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HVVA Newsletters

From the JOURNAL
Wednesday, September 26, 2001
about 15 people attended a meeting in Saugerties at the sight of the 1740 Terwilliger grist mill on the Sawyer Kill. It was attended by Karlyn Elia, Ulster County Historian, Bob Eurick, Town of Saugerties Supervisor, Alex Wade, Town of Saugerties Building Inspector, Jim Kricker, millright, Fred Steuding mason, myself and others. The meeting was called by Karlyn to put forth the idea of rebuilding the water powered mill to grind locally grown grain once again.

The present mill was built in the early 1970s on the site of the earlier mill using local funding. It was never completed as a working mill. The project was abandoned and the mill, especially the roof, has been in bad repair for several years. The Terwilliger mill is upstream from the site of the original 17th century sawmill for which the town is named. It is located in Seaman Park on the north side of the village, a public site owned by the Town. A number of mill parts gathered during the 1970s have been saved in a barn there and may be of use in the future mill, also two French-bur mill-stones that need rebuilding.

Jim Kricker, who worked on the original construction and has built and repaired a number of mills since then, said that the frame of the present building is not correct for a mill. Availability of grant money, especially from private foundations and the possible cooperation with organizations was discussed. It was agreed that the first step was to gather information and material relating to the mill site and to call a meeting of a committee to begin the preparatory work. Bob Eurick said that the town has a full time grant writer who will be available to the project.

From STONY HOLLOW October 8, 2001

Since this nice article by Bonnie Langston in the local newspaper I have received a number of calls from people with information on the Madden house and the Stony Hollow community. Of special interest are paintings of the house done in 1935 and 1945 by three women artists from the nearby village of Woodstock, Carolyn Saxe, Gladys Mitchell and Mary Early; a sketch by a young boy growing up in the house; and a painting by an old man of the Catskill Mountains, Hank Vedder, who lived off the Blue Mountain Road in Saugerties. Hank depicted the road, the house and the railway tracks as they are today but he also shows a small mill in the background that does not appear on historic maps nor in the memory of local people I have talked with.

An owner of one of the Woodstock paintings, Arlene Smith Sheeley, has collected photographs and information on the community over the years. As a child she lived for one year in the Madden house. Her grandmother, Bridget Doran Madden (1881-1969) came to the property in about 1914, a widow with four children and one on the way. A fire, caused by a steam engine, had destroyed a group of small dwellings further down the line where Bridget lived. So far, no date or record of the fire has been found but it is well remembered that Bridget was allowed to live in the house because of that event. Her husband James, a quarryman, had died the year before.

Arlene recalls the train station across the tracks from the Madden house. It was painted dark green, had a coal stove and benches. When she knew it the stop was no longer used and the door was locked so the tramps couldn't get in. Arlene has a deed for the property (Liber 449/334) indicating that in August 1914, the Ulster and Delaware Railroad acquired, "all that certain house situated in the Town of Kingston, Ulster County, NY, and lying on the northerly side of the Ulster and Delaware Plank Road." The description of the property is followed by, "Reserving the water privilege and (for) draining and drawing water from (the) mill pond as in a deed from Lockwood to Cusick 1845.

The deed from Lockwood might help date the construction of the Madden house. The reference to the mill pond explains the painting of it by the late Hank Vedder. In addition, an account by the late Robert Madden, Gertrude's grandson, of walking the land and hearing stories of it, plus his maps, fill in many details of life in Stony hollow in the 19th century. Robert's maps show the location of a spring where the family got water when their spring at the house dried up, and gives the location of the water-powered mill that ground corn that Hank remembered.

On a tip from a Beesmer I met at a yard sale in Bristol Hill one Saturday, I went and visited Raymond "Ray" Winne and his wife Joan who live down the line a mile or two from the Madden House, close to the rusted track and rotten ties, where the weeds hide the memories of the railroad's busier days. Ray grew up in Stony Hollow on a farm. It was a wild place at one time, Ray recalls hearing, with a murder every week. Gertrude, whom he remembers, was born in the Madden house in about 1914. She was quite a lady, raised pigs and chickens as did many of her neighbors. Some had a milk cow. Once, one of Gertrude Madden's pigs was killed by a passing train and she insisted the railroad compensate her.

The railroad refused the request so Gertrude butchered the pig, rendered the lard and applied it to the train track. This effectively stopped the train from getting up Bristol Hill to the next station in West Hurley. In order to continue, it is said, the Train Crew had to clean the tracks and wheels of the engine with gasoline. After two more stoppages The railroad compensated Gertrude.

John Stevens of Long Island, rail transportation advisor to HVVA, informed me that this effect might be possible if the train were standing still and so, I believe, this may account for why, in its later years, The Old Ulster and Delaware Railroad no longer stopped at Stony Hollow.

Peter Sinclair, Spillway Farm, West Hurley NY

The Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture Society
works to preserve and document a crumbling relic
of the region's more mundane history.
Used with permission of The Kingston Daily Freeman and published by them Sunday, September 9, 2001

Freeman staff

THE TOWN of Kingston, off Route 28 behind an old railroad track, sumac trees, overgrown grass and weeds, stands a small, long-abandoned crumbling wooden house dating to the middle of the 19th century.

Who would want it? The Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture Society. The society wants to restore the two-story building known as the Madden House and use it for a public museum to interpret local history. The plan is to dedicate it to. the memory of Harry Siemsen and his sister, Marie, who worked many years to collect and maintain songs and stories of the Catskills.

The HUDSON Valley Vernacular Architecture Society's purpose is to preserve traditional architecture and document its history, including material culture such as tools and other artifacts. To help move forward with these goals, the society last November obtained a provisional charter from the state board of regents to incorporate as a not-for-profit group.

But obtaining the Madden House, has been problematic. The property is owned by Ulster County, but it is on the right-of-way of the old Ulster & Delaware rail line, now owned by the Catskill Mountain Railroad. The society has contacted the Ulster County Legislature, the county treasurer and the Ulster County Railroad Advisory Board in hopes of an agreement. But, so far, to no avail.

PETER CAROFANO, director of the tourism and public information office in Ulster County, said the vernacular architecture group's proposal is "under consideration," but a variety of factors must be looked into including the safety of future patrons should the Catskill Mountain Railroad follow through on a proposed revitalization of the railroad that runs past the house.

Nevertheless, the preservation group is moving ahead with restoration and preservation, allowed through its provisional charter. It will also continue its attempt to either purchase or lease the property, the organization's president, Peter Sinclair, said.

MEMBERSHIP of 180 people is mostly derived from counties in the Hudson Valley, including Ulster, Dutchess, and Columbia. Many members also are form New Jersey, and some are from Florida and even Canada, Germany, the Netherlands.

In addition to work on the Madden House, other projects of the Vernacular Architecture Society include preservation and documentation of the Bogart barn in Marbletown and the Snyder Farm in Saugerties. The society has received state grants for both projects.

INTEREST in the old abandoned house off Route 28 preceded the birth of the society. Sinclair is a long time preservationist and like most of the society's seven founding members, also belongs to the Dutch Barn Preservation Society based in Albany. Several years ago when Sinclair published a magazine called "Living History," he became interest in the railroad which ran past the old house not far from his home in West Hurley.

It was the Madden House, and the more Sinclair investigated it, the more it piqued his imagination. He spent many hours trying to shore it up, first covering the roof with tarps to avoid further deterioration. His work started on a small addition to the home.

"All the walls had collapsed, and the building was falling on top it," he said. "The place for years had been pilfered, and there was about three feet of wet, soggy garbage of all kinds."

BUT SINCLAIR found the place worthy of restoration. To him and the society, it not only represents its own specific history but the history of which it was a part.

The building is located in a former quarrying area called Stony Hollow on road that once was the only passage from Kingston to West Hurley. Sinclair said the land and the surrounding area had been settled by the Esopus Indians until the Dutch lay claim to it in 1660. Much later, in 1879, a stone strike took place in the area then occupied by many poor immigrants from Ireland.

Regarding the house itself, it is believed to have been built before the railroad, and its last inhabitant was Walt Madden, who society member Richard Comerford of West Hurley said died about 20 years ago.

ACCORDING to folk lore, the house was once owned by the Ulster & Delaware Railroad, or one of its predecessors, and given as compensation to the owner of a home that was destroyed by sparks from a steam engine. Today the house is surrounded by state land and situated across from acreage owned by the Trolley Museum of New York in Kingston, according to Sinclair.

There is still much to be learned about the building, and members of he Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture Society are hoping the edifice itself will yield some secrets as restoration efforts continue.

"It's above-ground archeology. It relates to the written history, oral history," Sinclair said. "It's a way of explaining the whole culture of the area, because architecture, in a way, is like a regional language. It has structure."

ALTHOUGH the exterior of the building is covered with wooden "novelty" siding that allows for water runoff; a type typically used in the 1920s, a small addition to the structure on which Sinclair began his work in the late 1980s appears to be original.

"It's unpainted, thin hemlock, the cheapest wood you could get," he said.

The far wall has been rebuilt, almost entirely with bluestone that Sinclair retrieved from rubble.

In addition; the base of house has been stabilized with the rebuilding of stonework by Sinclair, Comerford and other society members. Much is yet to be accomplished to make the interior safe as well as restored.

AMONG the house's features are hand made bricks, a second story door leading out to a hill behind the house, a barn-like door on the same story. at the front left of the structure and an interior trap-door leading to the basement. What apparently was a summer kitchen at the back of the house collapsed in a heap of rubble that Sinclair discarded.

It is obvious that,the home does not match the splendor of historic places like Olana, the Persian-style Greene County home of Frederick Edwin Church, one of the most famous exponents of the 19th century Hudson River School of painters, nor Kingston's Senate House, which served as the meeting place for the state government during the Revolutionary War.

But members say that does not lessen the home's importance. It is a part of the history of the common man in this area, an area filled with history, they say, history that must be preserved.

"Most of the vernacular (structures) did not have a glamorous benefactor to allow the house to live on," said Alvin Sheffer, vice-president of the Vernacular architecture society and a resident of Linlithgo near Germantown in the town of Livingston. "There was nothing glamorous about it .... We can't document that George Washington ever slept here, went by or even noticed it."

Nevertheless members will keep up the fight to save the Madden House and to purchase or lease it. Or, if Ulster County wants to restore it that is fine with them, to, Sheffer said. They just do want the home to collapse into total ruin, in an era in which similar structures are meeting that end.

"I'm going to try to get more local support, keep pressing to get someone to, lease or sell it to us," Sinclair said. "We'd like to cooperate with people."

From the Editor:
Fifteen people attended the HVVA tour of barns and three 18th century houses in Rensselaer County, NY, organized by Shirley Light. Two of the houses were built for David and his son Philip DeFreest. They are both story-and-a-half with gambrel roofs. The walls appear to be built of solid red bricks laid up in a Flemish bond but this is only a thin layer supported by an interior wooden timber frame. This 18th century method of construction, as well as the plan of the houses and the design of their fireplaces, are clearly Dutch inspired and they are unique to the upper Hudson Valley (*).

The Philip DeFreeset house was restored in 1982, after a major fire and is now used as the headquarters for the 1,200 acre RPI Technology Center, known locally as the Rensselaer Tech Park. Michael Waxholder, the director and his assistant Keith showed us through the house and the two barns and gave us drawings and written background material about the site. The following is edited from that (**):

In about 1630, Killian Van Rensselaer was granted authority by the Dutch West India Company to develop Rensselaers Wick. This patroonship, initially granted for the west side of the Hudson River, expanded during the 1600's to include most of what is now Rensselaer and Albany Counties outside the City of Albany. Of the early Hudson Valley patroonships Rennselaers Wick was the most successful.

The patroonship was a quasi-feudal land development scheme. Settlers leased land for settlement and productive use from the patroon who retained ownership. In exchange for the lease the settler was obliged to pay the patroon an annual rent. Davis DeFreest and his three sons, Philip, Marten and Jacob, all became settlers of the Van Renssaelaer Patroon. All three sons raised huge families, were leaders in the community and became patriots in the Revolution. The hamlet of Defreestville, in the Town of North Greenbush, was named after them.

The anti-rent wars of the early 19th century expressed the anger of local farmers for their perpetual obligation to a wealthy landowner. In response to the anti-rent controversy, the New York State Legislature forced an end to lease holdings by 1850.

In about 1760 a two-room side entrance house was added to the original one-room DeFreest house and it became the back wing kitchen of the new brick clad house with its fireplaces on the end walls. It was a timber frame house faced with red brick and toped with a gambrel roof, a roof style perhaps borrowed from New England, and very popular in the 1760s on Dutch houses, especially in New Jersey and the north Hudson Valley. It was less common in the mid-Hudson Valley, Ulster County in particular, where a more conservative and less stylish tradition persisted.

The Philip DeFreest house went through several changes over the yeas. English Jambed fireplace replaced the Dutch hooded fireplaces, but access to the 10ft was by a ladder until 1880 when a local carpenter, Peter Van Acker, built a staircase.

A large six-bent two-level side ramp barn with a four-bay addition was looked at. It is a square rule frame of the of the mid 19th century but the large barn and its addition contain re used parts of an 18th century scribe-rule frame perhaps contemporary with the house. Enough parts of the original barn are left that it might be possible to gain a good understanding of its original form. A productive workshop would be to clear trees, stabilize the frames and do measured drawings.

There are a number of side ramp barns in Albany and Rensselaer Counties. Some Dutch barns like the Wemple barn were converted to side ramp usage but one 1774 example of a Dutch side-ramp barn in northern Columbia County, no longer standing, indicates the side-ramp plan had an early origin in the area.

The second house visited was the David DeFeest house nearby his son's. house and built perhaps slightly later. Chuck Fisher, the present owner lead an informative tour through the house. He is an archeologist at the State Museum with an interest and knowledge of local architecture. He also showed us his barn, a 1940 plank truss gambrel roof barn with a new metal roof. Like the barn at the last site this is a two-level side entrance ramp barn much to large for the hay Chuck needs for his sheep. It is a good space for lawn mowers and bicycles. He says his farmer neighbors are all jealous of him.

The last house visited was the Van Allen house built in 1793. It is a large two-story center-hall Federal house. It is the corporate headquarters of Hartgen Archeological Associates, a very active group that at times employs 60 to 75 people on projects. Karen Hartgen and the architectural consultant Walter Wheeler gave us a tour of the site. Despite its American Federal Style it retains many Dutch features in its hardware and doors.

Returning home a few of us dropped off at the 1720 Winne/Crebel house in Bethlehem, Albany County, to see its ongoing restoration. Brian Parker has a small electric kiln in which he has been re-firing the low-fired nogging brick used as infill, He has been using these bricks in the restoration of the cross casement window frame in the front wall and they match very well. The window frames are finished and he has ordered window glass from Germany to be made to match samples found at the site.

We last went to examine the house and barn a few miles north on route 9W that is for sale and threatened by destruction. It is a small, simple Federal center-hall house of about 1800 with many original features and a 4-bay square-rule Dutch barn in a state of collapse. It is of a type of Dutch barn that I do not know what to call. Like the Ubarn it is a design to increase hay storage in the last wide bay but unlike the U-barn its design allows the wagon to drive through. The mows of the last bay rest on longitudinal beams joined to the door posts. It is a rather rare form. (***) Anchorbeam tenons extend, the columns have two raising holes and the wagon doors have strap hinges. The rafters of the barn are pinned dating it before 1840 while the rafters of the 2-bay attached hay-mow butt, dating it later.

The winter season has begun with the first frost and the impending war gives each day an added chill. We plan to do some inside events this winter, talks, demonstrations, perhaps a show-and-tell at the Marbletown firehouse again, we are open for suggestions. The tarps have blown off the roof of the Madden house but Thomas Gran of Saugerties has loaned some pump jacks for scaffolding and roof repairs will begin soon. Steve Swift of Middelburgh has donated seven weathered window sashes and these are being restored.

237 copies of the newsletter were sent out last month in the initial mailing. 195 went to members, organizations and individuals, and 42 had blue renewal slips. The HVVA bank account has $185 to cover printing and mailing of this issue. Don't throw away those blue slips.

Peter Sinclair, Editor

(*) Dutch Architecture Near Albany. The Polgreen Photographs, by Shirley Dunn and Allison P. Bennett, Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1996.
(**) various project notes and drawing plus A Preliminary Description of the DeFreest Barn, by Robert Falk, RPI 1981.
(***) see drawings of the Pumpkin Hollow Farm Dutch barn (Col-Tag-3) in northern Columbia County, Page 4. Vol. 1, No.4, HVVA Newsletter, July 1999.

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