NEWSLETTER, February 2003
FROM THE JOURNAL
Saturday. January 18, About 40 people attended the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the New Netherland Project (NNP) held at the Glen-Sanders Mansion in Scotia, New York, an early settlement on the Mohawk River just above Schenectady and an important place in the early fur trade with the Indians: The primary objective of the Project, organized in 1979, has been to translate and publish colonial Dutch documents. They publish an informative English language newsletter, De Niew Nederlans Marcuriuse and sponsor an annual conference, the Rensselaerswick Seminar, held this past September in Albany.
1762 Slingerland brick house in Feura Bush, Albany County
(*), is endangered and looking for an appreciative owner. John Stevens
presented its case at the meeting and stressed the building's importance
as the last of its Dutch type, a 2-room urban plan with end-entrances,
with lots of rich paneling, moldings and casement windows. He urged
them to help the owner find a solution for its preservation(**).
The Friends of NNP meeting and supper was held in the Mohawk room of the Glen-Sanders Inn, a large 2 1/2-story restaurant in Scotia on the north bank of the Mohawk River. Begun in 1989 an finished in 1995, this large structure with long narrow hallways, lush dining rooms and a hump roof appears to have swallowed the 1713, 1 1/2-story stone mansion and its later addition.
While the Mohawk room has warm paneling and a set of modern anchorbeams, the nine or ten massive beams exposed in the Sanders Mansion on the floor bellow are almost 300-years old. The room is filled with tables and used today as a large dining hall like the Mohawk room upstairs. What is now one large room was originally a classic two-room center-hall Dutch house with end-wall fireplaces. What is unusual is that all the beams look like hood-beams, of massive dimension, even the beams that would have been supported by the two internal walls. Usually these beams are markedly lighter.
One of the best preserved features of the Sanders Mansion is an external door and a tall paneled cupboard that adjoins it. The door leads down to a long hallway today but John Stevens, and probably many of the people at the dinner, can remember when it led to an open yard. John measured the door in 1967 and made some drawings of it for a forthcoming book. In the first half of the 18th century it would have been popular throughout the Hudson Valley but out of fashion back in Holland, where leaded panes of glass, as shown in the restored transom of the Sanders doorway, would long ago have been replaced with wooden muntins.
From the Editor:
Karlyn Knaust Elia, the Ulster County Historian, called me and some other people with the Saugerties Historical Society, to inform us that the Wynkoop House on Route 32 had a new owner and it was being threatened with destruction. On January 4, a group met at the house with Ronald Robins who had bought the house and 2 1/2-acres on December 18 and was at work with a large machine grading the land and cutting trees near the house. Ronald Robins, 61 years old, grew up in the neighborhood but claimed he did not know that the Wykoff house was historically important. It is one of five stone houses in Saugerties that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, out of a total of perhaps 50 stone houses in the town dating circa 1690 to 1840. Robins said he was planning to take the house down and put up a medical center.
Robins claimed the house was in bad condition but after inspecting it, the group, that included two architects, Dave Minch and Barry Benepe, assured him that it was in good condition. He said that he would be willing to sell and we returned two days later with Dave Baker, President of the Ulster County Genealogy Society, an active group looking for a home. Robins had paid $140,000 for the site less than a month ago but was asking $495,000. It was beyond the society's ability to pay. The group returned soon after to measure and document the house. Tracings were made of the date stones.
On January 20th the local press reported that the town building inspector had issued a second stop work order on the Wynkoop house and that the land had been found to have two known prehistoric archaeological sites. Robins was informed that he needed a demolition permit and this would require compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act but he remained defiant and published a long statement in the Saugerties Post Star.
The subject has become an issue in the press, of which there are many local weeklies. In its editorial January 28, the Kingston Daily Freeman began, "The town of Saugerties is in danger of losing one of its treasured historic landmark buildings, and it could be its own fault." The new owner claIms that he did not know the importance of the building and the editorial says that this is the possible "crux" of the matter, and suggests, that it is up to the town to watch over its historic sites and inform owners of their cultural and historic values.
A similar stance appears in a letter by Vernon Benjamin, in the Saugerties Times. He says that the town should look into "conducting a cultural resource survey, and creating a resources map of the town as well as an apparatus to let people know." "It should be part of zoning," he concludes.
In the same issue of the Kingston Freeman with the editorial it is reported that in Hurley, an Ulster County town to the south, where I live, that Bill Krattinger, a historic preservation specialist with the state Division of Historic Preservation, assured the town Code Enforcer that the town historian was misinformed, and that state and federal regulations would not supersede the towns right to demolish the 1810 Bullins frame house, even though it is within a National Historic Landmark District. I called the town enforcer to try and get into the house and document it but I got no cooperation. Everyone calls it an 1810 house but I am not so sure. In this case the owner is in a Florida nursing home and does not respond to officials. The building's condition is judged dangerous and no one seems interested in taking a look to see what it is.
Both of these cases illustrate the lack of concern, or cooperation on the state and local levels for preserving historic vernacular architecture, either in the material or recorded state, and what the Freeman called the "virtually meaningless" state and national historic registrations for offering protection. Archaeology bellow ground is sometimes able to halt a construction temporarily while a professional dig is done but somehow the archaeology of the fragile above ground artifacts, the study and documentation of the architecture and material culture of our local heritage, has almost no support or interest here.
Hank Ziegler, from the Huguenot Society at New Paltz, said that the kind of masonry in the Wynkoop walls, with cut stone layers leveled by thin pieces of bluestone, would make it easy to hide a vertical seam, whereas seams in rubble walls are more difficult to disguise, but the fact that the beams of the kitchen extend through the back wall to form the porch indicate the present form of the kitchen was part of the plan for the 1790 house. The exposed chimneys in the attic are made from thin brick that may have been reused from the 1740 smoke hood or hoods.
The kitchen room has no cellar. If it was originally a 1740 house we would expect to find a cellar and evidence of a jambless fireplace but there is none. Also, the size and pattern of the present beams indicates that it was considered a minor room, like a kitchen, rather than a major room like a hall or parlor. In contrast, the beams in the main house have a classic size and pattern of placement that indicate their transition from the Dutch jambless to the English jambed fireplace. The beams at the fireplaces no longer support hoods but are still the largest of the three internal beams in each room.
The cellar beams seem to hold clues to the 1740 house if it is assumed that the reused cellar beams came from the original house. Using evidence from the cellar beams and reused rafters in the kitchen roof an idea of the 1740 house might be deduced. The present cellar hearth supports, with corbeled bluestone arches, are consistent with the 1790 house and there is no evidence of previous jambless hearth supports.
The 1920 remodeling of the house that added the dormer windows in the roof probably replaced the enclosed stairs to the loft in the center-hall with an open stairs, implying that the loft was finished with bed-rooms at that time. Today the loft is again open as it was originally when used for work and storage.
Evidence of a board partition wall between the kitchen
loft and the house loft shows no evidence of a door connecting them
and indicates that the kitchen loft was a separate residence for slaves
or servants while the house loft served as a storage and work area.
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