Fort Russell Neighborhood Historic District

Moscow City, Latah County, ID

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FOrt Russell Neighborhood Historic District

Photo: Looking West down B Street in the Historic District, Moscow. The Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Photographed by User:Davidlharlan (own work), 2012, [cc-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed March, 2023.

Original nomination [1]

The Fort Russell Historic District consists of 116 structures in nine square blocks, and fractions of twelve contiguous blocks, in the hilly northwest section of Moscow, Idaho. The district is almost totally residential in use. Only three buildings near the perimeter stand as exceptions: a school and two church buildings, one still used for worship and the other in service as a Senior Citizen's Club. These uses reflect the ambience of the neighborhood and its environs; it is an old residential area, its southeast corner within a few blocks of Main Street, ringed with service institutions: three more school buildings, four more churches, a Carnegie Library, the Post Office and Courthouse, and a city park are within a few blocks of the district. There are no commercial intrusions within it.

The district is strongly homogeneous not only in use but in style, scale, and, as it were, texture. The houses are predominantly from the late Victorian to early twentieth century periods. Fine examples of Queen Anne, Eastlake, Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival, Classic Box and Bungalow appear. In most of these styles, examples occur on both the "mansion" and the cottage scale. Not unexpectedly, this is especially true of the Bungalow style. The pattern prevalent in many turn-of-the century neighborhoods—whereby large homes are built on the corners of blocks, which later fill in with more modest dwellingss—holds true for the Fort Russell neighborhood. But while structures in the district range from small to grand, none exceed two- and-a-half stories, and most are one or two. Finally, the homogeneous streetscapes of residential, structures built largely from 1880 to 1920 and in related styles and scales are knit together by the texture of building material—mostly frame and brick&m dash;and by the texture of the rows of mature deciduous trees which distinguish the neighborhood and contribute much to its character.

The significance of the Fort Russell neighborhood District is both architectural and historic. It is manifestly significant for the rich display of early residential architecture it provides in a town of under 20,000 residents. It is significant as well for the historical connections between the houses and many of the people who built the town: the early entrepreneurs and professionals whose commodious homes expressed their positions of leadership in the community, and the more anonymous citizens whose neat cottages and bungalows grew up between the big houses—indeed, were sometimes built by the owners of them—a generation or two later.

The architectural interest of the district is immediately apparent to the eye. As specified in Section Seven, a neighborhood larger than the area which could reasonably be nominated as an historic district is generally continuous with it, and contains individual structures of substantial significance. It is noteworthy that five National Register properties the Cornwall house, the McConnell mansion, the Carnegie Library, the Methodist church and the Federal Building are located in the less architecturally cohesive but still handsome blocks to the south and west of the district. Moscow's Main Street, which contains a high percentage of early buildings, is only a few blocks further west. Thus perhaps a fifth of the area of this small city a town devoted primarily to servicing the wheatlands round about and the University of Idaho on the west side of town turns out to be of unusual architectural calibre. The Fort Russell district is the most architecturally cohesive core of this generally rewarding area.

Additional nomination [2]

Like Moscow's downtown, the Fort Russell neighborhood began developing during the last few decades of the nineteenth century, with the earliest dwelling dating to 1875 according to City of Moscow GIS property data. A total of 59 of the 243 total sites, nearly one full quarter (24%) within the district's expanded boundaries date prior to 1900, with construction and commerce slowing nationally during the mid-to-late 1890s as a result of the national financial crash that hit in 1893. Once construction began again, around the turn of the century, the neighborhood experienced a major boom with approximately 13% dating to the single decade between 1900 and 1910 at which time Moscow was growing rapidly as a regional commercial center. Approximately 18% of the buildings within the expanded district were then built between 1911 and 1920 as the city continued to grow steadily, another 14% between 1921 and 1930, and finally 20% going up between 1931 and 1940 indicating that residential growth continued at a higher rate than commercial growth during the Great Depression years of the 1930s during which only three commercial structures were built in the downtown district. The remaining 11% is made up of 26 post-1940 dwellings scattered throughout the neighborhood.

The Fort Russell Neighborhood Historic District represents a "rich display of early residential architecture ... significant as well for the historical connections between the houses and many of the people who built the town." It is associated with events, including community planning and development, education, entertainment and recreation, and religion. The District is an embodiment of the architecture and landscape architecture during the period of significance. The neighborhood retains a strong historical character and continues to represent its period as an intact historic district within the city of Moscow. Notwithstanding the presence of some modern buildings the district today retains integrity of location, design, setting, feeling, and association, and though some changes have been made over time to individual dwellings, overall integrity of workmanship and materials is present.

The expanded period of significance for the district begins in 1875, the earliest recorded construction date for any resources within the district boundaries, and extends through to 1940. The district exists as an early residential neighborhood with strong ties to the city's earliest pioneers and businessmen who were responsible for settling, establishing and growing the city and its economy. Post-1940 buildings are scattered in relatively small numbers within the proposed boundaries (accounting for just 11% of buildings within the expanded boundaries). Though modern construction begins to represent a different character moving beyond the period of significance, the presence of these buildings does not detract from the district's strong character and identity as a significant neighborhood reflecting Moscow's early growth.

In the area of architecture, the Fort Russell neighborhood is significant for its residential, educational, and religious buildings and its overall built character, which correspond to the first several decades of the city's growth and development. Both the high-style architecture of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, including Victorian styles such as Queen Anne, as well as the more modest, accessible architecture of the 1920s and 1930s, such as Bungalows and English Cottage or Tudor Revivals, are found within the Fort Russell neighborhood. Though the architecture within the district varies resulting in an eclectic collection of buildings, the architectural forms and styles within the neighborhood are directly representative of national architectural trends for each decade during the period of significance, as well as representing the economic, social, and demographic patterns of city of Moscow itself.

The Fort Russell neighborhood's significance in the area of community planning and development is similar to what has been outlined for architecture, following both national and local trends related to economics and community development. The various additions within the district were platted during the city's earliest days, being laid out generally in a grid pattern with spacious lots intended to serve as an escape from the city's bustling town center. Over time, many of the lots were subdivided and filled in with smaller, more modest dwellings on smaller lots during the 1920s and 1930s accommodating the city's growing middle-class population while continuing to support the entrepreneurs that helped build it up originally. The planning and development evident within the Fort Russell neighborhood is also reflective of its central location, containing not only residential development but also schools, churches, and a major city park, all woven in to accommodate the needs of this diverse neighborhood as well as the needs of the city's general population who could access this area easily since it lies within walking distance to the city center.

Entertainment and recreation, and landscape architecture are related themes within the Fort Russell neighborhood, being represented by the planning and development throughout the neighborhood as well as by East City Park, which is situated in the southeast corner of the expanded district boundaries. This park was laid out in its original location and form during the city's earliest days—being reflected on the earliest city maps and Sanborn maps. The presence of the park reflects early intentions at providing recreation and embracing formal landscape architecture, by positioning the park within a reasonable distance of the city center so that it was accessible, yet removing it far enough from the central business district to ensure a relaxing, enjoyable environment within the park. Parks established around the turn of the twentieth century were intended to provide a rural- or countryside-style escape for city dwellers who were often unable to interact with the natural environment in any other way. Landscape architecture is additionally present within the neighborhood through the generally consistent grid pattern, setbacks, tree-lined properties, and landscaped residential yards found throughout.

In the areas of education and religion, the Fort Russell neighborhood is significant for containing a number of these buildings. The expanded district boundaries contain two schools, John Russell Elementary built in 1928 replacing an older school on the same site, and the old Moscow High School, built in 1912, as well as a 1906 Carnegie Library. Several churches are also found within the expanded boundaries, including Methodist, Catholic, Unitarian, Episcopal churches dating between 1900 and 1930; one contemporary church is also found within the district. The presence of a variety of educational and religious buildings further represent the fact that it was clearly intended to support not only the economically and socially diverse population living within the neighborhood, but also those who had easy access to the neighborhood due to its central location and its proximity to the city center. That these buildings were welcomed into this neighborhood also reflected the early importance of education and religion within the city's social structure.

  1. Adapted from: Patricia Wright, Architectural Historian, Idaho State Historical Society, Fort Russell Neighborhood Historic District, mp,ination document, 1980, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
  2. Adapted from: Annie Doyon, MHP; Kathryn Burk-Hise, MSHP; Kathryne M. Joseph, MSHP, A. D. Preservation, Fort Russell Neighborhood Historic District (Boundary Increase), no,imation document, 2015, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
A Street East • Adams Street North • B Street East • C Street East • D Street East • First Street East • Howard Street North • Jefferson Street North • Lincoln Street East • Polk Street North • Second Street East • Van Buren Street North • Van Buren Street South

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