NEWSLETTER, May 2003
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FROM THE JOURNAL
The house was located on an important road leading east to Connecticut. East Fishkill was a frequent stopping place for George Washington and his army during the Revolution. It is known that British prisoners were kept for a time in the cellar of the houses and George is known to have stayed at this and another Brinkerhoff house close by during the war.
One of the most unusual features of the late 18th century frame is the use of king-post trusses on the collar ties of the rafters. Normally a king-post truss is formed with a tie-beam not a collar-tie. We were to see another king-post truss across the road on an 1823 frame school house. Bob Hedges, who will be disassembling the frame and reconstructing it at the Brinkerhoff/Palen house (EF-3), site of the East Fishkill Historical Society, pointed out that the two trusses in the school frame were independent of the common rafters and used only to support the ceiling. It reminded me of the complex bracing and truncated king-post truss in the unique Brett/Hickman 3 bay Dutch barn (EF-2) (**) nearby.
After lunch the group went to see the Flager/Mills frame house (EF-7) that was bought recently by Malcom Mills and is in the process of being restored. It is a small late 18th century frame house with additions that retains interesting original fabric and fireplaces. One of its rare and unusual features is a 3 x 3-foot brick room for smoking meat and fish located at the end of the hall on the second floor. The brick chimney system for the fireplaces is complex Two angled chimneys merge just as they approach the peak of the roof and bellow this the open top of the smoke-room exhausts into the loft above the colar ties, a quite primitive system that worked, according to the evidence. It appears that the small smoke-fire was placed on the first shelf probably in an iron receptacle.
While having lunch the group had spotted a Dutch barn through the trees across the highway from the diner. Some of the group returned to inspect it and were given a tour of the barn and the Storm/Griffiths house (Dut-H J-1)-by its owner of many years, William Griffiths. This large property in Hopewell Junction is zoned commercial and is presently for sale in the range of $500,000.
I had visited the barn many years ago. It is a classic 3-aisle, 3-bay scribe rule Dutch barn frame circa 1770 with an early 19th century 2-bay extension. The anchorbeams of an earlier barn were shortened and reused in the 3-bay barn. These might be contemporary -with a "WS 1755" date-stone in the fieldstone foundation of the large frame house, located about 200 feet from the barn. It is thought to be a Storm family stone but no house is shown here on a 1798 survey map. The present large wide house has a square-rule frame with queen-post purlins. It dates to the early 19th century but there are reused parts that might be from the earlier house.
The Dutch barn is in relatively good condition but needs, immediate roof repairs in two areas. In the 20th century when it was converted for dairy the bottom 7 -feet of all the internal columns were cut off and the anchorbeam braces removed for a more convenient floor plan. Eventually the barn should have these timbers replaced and the new fabric removed. It would gain stability and recover its open, cathedral-like space.
In the mid 18th century, the families of East Fishkill were proud of their Dutch heritage and language. The Reformed Church, their closest tie to the Old World, was just beginning a 50 year painful process of gaining an American base and adopting the English language, These people of southern Dutchess County were a culture distinct from that of Connecticut and the Yankees of New England. Their barns, and barracks and their tools of harvest were distinct, yet their houses here in southern Dutchess County seem to have been strongly influenced by English style. The earliest evidence, circa 1747, in the Brinkerhoff house (EF-6) is of plastered ceilings and jambed fireplaces.
John Stevens said that the window and door frames were copied from English pattern books. It seems that much of this early English influence on houses lies in a belt that stretches west from southern Dutchess, Orange and southern Ulster Counties.
See Helen Reynolds, Dutch Colonial Houses of the Hudson Valley
before 1776. page 377 and plate 135.
Dates and initials of owners, and perhaps builders, are occasionally found carved in the timbers of Hudson Valley barns. The "SS 1750" inscription from the Decker barn is perhaps the earliest with a date. The fading black ink writings on the column above the date are harvest records of the 19th century. These seem to record large bales of hay. The upper right number "233" records the weight of one of them in pounds.
The "SS" inscription with three cup-marks below might be the builders mark. Both the SS and the cup-marks were cut with gouge chisel, a tool that was necessary to the timber frame carpenter before the introduction of the lead screw auger in about 1790. To drill a hole with the early augers it was necessary to first gouge a pocket in the timber before drilling the hole and the use of gouge marks is important in dating timber frames.
(*)HVV A is planning a tour of the Decker barn and some other vernacular buildings in southern Ulster County, Saturday, May 17, 10AM.
Saturday, April 26 about 15 people attended a very successful workshop on paint identification conducted by Marilyn Hatch at the Palatine Farmstead in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County. She described the contents and the history of paints and how to identify them. Paint analysis is important not only in understanding how a building looked but is helpful in establishing the sequence of construction. From a fragment of siding found in the crawl space of the 1790-1800 frame house that is being restored, Marilyn thinks there is good evidence in some of the re-used siding that it was from the circa 1747 house and had three layers of paint, the last being a mustard color.
A number of locations in the house were picked for bulls-eye tests. 220-grit wet and dry paper, WD-40, rubber gloves (*) and paper towels were used to slowly sand in a small area through the paint to the wood and expose the layers. 17 distinct layers of many colors were found on the frame of one door.
(*) Lead was a common ingredient of early paint and is dangerous if breathed or ingested.
NEWS & NOTES
A QUESTION OF NOMENCLATURE
Dear Editor, I enjoyed the write-up in the newsletter (*). Thanks again for coming by. I very much enjoyed talking to you and learning from you. However, I do have a few questions, and one about the nomenclature. Did you pick "Asa Wolven" because you had the pictorial documentation of him actually in the house? Otherwise, why not the earlier Wolven (Jonathan), since it's highly unlikely Asa built the house?
Many Thanks Michele Slung.
Dear Michele, Good question, you caught me in a fit of amateurish enthusiasm, The official HVVA Registration Name and Location Number should be Kierstead/Bostwick/J. Wolven/A. Wolven/Slung (Uls-Wood-10). I think of the Kiersteads as an early land owning family. They sold it to Bostwick in 1823, who sold it to Jonathan Wolven sometime before its sale in 1882 to Asa. What is known of John and Nelly Kierstead? Did they actually live in the house? Perhaps the original one-room side hall 1800 house was a Kierstead speculation.
(*) see HVVA Newsletter April 2003, Vol. 5 No.4, page 3.
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