NEWSLETTER, August 2003
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FROM THE JOURNAL Wednesday, July 23 received a call from Camile Fraracci that a house next to hers on Trapp Road, Town of Gardiner, Ulster County, was being demolished. She said that it had been a stage coach stop and the last building of the small mountain community that once existed there. The area is high in the Shawangunk Mountains, at the head of Clove Road, just outside Minnewaska State Park, an area that is undergoing development. Like many mid 19th century houses in the Catskill Mountains as well, this was of a vertical plank construction that has no frame or bracing. There are many more examples of this type of house, in Ulster County but they appear like frame houses unless closely examined.
It would be interesting to know more about the design of these vertical plank houses, their history and distribution. They seem to be found in mountainous areas. There is a long tradition of vertical plank construction in New England and they may be associated with that and reflect 19th century immigration patterns into the Catskill and Shawangunk Mountains. They may have been cheaper to build at the time and certainly were of a different building tradition than that established by the Dutch in the valleys. The house was registered as Vertical Plank House (Uls-Gar-10)
Saturday, August 2 eight members of HVVA met in southern Dutchess County to visit some early Dutch houses and barns there. It was organized by Dennis Tierney(*). The first site in the Town of Fishkill was Mount Gullian (Dut-Fis-1) where Denise Shermer, The Education Program Associate, gave us some historic background and a tour of the house which is a reconstruction of the original stone building begun in 1730 by The Verplank family. Of special interest is the Verplank Dutch barn that was brought from a nearby farm to the Mount Gullian site. It is the last surviving Dutch barn with a Germanic projecting gable. A few others are known from photographs. The 3-part wagon doors have been restored with key hinges, an English derived design that is not common in the Hudson Valley but is widespread.
We next drove a few miles north to the Town of Wappinger to Stony Kill Farm (Dut-Wap-1) a site given to NY State in 1930 with a mandate that it be dedicated to agriculture. Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center now 750 acres of agricultural and wild land is run by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The farm maintains a very active educational program. Its headquarters occupies a large Verplank family stone house of an interesting early 19th century Federal style. The farm has barns and keeps some cows, sheep, pigs and chickens. It maintains, but is not now using, a small tenant house that began in the early 18th century as a one room Dutch stone house.
Reba Laks, director of the site, took us on a tour of the Verplank tenant house. We inspected it and took some measurements. It is especially interesting to the student of vernacular architecture because much of the modern fabric has been removed revealing more of its structure and changes than is normally available. We next drove to the _/Devine Dutch barn (Dut-Wap3). It is a three bay drive-through Dutch barn that was disassembled at some time, perhaps moved, and reconstructed with extended columns and taller side walls.
The last site visited was the _/Bates & Edwards Dutch barn (Dut-Wap-2) in Wappingers Falls. This was a 3-bay drive-through Dutch barn that was moved intact up the hill to its present site in 1930 and given a partial basement. This process was recorded with three excellent photographs (**). The Devine and Bates barns are located very near each other, both have scribe-rule oak and chestnut frames that are probably late 18th century and perhaps the work of the same carpenters.
Jim Decker, Bob Eurick, Malcom Mills, Alvin Sheffer, Peter Sinclair,
John & Marion Stevens and Dennis Tierney.
From the Editor:
When three members of HVVA toured The Netherlands in 2000, we stopped at a restaurant in the province of Gelderland that was an old farm with a barn and a 5-pole thatched hay barrack. There were a number of old farm tools on display but what was most interesting to us was the barrack hardware and John Stevens did a drawing of it, the wood screw, its iron bracket, the pins and comer hanger. The rafter system of the 5-pole Gelderland example was formed with pole rafters that were of equal dimension and met in a heavy mass at the peak. It did not look correct to us. We were aware of the light major/minor rafter system on early thatched barracks in America, a system that had been deduced from documents and fragments of barrack rafter-plates found re-used in Hudson Valley barns. The Gelderland barrack roof system looked modem but the hardware added a new dimension to our understanding.
In 1670 Tierck Claesen DeWitt appeared in court in Kingston, Ulster County, NY, to bear witness to an agreement with Eduwart Wittikar concerning the sale of DeWitt's property in the village, "a house, lot, barn and two stacks (barracks)". He further describes the property as, surrounded by a fence with everything fixed to them in the ground and fastened by nail, with the exception that Tierck Claesen shall appropriate the stackpins and the iron work. And in case one of the stacks should happen to collapse, Tierick Claesen shall not be held responsible for the same. For which E. Whittikar promises to pay a quantity of 360 Sch. (schepels) of wheat, or other grain at market price, in three installments" (*)
If Whittikar does this then Tierck Claesen will convey the property unencumbered to him, "excepting the Lord's right," and the mortgage and disclaimer are witnessed by Thomas Chambers (known as "Clapboard"), the English carpenter who helped found the Esopus Colony in the 1650's.
The document contains a wealth of information concerning the lack of money, the use of the court as well as a hint at what may have been the first wooden structures of the colony, "fixed to them in the ground and fastened by nail." Is this possibly a house with an in-the-ground pole frame and a plank cellar? The "stackpins" and "iron work" seem to be a description of the barrack hardware that we saw in the restaurant in Gelderland.
In the 1970s Don McTernan, then a student in the Folklore Department at Cooperstown, did a study of the hay barrack for his Masters Degree. In his field work he could find only a dozen surviving examples, all in New Jersey (*). These barracks had plank or shingle roofs and the rafter systems were designed for that use. It was later, through the study of fragments of rafter plates, barrack poles and some light re-used poles, that may have been rafters, that the basic design of the major/minor rafter system emerged. There still remain questions, especially the joining of the major rafters at the peak and the joining of the plates at the comers.
During the repair of the 1825 Snyder family Dutch barn in Saugerties that was funded by a NY State barn grant, and completed by Bob Hedges and John Copell, a number of wagons and other objects had to be moved. Among these objects were two barrack screws. These are the only American examples known but they suggest to me that in the 17th and 18th centuries the barracks of the Hudson Valley and The Netherlands were of the same sophisticated design that made use of a set of tools and hardware and that the movable roof was hung from comer hardware. These tools and designs were lost and forgotten over the years and the barracks of the Old World and New World developed new hardware, roof raising techniques and rafter systems. Other than the screws and many reused wooden parts of hay barrack plates, no other barrack hardware was found at the Snyder farm.
Two weeks ago I bought a piece of hardware at a yard sale in Dutchess County that I believe is a barrack comer hanger. It was recently dug up and has a coating of yellow clay. The chains fit through holes at the ends of the plates, I believe, and the toggles held them up. The Gelderland example uses slots and keys for the same function. I have sent an inquiry to Sally Light of Austerlitz, NY and she is asking archaeologists if any hardware has been found like it at historic sites in the Hudson Valley. One E-mail reply from John Ham, Project Director at Hartgen Archeological Associated, Inc., tells me that it might be a lift for blockhouse or garrison house timbers. Perhaps it had multiple uses. It was found in a barn on the Franklin Delano Estate in Red Hook.
One of the Snyders barrack screws has been borrowed for the HVVA
Material Culture Project along with two other objects important
in early Dutch barns; 1.) a light chain to tether a cow with a toggle
and a ring through which a vertical stake runs, and 2.) a horse
halter attached to a light chain that is put through a vertical
hole in the manger. It has a toggle at the end that holds the horse
at his place. I hope to include more about these vernacular animal
stalls in the next newsletter and welcome additions, suggestions
(*) New York Historical Manuscripts: Kingston Papers (1644-1675). translated by Dingman Verteeg, The Holland Society, 1976.
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