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April 6, 2013

Village of Morris joins national historic site register

By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star

---- — The village of Morris has joined both the New York and National Register of Historic Places, giving residents the opportunity to take advantage of generous tax credits when they make improvements to their property.

“Having this designation is really an expression of the pride we have in our community,” said Stacia Norman of the Morris Historical Society.

The initial bid to have the village be nominated for the National Register began in 1980, but enthusiasm waned after a couple of years, she said.

Those seeking the designation renewed the effort several years ago and hired a consultant, Jessie Ravage of Cooperstown, to guide the group and develop the nomination that was officially approved by the National Register in late February.

The earliest settlers of the village of Morris were French immigrants fleeing the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution. What drew them to the hamlet was water — specifically Butternut Creek, which was ripe for industrial applications, such as mills.

The initial settlers called the place Louisville, but as the village fell more and more under the influence of settlers with English backgrounds, it became known as Morris. The village, which has structures that date as far back as 1790, was established officially in 1870. Today, it has a population of just fewer than 600 people.

The historic district, according to the National Register, encompasses not only the properties within the village boundaries but also several properties partially or just outside the village. These include the Hillington Cemetery, a Quaker cemetery associated with the early settlement, and the Otsego County fairground, which straddles the village’s boundary.

“Morris was a great industrial hamlet in the 19th century,” Norman said. “We’re at a crossroads, and a lot of traffic went through Morris. The were all sorts of woolen factories and cotton factories, and there was a cheese factory. Many of these stone buildings that were here then are intact.”

It was this unusually large assemblage of stone buildings — with domestic, religious and commercial purposes — that helped propel the village’s nomination for inclusion on the National Register.

The National Register is the official list of the nation’s historic places deemed worthy of preservation. It was authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is the official listing of buildings, structures, districts, objects and sites that have been significant in the history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture of the state and the nation.

For personal reasons, Norman noted that she is thrilled to have the new designation because she will now qualify for tax credits by making upgrades to her own house in Morris.

“It’s another reason to be excited,” she said.

Ravage, the consultant, said getting the designation “opens up a lot of opportunities for tax credits for rehabilitation work on homes, and that credit has just been extended for another five years in the state of New York.”

In New York, the National Register program is administered by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Places.

“I think many people whose families have been in Morris for generations certainly understand the village’s historical significance,” Norman said. “One of the things that draws people here in the first place is the small-village charge and the historic charm of the buildings.”