Last Modified June 2, 2003
by Daniel H. Weiskotten
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The beauty of the Public
Square in the heart of the Village of Cazenovia is second only to the beauty
of the natural landscape of blue waters and rolling green hills that surround
us. The man-made landscape of our village is deeply steeped in over
200 years of incredible history, and telling the story of even this 3 acre
plot of land (132,261.56 square feet, including the roads and other not-so-green
areas) would be a formidable task for even the most knowledgeable historian.
The Public Square is an original feature of the village, and is seen on the original surveys of the early community, including the primary "Map of the City of Cazenovia" which appears to have been made in early 1794 or early 1795, and it clearly forms the focal point of the fledgling village as shown in a painting made by Alexandere Autrecht in 1798 (I hope to have this posted soon). Since little formal development had taken place in the village in the very first years (much of the area had been cleared, houses built, and a store and other services were provided, but formal land sales of village lots does not appear to have occurred until 1797) the plan of the village was of utmost importance to setting the stage for the community that was to sprout from this spot. Knowing that most of the settlers were to be arriving from the New England States, John Lincklaen included a Public Square in his plan so they could carry on their practice of having a public ground in the center of their community where cattle and other livestock could be kept while farmers were in the village on business, where meetings and markets could be held, and where a myriad of other community activities could take place.
The Public Square was also from its first days ringed by the most important features of the community. Until the early 1830s the Public Square was the home of several taverns including the Johnson Tavern, The Madison County Hotel, Cazenovia House, Samuel Forman's and Jabish N.M. Hurd's Store, the village hay scales, a large warehouse, and several artisans' shops and stables. Beginning about 1828 the center of business began to expand eastward and beyond the Public Square and soon the business district that we know today was formed. In this period the taverns on the Square were closed and converted to houses, the Presbyterian Church was moved down from its remote location in the north part of the village, and the other stores and shops soon made way for elegant houses and landscaping improvements. The eastern end of the Public Square marked the edge of the new business district and thus commercial enterprises, such as Bartlett French's coverlet weaving shop, several stores, and later a large hotel were located on its eastern margin. The pattern formed at that time is still retained today and a picturesque landscape, developed through two centuries of care and planning have created a pleasing boundary between a the primary commercial district and a major residential section of the village.
Despite the shift in use, the Public Square remained the center of the village. By 1838 the Square had developed many of the features that are still found today. All but a handful of the structures still to be found on its perimeter date from that period, and many are much earlier structures that had been converted for a second life as a house. Henry Hart's wonderfully detailed map 1852 map of the Village of Cazenovia shows many parts of the Public Square and its surroundings that can still be found today.
Today the Public Square is very much intact and very much alive and in use just as the founders of the village intended. Yes, there are parking lots and narrow paved lanes on what should be green open space, and some of the past "improvements" were nothing of the sort, but the vast majority of the features of the Public Square are intact. The Pubic Square is made up of many positive properties: architecturally and historically significant houses, maple trees a century and a half old, lots of green grass, flag poles, memorials to soldiers and firemen, an information kiosk, benches, a public telephone, sidewalks, and a captured Hessian cannon mark this very important public space in the heart of our community.
The following map, created
by Aaron White on August 1, 1885, is a detailed survey of the measurements
and features of the Public Square as it appeared in 1885. The base
map which White used is a survey made in 1809 by Isaac Bumpus. You
will note that most of the landmarks used then are still present today.
Of the 16 different structures shown on the map 13 still exist today, and
of the 28 reference points and measurements given around the perimeter
of the Square, 24 of them may still be easily used to determine and reestablish
the bounds of the square as it was originally planned and as it has been
maintained for over 200 years.
In this on-line copy of the 1885 map I have made notations (in pencil) of the store occupants as described by a written list or key made by White in 1885. (I hope to soon include this written accompaniment to the map in these pages.) I have also reproduced clearly the measurements given on the map and made conversions of the chains and link measures that appear.
The file for this map is very large, 334 KB, and the map is reduced
here for full viewing.
To see a more detailed view click here or click directly on the map