Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture Archives Contact Us Search Forum Upcoming Events

HVVA NEWSLETTER, June 2002, Part Two
(Click on graphics/photos for larger view)


On Saturday, May 25, eight members of HVVA met in Tarrytown, Westchester County, NY, with Conrad Fingado, project manager for Historic Hudson Valley (HHV), to tour the Phillips Manor at Terry town and the Van Cortlandt Manor at Croton, museum sites that are maintained by HVH. These museums have an active program of interpreting the history and culture of the Lower Hudson Valley during the 17'h and 18th centuries. They were begun in the 1940's and 1950s and altered and repaired many times since. The history of this restoration is important for future preservation in the Hudson Valley. The early mistakes, if recognized, can be avoided but the intent of the projects and the documentation of the restoration process are important models.

Aside from the restoration of the Van Cortland Manor, the attempts to re-create 17th and 18th century Hudson Valley houses and a grist mill were limited. There had been little detailed or consistent study of vernacular architecture at that time. A great deal more has been learned in the 50 years since. These buildings are examples of the difficulty of re-creating the past and the importance of preserving original and unaltered fabric.

The Sleepy Hollow Restorations were begun by Nelson Rockefeller Jr. The projects were undertaken with great care to study the artifacts and the records and to be as accurate and professional as possible. Because of his association with the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Rockefeller turned to the architectural staff there for guidance and advice (*). For their models, the Williamsburg architects and planners studied other early examples in the Hudson Valley such as the Mabee house in Schenectady and the Van Allen house in Columbia County, early buildings that had survived with less change.

In 1946 the project wanted an 18th century Dutch barn and engaged Myron S. Teller, an Ulster County architect active since the 1920s in remodeling old stone houses and designing new Dutch Revival homes. Teller obtained the Hardenburg/Schoonmaker Dutch barn in Hurley, Ulster County, and had it re-erected next to the newly built 18th century grist-mill at Phillipsburg. From early photographs it seems that the Hardenburg barn was originally a banked Dutch barn of about 1830. It burned down at Tarry town in the 1970s and was replaced by the present 3-bay true-form Dutch barn of about 1790 moved from Guilderland, Albany County by Richard Babcock.

At present three cows and a pair of oxen are kept in the barn. Two cows occupy one bay of a side aisle separated from the threshing floor by a well worn stake wall. The cows frequently put their head between the stakes out of curiosity or to munch hay on the floor. The designer of this wall has made three stakes to act as stanchions that with a removable peg can lock a cow's head in place. This seems to be a compromise with a more modern method than using a chain to fasten the cow. The stanchions are presently used when cows are milked inside the barn.

The oxen are kept in one bay of the aisle opposite-the cows. They are separated from the threshing floor with large plank stanchions. The three horse stalls in one bay of an aisle at the other end of the barn are separated by partitions rather than open as would be expected. The longitudinal struts in two bays of this horse side have typical notches for stakes but they are on the bottom edge suggesting the struts were rotated when the frame was reconstructed. One problem I have with the present stake manger design is the lack of access to the grain box.

The Phillipsburg site has a believable 18th century ambiance with costumed interpreters and live animals. The working water mill has an overshot wheel, wooden gears and two stones that grind corn meal. It is an active place where visitors learn about the use of water-power and early milling techniques. The timber frame of the mill shows awareness of English tradition but is not accurate. It has no layout faces. All braces are centered The two-story stone manor house is the result of centuries of changes and decades of restoration that have left almost nothing of the 18th century building but a 20th century re-creation.

Despite its shortcomings the house and site are important as a museum of colonial furniture, tools and furnishings and in their interpretation of the lives of its people.

In the 18th century Phillipsburg mill, storehouse and trading post were run by twenty-or-so black slaves and one white manager. The Phillips family spent most of its time at their home on Manhattan. There is presently a growing black-oriented interpretation of the site.

Van Cortlandt Manor at Croton is a few miles north of Phillipsburgh. The family acquired the estate in the late 17th century. It eventually included over 86,000 acres. Early immigrants to the Hudson Valley, the Van Cortlandts became rich merchants and landlords and were politically active during the 18th century. They built their center-hall manor house into the bank of a hill with walls of a colorful red sandstone and yellow brick. Eventually they added a graceful two-story porch off three sides but it never lost the basic qualities of a farm house.

Occupied by both British and American troops during the Revolution its shutters and much of its interior wood was burned in the fireplaces for heat. In the restoration of the 1950s, 19th century additions were removed and after careful study of the surviving evidence the house was restored to what was thought its 18th century condition was. In one of the fireplaces that had been closed up in the 19th century a complete ten-plate iron stove was found that was believed to have been cast in New York City in the late 18th century.

According to Henry Mercer (**), ten-plate stoves were made and used in Holland by 1660. They seem to have developed from the six-plate stoves that had been cast there since at least 1560. The studio in Rembrandt's house-museum in Amsterdam is heated with a large ventilating stove. Six- and ten-plate cast iron stoves are modern ventilating types that stand free of the wall and ventilate their smoke through a metal stovepipe attached to a brick chimney. The ten-plate stove includes an oven for heating and cooking food.

In the 18th century, cast-iron stoves were a convenience primarily of the well-to-do but the extent and early use of ventilating stoves in Hudson Valley houses is not fully realized because their evidence is less obvious or permanent than that for fireplaces. The taxable value of a stove in 1709 in Ulster County was one shilling while a slave was valued at two (***).

(*) Van Cortlandt Manor, by Joseph T. Butler, Sleepy Hollow Restorations, 1978
Van Cortlandt Manor, by Kathleen Eagen Johnson, Historic Hudson Valley, 1997
(**) The Bible in Iron. 3rd Edition, by Dr. Henry C. Mercer, revised, corrected and enlarged by Horace M. Mann, with further amendments and additions by Joseph E. Sanford, The Bucks
County Historical Society, 1961.
(***) Chimneys, Stoves and Slaves, a Preliminary Report, by Peter Sinclair, Spillway Farm Press, 1998.
These 1709 stoves were probably five-plate stoves. This non-ventilating type stove, was a German development that was widely used in Pennsylvania, the Southeast and to some degree in the mid Hudson Valley where it may have been introduced by French Huguenots who came to Ulster County in the 1670s by way of the German Palatinate. The five-plate or jamb-stove is a five sided iron box attached to the back masonry wall of a fireplace. Hot coals from the fireplace are placed in it through an opening in the wall. It heats the stove-room adjacent to the fireplace room.


From the Editor:

I received an e-mail from W. Haio Zimmermann of Wilhelms haven, Germany <haio.zimmermann@nihk.terramare.de.> Zimmermann is an historical archaeologist and architectural historian and is the author of one of the best articles on the hay barrack published in the British journal, Vernacular Architecture, Volume 23, 1993. He is presently working on an article about the sunwise or solret orientation of archaeological and vernacular houses and asks for input from HVVA members on this subject.

He writes that before 1200 AD houses in central, western and northern Europe were almost all oriented east-west. Later a reorganization took place and the roads or the form of the terrain became more important to the orientation of the house. Only in Denmark did houses remain solret with one broad side towards the sun.

"I look for examples," Zimmermann writes, "where the east-west direction prevailed and whether there are local words describing this. In England the word 'sunwise' seems to have been used. My question to you and your colleagues is, do you know of any prevailing orientation of houses in America?"

We recently leaned of two early houses that were oriented toward the Hudson River. It was speculated that the houses were there before the road. In my experience 18th century houses here were usually oriented to the road or occasionally to fit the terrain. I have often heard people say that Hudson Valley barns have a prevailing orientation. I have never quite understood what it is. Any ideas?

Many new historic preservation projects are underway here in the Mid-Hudson Valley. In Dutchess County the 1750-1790 Neher/Losee frame house, a small l770 Dutch bam and 3-acres of land in Rhinebeck are being given to the Quitman Resource Center. Plans for the property are in the hands of a committee. HVVA hopes that it will study and preserve the property and eventually establish a public museum to interpret both the Palatine German immigration of 1710 and early agriculture of the Hudson Valley.

Join us when we inspect the Neher/Losee farm with the Dutch Bam Preservation Society on Saturday, July 20th. Join us on our tour of Bergen County, New Jersey on Friday, June 14th that Bob Cohen is preparing for us.

When my truck is out of the transmission shop I plan to drive to Scotia and pick up a roll of 2 foot tem for a raised-seam metal roof on my neighbor, the Madden house of Stony Hollow. I have collected lots of tools and good advise and there have been some offers of help.
Peter Sinclair, Editor
West Hurley, NY
<hvvernar@netstep.net>

Return to the Site Map for HVVA

Return to the Opening Page for HVVA

Copyright 2004. Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.