It’s time to head back to Washington County’s many Main Streets for the next installation of our “Life on Main Street” series! This village in the southeastern region of the county is home to so much history and was first settled by Europeans in 1760. Prior to that, the area was a contested frontier, prized for its location in the valley of the Owl Kill.
Cambridge’s Main Street is picturesque and charming, like the rest of this historic village! You’ll spot quite a range of architectural styles including Federalist styles dating back to 1779, the late Victorian Hubbard Hall built in 1878, and more.
Many of the oldest buildings in the village were lost prior to the 1890s according to news reports from that time, including a particularly devastating fire in 1884 that destroyed a number of businesses and the Union Hotel. Of those that were rebuilt, many still stand today!
One such historic estate still located on Main Street is the Cambridge Hotel. Built in 1855, the inn was once famous for being the birthplace of pie served “a la Mode,” or with a scoop of ice cream! The Cambridge Hotel served guests in the iconic building until 2012, and today it has been converted into an assisted living facility.
The Rice Family Legacy
Another of the village’s Main Street mansions is the Rice Mansion Inn, the former home of Cambridge business tycoon of-the-era, Jerome B. Rice.
J.B. as he was often called, was the president of the Rice Seed Company upon its expansion to Cambridge. Created by his father in 1834, the company would eventually become the second largest in the country. This success allowed him to develop and invest in other initiatives, from the Cambridge Fair (which evolved into today’s Washington County Fair!) to the Niagara Falls Trust Company.
A Village at the Crossroads
The village’s location is to thank for its success and its nickname as “a village at the crossroads.” Proximity to turnpikes frequented by traders and businessfolk allowed the three connecting hamlets (Cambridge, North White Creek, and Dorr’s Corners) to provide services for travelers passing through.
The construction of the Champlain Canal, followed by the Troy and Rutland Railroad, really accelerated Cambridge’s growth as a center for business and agriculture, and offered a direct connection to nearby textile mills and more.
The Cambridge Fair was able to attract tens of thousands of attendees with the help of the rail lines, too. Special “excursion trains” ran from Troy, Saratoga, North Adams, Whitehall, Rutland, and Greenwich, directly to the fairgrounds!
While the train no longer operates along the Troy and Rutland Railroad, the village’s main train depot is the site of a Cambridge hotspot today: Argyle Brewing. With live music most nights and exceptional craft beers, this local business ironically brings in visitors from all around just like the railroad did before.
Shop, Sip, and Dine on Cambridge’s Main Street
Cambridge has become a melting pot of culture, art, and social events in Washington County, even without the mainline of travelers passing through. A stroll along Main Street uncovers hidden gems like the incredible selection at Black Dog Wines & Spirits and Sunday treats from the King Bakery Donut Cart.
Pick up a great read at Battenkill Books, drop into My Shop Around The Corner, or browse one of many antique shops: Carroll’s Trading Post, Shiny Sisters, Blacksmith Antiques, Hubbard Block Antiques, and Forget Me Not Consignments all call Main Street home. Cambridge also offers quite a selection of local art studios and galleries, plus a great co-op grocery store with bulk and local items, and dining from pizza to pub-style, Italian to New Mexican, and more.