk art that flourished between the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 and the Civil War.         
    Cobblestone houses first appeared in western New York State immediately after the canal was completed. Their creation was due to a fortunate combination of circumstances: a labor force of skilled masons looking for work after the canal's completion, an abundance of glacial stones, and a population eager to build new homes with profits from the canal. 
    Most of the known examples (700 in all) are in New York, but as New Yorkers moved west, they took the craft with them and built scattered cobblestone houses in southern Ontario, southern Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin--wherever they found the style's namesake building materials, glacial stones, formed during the Ice Age, small enough to hold in one hand.
    The city-owned property known as Cobblestone Farm, built in 1844 for naval surgeon Benajah Ticknor, is today the site of many community activities.
Even the most informative book on cobblestone architecture, Cobblestone Landmarks of New York State, by the late Olaf William Shelgren, Jr., Cary Lattin, and Robert W. Frasch, is unable to trace an inventor of the style. The authors assume that most masons did only three or four cobblestone houses and that "they learned the cobblestone technique from each other or by examining finished buildings."
    Cobblestone houses' exterior walls were constructed with the stones arranged in neat rows, usually either vertically or horizontally but sometimes in fancier designs, and held together with cement that formed ridges between the layers. The simple lines of the prevalent architectural styles of the period, such as Federal, Classic Revival, and Greek Revival, lent themselves perfectly to this type of construction.
   The masons experimented, and the homes became more involved and elaborate as the years went by. But even the simplest style was very labor-intensive, requiring hand placement of each stone. In the earliest homes, the stones were embedded right in the cement, forming an integral part of the outside wall. Later, the stones were more of a veneer, with just an occasional longer stone poked all the way into the cement. Toward the end of the era, the houses became very fancy, with tinier stones used merely for a veneer and arranged in elaborate patterns.
    The cobblestone houses in Washtenaw County fit in with what is known about the homes in general: all were built in the 1830's and 1840's; all are in places where western New Yorkers settled; and all are of simple design, either Classic Revival or Greek Revival. Where the building time is documented, it runs from two to seven years, showing how laborious the work was. While two of the homes may have been done by the same mason, the other five seem to have been done by different individuals. All are located either on the Huron River or near streams, where stones were easier to find.
    Cobblestone houses, built from stones small enough to hold in one hand, are very labor intensive because the construction process entails putting in the stones one by one.

Cobblestone Farm on Packard Road

    Cobblestone Farm, built in 1844 at 2781 Packard Road, is now a city-owned museum. Both the owner and the builder had New York origins. Heman Ticknor, who bought the farm for his brother, Dr. Benajah Ticknor, had farmed in Pittstown, New York, near Troy; the probable builder, Steven Mills, learned to be a mason in Phelps, in western New York.  


                                             Orrin White House

 Ann Arbor's other cobblestone house, at 2940 Fuller Road, across from Huron High School, was built in 1836 for Orrin White, the first settler in Ann Arbor Township. White migrated here from Palmyra, in Wayne County, New York, the county with the largest number of recorded cobblestone houses in that state. Present owners said they believe that their house was also built by Steven Mills because it is very similar to the Ticknor-Campbell house: both are Classic Revival, and they have identical herringbone patterns of angled stones and similar interior layouts.

 Lester Jewett House, 10725 Jerusalem Road, Lima Township.

    Lima Township's cobblestone house, at 10725 Jerusalem Road, is similar to the Ann Arbor cobblestone houses in size and design. Original owner Lester Jewett, who hailed from Seneca, New York, was, like Benajah Ticknor, a medical doctor. According to stories that have been passed down, the house took seven years to build. Dr. Jewett had two brothers who also settled on Jerusalem Road. They, too, built stone houses, but used larger fieldstones. Family legend is that the stone houses brought them luck.


      Goodale House, 3555 West Delhi Road, Ann Arbor.

A Greek Revival-style cobblestone is found at 3555 West Delhi Road, just a little to the west of the Delhi settlement. The house was built by Norman Goodale, an important mill owner during Delhi's days of prominence, for his mother, Harriet Church Goodale. Goodale settled in Delhi in 1838, so the house must have been built sometime after that. After the Goodale ownership, it passed through several hands, including Henry Ford's. He used it for a retreat, especially enjoying it when the peach trees on the property were in bloom.

                                             Rufus Knight Home
The Rufus Knight home at 4494 Scio Church Road also has a similar look except for smaller upstairs windows. Knight, a miller who arrived in this area in 1826 from Wheatville, New York, was a pathfinder who, according to the 1891 Washtenaw County Portrait and Biographical Album, "ground the first grist which ever went between the stones in this county." He set another record - the first marriage to be entered in the county archives, when he married Sallie Scott in 1827. The 1891 book's description of Knight ends, "The old cobble stone house is still in use and as good as ever although it was erected as long ago as 1849."
The Orrin White house across the street from Huron High School is believed to be built by Steven Mills, the same mason who constructed Cobblestone Farm. Photo by John Hilton.

  Another Greek Revival house at  3562 W. Huron River Drive in Scio Township was the home of farmer Morris Richmond, who hailed from New York and built his house in 1847, taking more than two years to do it. The house was obviously built by someone who knew about architecture, since it features classic Greek Revival attributes: gable entrance, symmetrical windows, and even a raised area under the beams forming a frieze.
    The most rustic of the seven Washtenaw County cobblestone homes is probably the only owner-built house in the group. Located on the corner of Baker and Shields just south of Dexter, it was built by Obed Taylor, who, according to information researched by his great-great-grandson, Welton Chamberlain, had been a surveyor and a road builder in Northbridge, Massachusetts, before coming west. After his arrival in Dexter, he was hired by Vrelan Bates to dig out a mill race for the Bates Saw Mill on Mill Creek. Taylor worked for three years, digging with pick and shovel, for which he was rewarded with 40 acres of nearby land.
    He used the stones that he dug out to construct his house, burning the larger pieces of limestone for cement and using the smaller stones for the walls. Records indicate that he must have finished his home by 1844 because in that year he was hired by Judge Samuel Dexter to build a fence just like the one around his own home.
    People curious about cobblestone houses and willing to travel farther afield can see all the cobblestone houses they could ever desire by going to western New York State and driving along Route 104, built on an old sandbar that parallels the Erie Canal. In Childs, New York, the Cobblestone Society maintains a museum complex that includes a cobblestone church; a cobblestone home and a one-room schoolhouse. 
    A little closer to home, in Paris, Ontario, near Brantford, are Canada's finest examples of cobblestone homes, all built by Levi Boughton, a mason from Normandale, New York.
    Right here in Washtenaw County, we are lucky to have the seven we have: all slightly different, all well kept up, and all beautiful. The best time to view cobblestone houses is when the sun shines on them, giving the stones a beautiful three-dimensional look. 
                         Cobblestone Buildings in Washtenaw County
Obed Alvord House, 10331 Crossman Road, Manchester Township, 1840s 
William Burnett House, 3555 W. Delhi Road, Scio Township, 1840s
Lester Jewett House, 10725 Jerusalem Road, Lima Township, 1847
Rufus Knight House, 4944 Scio Church Road, Scio Township, 1849
Orrison Leland House, 7374 Sutton Road, Nortfield Township, 1840s
Robert McCormick House, 5400 Curtis Road, Salem Township, 1851
Loren Miles House, 219 N. Huron, Ypsilanti, 1845 
Myron Pierce House, 4659 Prospect Road, Sharon Township, 1840s
Morris Richmond House, 3562 W. Huron River Drive, Scio Township, 1840s 
Obed Taylor House, 2385 Baker Road, Scio Township
Benajah Ticknor House, 2781 Packard Road, Ann Arbor, 1844
Orrin White House, 2940 Fuller Road, Ann Arbor, 1836   
Loren Miles House,  219 N. Huron, Ypsilanti, 1845                        
                          Other Counties
 Compiled by Grace Shackman and Patricia Majher
Blaisdell House, 298 Eaton Road, Castleton Township
Barney House, 303 S. Hillsdale St., Homer
Lake House, 29680 Albion Road, Albion Township
White House, 20744 M-66, Pennfield Township
Kirby House, 3771 State Road, Adams Township
Vandenburd House, 180 N. Wolcott St., Hillsdale
Wilbutr House, 4481 State Road, Adams Township
Sessions School, Riverside Drive at Jordan Lake Road, Berlin Township
Coolbaugh House, Michigan Avenue at Church Street
Parma Hamlin House, 200 Main St.
Concord Hurd House, 7632 N. Meridian Road, Henrietta Township
Walcott House, 6707 Cross Road, Spring Arbor Township
Eddy House, 11700 N. Adrian Road, Franklin Township
Macon District No. 1 School, 8225 Clinton-Macon Road, Macon
Wheeler House, 7075 M-50. Cambridge Township
Rumsey House, 5070 E. Highland Road, Osceola Township
Sawyer House, 8951 M-36, Green Oak Township
Osgood House, 744 Samaria Road, Bedford Township
Beach House, 7980 Hickory Ridge Trail, Rose Township
Dudley House, 880 Snell Road, Oakland Township
Garner House, 5355 White Lake Road,, White Lake Township
Holmes House, 324 S.  Main St., Milford
Sprague Building, 300 S. Main St., Rochester
Taylor House, 487 E. Gunn Road, Oakland Township
Terry House, 315 University Drive, Auburn Hills

                                  Some Cobblestone Buildings in Michigan

 The Barney house at 303 South Hillsdale Street, Homer, was built in 1837.
     Sessions School, Riverside Drive at Jordan Lake Road, Berlin Township

 Historical plaque for school house     

              Macon District No. 1 School, 8225 Clinton-Macon Road,
              Macon, built 1840.

The Greek Revival Nathaniel S. Wheeler cobblestone house at 7075 W. Monroe St., Cambridge Township in Lenawaee County was built about 1845. Nathaniel S. Wheeler was born in Amenia, N.Y. in 1808 and moved to Michigan in 1833 with his parents as one of the first settlers. He married Nancy A. Russ in 1855. He sold the farm in 1869 and resettled elsewhere in the county.  It has since had many owners. It was restored in the 1970s and placed on the National Register in 1975. It was once part of a 500-acre farm.


                         The Loren Miles House at  219 N. Huron, Ypsilanti, was
                      built in 1842. The Queen Anne style porch and balcony
                      were added later.  Today it is a well-maintained apartment
                                  New Mexico

The Moore-Ward house at 505 W. Richardson Ave., Artesia, New Mexico, was built soon after the town of Artesia was founded, in 1904. The unusual cobblestone fa├žade was placed by hand as part of the original construction, using stones from the nearby Penasco River that were hauled in on wagons. The stones were set in concrete starting from the bottom up—a couple of rows were laid at a time and then allowed to dry before the next rows were laid. The whole process took nearly two years, and no, we don’t know exactly how many stones were used! The house is on the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties and the National Register of Historic Places, and has housed the Museum since 1970. It houses the Artesia Historical Museum and Arts Center.


The Chester Risley Howard house at 411 East Garfield Road, Aurora, may be the only cobblestone building in the state of Ohio. Howard was a prominent miller. In 1853 he razed an old frame house and mason M. Smith built this Gothic Revival style cobblestone house for Howard. It has two stories and three wings. The walls are 20 inches thick. It was placed on the National Register in 1974. The black and white photo was taken by Photographer Carl Waite for the Historic American Buildings Survey on June 19, 1936. 


This house at 47 Main Street in North Bennington, Vt. was built in 1848 by Warren Whitney Dutcher, co-inventor of the “Dutcher Temple,” a mechanism used in the manufacture of textiles. The house was auctioned off for $1 a chance. Dutcher never lived there. He and his family moved to Hopedale, Mass. in 1856. At that time the Colvin family lived there. This is of “Gothic Cottage” architecture popularized in the late 1840s and the 1850s.  The looping verge board is a decorative tradition that comes out of late mediaeval southeastern England, a tradition that was much enhanced in the U.S. after 184..
      Photo and information courtesy of  Jane Griswold Radocchia.

                                          Warren Whitney Dutcher

This cobblestone school house is located at 1363 North Bennington Road, Bennington in an area called Paper Mill Village. Built about 1840, it was known as School District No. 10. It is now a private residence.
Photo courtesy of  Jane Griswold Radocchia.

                 This is a current photograph of the same building.

                      Photo courtesy of Jane Griswold Radocchia

                               Eastern-most Cobblestone House in the U.S.

The Winslow-Ward is cobblestone house is located at 12 Canal Street, Brattleboro and is an apartment house owned by the Windham Housing Trust. It is a very plain vernacular Neo-Classic architecture.  It was built about 1850 of quartzite cobbles apparently collected from nearby Whetstone Brook. In the 1960s it was owned by Linus Edmunds.  Cobblestones vary from  1-1/2 to 2-1/2” high and the courses are 2-1/2 to 3-1/2” high from center to center of joints.  Quoins are roughly cut gray granite blocks about 3-5” high, 10” long and 4 or 5” thick.  Sometimes a course of large cobblestones correspond to one quoin height, and sometimes two courses of small cobblestones take up one quoin height.  The 5” thick window sills and 8” high lintels are also of gray granite.  On both the front and rear gable ends the builder enclosed in a thin wood frame 2 courses of cobblestones that extend diagonally up to the roof line to the ridge to resemble verde boards. Projecting cornices on the gables are covered with two rows of cobbles, an unusual feature. Sills , lintels and quoins are rough granite.


[Sources include: Wisconsin Historical Society, Burlington Historical Society and National Register of Historic Places applications; Wikipedia].

The Lathrop-Munn house at 524 Bluff St. in Beloit on the west side of Rock River was built about 1848 and is of Greek Revival style. It may have been built by local businessman John Hackett who sold the property to Frederick A. Lathrop in 1848. It was entered on the National Register in 1977. The walls are only one foot thick - suggesting the possibility of brick infill - with three or four courses of stones. Selection of color is more random on the south side, but here too stones are well matched for size and shape. The larger and more irregular stones were reserved for the north side. Throughout, they are set in rows in mortar which is raised in pronounced horizontal ridges between the courses of stones. Mortar bands also surround the buff limestone quoins and lintels. Rough-cut limestone was used for the foundations, water tables, and quoins; the heavy straight lintels were tooled to create a dotted texture. Additions do not seriously detract from the cobblestone fabric of the building. 
   Unfortunately, many cobblestone houses are falling to the wrecking ball or just disappearing through neglect. With high heating bills and expensive repairs, some people can no longer afford to maintain these structures. Development has also taken its toll on these once beautiful homes. 

                                    Sherry House, 530 Broad Street, Beloit.

Built in 1850 this house at 517 Prospect St., Beloit,  was occupied by the first president of Beloit College. It is a Wisconsin Landmark and one of the finest remaining examples of cobblestone architecture in the State of Wisconsin. It is owned and maintained by the Beloit Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. 

The Clark Brown House at 3457 Riverside Drive. Beloit, was built in 1847 of Greek Revival architecture. 

This cobblestone house at 565 West State St. in Burlington was built in 1845 in the style of a cube as the home of Pliny Merritt Perkins. He was born in Trenton, New York and first settled within family in Joliet, Ill. before coming to Burlington in 1837. Over the years he became a prominent local industrialist. Three of the walls are coarse masonry, the front facade being cobblestone with brick quoins.


Portion of front wall of Prasch house, 885 W. State St., Burlington. Note how cobblestones are graded from smallest at the bottom to largest at the top. [Burlington Historical Society.]

Three cobblestones - the Hammiller, Reuter and Burhans houses sit on Jefferson Street just east of the Hillside. The middle house has its gable end to the street; the other two are set parallel. Joseph Thering bought the house at the left from the Ephraim Perkins estate in 1851. Two German carpenters, John Heinrich Rueter and John Heinrich Burhans bought the center and right lots in 1851, gathered cobblestones while excavating the foundations, and completed their houses, which shared a common well on the lot line, in 1854. [ Burlington Historical Society.]


“Buena Vista House,” originally a hotel, is located at 2090 North Church St., East Troy. It took three years to build and was completed in 1846 and designed by Samuel R. Bradley, a young mason who ran a hotel in Milwaukee with his wife before moving to East Troy. It was placed on the National Register in 1978 and the Wisconsin State Historical Register in 1989. It is the largest known cobblestone building in Wisconsin. Like most cobblestone buildings, this one is a vernacular interpretation of the Greek Revival style, with a broad cornice, granite and limestone quoins, and flat-arched limestone lintels. Originally, a one-story porch ran along the west (front) and wrapped around to the north side, but all that remains today are two smaller, pedimented porch roofs, supported by large brackets, on the front. The paired windows on the second floor, over the main entrance, show where a doorway once opened onto a covered balcony. The ground level has always housed a restaurant, but the interior has been altered repeatedly.

The Justin Weed house at 3509 Washington Road in Kenosha was built in 1848. It is Greek Revival architecture. It was placed on the National Register in 1974.

Commercial building, 125 W. Main St., Palmyra, Jefferson County, was built ca. 1845-48. It was built for a store and in 1874 became home to the Palmyra Enterprise. It was placed on the National Register in 1975.

                              P. R. Mygatt Farmstead, 5924 State Highway 83,
                              Racine  County. Built about 1850, Greek Revival.

This cobblestone house at W202 Highway 11, Spring Prairie, Walworth county was the farm residence of Lemuel R. and Melissa (Campbell) Smith, who he married about 1842. Their three children were born here. Lemuel was born in Hamilton, N.Y.,  a son of Revolutionary War veteran Aaron Smith He his son, Civil War veteran Edwin Ruthven Smith, gave President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward each a drink from his canteen when they visited Fort DeRussy. Union troops there had helped repel an attack on Fort Stevens (Washington, D. C.) by Confederate troops under Jubal Early. Lemuel was one of the first four settlers to claim land in the Burlington area. The Smith farm has been identified as a station for sheltering fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad. Smith has also been identified as a "conductor" who picked up a freedom seeker in Waterford and transported him to a farm near the Smith farm. Lemuel held various offices in his township and was the first chairman of the Old Settlers' Society in Walworth County. Lemuel died in 1874.                                                                            [Burlington Historical Society]

                             Old photo of the Lemuel Smith House.
                             [Burlington Historical Society]

 The William T. Billings house is located on Little Prairie Road, Troy Township, Walworth county. It is of Greek Revival architecture of the 1840s period.

Jedediah Healy had this Greek Revival-style  cobblestone house at 34108 Oak Knoll Road in Burlington  built in 1858, according to the date stone. It is constructed of fieldstone with cobblestone veneer. A one-story addition was built later on the year. This  is known as the Franklyn Hazelo House.It was placed on the National Register in 1974. Healy and his family were early settlers in Racine county, arriving in 1841. Architectural historian Richard Perrin noted tis house is “perhaps the most curious piece of cobblestone masonry in Wisconsin. It is the unique treatment of the cobblestones that invites attention, since nothing quite it has thus far been turned up anywhere else.”

The Richardson-Brinkman house at 607 West Milwaukee Road, Clinton, was built in 1843 by Alonzo Richardson. It is of Greek Revival  design. Its walls are 16 to 18 inches thick.  It was placed on the National Register in 1977.

The Samuel J. Jones house on Milwaukee Road, east of Clinton,  was built in 1847. It is of Greek Revival  architecture. It was placed on the  National Register in 1978.


The Joel B. Roberts house at 1011 State St., Eau Clare, is of' "Gothic Revival” architecture. It was built in 1866 by Bradley C. Marcy, a stone mason who came from New York State. Additions were made in 1876 and 1916.  Stones were gathered from the nearby Eau Claire and Chippewa  rivers. Inner stones came from local quarries. It is believed to be the only cobblestone house in northwestern Wisconsin. It was listed on the National Register in 1974 and the Wisconsin State Register in 1989.

The Hinkley house, Highway 67, Eagle, ( also known as the Cobblestone House) was part of a farm originally owned by A.R. (Ahira) and Mary Hinkley. A.R. Hinkley came to Wisconsin (before the territory was established as a state) in 1836 and bought the land from the government (specifically sold for homesteading purposes) for $2 per acre. Hinkley initially built a log house on the property and began clearing timber for farming. When the territory became a state in 1848, Hinkley began drafting plans for a new house. He built a house which included cobblestones he found on his land, sand from nearby Pretty Lake, and lime for the mortar which he made by burning limestone he found on the land. In fact, the majority of the materials used to build the house were taken from Hinkley’s land. Hinkley came to Eagle from New Hampshire. It is thought that his inspiration to build a cobblestone house came from those he had probably saw while traveling through western New York where the majority of cobblestone houses in the country originated. Hinkley was a predominantly a farmer, but also did dental work on the side. It is said he sometimes kept his dental tools with him while working in the fields, just in case a neighbor or another farmer had a toothache and needed assistance. He was a prominent citizen and worked to support the community in a positive way. Descendants of the Hinkley family lived in the house until 1912.

                                   Historic marker to house next to nearby road.

                                     Miniature cobblestone house next to marker.

The George Josiah Kellogg House, also known as “Belle Cottage, was located at 1837 Center Ave., Janesville, Rock county. It stood until 1987 when it was demolished, even though it had been placed on the National Register and the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places. It was Gothic Revival architecture and was built in 1854 by Kellogg, a pioneer nurseryman.

                                 Meyerhofer Cobblestone House

The Meyerhofer cobblestone house is located on Townline Road east of Lake Geneva in the town of Lyons, Walworth county. It was  completed in 1850 of field stones  and is of Palladiun style after the 1500s Italian architect Andrea Palladio. It was built by Nikolaus Meyerhofer who came here from Germany about 1845 and purchased 160 acres for farming in 1847.  He had been a stone mason in Germany. The entrance to the house is constructed of brick with brick quoins.   Its appearance is particularly interesting with the segmental-arch doorway and the pediment. Later, a frame summer kitchen with gable roof was added.  and has been on the National Register since 1980 and the Wisconsin Register since 1989.

                                      Ketchum House, Marquette

The Daniel and Catherine Ketchum cobblestone house at 147 East Second St., Marquette, Wisconsin, was built in 1851. It is one of the most significant landmarks in Marquette and is of the Greek Revival style. The architect was John Baldwin. It also has been known as the Lisa Michele house.

Colonel Orien Haseltine, of Andover, Vermont, came to Vernon  in 1838  following his sons, Orien Jr. and Curtis who came two years earlier to claim 400 acres.  The community of Vernon was named by Haseltine in honor of George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.  In 1859 Hazeltine moved to south central Wisconsin. This house, built of fieldstone, is located at W230 S8235 Big Bend Drive. It was built with more than 10,000 cobblestones in 1842, according to the date stone centered above south gable window.  It was placed on the National Register in 1979. It has had many owners over the years.

The home of Edward and Elizabeth Dodge now is located at 126 E. Grand Ave., Port Washington in Ozaukee County was built in 1848 with later additions.   Stones were gathered from the shore of Lake Michigan.It is of Greek Revival architecture. It originally stood on on the south bank of Sauk Creek about 125 feet north of its present location. It was moved to its present site in 1935, when a porch was added. It now serves as the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce Tourism Center. It was placed on the National Register in 1975. [Photos by J.R. Manning].

The Horace Loomis house is located at N797 Highway 120, Spring Prairie Township, Walworth county. It was built in 1851 and is of Greek Revival architecture. It was placed on the National Register in 1974 and the State Register in 1989.

The Murray-George house, north side of P, Turtle Township, Rock 
County, was built in 1845. It is Greek Revival architecture. 

This house on Maple Drive in the village of Waterford, Racine county, was built in 1847 by English immigrant Matthew Blackburn on his 280-acre farm. The one-story wing once had a recessed porch with two columns, but has since been walled up with siding and a bay window. Cobbles are of various colors.

P. R. Mygett Farmhouse, 5924 State Highway 83, Waterford, Racine county, Wisconsin. Greek Revival architecture, built 1850.

The James Jesse Strang residence, 154 Highway 11, town of Voree, (meaning garden of peace and founded by Strang). He and his followers broke off from the main Mormon Church. In 1850 local pressure forced the colony to an island in upper Lake Michigan. There he was crowned “King James I,” but internal strife resulted in his being shot. He returned here and died in 1856.

The Martin House at S87 W23715 Edgewood Ave., Vernon Township,
Waukesha County, was built in 1859.

                               Cobblestone Buildings in Wisconsin

Structures listed as cobblestone buildings in Wisconsin (From the booklet, The Octagon House And The Cobblestone Building in Wisconsin by Virginia A. Palmer. Published by the University of Wisconsin, 1978). Those that are debatably of traditional cobblestone construction are marked with asterisks. A few extra note are added since this list is dated.

Bayfield County

*1. Town of Russell, Highway K Sunnyside Farm (1924). Built by John Gautsch and daughter using multi-colored stones from Lake Superior. Private residence.
2. 1011 State St., Eau Claire (1866). Built by Bradley Marcy, stonemason, with stones gathered from the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers. Walls are 14 inches thick in this two-story structure. Wing added in 1876, stone garage built in 1916. Wisconsin Registered Landmark and the National Register of Historic Places. Private residence.

Jefferson County

3. 125 West Main Street, Palmyra (1845-1848), Two-story building with egg-shaped cobblestone used on the front - limestone trim, fieldstone sides, Originally built as a store. Palmyra Enterprise established here in 1874. Historic American Buildings Survey and National Register of Historic Buildings. Commercial use: real estate and insurance.

Kenosha County

4. 3509 Washington Road, Kenosha (1848- first story only, second story added 1869). A Greek Revival style house with two rows of gay stones alternating with four rows of white ones, brick quoins, wood trim, and a one and one-half story wing. National Register of Historic Places. Private residence.

Ozaukee County

5. 146 South Wisconsin Street, Port Washington (1848). Home of Edward Dodge, a blacksmith using stones gathered from Cedar Creek to form horizontal bands of stones alternating light and dark bands. House was moved 125 feet to the north in 1930 when the Wisconsin Electric Power Company acquired it as a gatehouse. National Register of Historic Places. Commercial use.

Racine County

6. Oak Knoll Road, SW from Highway D, Rochester (1858). Stones placed in box-like recesses formed by the intersection of vertical and horizontal V’s. Date stone is on the gable. Has a one-story wing, Narrow end of two-story section faces road. National Register of Historic Places, Private residence.
7. Maple Drive, .6 mile north of Highway D, Rochester (1847-1852). Building by Matthew Blackburn, farmer, this Greek Revival house is two stories with a one-story wing. Small cobblestones used on front, larger stones on sides. Private residence.
8. 5924 Highway 83 (c.1850). Stone Front Farm. This Greek Revival style house has two stories, with cobblestone front and fieldstone sides. Private residence.
*9. 5601 Highway 82, two miles south of Honey Creek Road (19th c.) Italianate, two-story house. Private residence.
10. 565 West State Street, Burlington (c.1845). Built by Pliny Perkins, farmer, this house has small cobblestones at the bottom, larger stones at the top, brick quoins. Private residence. 
*11. 200-202 West Jefferson Street, Burlington (1852-1854). Two and one-half story house with cobblestone front and fieldstone sides. Private residence. 
*12. 216 West Jefferson Street, Burlington (1852-1854). Two and one-half story house with cobblestone front and fieldstone sides. Private residence.
*13. 508 East Jefferson Street, Burlington (19th c.) One and one-half story ouse of cobblestone and fieldstone mixture. Private residence.

Rock County

14. 517 Prospect Street, Beloit (1850). Built by students of Beloit College under the direction of Chester Clark, stonemason, using stones collected from Turtle Creek, dark gray cobblestones with projecting mortar points. The completed house was sold and the proceeds given to Beloit College. A brick chimney and enclosed porch were added later. The house was donated to the Beloit Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution by Mrs. Rasey, its last owner. Wisconsin Registered Landmark and National Register of Historic Places. Open by appointment only.
15. 530 Broad Street, Beloit (1851). A hip-roofed cobblestone house almost obscured by commercial edition, wing added 1859. Private residence.
16. 548 Broad Street, Beloit (1851) Another hip-roofed cobblestone house obscured by commercial addition. Private residence.
17. 910 Broad Street, Beloit (c.1846) Chester Clark, stonemason, built a cobblestone house and barn used by first chairman of village of Beloit. The cobblestone house has been razed the barn still stands. Privately owned. (Note: Placed on National Register in 1983; removed in 2009. It appears it was demolished and replaced by a Walgreens drug store).
18.  Lathrop-Munn House, 524 Bluff Street, Beloit (c. 1848). House built by Chester Clark, stonemason National Register of Historic Places, 1977. Private residence.
19. 326-328 St. Lawrence Street, Beloit (19th c.). Cobblestone core with limestone and brick sections added later. Private residence.
20. Highway 51, Town of Beloit (c. 1845). Cobblestone on three sides, brick front, two stories have sloping wings. Private residence.
21. 607 Milwaukee Street, Clinton. Built by Alonzo Richardson in Greek Revival style, one and one-half stories with one-story wing. National Register of Historic Places. Private residence.
22. Samuel Jones House, Milwaukee Road east of  Clinton (19th c.) Private residence. National Register of Historic Places, 1978.
23. George Josiah Kellogg House (“Belle Cottage,”) 1837 Center Avenue, Janesville (1854). Steep roof with intersecting gables. George J. Kellogg, architect. Private residence. Demolished 1987.
24. Tiffany, La Prairie township (19th c.) Now whitewashed. Commercial use.
25. Highway P, one-quarter mile west of W. Turtle township (1840s) Greek Revival style. Private residence.

Walworth County

26. Cobblestone Inn, 2090 Church St., East Troy, formerly Buena Vista House (1848). Built by Samuel Bradley, this three-story house has granite and limestone quoins. National Register of Historic Places. Commercial use.
27. .3 miles south of Swoboda Road on Highway G (1851). Greek Revival Style building of two stories - one-story wing, inset porch. National Register of Historic Places.
28. .25 miles west of Highway J (19th c.) Two-story building with limestone quoins. Private residence.
29. .1 mile north of Highway A (old Highway 15) (19th c.). Two-story building with limestone quoins. Private residence.
30. No. 202 Highway 11, .1 mile west of bridge over White River (1846). Lower section built by Samuel Neff; completed by new owner William Aldrich, one and one-half stories with brick quoins. Private residence.
31. Highway 11, .5 miles west of Racine County Line (1846). Originally built s far as first floor window sills by Samuel Neff, the building was completed by William Aldrich. The house was one of several in the now vanished Mormon settlement of Voree. Private residence.

Wakesha County
32. W354 S7920 Highway 59, Eagle (1845). Built by Ahira Hinkley farmer, this two-story house has cobblestones laid in even rows separated by V joints. Stones are black, buff, red and tan cobblestones. Cobblestone quoins. Wisconsin Registered Landmark, Historic Buildings Survey, and National Register of Historic Places. Private residence.
33. S107 W25620 Highway 24, Vernon township (1848). Built by Jesse Smith as tavern and stagecoach inn, building is two and one-half stories with porch across front. Historic American Buildings Survey. Private residence.
34. S87 W23715 Edgewood Avenue, Vernon township (1839). House with large stones at the bottom and smaller stones at the top. Date stone. Private residence.
35. W230 S8235 Highway F and Artesian Avenue, Vernon township (1842). Built by Orin Hazeltine this two-story house has about 10,000 stones of uniform size and shape. About 40 stones are in each full length row on the ends of the house. Cobblestones used as veneer for fieldstone underneath, larger stones used for quoins. Private residence.
36. 586 W24360 Edgewood Avenue, Vernon township (1862). Two-story house with cobblestone front and fieldstone sides has limestone quoins and three chimneys. Private residence.