HVVA Newsletters

The John Bowne House
Flushing, Queens County, New York
Preliminary Architectural Analysis Report
Prepared by John R. Stevens

Part Two, John Bowne House

(Click on graphics for larger view)

Stage II The house was lengthened 21-feet to the west, either circa 1680, if Stage I was built in the 1660s, or circa 1692 if Stage I was built in 1680. (**). It would seem that the leanto, about 12-feet wide, was built across the back (north side) of the house. Possibly a leanto of some kind predated Stage II. In the last few years the north wall of the house was rebuilt and the framing of the 17th century leanto was exposed. It was in extremely deteriorated condition and was mostly, if not completely replaced. Some framing elements from the east end of this north wall were saved, and their replicated counterparts can be seen from inside the leanto. The writer has not had access to drawings, photographs or reports describing and illustrating what was found and cannot express an opinion whether the leanto was all built at one time, or in stages.

The main part of the addition would appear to be constructed in the Dutch H-bent system, but the framing is so completely concealed that one can only surmise what happens under paneled and plastered surfaces. On the north end of the second bent from the west end there is a curved soffit anchor beam brace (corbel brace) protruding through a paneled wall. The writer's suspicion is that all the interior anchor beams originally had braces and they were removed in Stage III except for this one survivor.

Horizontal timbers are set between south rafters II and III of the Stage II part, and Rafters I and II of the Stage I part. These are placed on their diagonals and are presumably gained into the rafters. Flats are cut into them to receive horizontal timbers that projected outward and may have been hoisting beams or perhaps ridge timbers for dormers. The projecting timbers were pinned to the bearers into which they were lodged. As noted in Stage I, in Stage II the roof was boarded with 5/8-inch thick mill sawn oak boards, and there are clearly defined holes in this boarding for the hoisting beam/ridge timbers, whichever they were.

Stage III The house was drastically remodeled circa 1750 at which time it achieved, essentially, its present appearance from the south. The existing chimney stack was removed and replaced with the existing one that has two fireplaces on the first and two on the second floors.

The Stage I and II door and window units were discarded. The present front door, although it has been modified, retains its original wood-muntined transom. New double-hung sash units were installed. The original frames of the two windows of the south wall west of the doorway, and the west window in the main room remain in place. These windows originally had 12 over 12 sash. The three shed roofed dormers with mullioned windows on the south slope of the roof replaced the Stage II dormers. The window frame in the west wall of the leanto does not appear to be original. An early 19th century lithograph (circa 1820) shows a granary door in the west wall of the house on the second floor within the leanto.

The stair hall remains in essentially original condition. The east main room has a partially paneled fireplace wall, mostly it is of vertical tongue-and-groove boarding. It originally had plastered walls and ceiling. The Stage I partition was removed and a new one constructed about 18-inches to the east. At the north end of it, facing into the large room, is a china cupboard of 18th century date which may be original to this location, but may also have come from another location. The interior of this room is heavily disturbed in an attempt to restore it to an earlier appearance in the 20th century.

Stage IV The construction of the east (kitchen) fits the beginning of Stage IV (circa 1800 to 1810). It was seemingly built to include a pre-existing fireplace and bake oven that may date to Stage III. The kitchen wing was expanded in width, possibly circa 1840. A leanto was built across the east end of the kitchen wing, putting the bake oven dome under cover.

The Historic American Building Survey drawings of the house, prepared in 1936 (17-sheets plus 31 photographs) record the house as it was after Stage N alterations and show it essentially as it remains today.

Gordon William Fulton, a student at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Historic Preservation at Columbia University in 1981 produced a "Historic Structures Report" for the Bowne house. This consists of 206-pages, and is especially valuable for the historical documentation it supplies on the house. The following appendices derived from John Bowne's records supply interesting informationa1about 17th century building technology. They have been freely transcribed by the writer.


Appendix I A Barn - March 12, 1665/6
AGREEMENT with John Feake, John Bowne's brother-in-law.
JOHN FEAKE undertakes to build for my brother John Bowne a strong, sufficient barn, 40-feet long, 20-feet wide and 9-feet from the ground to the top of the plates (*). All main posts 12-inches square with the rest of the timber answerable.(**) A leanto on one side 9-feet wide within. Sides and ends clapboarded. Roof to be lathed fit for thatching. To make all the doors for loft and below [?]. To lay a good threshing floor and [complete] all work that belongs to this building I am to do, finding my own diet. Only my brother [John Bowne] is to cart the timber and get the clapboard bolts....clean out [?] the planks for the floor and provide help to raise the heavy timber...
Appendix II House alterations, December 21, 1669
AGREEMENT between Francis Blodgood [Blodtgoet] and John Bowne to make a standing bedstead and a cabin bedstead, "... two doors to be very smoothing and ledging a table, to put up a shelf and dresser and a few clapboards (***) and to close up the old trap hole and make a new one and to hang a door and make a sled [?] and a wheel barrow..."
Appendix III House alterations, September 15, 1676
ACCOUNT with Francis Blodtgoet. "... for making a bedstead by the chimney in the chamber and a smooth partition and a door above it for a little closet & a shelf for a shelf round above..."
Appendix IV An addition, January-31, 1680
AGREEMEDNT with John Feake. "[who is] to frame the house I intend to build providing the timber ready hewn or sawn. He [Feake] is to smooth the frame and set by joining it sufficiently to the house already built.... fmish all framing both for doors windows and chimneys leaving it fit for clapboarding, and shingling and cobbing [infill] as it shall require..."
Appendex V An Addition, January 31, ] 680
AGREEMENT with John Hinds and Nathaniel Lynas, with John Clay's help" to get and lay on the shingles and clapboard of a house for me [John Bowne]...and to shingle me a stable..."
Appendix VI An addition, January 31, 1682
ACCOUNT with John Feke "...working one day in the woods and for framing the house..."
Appendix VII House alteration, August 9, 1684
ACCOUNT with John Feake. "...6 days work toward the laying of the house floor...5 days work about stairs and other work. By a spade mending, by mending a saddle, a panel and making lath boards..."
Appendix VIII An addition, before April 3, 1695/6
LETTER from Mary Becket Bowne. "Weare about to build an ordinary house I think there is about one weeks work done toward it when the rest will be done I cannot tell but we expect to be in it before winter. I am quite wary [?] of living here in this house, it is not wide enough for my husband and his father. He many times threatens to turn us out of his house, and I do not know but in a short time he will do it... "
Appendix IX An addition, March 26, 1696 "
AGREEMENT with John Thorne. [Thorne] "... was to build my house the same bigness as it now is and to finish all the carpenter's work thereunto belonging..."

(*) In early contracts, width of barns is often given as the width of the center aisle that is the length of the anchorbeam. The"side aisles are assumed to be 9 or l0-feet. John Bowne's barn would measure about 40-feet in width but probably a foot or two less in length than width. Bowne does not specify the number of bays but they were probably three.
(**) The "post" refers to the H-bent column, as the historian John Fitchen named it.. 12-inches square does not sound like something the carpenter would follow as columns are never made square in Dutch timber frames until the mid-19th cent.
(***) "Clapboard" is a type of horizontal siding associated with early New England houses. It is split (riven) from a bolt of oak (see Appendix 1) and measures about 3/4-inches by 3 to 4-inches. "Weatherboard" is sawn and measures about 1-inch by 6- to I2-inches. It is nailed and lapped like clapboard but is usually obtained in longer pieces and because it is wide, weatherboard requires fewer nails per square foot of coverage. P. Sinclair

This 4-page report has been edited from the 10-page original. It was prepared for the Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture Newsletter, August 2003, Vol. 5 No., 8. Copies of the full to-page report will soon be available for $3, write
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