About White Creek, New York
The Town of White Creek was taken from Cambridge in 1815 by an act of legislature, and in 1816 the first town officers were elected. One third of White Creek is on the Cambridge Patent, and the remainder of its territory is included in the Schermerhorn, Lake & VanCuyler, Wilson or Embury, Bain, Grant and Campbell patents. By the late 19th Century the principal villages of White Creek were: White Creek, Martindale Corners, Pumpkin Hook, North White Creek, Dorr’s Corners, Ashgrove, Post’s Corners and Centre White Creek. White Creek was one of the important early business centers of the southern part of the county. By 1820, White Creek was the largest village sporting a hat factory, grist mills, cotton factory, flax mill, woolen mill, tanneries, manufacturers of scythes, hoes and axes as well as around this time a large prosperous general store and post office. Pumpkin Hook (now Chestnut Hill Road) used a network of creeks to become a mini-industrial center — by the early 19th century hosting a mill, chair factory, clock and comb factory as well as a woolen mill as well as a machine shop. Competition elsewhere in the country lead to their demise.
Sheep raising was an extensive industry in the Town of White Creek in the early years. Flocks of sheep as large as 2,000 were owned by single persons in 1850, when there were over 30,000 sheep kept in the town. An interest in sheep farming was supplanted by dairy farming and the raising of flax and potatoes. In 1877 Jermain’s White Creek village creamery was established.
The completion of The First Northern Turnpike (North/South Union Route 22 in 1799 opened up new markets in Troy for area farmers, allowing the already strong base in agriculture to expand. The following year, in 1800, Cambridge Washington Academy was erected in the Village. (About many existing residences in the historic district of the Village of Cambridge and hamlet of White Creek have Federal characteristics harkening to their construction during this era.
The arrival of the Troy Rutland Railroad through Cambridge in 1852 signaled another turning point for the Township of White Creek, particularly the Village. During the latter half of the 19th century, Cambridge was the heart of Washington County, through which passengers traveled between Albany and Rutland. The railroad allowed the smaller but significant agricultural industries to further expand by connecting Cambridge to nearby cities such as Albany and Rutland, and to larger cities such as Boston and New York City. For example, the railroad exported dairy products from local farmers, delivering fresh milk to the surrounding big cities. Around this time, the predominant industry in agriculture shifted from wool or flax to dairy farming — products of which (particularly cheese) were in high demand in the nearby urban centers.
Originally the Pompanuck Indians lived in White Creek. Europeans commenced settlement between 1761 and 1765.
The Village of Whitehall resulted from persistent efforts on the part of Major Philip Skene to colonize the area. Attracted by the natural harbor on Lake Champlain and the potential mill sites on Wood Creek, he made the first settlement there in 1761. Until 1790 there was little growth for the hamlet contained less than a dozen houses. The first American Navy Fleet was constructed there during the Revolution and during the War of 1812, Whitehall became a supply station.
Then came the era of steamboat navigation on the Lake, followed by the construction of the Old Champlain Canal connecting the Erie Canal and the Hudson to Lake Champlain. Now, Whitehall responded to the needs of the canal trade. A lively commercial area grew up adjacent to the canals. Few of these early structures survived the fire of 1864 which wiped out the local carpet, grist, and sawmills as well as the sash and door factory and the foundry. Whitehall was not overlooked by the railroads. How could it be, with such a strategic location in the Champlain Valley? The first railroad was the Saratoga and Whitehall line. It reached Whitehall in 1846.
But the fire which caused so much damage to Whitehall’s commercial area did not stop its activities. Rebuilding was commenced immediately. It is to this fire that we owe the present day Main Street of pleasantly-varied yet harmonious architecture. A good local architect, Almon Chandler Hopson, whose career has been discussed in the nomination for Skene Manor, Whitehall, was called in to rebuild most of the structures between the years 1865-1900.
The homogeneity of the construction is due to his influence, and the result was the creation of a veritable treasury of late nineteenth century architecture. Since the degree of Whitehall’s prosperity has remained at about the same level throughout the twentieth century, neither increasing to the point of grand new construction, nor diminishing to the point of decay, the district has remained economically viable and architecturally intact.