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HVVA Newsletters


Friday, November 21 went to see the raising of the frame of a 4-bay Dutch barn brought from the Schoharie Valley that was repaired and re-erected off Route 32 in the Saxton area of Saugerties, Ulster County, by Steve Swift and his framing crew from Middleburgh, Schoharie County (*). The architect for the project was Kieth Cramer from Schenectady, president of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society and active at the Mabee Farm Museum. The barn was registered as 4-Bay Schoharie Valley Dutch Barn _/Schlanger (Uls-Sau-39) The owner is Jordan Schlanger, His interest in these vanishing vernacular timber framed monuments and wanting to save one, has made it possible.

4-Bay Schoharie Valley Dutch Barn _/Schlanger (Uls-Sau-39)Moved from Carlisle, Schoharie Co., NY to Saxton, Saugerties, Ulster Co., NY.

It is a classic northern Dutch barn with a pine frame. Its massive, relatively finished beams with rounded extended-tenons and through-mortises above the wagon doors for pentice roofs are all features of the north. It is an early square-rule frame with the use of many level-marks. It probably dates to soon after 1810.

Saturday, November 22, with Dennis Tierney, Steve Miller, Alvin Sheffer, and Bob Eurick we visited a 4-bay Dutch barn in Hopewell Junction, East Fishkill, Putnam County, NY, the Van Wyck/McHouy 4-bay Dutch barn (Dut-EF-1). After Steve and I took measurements, Alvin reminded us. that drawings were made when we visited the barn 3-years ago (**). Our new measurements were similar and we did learn one new clever trick that the second carpenter used when he raised the roof of the original frame, probably in the early 19th century. The barn has a scribe-rule frame, I would think 1760-1780 would be a good broad guess. Originally the columns only extended 3-feet above the anchorbeams, a feature of early Dutch barns. When the carpenter extended the upper column to the present 9-feet, he reused the original rafters and purlins. For the new purlin braces he reused the original mortises by creating long crossed braces.

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The barn contains the core of a well-preserved 18th century scribe-rule Dutch barn. Its last use, at least fifty-years ago, was for a dairy herd that was stalled in both aisles facing the threshing floor. The remaining stanchions are made of wood planks with round-bar hardware. The original longitudinal struts on the cow side were removed when the wood plank stanchions were installed.

The barn is in remarkably good condition but there is a water problem on the back foundation where the soil has built up and the sill is now below ground level. This could easily be corrected.

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We next went to see Tyler Gagnon at his glass shop on Route 9 and went with him to see two early wood frame houses he owns and is restoring in Garison, Putnam County, NY, in the Lower Hudson Valley. We also visited the Dutch barn on the Highland Country Club golf course that he maintains. Tyler's house, is known as the Galloway House, (also as the Arden House or Red Cottage). It is located on a rise of land about 400-feet from the Dutch barn on the golf course. From the years of work he has done to the house, Tyler believes the first one-room section was built by the Dutch in the early 18th century and the larger addition in the later 18th century by the English. There seems to be evidence for this.

In 1934 the Galloway Farmhouse was documented by the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) and two photographs, 7 measured drawings and a two page description were done that are now available on the HABS internet site. You will see that it is only one of two buildings documented in Putnam County.

This documentation is important in interpreting the Galloway house but it also reflects the limited knowledge of Hudson Valley vernacular architecture at that time. The report says that,

"The site was selected as one of the projects of the recent survey because it is typical in its architectural features of the small farmhouse of 150 years ago. Its exact date is indeterminable. A search - for possible references to it in descriptions in the early deeds to the land would probably yield no certain information. Internal evidence, however, seems to place its date at the end of the eighteenth or beginning of the nineteenth century." written April, 1934, by Thomas W. Stotchkiss.

The fireplace in the Dutch section is misinterpreted in the report saying it was removed for a modern stove. Much of this fireplace eVidence collapsed and was lost soon after Tyler acquired the house but an interior photograph he took indicates a large hood beam rested on the bake oven that suggests a unique kind of Dutch hooded fireplace. From the evidence Tyler encountered during the restoration he believes there was originally a trap door and a ladder to the loft on the right side of the fireplace He has some 19th century exterior photographs that are also informative.

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In the English addition there are two fireplaces on the first floor and one in the loft. The fireplace support and the use of a summer-beam in the cellar indicates the addition is two thirds of a New England center chimney house.

We also examined a small one-room, 1 1/2-storyframe house that Tyler owns nearby in Garison. It has a unique plan with an exterior door to the loft. Its ,molding and hardware and the fireplace paneling could date to 1760, Bob Eurich thought. The fireplace is English style with angled jambs but the house frame and room proportions are Dutch. In both the original Galloway House and the Red Cottage the fireplace hearths rests on the ground and the cellar is only under part of the frame above.

(*) see HVV A Newsletter, May 2002, Vol 5, No 5
(**) see HVV A Newsletter, Aug 2000, Vol 2, No 4, page 4

Thoughts on a Trip to Europe,
October 19-30, 2003
to Attend the ICOMOS-ClA V Conference at Amersfoort, The Netherlands
by John R. Stevens

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PART ONE: Holland
With the guidance of restoration architect, Jaap Schipper, Peter Sinclair and I examined timber-framed buildings at Zaanse Schans, a created village made up of structures moved from other sites in an effort to preserve them. This was the same idea as Old Bethpage Village Restoration in Nassau County on Long Island, where buildings that would otherwise would have been sacrificed to 'development' were relocated to a kind of sanctuary. The big difference between Zaanse Schans and O.B.P.V.R. is that the former mixes residential use with museums and commercial use, all with great success.

Most of the buildings at Saanse Schanse are houses, there are also commercial buildings - shops and warehouses and windmills - from small drainage mills to large ones - a 'paltrok' saw mill; a paint mill; and an oil mill. When I was at the site in 2000, the sawmill was in operation; this year it was the paint mill.

Buildings were constructed with timber frames, partly because of its ready availability and also because the high water-table made brick buildings excessively heavy for the soil conditions. Zaanse Schans is on the bank of the river Zaan, and this area called the Zaanstreek, in the 17th century, was the center of the timber trade in The Netherlands. Specially built ships brought timber from the Baltic and northern Germany. Numerous wind-powered sawmills reduced the logs to squared timbers, planks and boards. It was also a center for ship building.

Many, but not all the houses at Zaanse Schans are built with H-bents. Nearly all have knee walls. Anchorbeam braces tend to be more elaborately profiled than American examples where all surviving examples are of the simpler curved sofit variety - which are found in the Old World too. Many houses have facade walls of vertical boarding in combination with side walls of horizontal weatherboarding. Some have lower facades of brick (like the Pieter Winne house). The upper facades usually has a slight overhang over the lower part of the wall. Verge boards are usually decoratively shaped with an elaborately turned finial topping the facade.

A second day with Jaap Schipper took us back to the Zaanstreek and the village of Zaandijk, to the office of Mr. F. J. Wytema in a very elegant French style building of the 1860s that he had restored in the 1960s. Mr. Wytema had been with a 'pop' band that played in Huntington, Long Island. He is now an obviously very successful lawyer and his hobby is the restoration of timber-framed buildings and pianos.

We saw several of his properties undergoing restoration. Most pertinent to us was a moderate-sized, gable-fronted house dated 1626 that had much in common with New York Dutch timber-framed houses. It had the familiar curved-soffit anchorbeam braces, internal proportions and ceiling height were similar to what we are used to. It was a two-aisled house with a lean-to on one side being the second aisle. The anchorbeam tenons protruded into this space, that was wide enough for box beds. Two of the oldest surviving Dutch American houses - The Pieter Bronck and Jan Martense Schenck houses - were originally built with a side aisle. The frame is all of a species of hard pine; the exposed parts of the framing are smoothly planed, as are the underside of the second floor boards.

What is different from American usage, and this applies to all other examples seen, was the lack of a massive hood beam and trimmers for the support of a brick smoke hood. The trimmers that carry the hood seemed undersized to our eyes and in no instance was the hood carried directly on an anchorbeam. Also all roofs seen have fairly widely spaced rafters carrying widely spaced purlins to which tightly-joined vertical roof boarding is nailed. 2-inch square battens are nailed on this boarding, on which the pantiles are hung.

It should also be noted that these weather boarded buildings did not have wall infilling of any kind, partly because of the weight of this material. The inside of the weatherboards was exposed in the living spaces, except in some instances where a lining of vertical boards was installed. Partitions were of oak wainscoting on a light frame. Doors were of 1/2-inch thick oak - all beautifully made.

In another of Mr. Wytema's restorations - a building dating to the 1680s that was for many years a slaughterhouse - several interesting features were observed. It had been built as a house/barn- combination with the barn part being a 'stolp', a square pyramidal roof structure reminiscent of a hay barrack. The building was re-roofed in the 1780s, and the structure of that roof remains practically unaltered. The tight jointed boarding is in excellent condition that seemed surprising (to us) considering the possibility of leakage through the joints between the pan tiles, causing rot in the boarding.

Also seen in this building was a large area of circa 1680 weatherboarding that had survived because what had been an exterior wall became an interior one through an addition to the building. This weatherboarding was applied to notched posts/studs, a common practice in The Netherlands but seen in America - in a Dutch context - only in the circa 1730 Roslyn Grist Mill on Long Island The weatherboards are joined end to end with long beveled joints that fall between the posts and studs. The joints are secured with one or two rows of vertical nails, driven from the outside and their points clinched on the interior side. There were a number of these joints offset (staggered) from one another. Clapboards as were used in New England were applied with beveled joints but in this case the joints were arranged to be on a stud with a single nail securing both pieces.

The last place visited on the second day was the 'Czaar Pieter' house in the town of Zaandam. This simple two-room wooden house was built in about 1630 and became famous because in 1697, 'Peter The Great' of Russia spent several nights in it as a guest of the owner, Gerrit Kist. Peter was in Zaandam to learn the rudiments of the shipwright's trade. He was at the house again in 1698 to visit his friend Kist, and finally in 1717, by which time he was Emperor of the Russians.

In 1818 King William I of The Netherlands bought the house and presented it to the Grand Duchess Anna Pavlova of Russia who had married the Crown Prince of The Netherlands in 1816. In 1825, a flood devastated Zaandam, and the house was damaged. It is still kept in the distorted condition resulting from the flood. In 1879, the house and the land it stands on was given to the Russian Emperor and the first of two elaborate structures were built over the house to protects and enshrine it. The house was also strengthened by having a curious framework attached to it. The present building, built in 1895, is a fantastic piece of work in its own right. The grounds are surrounded by a stone wall with an elaborate iron gate.

Although its floor and fireplace are missing, the house is largely as Peter the Great knew it in 1697 and as such it is an excellent document as to what a wooden house of the 17th century was like. One obvious change is that the lower facade was altered into a shop front in the early 19th century, The original fixed leaded glazing of the transom and window survives along with door and window frames, weatherboarding, interior partitions, exterior and interior doors, bed-box and jambless fireplace mantle. The weatherboarding is partly exposed in the room with the fireplace.

Otherwise it is covered with vertical wainscoting. Over the last 200-years, visitors have scratched their names on every surface they could get at, including the window glass.

Recently, the Russian Government has given the land back to The Netherlands, and the site is now under the management of ZaanseSchans.
End of PART 1; Holland
PART 2; Germany (continued in next issue)

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Letter to John Stevens from J. Schipper, Architekt B.N.A.

December 8, 2003

Dear John,
With much pleasure I look back on our meeting in the Zaan region and our final dinner in Amsterdam. It was a pity that the time was so short to show you more about constructions and interiors of houses at the Zaanse Schans and to visit some of the small towns on the border of the former Zuiderzee, like Hoorn or Edam, where the small brick houses with stepgables are comparable with the Dutch brick houses of the 17th century in Nieuw Nederland.

We do hope that more members of the DBPS (Dutch Barn Preservation Society) and HVVA will visit the Zaanse Schans next year. But please, after announcing their visit some weeks before.

We have talked about collaboration between American and Dutch researchers about the history of the Dutch buildings in America. It is nice that Frans Wytema, whom you have met, surely will visit America next year and also the Hudson Valley. You are aquainted with Hubert de Leeuw from Belgium and now a DBPS board member. He can be a good ambassador between the two regions, because he pays visits regularly to America and Holland as well. JS

Tuesday, November 25 Chris Albright E-mailed me a 1934 photograph of a thatched barn he had found on the HABS site. It was located in Park Ridge, Bergen County, NJ, and was identified as a Nortendyke Barn, but Alvin Sheffer believes it was probably a Wortendyke. Some time afterwards I drove up to Chris's farm in New Scotland, Albany County, to document the plate of a 5-sided hay barrack he had found in Guelderland and to look at a neighbor's house that has a Dutch frame and evidence of a jambless fireplace.

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The Bergen County barn photograph of 1934 is filled with evidence of interesting constructions and changes and reminds us that straw thatch was once common on rural buildings in the Hudson Valley. From this and other photographs of thatched barns and barracks, it seems they have a distinct layered look with short thin courses of straw, very like that seen in photographs of Pennsylvania thatched barns.

In addition to being the first fragment of a 5-sided hay barrack, this is the first plate that I have seen where the mortise-holes for minor-rafters are not drilled but are cut rectangular 2x3-inches. On most of the plate fragments for four-sided barracks that have been identified there are seven rafters to a side. The Guelderland plate has five. When measuring the angles of the five rafter mortises from the end of the plate, they all measured near 40-degrees, giving us the pitch of the roof. When measured from the front the four minor-rafters all angle toward the center major-rafter but show no consistency in their angles. There is no evidence of the use of iron hangers.

From the Editor: HVVA has added another booklet to its for sale list (see page 7). It is Historic American Timber Joinery: A Graphic Guide, by Jack Sobon, 54 pages of text photographs and drawings published by the Timber Framers Guild in 2002. We are offering it at $14, including postage. It is a compilation of six articles that appeared in the The Guild's quarterly journal, Timber Framing, The book is based on Sobon's wide experience both with American and European methods of joining timbers. Its easily understood perspective drawings could be helpful for someone interested in building a timber frame and it is essential in the detailed study of American regional style and ethnicity. The book includes a one-page Index to Joints and Useful Terms and a short bibliography. We also have copies of the Dutch Barn Calendar 2004. with photographs by Geoffrey Gross.

Brian Parker from Albany County called my attention to an article, Getting to the Core of History, in the newspaper, Newsday, for November 28, 2003. It concerns an English dendro lab from Oxford that has been hired by Richard Barons, director of the Southhampton Historical Museum to date seven early houses on the north shore. They have already taken cores of timbers in all the houses and will have dates in about 6-months. One of these, the Halsey House in South hampton, is thought by some to be the oldest on Long Island. There are several claims. The Oxford lab will be using New England data-bases because of the similarity of climate and the belief that some of the timbers may have come from there. In its 20-years the article says, The Oxford Dendro Lab has dated more than 600 structures in England, The Tower of London, from the 11th century was the earliest building dated. In New England they have dated 60 buildings.

The Newsday article by Bill Bleyer says, "There are several American firms and universities, including Columbia, that engage in Dendrochronology. But Richard Barons says, '...they (the Oxford Lab) are the creme de la creme of dendrochronologist. They bring this incredible knowledge... They understand the construction because they're architectural historians.'"

The Oxford Lab web site is informative and lists the dates for six New England houses they have dendro dated. They specialize in historic structures while many other labs focus on the history of weather patterns and the ecological uses of the science.

Scribe-, Square- and Mill Rule

I received a letter from Sally Light of Austerlitz, in northwest Columbia County, NY, who questions my 1810 date for the adoption of square-rule in timber frame construction. "It was utilized in varying years in different areas." She writes, "In this part of the world, I have found that the cutoff date is more 1840 when sawmills became a dime a dozen. This has been correlated to known dates of house construction, which is where I've internalized 1840 as a rule of thumb. I've also checked it with other architectural historians who agree that it was not necessarily 1810 all over."

Sally is correct, we are shooting in the near dark about dates for the beginning of square rule yet it remains an important feature in the study of timber frames. It was certainly introduced at different times in different places. I have heard that in some parts of Pennsylvania, scribe-rule continued in use into the late 19th century. Bob Hedges of Pine Plains, in western Dutchess County, found a local document dated 1815 in which the carpenter,

"...Eligah B. Northrop was deemed a skilled carpenter. He worked by the 'Square Rule' as it was called, that is, made each piece in the frame...without 'Scribing' as had been heatherto done."

Northrop doesn't sound very Dutch to me and I wonder if the idea didn't come into our Dutch territory from New England. The change from scribe- to square-rule was a labor saving revolution for. the timber frame carpenter. It was claimed by one 19th century New England carpenter to have been his personal invention but it may have been the result of many carpenter looking for ways to save time.

The determination of whether a frame is scribe- or square-rule is usually made by three things; 1. the presence or absence of marriage-marks, 2. the types of shoulders used and 3. the diminishing of timbers to fit predetermined mortises. Square rule was a method of standardizing parts and joining rough hewn timbers using measurements of internal surfaces. Mill-rule is a later system that was the result of saw mills. It uses external sawn surfaces for measurements. Mill rule is after 1840. Square Rule continued to be used as long as the timbers were rough-hewn.

Peter Sinclair, Editor

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