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HVVA NEWSLETTER, June 2002
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FROM THE JOURNAL

Saturday, May 18 In the morning about 15 people attended a talk by Bud Miner about the Palatine Dutch Barns of the Mohawk Valley. It was given at the Herkimer Historical Society Museum in Herkimer County, NY. The museum has an early wheel-plow. One of two that Bud knows of. We would discover one later in the Dutch barn at Phillipsburg Manor, perhaps a copy of the one in Cooperstown. Bud intends eventually to document the Herkimer example and build a replica.

Using the latest technology of digital projection and showing photographs and drawings, Bud spoke of what has been learned about barns in recent years and the methods of dating timber frames. He showed photographs of some of the 37 barns documented in the early 1970 by Paul Flanders who with Skip Barshide and Richard Goering (New Netherland Project) did a survey of Dutch barns in the area of Saint Johnsville and Palatine Bridge in Montgomery County. Less than half of these buildings remain standing on their original sites today. The looting and destruction of these cultural/historic artifacts in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys has left strong feelings about preserving what is left there. The seminar was aimed at increasing the public awareness of those structures.

It had been thought, four- or five-years ago, that only one Dutch barn had survived in Herkimer County, but since the renewed interest of Bud and his colleagues (NWDB 2000) they have located seven. He believes that no Pre-Revolutionary War (pre-1777) barns have survived in the Mohawk Valley because of the systematic burning of them by the Loyalists and their Native American Allies during the war.

After lunch the group visited the Indian Castle barn. Once thought to be the most westerly Dutch barn, NWDB 2000 has located a few others further west. Randy Nash, who has been studying barns throughout New York State has said that he found no Dutch barns outside of the areas settled before the Revolution. Bud Miner says there are some exceptions in the Mohawk Valley especially if the definition of "Dutch barn" is expanded to include transitional or derivative Dutch-Anglo barns and points to Fitchen's Dutch barns #72, 73 and 74.

Indian Castle was the site of Molly Brant's farm before she and her brother Joseph, the Mohawk war chief, moved to Canada after the war. The present 3-bay Dutch barn has a scribe rule frame and probably dates to the late 18th century and was built for Ambrose Greene, the farmer who came after the Indians had gone.

Another interesting building, not on the tour, but at this historic site, is the small 1769 frame church that was built by Sir William Johnson for Molly. It has a unique rafter system we have been told.

The caretaker could not be found so we looked in the window and could see two t long collar-ties on the common rafters but were unable to see it all.

The last site visited was the Dillenbeck farm now owned by Frederick (Rick) Ellis. Located on the crest of a broad hill with views of large open fields, woods and distant mountains, the house is a mid 19th century two-story Italianate with a hip roof and a cupola. The Italianate style was popular locally. They have two stories, a square plan and normally a flat roof. This example is High Style Italianate with heavy moldings and a spiral stairway to the cupola.

The owner has saved a small 3-bay side entrance barn with a circular-sawn square-rule hemlock frame of perhaps 1870. He did it with some clever metal work and cables and during winter, when the frozen fields had a light cover of snow, he slid the barn with a tractor 1,000 or more feet from his neighbors farm. It is an interesting barn because it is a mixture of New England and Palatine/Dutch barn traditions that have not quite Americanized. From its exterior appearance with vertical siding and a side entrance, and from its orientation and how it was used it is a very New England barn, but its timber frame is a modified Dutch barn frame with H-bents and side aisles. It is a good example of what Bud calls an Anglo-Dutch transitional or derivative barn and he expects to find more of them in the Western Mohawk Valley.

Timbers of hemlock were used in the Dillenbeck/Ellis barn. This wood was almost never used in timber framing in the Mohawk or Hudson Valleys until the mid 19th century when much of the land had been cleared of its oak and pine. The use of hemlock bark for tannic acid for the leather tanning industry made the use of hemlock popular. The Mohawk Valley saw the coming and going of the tanning industry in the Johnstown area in the 19th century.

On our way home we stopped at the Mabee farm historic site in Rotterdam Junction, Schenectady County where a Revolutionary War Re-enactment of May 18 & 19, 1775, was coming to an end. The Indians had left and an interactive inquisition was being prepared in the large Nielson Dutch barn. The fields were full of small white tents and the soggy families of re-enactors, close to 100 people, were finding shelter where they could. It had been a cold day of rain and scattered snow but none of this had dampened their gun-powder nor their spirit of re-enactment.

The Mabee house consists of three buildings all of the early 18th century, the original one room stone house with an added stone room, a one-room frame house and a slave kitchen built of a combination of brick and frame (*). Like the Jean Hasbrouck House in New Paltz, the Mabee house is one of the most unaltered examples of early Hudson Valley vernacular architecture. It is being carefully studied and slowly repaired and restored by Scott Heafner, the resident custodian, and others from the Schenectady Historical Society. The Jambless fireplace mantle has recently been restored in the stone house with a replica of the crown molding found in the loft. It is one of the few survivals of this Dutch fireplace detail. The fireplace will eventually have a trammel bar and they are looking for a cast-iron fireback.

In addition to the buildings the Mabee farm has an interesting collection of furniture and tools, many from the Mabee family. Of note are three siths and one mathook. The sith, or flemish scythe, and the mathook were the hand tools for grain harvesting in parts of New York State with German and Dutch heritage, probably into the early 19th century. The sith and mathook were eventually replaced by the cradle scythe that was eventually replaced by the mechanical horse powered reaper.

(*) see DBPS Newsletter, Spring 1998, Vol 11, Issue 1

Monday, May 13 measured the Frederick Deyo house (Uls-NP-13) (see HVVA Newsletter Vol 4, No 2). Tom McAntee, the new owner, gave me a page of the 1797 New Paltz census that indicates the 3-part house, owned by Philip Deyo, was standing then and had a "Dutch barn" that measured 45-feet-long by 48-feet-wide. The barn and 50 acres were valued at $950. The house with 2-acres was valued at $425. In all, Philip Deyo owned 440-acres valued at $2,698, indicating that the people of New Paltz put a high value on their barns and grain fields The following information is given for the house. This is followed by the results obtained by measuring the present house:

Length breadth stories windows length breadth bld mat
20' 24' 1 2 4 1/2 2 1/3 wood
35' 24' 1 2 3 3/4 2 1/3 stone
      1 3 1 3/4

 

 

23' 23'7" 1 4   2 1/2 wood
36 23'7" 1 2 4 1/2 2 1/2 stone
      2   1 1/2  

Other papers contain a description of the Philip Deyo house by the late Kenneth Hasbrouck, an important person in the restoration of the many historic structures maintained by the Huguenot Historical Society. He writes that the wood section is a chinked log building. Someone seems to have mistaken the riven wood lath infill for log construction.

Brian Kennedy, who is working on the house, made an interesting discovery that the frame of the west section seems to have been plastered on the exterior for some time before the beaded weather boarding was applied. This will be more carefully looked at when he repairs the sill.

In attempting to understand the first drawings and observations, it seems to me that the 2room stone house was of a single construction and the wood frame a later addition. The 3-bay kitchen or hall retained a 17th century style of fireplace and beam pattern while the original form of the 4-bay parlor room, before the ceiling was raised, is perplexing. There is no easy way to locate a jambed fireplace as would be expected. Perhaps it represents an early use of a cast iron ventilating stove.

The House before 1797
This drawing is a possible reconstruction of the Deyo house before the census and the wood frame addition on the west end. It was a two room stone house with a cellar, exposed beams in the ceilings and an enclosed stairway to the loft that was primarily for storage. The 3 bay kitchen on the east end retained a 17th century fireplace design with a 10" x 14 1/2" hoodbeam and two trimmer-beams to support a brick smoke hood for a jambless fireplace.

The drawing speculates that it was a side entrance house but it may very likely have had a west end entrance that would have presented its face to the present road.

The 4-bay parlor room was probably heated by a cast-iron stove that ventilated through the brick chimney that is supported in the cellar. The nearly even dimensions of the 7" x 10" and 7" x 11" beams in the parlor are typical of rooms after the adoption of jambed fireplaces and stoves.

The Present House
The floor plan of-the present house is probably close to that of the house described in the 1797 census. In building the addition and making changes, one-bay of the parlor was sacrificed for a center hall with an unusual orientation of the open stairway to the loft. This may have been due in part to accommodate the original exterior cellar entrance. Typically center-halls in the Mid-Hudson Valley run the width of the house and have doors at either end. The beams of the parlor and the wood frame addition are of a dark wood perhaps cherry.


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