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HVVA NEWSLETTER, May 2002
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FROM THE JOURNAL

Saturday, April 20, 2002 about 20 people met at the Albertus Van Loon house in Athens, Greene County, NY, for a tour of three local houses arranged by Randy Evans. The 1724 date-stone in the west foundation facing the road of the Albertus Van Loon house (Helen Reynolds, Dutch Houses of the Hudson Valley, 1929, plate 46 & page 109) has delaminated and the inscription gone but it was documented In 1906 by C.G.Hlne. When Helen Reynolds visited the house in the late 1920s it was rented to "Italian laborers" and she could not get to view the interior. She assumed the stone dated the gambrel roof but the house seems to have gone through many changes and additions. The gambrel roof was more likely built in the 1760s and was constructed in two stages using slightly different framing in each section (*).

Randy Evans and his wife Carrie Feder, who live nearby, have owned the Albertus Van Loon house for four years and have only studied and stabilized it. They have done no restoration to the building that is wonderfully preserved in its neglected and open condition. It is a complex mixture of wood-frame and stone construction. Randy has been able to show it to a number of people with an interest in historic architecture and has come to better understand the development of the house and the evidence in its construction, moldings and hardware.

It is possible that the house began as a one-room 4-bay Dutch wood frame house with a jambless fireplace at one end. This early frame has no cellar so that it might also have been moved but John Stevens found that it contains features found only in very early 18th century frame houses of the Hudson Valley. He and Jim Decker took some measurements and notes that appear with John Steven's drawings on pages 4 and 5.

One outstanding feature was evidence of short lap-joined braces on the Anchorbeams. Normally these were fully mortised and carefully finished with a curved face, as in the circa 1720 Winne/Creble house in Albany County, but their crudeness in the Van Loon house is an indication that it began as a more humble dwelling.

It appears that the 1724 one-room stone house originally had a gable entrance facing the river and the roof was later rotated and given a side entrance facing the road. This plan was like the foundation of a 17th century frame house excavated at Albany recently. It indicates the houses were there before the road and may have served as trading posts originally.

We next visited the Jan Van Loon house half-a-mile down river and recently given to the Green County Historical Society for preservation. It is a small stone house, two-rooms, each 14-foot square, with a cellar kitchen. It was built in two stages. The house is dated 1709 by a cast-iron historic marker. Our examination suggested the house was of the early 1800s. It is perhaps the site of an early house but the present structure is not early 18th century. While the sign may be incorrect the house it is an important part of the historic landscape at Athens that includes Black Rock and a broad view of the Hudson River.

Both Van Loon houses have foundation problems because of the local soil and their closeness to the River(**). The build-up of the road that runs a few feet from the front door of the 1724 house has been especially damaging. It could be alleviated if the road was lowered and better drainage installed. It might be found to be a problem affecting other houses on Main Street in Athens. There is a need for an enlightened politician and a friendly highway superintendent.

The last house visited was a three-story federal brick with double chimneys on each end wall, numerous fireplaces and high-style mantles with elaborate, carved and applied designs. Known as the General Nichols house it was built in 1802-1803 on the hillside above the old Van Loon houses, the boat yard, and the busy river port, above where the well-to-do would soon be building their own proud styles of Federal and Greek Revival homes and churches. It remains an area rich in these survivals of a prosperous and busier time.

The General Nichols house is a well preserved example being restored with care by Michael Black of Glenco Construction Co. Inc. The building is in good and original condition so that little of the frame or structure is visible. One feature that seemed modern in the use of wood were the sawn plank joists, 2-foot on center, exposed in the cellar rather than widely spaced hewn beams of the 17th and 18th century Dutch house. John Stevens remarked that the joists could have come from Maine.

Notes:
(*) see HVVA Newsletter October 1999, Vol 1, No 6, page 4
(**) John Stevens wrote the following:
Looking at the photograph of this house in Reynolds (plate 46) the front wall and the roof look almost flat. At that time the street level was well below where it is now. When I photographed the house in 1967 (which was the last time I had seen it before our April visit) the roof was already severely deformed. Has the north end of the house shifted to the east in relation to the south part? I noticed that the north-west corner post of the North Wing is badly distorted, and this may be because of the movement of the northern part of the house.

The Frame of the North Wing is similar to that of the Philip De Freest house in North Greenbush, Rensselaer County (*), but slightly smaller. The fact that the tenons on the upper ends of the posts are not pinned to the plate fits with the Winne/Creble house in Albany County, the Luykas Van Allen house in Columbia County, the Leendert Bronck house in Greene County, etc. The way the floor boards of the second floor are let into the posts is similar to, but not the same as, the Winne/Creble house. It seems as if the posts have been shortened, and the floor was originally perhaps a foot lower than the present one. The anchorbeam braces are unlike anything hitherto seen in a house.

John Stevens

(*) see HVVA Newsletter, October 2001, Vol 3, No 7, for drawings and description.

The long stone house, one room deep, with a gambrel roof and later roof dormers, was begun as a one-room house in 1724, at the south end of the present building on the right. It began with its back end facing the present highway and its front end entrance facing the Hudson River. The direction of the roof was later rotated 90% and later still changed from a gable to a gambrel form. The frame addition on the south end to the right, is of an early 19th century construction. The surviving date-stone is in the stone wall facing the river. It was hidden behind a frame addition until recently.

Van Loon House, Athens, Greene Co., NY.


From the Editor:

More than 50 members of the Timber Framer's Guild (TFG) attended the Annual Spring Conference of TTRAG (Traditional Timber Framer's Research and Advisory Group) that was held this year in Morrisburg, Ontario, Canada, home to Upper-Canada Village, a unique and important open-air museum that was the result of the construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Power Project in the 1950s.

About 35-miles of shoreline on the Ontario side of the Saint Lawrence River, where small rural villages with shops and homes had developed over many generations, was all destroyed to create hydro-electric power and enlarge the Seaway Canal. The modern ice-age of technology and planning that passed through here 50 years ago tore up the land and the communities and rearranged what was left, saving the shoreline for parks and industry and relocating some of the houses into small suburban enclaves served by a strip mall. Fortunately it thought to save some of its heritage in an open-air-museum called Upper Canada Village (distinct from French dominated Lower Canada).

225 farms were lost in the 40,000 acres that were flooded. 22 cemeteries were affected and their stones relocated. 22 churches were in the way of the project. Only one, the Moulinette Anglican, was moved intact. It went to the museum. A stone church originally built in 1789, was taken apart, the stones numbered and re-erected on higher land nearby. In all, Five Canadian villages were obliterated and 550 houses moved to new locations.

In addition to illustrated talks given by local people and an introduction to Canada's traditional architecture by Dave Osborne, we were privileged to be taken through the barns, mills and sheds of Upper Canada Village by Richard Casselman who, along with his father, moved and repaired many of the timber frame structures. Of special interest was the 4-bay true-form New World Dutch barn moved intact from a mile or two away. There is also a transportation museum made with parts of other local Dutch barns confirming that some of the American Loyalists, and it is said there were 25,000 who fled into Canada, brought with them their barn traditions. The proportions and massive pine frames of these Ontario Dutch barns look like close relatives of the northern barns of Schoharie. One 3-bay barn with an English side-entrance plan has Dutch wooden-hinged wagon doors.

The H-frames of the intact barn at the museum measure 27 '8" wide and the side aisles 11' 6". The face of one internal anchorbeam measures 22" deep. A unique feature were the braces that would normally be called purlin-braces but in this case attach bellow the anchorbeam on one column and at a place on the next column just bellow the purlin. The interpretation of the side aisles was based on the study of existing evidence in American barns, particularly the Deertz barn that Malcom Kirk, author of Silent Spaces, moved at about that time to Columbia County. (see also Fitchen #20, plates 39 and 40)

Upper Canada Village is open to the public from June to August so that we met none of the crowds of tourists nor curatorial staff on our visit. I had inquired about the Dutch barns in 1993 and was informed then by Harry Pietersma, Coordinator of Interpretation, that in the 1980s he had spent considerable time visiting barns in New York State in order to research the reconstruction of the one barn as a working example and had done complete drawings of the Deertz barn in which the horse mangers were intact. Consistent evidence was found for the horse side but the cattle stalls proved more difficult he said.

The horse stalls are interpreted as undivided by partitions and the horses separated only by a hanging pole. This is a method illustrated by Rien Poortvliet in his excellent book, Daily Life in Holland in the Year 1566. We have found in the Hudson Valley one example of a hanging partition and the horses divided further with loose poles, and recently, an intact horse manger, with flap doors closing the aisle off from dust and cold, was discovered (see HVVA Newsletter, Vol 4, No 1 ).

Of all the many New World Dutch barns that have been saved in museum settings only the Canadian example and the Dutch barn at Phillipsburg Manor at North Terrytown, NY, attempt to interpret the original use of the building. The Phillipsburg barn was the work of Richard Babcock of Williamstown, Mass. Babcock had previously constructed a working Dutch barn, since destroyed by fire, at his barn museum in Williamstown, The Canadian and Babcock interpretations are quite different but may describe early and later types. More field study and comparison must be done.

The cow side of the Canadian Dutch barn is interpreted with wooden stanchions. From evidence in American barns and from farms visited on a recent trip to Holland and northern Germany it would seem that the stanchion might be a New England tradition and the cows chained to a stake-wall is more accurate for early Dutch barns. Babcock used this stake-wall interpretation.

We have heard that the TTRAG Spring conference in 2003 will be held in West Virginia. We look forward to it.

Peter Sinclair, Editor


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