An Introduction to the Architecture of the Adirondacks

Greek architecture did not die with ancient Greece. Neither did ancient Roman architecture. Who would have thought that the forms created by architects two thousand years ago halfway across the world could make it into the Adirondack park today? Architecture is one of the most easily overlooked art forms even though it is all around us all time. In fact, it is a unique medium in that it is developed out of necessity. In this website, we will not be talking about purely utilitarian buildings, but instead focusing on structures whose architecture has a past, an enduring history. With a keen eye and a close look, different parts of structures begin to pop out and tell a story.

America has always been a melting pot of culture, and it is no different with architectural styles. Examples of Greek, Roman, Italian, Georgian, Federal, Gothic, Japanese, and French architecture abound in the Adirondacks. Sometimes a single house will have employ a mixture of several different styles. The Washington Street House in the village of Malone NY, for example, is a standard cottage layout with a roof is French, gothic gables, and Italianate windows and towers (McGowan, 80).

Surprisingly, Architecture in the Adirondacks specifically does not differ very much from the architecture of the surrounding area. Even though there are more sporting camps, fancy hotels and outdoor oriented buildings, their basic architecture does not differ from the residential houses outside the blue line, with the possible exception of the great camps. The most interesting period architecturally in the Adirondacks is the mid to late nineteenth century, which includes the Greek, Gothic, and Romanesque revivals, capped off by the introduction of Queen Anne style.

Usually implicit, the way that these various architectural styles moved around is actually worth a brief mention. Obviously there wasn’t an annual carpenters convention where they decided that year’s style. In some cases, the release of certain books triggered the skyrocketing of the popularity of a certain style, but most of the time carpenters and architects would simply copy what they saw around them (McGowan). If neighbor’s eaves were especially decorated, a carpenter would simply copy them, adding his own twist.

Each of these foreign and historic styles is unique, with its own look. Each moved around  and rose and fell in popularity, but the obvious thing about buildings is that they last awhile, especially the well built ones with interesting architecture. Their longevity means that despite the fact that Greek revival houses haven’t often been built in the last 100 years, Greek revival architecture is still all around us. Click on tabs to the left to see examples and descriptions of some of the most influential architectural movements in the Adirondacks.



McGowan, Robert H. Architecture From The Adirondack Foothills. New York: Publishing Center for Cultural Resources, 1977. Print.