Lowertown Historic District

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Market and Adams Streets
Lockport, NY
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Inscription

The Lowertown Historic District

Lowertown is in a geographically distinct section of the city of Lockport with such boundaries as the Erie Canal and the Niagara Escarpment.

“A village within a city,” Lowertown thrived as Lockport’s social, commercial and industrial center between the years of 1829 and 1850. During this period, most of the aristocracy of the city lived in this section. Among the most notable structures that were built during Lowertown’s heyday, and are still standing, are The Washington Hunt House, The First Bank of Niagara County, Christ Church and the Vine Street School. Also a number of fine brick and local stone built residences exemplifying the style of that era still stand along Market Street overlooking the canal.

The Lowertown Historic District was entered on the National Register of Historic Places on June 4, 1973.

Erected

By the City of Lockport — date unknown.

What was there

The City of Lockport arose from wilderness to a prosperous canal port when an Erie Canal construction camp dug in to build a series of 5 locks to lift the westward canal over the Niagara Escarpment beginning in 1821. The massive construction effort brought permanent residents, businesses, and travelers from around the State of New York and surrounding states to Lockport. The area surrounding the locks prospered and the city grew around it. As the canal finished and investors and merchants finally realized its great economic potential, a group of Albany capitalists looked towards Lockport for development. The area above the locks was prospering, while the area below remained rural. They purchased the tract of land below the locks, determined to take advantage of the location and available water power from being below the escarpment, and set out to make the new “Lower Town” better than the “Upper Town.”

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Development began along Market Street, with the clearing of the land, laying of roads, and division of plots. The west end of Market Street quickly filled up with commercial buildings. Hotels to service passengers travelling on business (or waiting for the locks), warehouses to store and ship goods, and manufacturing plants sprung up along the lower canal. The secluded beauty of the east side of Lowertown, with the Erie Canal on the west and the towering escarpment to the east and south, made it a prime residential spot for the city’s aristocrats. Prominent homes lined Market Street facing the canal, while more blue-collar homes and cottages filled in Garden and Fayette Streets in the back of the east side. While “Lowertown” is the section of the city under the escapement, including the east and west sides, the west side, along Eighteen Mile Creek, filled with mills and factories took advantage of the water power there. The east side became primarily residential, with many homes built from the 1830s to the 1860s. What is today the “Lowertown Historic District” is concerned with the east side of Lowertown, between the canal and escarpment, and from around Exchange St. to just past Vine St.

By the 1970s much of the commercial buildings in the district, especially those along the canal on Market St were demolished or left abandoned.

What is there now

The area is primarily residential, with the west end of Market St. having several commercial buildings.

Some significant buildings that still stand are:

  • Lockport Bank Building (1315-1319 Market St.) Designed by Hezekiah Eldredge. Is an orange brick building with two entrances. It now houses apartments.
  • Washington Hunt House (363 Market St.) Built in 1831 and purchased by Washington Hunt in 1833. Hunt was a prominent lawyer in Lockport, and became Governor of New York in 1851.
  • Christ Episcopal Church (425 Market St.) This beautiful Gothic Revival stone church was built in 1854.
  • Episcopal Rectory (Vine and Garden) A stone house with bay windows and steeply pitched roof. It looks similar in design to the church.
  • Vine Street School (Vine and Garden) A brick Italianate-style one-room schoolhouse; built in 1864.
  • Nathan Dayton House (499 Market St)
  • Josiah K. Skinner House (485 Market St)
  • Bissell-Spalding House (471 Market St)

Since the 1970s an effort has been made to acknowledge and preserve the buildings that still stand. The strip of land along the canal is now a park with walking trail. All of the homes and commercial businesses are privately owned. The Christ Episcopal Church was abandoned as of 2013.

More information

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We would like to thank the following for helping us with this entry:
Matthew Conheady



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  1. Kelly says:

    Fantastic pictures. I especially love the first one with the purple coneflowers in the foreground!

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