Of local limestone [greystone] in two-and-a-half stories, it is a late Greek Revival mansion, characterized by superb stone work on the exterior and magnificent Federal plan and plaster work in the interior… its condition today is as fine as the day it was built. (Living Places)
Greystone (c. 1853) exhibits conservative Greek Revival design that does not flaunt the classical temple style but does incorporate handsomely executed Greek Revival details. Constructed between 1853 and 1856 by Ransom Noble’s youngest son, Belden Noble, Greystone was the last of the Merchant Row homes constructed in Essex, NY. Belden Noble’s brother Henry H. Noble had already built his home, Sunnyside, next door.
Justice James S. Harlan married Belden Noble’s daughter, Maud Noble, in 1897, and subsequently the home has sometimes been referred to as the James S. Harlan Residence, although “Greystone” has always been its popular name (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain. 121).
Belden Noble hired architect T.S. Whitby to create plans for the perfect wedding gifts for his bride Adeline: a new rustic Italianate style church, the Essex Community Church, and a magnificent new mansion which were built by the same construction team (Greystone: A Landmark On The Coast of Lake Champlain). These were the last historic structures to be built of stone in Essex (Historic Essex). Both were built out of locally quarried greystone, but the blocks used on the mansion were smooth, dressed stone unlike the rustic finish of the Essex Community Church. The home’s name comes from its fine stone exterior.
The cornerstones of the house were dressed and laid to visually suggest the presence of pillars. Although the gable roof does not face the street, a telltale Greek Revival practice, the architectural details incorporated into the gable ends suggest a Grecian temple pediment.
A central entryway on the five-bay facade is flanked by two windows placed symmetrically on either side of the doorway. This is an architectural element common to all of the historic homes along Merchant Row, and it is surmised that the Noble family deliberately matched the other homes along the Essex waterfront for aesthetic continuity (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain. 121).
Over the years Greystone has undergone various renovations such as the addition of a small south wing in the twentieth century, however the Ionic porticoes on the front and north side of the house are originals (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 28).
The north elevation of Greystone features the original porch and a curious water tower. The tower was added in the Shingle style, perhaps in the 1880s. When constructed it was found that water was too heavy for it so it was converted to an art studio. (Greystone: A Landmark On The Coast of Lake Champlain)
Greystone’s front lawn includes a section of decorative cast iron fence of the same design as that of the Harmon Noble House, although Greystone’s fence is painted white. Other iron worked designs were used on the exterior of the house, including grilles that covered the attic windows. However some of that decorative work has been removed.
Documentary photographs taken about the turn-of-the-century show a wide parapet crowned with scroll and anthenium iron cresting that apparently was removed by 1930. The wooden parapet and most of the iron cresting is still stored in the carriage barn. The low parapet and iron scrolls were restored to the entrance portico in 1995. (Greystone: A Landmark On The Coast of Lake Champlain)
The grounds contain a circular rear carriage drive in the Romantic tradition, which has branch leading to the Gothic Revival carriage barn that stills stands set out of view of the main house (Greystone: A Landmark On The Coast of Lake Champlain).
The mid-Nineteenth Century saw the great transition from the long admired revival of classicism to the “heir to the ages” perspective of later Victorians. Nowhere more apparent is this than at Greystone, with its formal, late classical design exterior and neoclassical detailed and embellished interior. (Greystone: A Landmark On The Coast of Lake Champlain)
Greystone’s interior has been well preserved despite periods of vacancy, and the ornate plaster work and grand proportions are admired by Essex revelers who ring in the new year in Belden Noble’s mansion each year.
Additional Resources for Greystone
This map (with satellite image overlay) will help you locate Greystone 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
“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.
Hislop, David C., Jr. “Greystone: A Landmark On The Coast of Lake Champlain.” Antiques and the Arts Online. Web. 8 Feb. 2013. <http://antiquesandthearts.com/hh/hh698.htm>.
“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.