Hickory Hill (aka the Ross Mansion), the “finest Federal residence” in Essex, NY (“Essex: An Architectural Guide” 18), was built by the Honorable Henry Howard Ross at the intersection of Elm Street and Church Street.
“Hickory Hill” on Elm Street, and “Rosslyn” on the Lake Shore Road represent the residences of the wealthy merchants and lawyers who dominated Essex in the early days of its prosperity.
Two-and-a-half-story brick structures whose design combines Georgian and Federal elements, both “Hickory Hill” and “Rosslyn” were built before 1830. The building of “Hickory Hill” (1822) built by Henry Harmon [sic] Ross for his bride, was taken from a five-bay design in Salem, New York. It displays great grace and lightness in its Palladian window, Neo-classic portico, and elegant cornices. Its setting in its own spacious grounds on the ridge which overlooks the village and the lake adds much to its beauty. (Living Places)
Built in the classical Federal style, the eastern facade of Hickory Hill presents a restrained elegance typical of stately Federal buildings.
Key elements in the overall design are the central portico and entrance and the delicate Palladian window above it. A long flight of stone steps ascends to the portico with its tall, thin Roman Doric columns. Pilasters echoing the outer columns frame the entrance, which has a lacy leaded-glass fanlight and narrow three quarter length sidelights, as well as the original six panel door (“Essex: An Architectural Guide” 18).
The intricately ornamented cornice and splayed marble lintels above the windows still add to Hickory Hill’s Federal bearing today, but Federal entrance fence and gate with “impressive arch and globe finials” which originally framed the front yard succumbed to the forces of time.
Transitional: Federal and Greek Revival
In 1845 H.H. Ross had an addition built on the north side of Hickory Hill to accommodate his law offices. Reflecting a shift from Federal to Greek Revival influences, Hickory Hill provides an architectural chronicle of the stately home’s evolution.
It’s later date and Greek Revival influence are reflected in the stouter columns and the robust proportions and decorations of its east entrance (now a window), especially the frieze which is heavily carved in a wave motif. (“Essex: An Architectural Guide” 19)
The front windows of the addition to the right are large floor-length sashes that open onto a front porch. In the frieze, there is a spectacular carved guilloche detail similar to that published in 1823 by Peter Nicholson. (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain 109)
Additional Resources for Hickory Hill
This map (with satellite image overlay) will help you locate Hickory Hill 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 Hickory Hill
“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.