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HVVA Newsletters

Thursday, June 7, 2001 Bill McMillan of Historic Richmondtown, Staten Island hosted a day workshop on the craft of making leaded glass windows. It was directed toward the present restoration of the windows in the circa 1720 Winne/Creble house in Bethlehem, Albany County, NY, by the owner/builder Brian Parker and John Stevens who is acting as the architectural advisor. The workshop was attended also by Brian Kennedy and Kersten Engel, restoration carpenters from the Huguenot Historical Society in New Paltz, and by Brendan Costello, a restoration carpenter presently constructing a 17th century New England house in Albany County.

In America as in Western Europe during the 17th century, window glass was set in lead carnes, and the method of constructing casement, or hinged, windows in the Hudson Valley followed the Dutch model. By the end of the 17th century, + sliding sash with wooden muntin, the type of windows still popular, were replacing leaded glass casement windows in Holland but in the Hudson Valley things were slower to change and leaded glass would continue to be used for another 50-years, up to the mid 18th century.

No complete examples of these leaded casement windows have survived in America. A dozen or more casement frames converted to sash or buried in walls have been found in early Hudson Valley houses, like those in the 1720 Winne/Creble house, and half-a-dozen leaded sash have been preserved at historic sites. Because this information is relatively new, sparse and scattered, a number of public sites restored to represent pre-Revolutionary Hudson Valley Dutch architecture have historically inaccurate windows. This includes the Van Allen house in Columbia County and the Jan Martense Schenk house in the Brooklyn Museum.

Measured Drawings by Carla Cioello, Phillips Barn, Murphy Barn, Bellis Barn

Measured Drawings by Carla Cioelle, Forman/Galloway Barn

In the 1980s Bill McMillan researched and reconstructed a number of Dutch leaded casement windows (kloosterkozijn, a narrow window with fixed glass in the upper section and a shuttered lower section) for the restoration of what is thought to be the 1695 Voorlezer house at Richmandtown on Staten Island. He had a great deal to share with the craftsmen who attended his workshop about the tools and materials of the glazier as well as the types of window glass used. He will be conducting a workshop with Don Carpentier, Reproducing Early Lighting 1760-1840 and other Utilitarian Wares, September 17 to 21, at Eastfield Village, Nassau, Rensselaer County, NY; for information call: (518) 766-2422

Saturday, June 9 the DBPS met and conducted a tour of the Nilsen Dutch barn recently reconstructed at the early 18th century Mabee House, the oldest house in the Mohawk Valley and now a museum owned by the Schenectady Historical Society. The restoration of the Nilsen barn is well described by Keith Cramer, who supervised the work, in the Spring 2001 Issue of the DSPS Newsletter, Vol 14, No 1. The Mabee house and its additions is describes with photos and measured drawings in the Spring 1998 issue DBPS Newsletter Vol 11, No 1. The group next visited the Wemple barn, one of the important mid 18th century survivals and a favorite of Fitchen and Huber. In the last two years, Ev Rau and other volunteers from the DSPS have helped to repair and stabilize the Wemple barn but it is presently in need of additional work. Fortunately it received a NY State barn grant.

Saturday, July 21 a musical event was held in the Dutch barn at the Wykoff/Londsbury house (Uls-Mar-13) in Stone Ridge to celebrate the completion of its restoration. This circa 1830 3-bay barn is one of the last to be moved from Otsego County. Evidence of its pentice roof was incorrectly interpreted in the July 1999 HVVA Newsletter, Vol 1, No 4. The barn is filled with northern kinds of joinery and I had assigned its pentice to the familiar type with through tenons for wedged outriggers. Using Jack Sobon's measured drawing #39, in his Historic American Timber Joinery series showing the last surviving example of its type on a Dutch barn in Berne, NY, Harry Hanson, the Ulster County architect who supervised the completion of the barn, was able to restore the pentice accurately. The wooden hinged wagon doors were modeled after those in the Bogart Dutch barn (Uls-Mar-3).

Book Review

The long awaited re-print of The New World Dutch Barn by John Fitchen, Syracuse University Press, is now available. This 1968 book was the first study of its architecture and remains the principle book on the subject. Greg Huber, who probably has the widest experience with the Dutch barn, has added new material relative to regional characteristics and the dating of Dutch barns and has made some corrections to Fitchen's errors. His material on European origins is also good.

In searching out the 73 barns that Fitchen documented more than 30-years ago, Huber found that only one third of them have survived in place. He estimates that of the 50,000 to 100,000 original Dutch barns only 1% or 600 to 800 examples remain standing in New York and New Jersey.

In the short time that Fitchen spent examining Dutch barns he came away with a remarkably good understanding of its structure. He sited numerous historic written references, included excellent photographs, especially important exterior news of un altered barns, and included good perspective drawings of joinery details.

In reading through Fitchen's description of the Dutch bam (pages 10-23) I find it contains many good speculations and observations but also many errors due to his limited experience and to the lack of previous writing on the subject. Much has been learned and written since. It would have been helpful for the reader if these errors had been corrected with foot notes.

In his foot notes, pages 70-71, Fitchen corrects Helen Reynolds statement in her classic 1929 book of Hudson Valley Dutch houses, that the second story gable overhang of the Verplank Dutch barn she illustrated was "typical of Dutch barns of the 18th century," and he deplores the errors in Eric Sloan's interpretation of the Dutch barn in his popular 1966 An Age of Barns. Fitchen would have welcomed more systematic corrections in the 2nd edition of his book.

A number of new observations and corrections are made by Greg Huber's in his introduction pages xix-lxiii. On page liii he describes features that distinguish the northern Dutch barn of the Schoharie, Mohawk and upper Hudson Valleys from those of the mid Hudson area. One of these northern features he describes is the method of joining the rafter end to the plate. "Wall plates are grooved to receive tenons of rafter ends," Huber writes and refers to Fitchen's drawing on page 105. Fitchen describes the tenon as a "cog" and illustrates the two types of placement on the foot of the rafter (B & D). He writes that, "the cog does not prevent the 'rafter's foot from kicking out."

Both Fitchen and Huber have misunderstood this northern rafter joint. In a recent series of articles on Historic American Timber Joinery, a Graphic Guide, by Jack Sobon published in issue 59 of Timber Framing, the quarterly journal of the Timber Framers Guild (TFG), Sobon correctly illustrates one of the two variations of the joint. His caption reads, "On large Dutch barn rafters, a birdsmouth stub tenon is common. This example is barefaced." Sobon introduces some new debatable terms but his understanding of the joint is correct. It does prevent the rafter from kicking out. Huber could have learned structure from Sobon and Sobon could have learned the significance of its northern association from Huber.

To Fitchen's credit he does illustrate the southern style of nailing a rafter foot flush to a plate (G). this flush joining and nailing is technically not a joint and so is not illustrated by Sobon despite its significance.

Fitchen's book inspired a number of people to continue his study of the New World Dutch barn. In 1988 the Dutch Barn Preservation Society (DBPS) was formed and it has maintained a high standard of articles by many authors in its newsletter (*). One of its founders, Vincent J, Schaefer, wrote a book, published in 1994, now out-of-print, Dutch Barns of New York. An Introduction. that contains good drawing and photographs primarily of northern barns. A group within the Timber Framers Guild (TFG), the Traditional Timberframers Research and Advisory Group (TTRAG), organized by Randy Nash and some others, have been meeting annually for more than ten years, exchanging information and demonstrating timber frame carpentry.

The basic flaw with Greg Huber's edited version of Fitchen's classic work is its systematic avoidance of the mention of any of this. This is why the book lacks a bibliography and why the "partial listing" of Dutch barn museums does not include the Wemp barn, Fitchen's first and among his favorite, because of its association with the DBPS.

I can think of no more prestigious author/scholars of American vernacular architecture than the three who lend their names to this Syracuse University Press reprint; Abbott Lowell Cummings for his work on early Massachusetts Bay houses, Robert Ensminger for his study of the Pennsylvania barn and Henry Glassie for his writings on folk housing of the southeast, his study of 2,500 barns in Otsego County and especially his 1968 long out of print book Pattern in the Material Folk Culture that includes a good description of the Dutch barn and its distribution. Their work inspires respect but their endorsement of this edition of Fitchen will not help the study of Hudson Valley vernacular architecture.
Peter Sinclair, Editor

(*) Both the DBPS and the TFG have available for sale copies of back issues of their journals.
W rite: DBPS, c/o Robert Andersen, 200 CR 312, Westerlo, NY 12193; and Timber Framing, Journal of the TFG, PO Box 60, Becket, MA 01223. HVV A is planning to publish a bound volume of back issues of this newsletter WIth an index when It gets time or help.

From the Editor:

The recent announcement that 2-million-dollars in New York State barn preservation grants were awarded to 113 barns in 48 counties of the state has raised the level of public interest in the subject. In the Mid-Hudson region, two barn grants were given in Columbia County, two in Dutchess, one in Greene and four in Ulster County. Of the 9 barns, 6 are Dutch and include some important examples. Two grant applications made by HVVA in Ulster County were awarded. These are for the Ken Snyder Dutch barn and straw mow (Uls-Sau- 5) and the Bogart/Markoff Dutch barn (Uls-Mar-5). Bob Hedges of Pine Plains, Dutchess County, will be directing the work and the Editor will be assisting. We look forward to the project and hope that work can begin soon.

The next HVVA tour will be held jointly with the Saugerties Historical Society on Saturday, August 18, 2001. It will begin at the 1727 Kierstead stone house and will include a Dutch barn with the most complete major-minor rafter systems to survive.

Nine people attended the HVVA tour of barns in Holland Township, Hunterdon County New Jersey on Saturday July 14. It was well organized. Each participant was provided with documentation papers and measured drawings of the five barns to be visited.

Since April 1999, The Holland Township Historic Preservation Commission has been registering, studying and documenting its remaining 18th and 19th century timber frame barns. About 85 have been identified and assigned to 7 type categories. The tour was conducted by the chairman of the Commission, Lawrence LaFevre and by Carla Cielo, their Historic Preservation Consultant.

Holland Township in southwestern New Jersey is located where the Musconetcony River enters the Delaware River, across from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the upland area we traveled, looking for barns, it is a hilly landscape with woodland and scattered open fields, a rural setting with little urban intrusion.

The numerous 18th and early 19th century two-story stone houses have a Pennsylvania look as do many of the two-level fore-bay barns, fronted by stone-walled animal yards. There are also many side entrance barns with a more American look.

Carla Cielo has identified four types of English side entrance barns (*) and three types of Pennsylvania German barns The Phillips barn is a Sweitzer. This type of Pennsylvania barn is normally the earliest form. The added forebay gives the roof line its salt box form. This example. is a mid-19th century converted English 3-bay frame and contains many used parts. The Phillips farm has been in the same family since 1840 and continues to operate, growing specialty fruits and vegetables.

Of the five barns we visited a number of features seemed common to them all. Most of the bracing was typical American 45-degree angle braces with 3 to 4-foot legs. One exception was in the Murphy bam, a Pennsylvania bam with stone end walls, where two long angled braces in the front frame connect the sill and plate, typical for Pennsylvania German timber framing (not showed in illustration). This is also the only barn that did not have raising holes in the posts. It is also the only bam without drop tie-beams. The tie beams in the Murphy barn are joined to the plate. Four of the five barns were probably early to mid-19th century but they maintain many scribe-rule features, such as marriage marks, diminished shoulders, and heavy well-finished beams that give the barns an older look.

Two of the Pennsylvania barns have swing, beams that measured 12" x 9"x 30 feet in the Bellis barn and 21" x 9" x 32 feet in the Wydner bam. They are incorporated in a truss with long descending braces with a distinctive lap joint. The Wydner farm has the last dairy herd in the Township. The farm was owned by Edward Hunt Vanderbilt in 1873. It has horizontal siding.

Another type of swingbeam was found in the Forman/Galloway barn a small ground-level three-bay side entrance barn. A plan that would normally be called an English barn but has a number of features of the Dutch single-aisle barn. (**). It has two un-braced swing beams 20" x 8" x 20' in its two internal bents. Four other examples of this barn type are known in Holland Township and according to Carla, Greg Huber knows of about 30 more elsewhere. Carla believes it may be one of the earliest frames in the Township and is associated with a 2-story stone house dated to circa 1792.

The Dutch features in the Galloway barn are the raising holes, through tenons, diminished shoulders, drop-tie beams in the end bents, horizontal weatherboard siding and evenly spaced common rafters that do not conform with the placement of posts and are joined with simple birds-mouth to the wall plates. An English barn normally has Its threshing floor in the center bay with doors at either side. One feature of the Galloway barn that seems unlike the plan of an English barn is the placement of animal stalls, feed mangers and threshing floor in a longitudinal direction, with the stalls and floor placed on either side of the barn. There is good evidence in this barn of original use.

One function of the swingbeam seems to be the creation of an unobstructed space below the beam in which an unloaded wagon could be turned around. The three posts set below the swingbeams in the Galloway barn do not allow for this. Are they swingbeams or something else. This barn type needs further study.

New Jersey was one of the last areas of the Hudson Valley to make use of the hay barrack. In our tour of barns we discovered two 14- to 16-foot long sections of barrack poles in the loft of the Murphy barn. They differ from known Hudson Valley examples in that the holes are through the wide side of the pole rather than diagonally through a relatively square pole. We also inspected a tall, square structure with an un-movable hip-roof covered with slate tiles. The owners call it a "barrack" and it is used like one and looks like one. The structure of the hip roof is designed for slate tiles and is constructed of sawn planks butted and toe-nailed. The poles do not extend through the roof and have no holes, but the room below the loft is inhabited by sheep. Carla calls it a "straw shed" but it is certainly an architecture derived from the hay barrack.

At the Bellis Pennsylvania barn a two-bay "straw hovel" addition to an end of the barn was pointed out. Normally they are placed at a right angle to the barn to form an "L" as is typical of straw mows in the Hudson Valley. They are the same structure with a different name and used to shelter straw and wagons.

The barns of Holland Township are an interesting blend of regional traditions. The Pennsylvania German style coexisting with an American blend of Dutch and English ideas. The Holland Township Preservation Commission is planning to eventually publish its findings. If you would be interested ill receiving more information write: Holland Historic Preservation Commission, 61 Church Road, Milford, NJ 08848.

The HVVA state chartered corporation has been awarded tax exemption by the IRS as a publicly supported organization. A three-page letter of requirements for "the applicable support test during the advanced ruling period" could use advise from an accountant or lawyer which we do not have yet. We do have $277 in the working account and 173 listed members, some of whom have failed to re new their $10 membership.

In regard to the Siemsen house in Stony Hollow, that we have requested to purchase from Ulster County, we were told by the Railroad Board that the county was not interested in selling it at this time so we have gone to the majority (Republican) Ulster County legislator, Pete Nacoratto, who said he would help us present it to the county legislature. Three weeks of foundation work on the building have finished the first stage of restoration. Brian Kennedy donated some 6 and 7 inch novelty siding for repairs to the front. It came from the recently demolished 1940s addition to the DuBois Fort ill New Paltz. We are looking for some mid-19th century double 6-lite sash 28" wide by 24" tall.

We have re-established contact with the German preservation group Mittellungsblatt der Interessengemeinschaft Bauernhaus (MIB) and have copies of their newsletter, Der Ho1znagel (the wooden nail) available for HVVA members who can read German and are interested in learning of the preservation of rural vernacular architecture in Germany.

Peter Sinclair, Editor

(*) The English bam is a ground level bam with three bays and side entrance wagon doors. In the 19th century it became the most popular bam type on small farms in the 4merican northeast and midwest. It is defIned by its floor plan rather than its structure. The framing of English barns outside of New England seldom follow traditional English timber framing with flared posts, upper tie-beams and principal rafters. Their timber frame is commonly an American square-rule style that is closer in many ways to New World Dutch than English.

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