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HVVA Newsletters

From the JOURNAL
Wednesday, March 27, 2001
, with Bob Hedges, we put a tarp on the roof of the Siemsen house in Stony Hollow, Town of Kingston, Ulster County.

Sunday, April 9, With Todd Scheff, we examined the Washburn barn in Saugerties, Ulster County and drove to Highland Mills, Orange County to see the owner; Anthony Gross. Todd was told about the barn by a tenant. We registered it Ousterhout/Washburn/Gross (Uls-Sau-29) in the HVVA inventory. The barn had a bad fire about 2 years ago that started from a bucket of hot stove ashes left in the building. This winter much of the roof caved in and an upper section of the north side-wall broke off.

The condition of the barn made it difficult to assess. Most of the first assumptions were wrong. After several visits during the dismantling and clearing away of refuse, it became clear that the building had began as a 24.5 foot wide by 38.5 foot long 3 bay side entrance barn with a 10 foot side aisle, a barn with a saltbox form. A one-bay 14 foot addition was made soon after. It incorporates a number of re used barrack parts and some that are unidentified.

Originally all 4 bents had the same arrangement of three beams, the low beam was set at 6 foot and the light tie-beam set a foot down from the plate. The low beams were later removed from bent 2 and 3. One puzzle is the surviving 25 foot long beam in bent 4. this would have been the original end wall but it has no mortises for studs as would have been expected. There is a light center stud set in a gain and two 4-inch deep 1.5 inch diameter holes 6 foot apart, centered near the bottom of the beam. What are these for?

The one bay addition is where all the re-used parts are found. Could it be that the builder planned his original frame for its addition the next year and put up his 3-bay saltbox with little or no siding on the end wall. The following year he took down his hay barracks and perhaps an earlier barn and reused their parts to extend the frame 14 feet. A similar situation is found in the Oliver barn addition in Marbletown.

Fred Steuding has a 34 page unpublished manuscript, A Description of Flatbush in 1890 by a native of the place, Harry Carle, written in 1979. It sheds some interesting light on the farm and should be looked into further. According to Harry this place known as the "Washburn farm" refers to John Washburn "the brickmaker at Glassco" who purchased it sometime in the 1890s "from a colored man by the name of Robert Osterhoudt". R. Osterhoudt is the name on the 1875 map. Evidently Robert was a local slave or descendent of one who had taken the owner's name.

The house is now approached by a long driveway that crosses a wet field. Originally the road to the house did not connect with the Old King's Highway but to a back road that extended into Glenerie on the Esopus Creek. It was a road used by workers at the Ulster White Lead Works started in 1835 and closed after 1893. When Washburn bought the farm he purchased the large field adjoining the road from Edmond Osterhoudt and connected the farm to the highway. Did Robert Osterhoudt or his family build the house and barn?

Saltbox Barn, to mid 19th century Ousterhout/Washburn/Gross Farm (Uls-Sau-29) Flatbush, Saugerties, Ulster County, NY

Monday, April 17 at Osterhoudt/Washburn farm, no one was working, Mark, the tenant in the house drew a map of nearby roads and ruins. Roger and Todd show up, They have just talked to the man down the road with the ruins of a stone house, Brett Kropf. He is planning to re use the stone for a retaining wall, we register it as _/Partridge/Kropf (Uls-Uls-1) It was burned in the late 1960s, Roger finds one rotten fragment of a floor joist with rose head nails with elongated heads for flooring and perhaps dating the house to the 18th century.

Tuesday, April 18 with Alvin Wanzer and George Van Syckle, veteran Hudson Valley historians and archaeologists, and two HVVA people we visited three sites (the Weaver and Robb houses in Dutchess County and the Siemsen house in Ulster County) to get suggestions on digging for evidence. We are planning to do some stabilization and investigation at these buildings. They suggested the use of a test rod to look for a foundation at the Weaver house and do shovel tests also. They suggested looking in doorways for artifacts. Use baggies to label artifacts. Draw plan of site and layers of fill. If porch is removed at Robb house check bellow it for artifacts. We met Richard W. Collins at Todd's work site in Rhinebeck. Richard lived in the Weaver house when he was young and is interested in archaeology.

Thursday, April 27 Chuck, Brett's father in law, called Todd, He and a friend are working on an old house in Blue Mountain, Saugerties, I go see it, a 2-room Dutch frame house, 23,S-feet wide and 31.5feet long with an 1818 date stone. One exposed end-wall frame has mud infill and the braces are lapdovetail. I registered it _/Carbonell (Uls-Sau-30).

From the Editor:

On Saturday, April 21 about 12 members of HVVA took a tour of Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island, New York. Their places of origin reflected the wide spread membership of this society, coming from Ulster, Greene, Dutchess and Columbia Counties in New York, Monroe County, Pennsylvania and Hunterdon County, New Jersey to meet with Bill McMillen, Richmond Town's present curator and to be guided by him through the museum site.

Conrad Findago who organized the voyage and Bill McMillan are both preservation craftsmen, with a lifelong hands-on knowledge of Hudson Valley vernacular architecture. Their fathers were part of a small group of people with a shared interest in the history and environment of Stated Island. Some, like Bill's father Loring McMillen (1906-1991), were employees of the Staten Island Telephone Company. In the early years of the Great Depression they began to work together to study and preserve the islands material culture. Many of the field trips they took were weekend family outings with friends. On one warm August day in 1929 Loring's group met another group doing the same thing. They were lead by an old man in a straw hat and dark suit. It was William T. Davis, historian and president of the Staten Island Historical Society. Bill became its youngest member the next year.

On another such adventure they discovered the foundation of an early house with a collection of colonial pottery fragments and spent the next two years excavating and eventually gluing back together the complete contents of a late 18th century cupboard of a family of moderate means.

With the growth of population on the east side of Staten Island nearest Manhattan during the 20th century, the offices of government followed leaving the crossroads town of Richmond with an unused courthouse and a cluster of old buildings. In 1920 the society had acquired the County Clerks Office for a Museum. From 1935 to 1939 a WPA project employed as many as 26 workers to do archaeological work, document historic buildings, index local records and interview elders. In 1937 the discovery and acquisition of the 1695 Voorlezer's (Schoolmaster's) House and the beginning of its restoration led to the idea of an out-door museum of restored vernacular buildings.

In 1943 Loring McMillen made the first proposal to re-create a typical village of the 18th and early 19th century at Richmond Town. In 1950 this idea attracted the interest of "master builder" Robert Moses, then the New York City Park Commissioner. In 1952 he obtained a major grant for research and planning that in 1958 was finalized in the present 100 acre site with 27 historic buildings, a joint project of the Staten Island Historical Society and the City of New York. It is an excellent living history museum with a year-round program of seasonal events that serves its community.

The tour began in the museum with a short introductory videotape and a tour of the displays that include a boat and tools used by local clam fishermen, the tools of the farmer and the historic landscape of the island. There were two types of barracks, the familiar four pole with a pyramidal shaped roof and a 4 and 6 pole type, also found in New Jersey, with a hip roof and an end wall door. Bill showed us some parts of reused barrack plates in the 1850 addition to the 1790 Kruser/Finley House. A number of the houses like this are not fully restored and offer a good inside view of structure seen through missing lath and plaster and unfinished fireplaces.

The care and accuracy of restoration at Historic Richmond Town is based on sound research. The use of 32 inch long shingles on their early homes with a three-course starter and the shingles set with no gap is practical and based on surviving evidence. These roofs are treated with a linseed oil, turpentine and red pigment coat about every ten years, a practice that adds life and color.

For further information on Historic Richmond Town and their schedule of special events call: (718) 35f-1611 or write them at: 441 Clarke Ave., Staten Island, NY 10306.


Bill McMillen will be teaching a 5 day workshop at Eastfield Village on historic tin smithing. Historic Eastfield Foundation is a not for profit educational institution chartered by the New York State Department of Education. Eastfield Village is a site with a collection of 18th-and 19th century vernacular buildings moved to the Town of Nassau, Rensselaer County, over the last 30 years by its founder, Don Carpentier. Many of the buildings, like at Richmond Town, are in a state of restoration and afford models for the hands-on specialized workshops given there in all phases of historic restoration. Most workshops are 2 to 5 days long, are limited from 6 to 15 students and cost from $350 to $475.

Among the 13 workshops being given this year at Eastfield is a 4 day event, Vernacular Interior Details 1750-1850, to be given in June with no limit on enrolment. It will include lectures by Rod Blackburn, author and independent scholar, Cindy Folk, Assistant Professor of Material Culture at the Coopers town Graduate Program and Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers. One day of the workshop will be held at the Farmers Museum in Coopers town, a one-hour drive away.

Peter Sinclair, editor

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