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HVVA NEWSLETTER, JUNE 2004, Part TWO
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FROM THE JOURNAL, Contunued

Tuesday, June 1, The owner of the barn complex in Rosendale is not planning to repair the frame of the small addition. It needs new sills, five new pairs of rafters and some post repairs. I returned to The Evans Barn Complex with Larry Thetford of Red Hook, Dutchess County, who is interested in removing the frame for later reconstruction and in salvaging the siding. He is negotiating with the owner to have it out by August. He will be working with little help but from his experience figures that it will take less than a week to dismantle.

NOTES:
(1.) If you open the HVVA web site, <www.hvva.org> you will see that it features the Van Bergen Overmantle that depicts a nearby but no longer extant Greene County farm in 1743 with a house, barn and two barracks.
(2.) HVVA Newsletter Vol 6, No 3, March 2004
(3.) HVVA Newsletter page 7, Vol 5., No 4., see also page 1., Vol 4., No 1. and Vol 5, No 9

Saturday, May 29, Seven HVVA members met at the Billiou/Stillwell/Perine House on Staten Island (1.). We were given a tour by the caretaker, Matt Hankins, who lives with his wife and young child in part of the house. He is a restoration craftsman and often works at the nearby Richmandtown Restoration.

The Perine house on Staten Island is one of the rare survivals of a Hudson Valley Dutch house with evidence of its 17th century condition. The Perine house is also interesting because it has been an object of study, preservation and restoration since 1932, when Loring McMillen, one of the founders of Richmandtown Restoration, measured and drew a plan of the house as it was before 1943 when changes were begun to restore it to an earlier condition.

Restoring an old building to an earlier time is difficult, and many attempts have been flawed by insensitive methods and lack of knowledge. It is generally frowned on today but the restoration of the Perine house was done with such great care to preserve and expose early evidence that the building remains an important object of study rather than a showplace. The original one-room side hall stone house of the complex was built by Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot, circa 1660. Its one-room side hall stone addition was added circa 1680 by Thomas Stillwell, an Englishman.

In restoring the circa 1680 Dutch jambless fireplace of The Perine House, evidence in the stone wall led to a solution that is probably incorrect for the original hearth but may actually represent an early replacement of the fireplace. The brick hood of the restoration does not rest on the hood beam, but on a lower framework. The fact that examples of this smoke hood construction can be found in Belgium seemed to justify it at the time.

With a step ladder and flashlight John Stevens was able to locate nail evidence on the trimmer beams for hangers that supported the original wooden hood that projected into the room. This evidence has been found in many early Dutch houses throughout The Hudson Valley. John has a long interest in the subject.

The most dramatic change made to the house was the restoration of the original steep pitch for the roof of the 1660 house. In keeping with the care to preserve early fabric a large part of the later roof with its shingle and lath were enclosed within the new loft, thus preserving the important original-condition 18th century roof construction.

We next drove to Richmantown Restoration to examine the circa 1725 Christopher stone house that was moved from a nearby site and is under reconstruction in a natural wooded setting of this open-air-museum that maintains almost 40 buildings. The layout of the Christopher House is very like that of the Perine House. Its reconstruction was begun years ago but found little funding. It is presently taking shape with a new paneled interior wall and its brick smoke hood rising in the loft from the hood-beam and trimmers and about to go through the roof. The house may soon be ready to let the public experience something of life here in the early 18th century.

While at Richmandtown we took a quick look at two nearby frame houses. The Voorlezer House with its restored leaded casement windows and the 1760 Boehm House with its exposed framing and display of tools and early moldings.

The tour ended at The Conference House at the southern end of Staten Island, the most southern point of New York State, overlooking a wide bay with an outlet to the ocean and entrances to the Raritan and ===Rivers. The two-story stone house was built by Christopher Billopp in the late 1670’s “as an expression of wealth and stability; his landholding, in fact, was a gift from the Government, bestowed as part of a program to solidify loyalty and strengthen the (English) government’s tenuous control over its new colony” (2.).

The Conference House was given to the City of New York in 1920 and became the city’s first historic house museum. It was a unique and imposing structure in its time, and served as a conference place for a treaty of peace in 1776, after the Battle of Long Island. Its symmetrical center-hall form reflect a Georgian style but its steep roof retains a Medieval look. Its high plastered ceilings and jambed fireplaces are English but its framing is Dutch. Evidence in surviving window frames show that its windows were leaded cross casement, Dutch style with English modifications. The building was certainly built by Dutch carpenters and masons to meet the tastes of an Englishman. The house is furnished with early Hudson Valley furniture and accessories.

The City of New York has bought land adjacent to the Conference House. It has removed some of the later houses and is restoring some of the historic buildings to use as museums and offices. It is creating a larger park overlooking the bay with natural paths and an historic architecture sensibility.

NOTES:
(1.) Carla Cielo, Bob Eurick, Conrad Fingado, Lawrence LaFevre, Peter Sinclair, John Stevens and Dennis Tierney.
(2.) The Conference House Revisited, by Field Horn, The Conference House Association, 1990.


FROM THE EDITOR:

The new HVVA web site has been growing, now with five-years of back issue newsletters on line and an amazing search engine. We are a newcomer to Joyce Berry’s newly named “Three Rivers” site, which she has been working on for 6 years. It is a site filled with New York State historic documents, books, maps and photographs. Till now it has focused on the two northern rivers valleys, the Mohawk and Schoharie. We of the Hudson River Valley are pleased to join them. I appreciate the simple clean look Joyce gives the Three Rivers site, no pop ups or excess is welcome.

The Dutch Barn Preservation Society is organizing the second barn conference to be held sometime in October at the Mabee Farm in Schenectady County, an open-air-museum well worth a visit for its early New World Dutch vernacular architecture. Last year’s conference, organized by Paul Spencer and held in his reconstructed Dutch barn in Columbia County, exceeded expectations with almost 150 people attending. Keith Cramer, President of the DBPS, has taken the initiative for putting it together this year.

A workshop titled, Introduction to Blacksmith-Made Hardware: A Key to Dating Your House, is being given by Jonathan Nedbor at the Palatine Farmstead in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, Saturday, July 17. Jonathan comes from High Falls in Ulster County. A fulltime blacksmith for over 30 years, he has studied and collected early Hudson Valley iron work and specializes in reproducing and repairing historic hardware, but also produces a wide variety of forged items. The workshop will include a show-and-tell with Jonathan and the participants who will bring historic pieces for display and identification. There is a $35 fee for the workshop. See Coming Events on back page of newsletter.

Richard Barons of South Hampton Long Island has contacted HVVA and would like to organize a two day tour of the Hamptons on the eastern end of Long Island this fall. This is an area of English vernacular architecture with some 17th century examples of both museum houses and privately owned homes that he could make accessible.

Peter Sinclair, Editor
West Hurley, NY

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