NEWSLETTER, April 2003
Saturday, March 15, 2003 Six members of HVVA (*) met at the Wyckoff house in South Brooklyn. John Stevens came by train, subway and bus from Greenlawn, Suffolk County and the rest of us drove from Ulster, Orange and Dutchess Counties using John's excellent map that described a route down the Garden State Parkway across Staten Island, over the Verrazano Bridge to the Belt Parkway. We figured 3-hours from Ulster County and got there 5-minutes early.
We met with Dr. Sean Sawyer the Executive Director of the Wyckoff House Museum. Sean told us that of the 14 Colonial timber frame farm houses that have survived in Brooklyn, in some form or other, the Wyckoff house is one of only three open to the public and is the earliest. John Stevens, who studied and documented the building 30 years ago (**), thought that the two-room house was certainly 17th century and that the 4-bay room, with the corbel braced hood beam, was the earliest section.
Pieter Claesen Wyckoff immigrated to New Netherland from East Friesland, an area of the northern Netherlands now part of Germany. He came in 1637 as an indentured servant, probably illiterate, and by 1650, with a fortunate marriage and more experience with farming, he was working this bowerie for Governor Peter Stuyvesant at this place in Brooklyn now called Canarsie or Flatlands but then known as New Amersfoort after old Amersfoort (flatlands) in the province of Utrecht, The Netherlands. The Wyckoff family held slaves in the 18th century and freed them and hired them as labor in the 19th century. Some think part of the house dates to 1652; some believe it dates to 1638. It is a good candidate for dendrochronology.
The Wyckoff family farmed here until 1901. Today the 1.5-acre site is part of and funded in part by New York City Parks and Recreation. It is also important to, and supported by the Wyckoff Family Association and many of the 50,000 American Wyckoff descendants of Pieter Claesen. The house was given to the City in 1969 and after extensive restoration was opened to the public in 1982.
In the 17th century, when the house was built, it stood on a rise of ground overlooking its fields that stretched to Rockaway Bay. Today the house stands in a depression with a 40-foot rise on its Bay side. It is a situation that is familiar in The Netherlands, someone observed, where dikes are built to protect the land from the sea but in this case it is the result of a different sort of development. The neighborhood has come to be the busy center for the automobile disassembly and reconstruction trade. There is a McDonalds' Restaurant close by but it is the only orderly corporate image in a landscape of car parts and rusty cranes, 3-story stacks of fenders with hand painted signs of independent interrelated work places sometimes called chop-shops.
Plans for the future of the Wyckoff site include some reconstruction of the land, an orchard, and a Dutch barn to replace the old one that is long gone. The new Dutch barn is being brought from Somerset County, New Jersey. It is the early 19th century Hoagland/Durling Dutch barn (***) that was bought by a Wyckoff family in 1850, so, it should feel right at home in Brooklyn.
(*) John Stevens, Bob Eurich, Jim Decker, Peter Sinclair, Cheryl Bernstein
In the afternoon the group visited the Hendrick I. Lott house in Marine Park a few miles from the Wykoff house. We were given a tour by Christopher Riccardi, Todd Hinckle and Wendy Carroll, members of the Lott House Preservation Association that was chartered by the NY State Regents in 1994 to, "preserve, restore and interpret the house for the education and enjoyment of the people of New York City, Brooklyn, Marine Park and for posterity."
The house is a large story-and-a-half, side hall with wings on both sides, circa 1815-1820, a frame building with a gambrel roof and a vernacular Federal style that mixes elements of New World Dutch and New England in its design and construction. One of its most Dutch features is its resistance to being a two-story house. Its additions contain elements of earlier buildings, perhaps parts of a house Hendrick's grandfather, Johannes, built here in 1720.on this farm owned by the Lotts since 1650. Overall the house has 18-room.
The Lott house and its wooded 3/4-of-an-acre have been so remarkably well preserved, in part, because they are located in a very stable middle-class neighborhood of 1940-1950 row houses and the site's preservation is a concern to the neighbors. Since 1998 The Brooklyn College Archaeology Department has conducted summer field work at the site and has published some of their results on the site's web page (*)
After years of establishing the ownership and possibilities for the Lott house and site and just when it seemed their plans would be funded with one-million-dollars, the State declared hard times and withdrew it all. Major repairs, such as a new roof, are needed soon, Some trim work and a coat of white paint would light up the block.
On the way home, the Ulster County group visited the circa 1672, Jan
Monday, March 17 I went to the Asa Wolven/Slung house (Uls-Wood-10) in the town of Woodstock on Goat Hill Road, at the border with the Town of Saugerties. It has been owned by Michele Slung for two-years. According to her research, it was bought by Asa Wolven from Jonathan Wolven in 1882. She knew of no early pictures of the house but I remembered Asa and his family and had brought along their photograph.
The house was modernized sometime before the present owner acquired it. The beams and ceiling of the main room were removed to create a cathedral like space but the photo and examination of the cellar indicates it was a classic 4-bay room. It seems the house began as a 5- or 6-bay side hall house with a 1-bay room added later to the east in which the ceiling joists for a plastered ceiling rest longitudinally on the beams.
It is a small and primitive house that reflects an upland subsistence farm. There is a cellar, with a low ceiling and an outside entrance. It is only under the west room. The fireplace and chimney are constructed mainly of bluestone that was free for the taking. Brick was used sparingly. The original house frame is scribe-rule, possibly late 18th or early 19th century, the addition mid to late 19th century. There is also a small 2-bay shed with a 19th century square-rule frame.
This 4-bay Dutch barn with a 19th century addition is thought to be one of the earliest in Ulster County. This is based on its style of timber framing with long purlin-braces joined to the column bellow the anchorbeam. Both anchorbeam-braces and purlin-braces are joined with lap dovetail, a feature that is known only in a few of the earliest timber frames in and Ulster County. The Jansen Dutch barn was altered, probably in the 19th century, by raising the columns, adding new purlins and re-building taller side-walls. The reuse of some major rafters with evidence of collar ties shows that the barn originally had a major-minor rafter system associated with thatch.
The Jansen site is on the State and National Register of Historic Places and the Shawangunk Historical Society is planning to erect an historic marker there. The Jansen Farm is one of the pioneer farms of the town and is associated with an Indian and Tory attack of September 1780 that resulted in their capture and trial. The marker will read:
THE COLONEL J. JANSEN HOUSE KITCHEN BUILT 1750, MAIN SECTION BUILT 1803, IN 1780 JOHANNES ESCAPED INDIAN & TORY ATTACK HERE. 3 OTHERS KILLED NEARBY ON SAME DAY.
Helen Wilkinsons Reynolds, in her 1928 book, Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley, describes the Jansen house on page 209 and gives some of its rich historic background. She recounts the family story of the Indian and Tory attack in which colonel Johannes Jansen was chased by the band of raiders to the door of his stone house. One of the raiders threw a tomahawk at him that lodged in the door just as Johannes crossed the threshold and slammed it shut. "An ancient door with a deep gash in it, saw tooth in shape," Hellen Reynolds writes, "is stored in the present house near Rutsenville. This is one of three alleged tomahawk marks found during the survey made for this work, the other two being at Scotia and Albany, in the Glen/Sanders and the Schuyler houses, respectively." (*)
The two-part door remains with the house and is well preserved. It has classic 18th century Dutch hardware and molding. Its exterior is not a false panel, as might be expected, but a raised panel with the interior surface faced with a vertical-board backing. Helen Reynolds observation of the "saw-tooth" gash made her skeptical that a sharp blade had cut it. The missing wedge of wood appears to be split off and shows no obvious cause. It might have been caused by a blunt force. It is a good puzzle.
From the Editor: The situation of the Wynkoop stone house in Saugerties, Ulster County, NY (Uls-Sau-31) (*), on route 32 at the southbound exit of the NYS Thruway, has not changed, but this 18th century building, on the National Register, that is threatened with destruction by its new owner, has raised the awareness of the town government that historic preservation is of interest to people and that the town's zoning laws have failed to consider it. They are now working on a solution and the people have called a meeting at the Saugerties Senior Center at 5:30 PM Wednesday, April 9, to talk about a new law.
Since the last Wynkoop house meeting in February there has been an ongoing effort by HVVA to find a public site in Saugerties for a two-year material culture project. The project will include the registration of historic sites and vernacular buildings and will borrow and document tools and artifacts associated with local families. It will make the information collected available and work toward the display and interpretation of the regions material culture. I hope by the next issue we will have found this space.
(*) Bracketed numbers are HVVA s registration by town of vernacular sites in Ulster, Dutchess and Columbia Counties, NY.
Peter Sinclair, Editor, West Hurley, Ulster County NY
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