HVVA NEWSLETTER, October/November 2003

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HVVA Newsletters


Sunday, September 14, in the afternoon, with Tom Colluci and Dennis Tierney, we visited four sites in southern Ulster County arranged by Tom. These were a circa 1850 vertical plank house in Gardiner, and Dutch barns in New Paltz, and Plattakill (Clintondale). Also an English barn with a Dutch aisle barn frame.

The _/Mitchell plank house (Uls-Gar-9)-at 321 Burnt Meadow Rd. The house is being renovated revealing many construction features that are normally hidden. I dated this 2-story house circa 1850 because of cut nails, hewn timbers, vertical saw marks and the two chimney bases at either end of the house, but I am not familiar with vertical plank construction. Much of the original construction is missing and covered but from what we could see there never were any posts or braces. The external 2-inch planks, many 12-inches wide, run the full height of the walls and serve as the building's structure along with the horizontal timbers, the sills, girts and plates, to which they are nailed.

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I suspect that the horizontal timbers are of one piece, cut and hewn on the site, and the planks. boards and joists brought from a local saw mill. How the building was erected is a question. Was the floor constructed first and the four walls assembled on it? The horizontal timbers are joined with mortise and tenon at the corners and beams are lapped into them. Carrier beams are used to support the short joists of the second floor.

The walls of the first floor are covered on the inside with 1" boards nailed to the outside planks. These serve to insulate and strengthen the walls. Over this was applied lath and plaster and the outside with weather board.

One unusual feature of the house is the massive stone work of the cellar walls, 3 and 4-foot irregular cut stone, much of it a Shawangunk conglomerate that was once mined for mill stones. Perhaps these foundation stones are related to that industry. How these heavy stones were laid is another question.

We next visited The DuBois_/Dressel Dutch Barn (Uls-NP-14) on route 208. This large 4-bay Dutch barn with a 4-bay extension has the remains of a 1-bay rectangular partial pit silo that was constructed with infill walls in the side aisle. This is probably an early example of the silo in America and probably dates to soon after its introduction from Europe in 1875 according to Allen Noble in his history of the use of "ensilage" in his Volume 2, Barns and Farm Structures, Wood, Brick and Stone, Univ. of Mass, 1984.

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There are two bays of enclosed stalls for work horses on one side and a single stall for a stallion in part of a bay next to the silo. Of specially interesting in the barn are two 18'3" long "5 x 6" barrack plates with rafter holes on 24" centers. They are used as mow poles. These are among the only complete barrack plates known. In this case the corners were joined with a long extended tenon and the major rafter seems to have been set in a gain rather than a mortise. They need to be better examined and documented.

The Dressel farm is an orchard and small fruit farm. The loft of the barn was filled with bales of straw used for mulching berries, The barn frame is square rule dating it to after 1810. Like the other two barns visited, there is no evidence of wooden hinged wagon doors. The wooden hinged wagon door seems to be a feature that is commonly found to the north of the Wallkill Valley and its absence extends south into New Jersey. There are double braces on some beams.

We next visited The _/Hurd 3 -bay English Barn with Dutch Aisle frame (Uls-Mod-1). This 3 bay side entrance barn has an English plan that had hay storage in one bay and probably animal stall on the other side with a drive through threshing floor between. The square-rule frame is that of a Dutch aisle barn with proportions to suit its English plan. It probably dates about 1850.

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We next visited The _/Hurd 3-bay basement Dutch barn (Uls-Pla-5). This small barn was probably moved to its present location to create a basement. It has a scribe-rule frame dating it before 1810. It has wagon doors at one end and to the side. Its back bay was used for hay storage. It is part of a complex that serves a large apple orchard. Phil Hurd, its owner, told us that fruit became the principal crop in the area after 1900 and that by 1920 it was one of the worlds largest producers of small fruits than included grapes, cherries, blueberries and currents. This type of orchard barn complex of interconnected buildings that includes cold storage, is typical of the large orchards in this southern Ulster County fruit and orchard area, They often incorporate earlier buildings. A number of Dutch barns are yet to be discovered there.

These barns bring the total of Dutch barns registered by HVVA in Ulster County to 90,81 extant plus 9 Dutch barns no longer standing.

Saturday, October 4 Despite a dismal, cold and wet day about 150 people attended the HVVA Dutch Barn Conference in Paul Spencer's Dutch barn in Anchromdale, Columbia County. HVVA gained seven new members and took in more than $650 in gifts, membership fees and sales of newsletters and publications. The day began with talks by Greg Huber and Jack Sobon about the New World Dutch barn and Ev Rau demonstrated and talked about the harvest of rye and its history.

In the afternoon Paul moderated a 13 member panel of "experts" that discussed many of the social and structural features of the New World Dutch barn and the historic changes in its timber framing. The discussion included input from some well known barn people in the audience like Willis Barshide, Richard Babcock and Bob Andersen. It was a rare collection of people with strong interest in the subject and included a large slice of those who have been active in the study and preservation of barns and vernacular architecture for many years. People came from many regions of the Dutch barn in New York and New Jersey but New England and Pennsylvania were also represented.

Saturday, October 18 About 40 people attended the first session of talks covering a number of topics. The 6th Annual New York State Conference on Saving barns was held at Riverhead, Long Island and sponsored by the NYS Barn Coalition in cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension Excellent presentations were given on the history and present situation of some specialized barns relating to the growing of hop vines and a plant called teasel used in processing wool.

Professor John Michael Vlach of George Washington University, spoke about American regional barn types using HABS (Historic American Building Survey) photographs and drawings. Vlach recently edited a 400-page book titled BARNS: Library of Congress Visual Sourcebooks in Architecture, Design and Engineering for the Smithsonian Institute, using a selection of drawings and photographs from the large collection of documentation that has been gathered since the 1930s. It is a good comprehensive overview of American barns and is available from the mail-order firm "Hamilton" for $50 as I recall.

Saturday, September 27 I went to see a barn in Saugerties on Route 212. The barn is owned by Latitia Smith and I registered the site as: Wolven/Smith (Uls-Sau-38) 3-bay basement side entrance barn circa 1850.

I took no measurements but sketched an internal bent. Four H-bents with a center post on the anchorbeam were raised and connected with plates to form the west side of the barn with the basement for animals. I am not sure if the posts continue into the basement or if it is a platform frame. The posts in the east wall frame extent the full height of the barn. This back frame was raised and joined to the previous frame. There are transverse raising holes in the H-bent posts but none in the back wall frame. Two queen (purlin) posts at each bent were added to form the roof structure, The result was a barn with an open bay on the back side leading to the basement anima! stalls with the main floor above used for hay storage. Much of it floored with mow poles. This is very like the traditional Pennsylvania German fore bay barn plan but I believe it is primarily a logical and local development. The yard behind the barn, flanked by two small outbuildings, faces south east.

The frame is clearly derived from local "Dutch" framing traditions. The pole rafter are of one piece on either side like the Dutch aisle barn but like many 19ih century barn frames, the design is very individual rather than conventional.19th century barns like this are often interesting because of their unique solutions.


The Rural House: from the migration period to the oldest still standing buildings is a 362 page report of 38 articles by European scholars, with text, drawings and photographs, many in English it is the result of the fourth Ruralia Conference on medieval rural archaeology held in Lower Saxony, Germany, in September 2001. According to W. Haio Zimmerman, who sent me a review copy, it was a conference that brought together 63 above and below ground archaeologists of Europe to present papers and discuss the topic. Zimmerman wrote, "The discussion after words had the effect that the two hitherto separated groups grew to one."

One difficulty in communication were the separate vocabularies and Zimmerman is working on a European glossary, and would welcome New World input. It will officially begin in 2004.

Of particular interest in the report to students of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture, who are often debating the Germanic, Flemish, etc. influence in what we have come to call "Dutch houses" and "Dutch barns," are the half-a-dozen articles on the development of the German and Dutch rural house (hallenhause), a building that sheltered man and his animals.

Dietrich Maschmeyer of VVestfalia, Germany, has an illustrated eleven page article in English entitled, "The Development of the Northwest German Hall Houses (Halienhause) and the oldest layers of the inventory. It is in English and contains interesting information that is pertinent to our own situation here in the Hudson Valley.

"In northern Germany, there are only a few institutions doing systematic house research. Much work is done mainly by - more or less - amateurs. Therefore, the status of inventory depends on the presence of researchers in the respective regions and is thus regionally quite different. Nevertheless, research must urgently be intensified because just at this moment, when we can safely date most of them, the old houses are torn down at an increasing rate."

Here in the Mid-Hudson Valley there are no institutions doing systematic house or barn research. We also have the ability to date buildings by the use of dendrochronology, and it has been used in New England and Virginia, from what I have read, but it is almost unavailable in the Hudson Valley. Its use in architectural studies here is recent, it is motivated by money and its results are unavailable to the interested public. Marschmeyer continues,

"Since the 70s, dendrochronology enabled researchers to date building precisely. This led to essential corrections in our picture when we learned that there were many more buildings from the late middle ages existing than was supposed before. This stimulated an intensive search for older buildings leading to very interesting results."

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One of the results I found interesting was Marschmeyers speculation on the "recent" origin of the anchorbeam (ancherbalk) as opposed to the roof beam (dekbalk) in northern Europe, American Dutch framing, beginning in the early 17th century, is entirely based on the anchorbeam. Its use was introduced into northern Germany and Holland in the 16th century. Maschmeyer writes, "... the anchorbeam in the greatest part of the 'Hallenhause' region was quite late taken over from Flanders, France and the Rhine area." and he uses the example below to illustrate the change.

(HVVA Newsletter Vol. 5, No.8, page 2.) Don McTernan published his research about the hay barrack in the Pioneer America Quarterly in 1975. His unpublished masters thesis was a history of the Esopus-Minnisink Trail with an examination of the Old Mine Road tradition, Cooperstown, 1969.

From the Editor: John Stevens and I have just returned from a four-day international conference called Year of the Farm 2003 (Yaar van de Boerderij) and held in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. It was preceded by a two-day tour of the Zaanse Schans Open-Air Museum with one of its founders, Japp Schipper of Amsterdam and thc site's present team. We also visited some private restorations and a working windmill. The farm conference attracted more than 50 participants from Russia, Italy, and all parts of Europe as well as Japan and Indonesia. It included a one-day tour of West Friesland in the north of Holland, and we followed the conference with a three day stay with our old friends Hans-Georg and Karen Gross in Breitenheim and a tour of their region of northern Germany, near Meissenheim. I had gone to Europe with a specific interest in learning more about thc origins of Hudson Valley hay barracks and farm tools and how animals were stalled in the barns two or three centuries ago.

The European roots of the New World Dutch culture were severed after the English take over in 1664. European and American traditions underwent separate developments, the New World Dutch gradually exchanging style and structure with New England. Yet despite this American-European distance of time and space many traditions persisted in both places well into the 19th century and a few survive into this one, but reconstructing the early architecture and material culture of both places is based on scarce and sometimes hidden evidence. "What is well known is seldom, taught" Frances Wolven of Saugerties, New York told me and so it is that many important common things are forgotten.

When a farmer sharpened the blade of his scythe it is clearly to cut the hay or grain more easily but when he changes the shape of the handle and the blade is it to improve the look and make it more efficient, is it to give it style or is it the result of some outside force? We talked with a farm woman in Rehborn, Germany, who knew from experience how the scythe was used to harvest grain and how the sickle was used to pick up the cut grain. She did not know of the sith and mathook and one of Karen's books on German tools said that they were only used in Germany to harvest heather, a poor man's fodder.

In the same village we met the miller who will be the last generation to operate the water powered grist mill there, a marvel of modern technology and adaptation. Much of the timber framing is late 18th century when his family began it. He buys only the best local grain and grinds half-a-dozen grades of flour but his small bakery customers are going out of business, and he expects to go with them.

My question about hay barrack hardware was answered in Holland with two drawings in the SHBO collection that Maricke Leevennk found for me, He said that the hay barrack in Holland had been less well studied than the barn. He suggested I look at the web site <hooibergen.nl> (Note: I could not get the address to work, ajb, webmaster) I did and it was very educational with many photographs and drawings and some English. I did not find the American rafter system, but if made me aware that the subject, a pole building with a movable roof, exists in many places, many forms and on many levels from the fancy 5-pole Dutch barrack illustrated with wagon doors and a wooden floor to the simple 4-pole kapberg illustrated. Here the plates are joined at the corners with a lap joint.

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On our tour of Friesland we were told that some people believe the stolp, a distinct pyramid shaped barn type of this northern province of Holland, may have originated from the barrack. We visited a stolp museum with a 17th century frame and later a stolp built in 1850. There was virtually no difference in the framing and I am sure the arrangement of space was similar. In the stolp museum I learned that the stolp was the most economical use of materials in inclosing the largest space. I described the horse yoke that Willis Barshied had called to our attention and the interpreter immediately recognized it as predating the collar. They had an early horse collar in their collection but no yoke. They had a sith with a simple arm rest and a mathook with a slot in the handle.

Four-pole barracks are frequently seen with the stolp in Friesland. They have modern metal poles and cable roof raising systems. They also have a three pole barrack with a six sided roof that is popular. We did not see any thatched hooibergen (hay barracks) as I recall.

We visited a traditional farm in Holland with a three-aisle anchorbeam barn very similar to the American counterpart but in this case attached to a house with unused wall beds. The Dutch wall bed is short and forces one to sleep sitting up. Some Hollanders believed that people who sleep lying down were in danger of going mad because too much blood went to the head.

This had been a large dairy farm with 40 cows. An additional 3-aisle barn had been built to the side to accommodate the large herd. Cows were stalled in both aisles facing in and tethered to vertical straps with a system unfamiliar to me that was more taught than the chain and ring on a vertical stake that I had expected. The farmer on this farm was forced to retire at 65 because of a lease he had signed with the land owner.

We also visited a model 21" century industrial dairy farm with 200 cows that manufactures and sells equipment. Here we saw fixed metal stantions in the feeding room. The cows are not pastured. There was no tethering in the computerized milking parlor.

At one of the presentation sessions in Amerfooft, I showed the photograph and drawing of the horse manger in the Deerts Dutch barn (see Newsletter No. 5, No. 9) but no one seemed to recognize its European roots. Later in Germany I found a 16th (?) century German woodcut that seems to illustrate it and in a 17th century barn in Meisenheim we found a horse stall with stone troughs and overhead hay rack. Is our horse manger German?

Karen Gross has been assisting groups of students who are measuring and dendro dating the 15th century church and some of the early building in Meisenheim that she has found and gained access to. The students have begun making scale models of their timber frame roof systems. The liegender stule (Leaning chair) was in use by the late 15th century in Meisenheim . We could not find the name of its counterpart in Holland that we found on a number of Dutch buildings, especially in Amsterdam. They know the names of the parts but evidently not the whole thing, so we have been calling it the"Dutch Truss". There are only about 3 or 4 examples known in the New World of the Dutch truss but many leigender stuhls in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Dressel, the farmer with the only two complete barrack plates in the Hudson Valley has just given them to HVVA and Tom Coluei brought them to the Elmendorf house in Red Hook for the annual meeting of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society. (DBPS). I will store them in my barn with other artifacts until a site can be found. Thanks to Tom Colnci and Mr. Dressel.

About 25 people attended the annual DBPS meeting and lunch and it was followed by a tour of Larry Thetford's Dutch barn and tool collection and a visit to the house and Dutch barn at the Palatine Farmstead that is in its early stages of restoration. We discussed and compared other Dutch barns in the Red Hook-Rhinebeck area.

Peter Sinclair, Editor

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