Greystone Cottage is the stone building located opposite the Essex-Charlotte ferry dock on Main Street in Essex, NY. It was erected in 1818 by General Ransom Noble for use as a store and warehouse in conjunction with his tannery.
Noble established a tannery and shoe factory in the early 19th century beside the stream, now called Library Brook, directly west of the current library. Between 1801 and 1818 Noble built the H. and B. Noble General Store at the edge of the road initially selling his merchandise and later becoming a general store (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain. 122).
Constructed of native limestone, known locally as greystone, the stonework visible in Greystone Cottage attests to exceptional craftsmanship by skilled masons. Incorporating little ornamentation, the splayed lintels over the Greystone Cottage windows are one of the few original decorative features (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 27).
[I]ts Federal proportions retain their elegance, although a later “Swiss chalet” pair of balconies were added to the facade, and diamond-paned sash installed. (Living Places)
Without the balcony additions the structure resembles the former W.D. Ross Store and the Old Essex Firehouse, which was also originally a store, that were contemporaries of Noble’s store.
Greystone Cottage’s Literary Transformation
During the mid-1800s, Adeline Noble used the tannery store space to house a private library with privileges extended to family, friends and staff. Eventually a “provisional” charter was granted by the University of the State of New York, and the town accepted the now public Essex Free Library in 1899 (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain. 80). It was named as a memorial after Adeline’s late husband, Belden Noble.
In 1974, Fermine Baird Baker deeded the library building and the parcel of land upon which it stands to the Town of Essex for one dollar with the stipulation that the structure “shall forever be used as a library” (“Belden Memorial Library History”, The Belden Memorial Library).
Today the Belden Noble Memorial Library still serves as the Essex town library, and has become a host to many educational and community events.
Additional Resources for Greystone Cottage
This map (with satellite image overlay) will help you locate the Greystone Cottage and see how its location relates to other historic buildings in the historic district.
View Discover Essex on Lake Champlain in a larger map
References for Greystone Cottage
“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” Essex Community Heritage Organization, 1986.
“Essex Village Historic District.” Living Places. Ed. Julia Gombach. The Gombach Group, 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. .
Hislop, David C., Jr. Essex on Lake Champlain. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2009. Print. Images of America.
“Historic Essex.” Historic Essex. Essex Community Heritage Organization. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.essexny.org/>.
McNulty, George F., and Margaret Scheinin. Essex; the Architectural Heritage. Burlington, VT: Queen City Printers, 1971. Print.
Smith, H. P. History of Essex County: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Syracuse, N. Y.: D. Mason &, 1885. Print.
Leave a Reply