NEWSLETTER, May 2004
FROM THE JOURNAL: Saturday, April 17. Seven people attended the tour of the Town of Pleasant Valley, Dutchess County, organized by Tom Rinaldi (*). Tom is a native of the town and his tour gave us a good background on the history, architecture and the preservation disasters that have destroyed a great deal of the historic building fabric of the town and continue to threaten what is left. The town of Pleasant Valley, located to the west of Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park, developed in the early 18th century as a mill town that took advantage of the available water power. In the village center, where Main Street crosses the Wappinger Creek, there was a large intact stone mill from the early 19th century. In the 1994 it was gutted by fire and demolished. The next year, with a circa $350,000 matching grant from the Department of Transportation and under the direction of the architect Steve Tingelman of Poughkeepsie, they disregarded the site's eligibility for state designation as historically important and destroyed what was left of the mill, building in its place a war memorial and a streamside park, in the process completely gutting an 18th century neighbor known as the Old Stone Store, a two-story stone structure that had served the mill from perhaps the 1760's. This building (Dut-PV-1), was given vinyl windows with pop-out muntins, foldout French doors, air conditioning, and a cement patio. The project is certainly eligible for some kind of award for complete insensitivity to the historic environment. (**)
The next building we went to was the Robb House (Dut-LG-1), in the nearby Town of LaGrange(***). We were not able to get into it but were glad to see that it looks the same, is now protected behind a nice looking barbed wire fence, and its surrounding hilly field is plowed and planted through the efforts of the owner and his friends, who are working to protect some of the rural landscape. There were crews of happy teenagers from Rhinebeck cleaning up the environment, pulling objects of rusty metal and twisted plastic up out of the creek bed. We returned to the village to examine two vernacular houses associated with the old stone mill that are in danger.
Peter Sinclair, Mike Bathrick, Conrad and Margo Fingado, Dennis Tierney
and Neighbor and Tom Rinaldi.
FROM THE EDITOR: An antique dealer from Rhinebeck called me three week ago to mount some objects for him. I have worked as a basemaker for antique dealers and collectors for the past 35 years. It is a livelihood that allows me to explore and write about the material culture. Objects such as masks and figures often need mounting so that they can be better seen and I work with a wide variety of artifacts from the ancient and ethnographic to the folk and utilitarian. Frank Gaglio, the antique dealer, had three objects for bases, two carved canes and the cast iron side plate of a jamb or five-plate stove that he acquired recently from the Thomas Yates house in Rhinebeck.
The written inscription on the plate reads, "JOHANNES AM. 2 CAPIT.TEL" or "Book of John, Chapter 2, better known as "The Miracle of Cana," where Christ turned water into wine. The wedding feast is depicted on the left in the upper frame using a composition that was common on early stove plates. The lower frame shows two figures passing the gate of a walled city, a scene that may refer to "The Miracle of Cana" but the composition is unique compared to what I've seen depicted on 5 plate stoves. The Yates Stove Plate is an important local artifact. To better understand it one must deal with the history of technology, art, architecture, economics, culture and religion. It is an object that should be in a public collection but may well end up in private hands and out of sight. So it is best to publish, document and interpret it now as best I can. (1.)
The stove plate's association with the Yates house may eventually yield information on its Hudson Valley origins. The "B" in the upper right frame may refer to a family. There is a large stove plate depicting "The Miracle of the Oil" in another Rhinebeck home. It was cast in Germany, circa 1715. Family tradition says that it was brought to Rhinebeck in 1777 by Abraham Van Leuren from his boyhood home in Kingston after his marriage to Evatje Du Mont. Their son Garret installed it as a fireback in a fireplace in 1800 in his new house at Spring Brook Farm in Rhinebeck. When that house was being razed his granddaughter rescued the Van Leuren plate and it remains with the family (2.). It must have been a popular stove plate in its time. There are two other examples of this same side plate, cast from the same wooden mold board, in Kingston, several in Pennsylvania and one at Dunzenheim, in Alsace.
The jamb stove, or 5-plate cast iron stove, was developed in Germany in the early 16th century. It was the first type of iron stove used anywhere. The stoves were heavy--American examples weighed from 320 to 450-pounds--and in the beginning were beyond the means of the average family. Yet they were already being imported into America by 1659 and were in production at furnaces in Pennsylvania by 1726. They were used in northern New Jersey. Their use in New York was probably limited to the Mid Hudson Valley, the Minnisink region in the Delaware Valley, and the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys to the west of Albany. Jamb stoves were typical in 18th century Pennsylvania German farmhouses and were used in parts of Virginia and Maryland where Germans settled. By the time of the American Revolution the 5-plate stove was losing favor and no longer cast. Perhaps the need for iron to conduct the war put an end to its production.
A census was taken in Ulster County in 1709 to place a tax on chimneys (fireplaces), stoves and slaves. For the 208 households listed, there were 503 chimneys, 52 stoves and 175 slaves. Chimneys and stoves were taxed 1-shilling and slaves 2-shillings (3.). From these figures it can be seen that stoves were not as common as were fireplaces and slaves. It also indicates that jamb stoves imported from Germany were widely used here before the 1710 arrival of the Palatine Germans (who were too poor to have brought any stoves with them) by people who were soon furnishing their farmhouses with American models cast in Pennsylvania.
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