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HVVA Newsletters


Saturday, September 10, 2004
Ten people met at the Wemp Dutch barn museum in Fuera Bush, Albany County, NY, to tour two barns that Everett Rau had organized for the Dutch Barn Preservation Society. The tour ended at the Mabee Farm Museum in Rotterdam Junction, Schenectady County, for an afternoon box lunch and a talk about what we had seen that day and to discuss the October 2nd Dutch Barn Conference.

The first complex of barns we visited is located on the Helderberg Trail in West Bern, Albany County, an area associated with the beginnings of the Down Rent War of the 1840’s.

Ken Malcolm has owned this farm for 26 years. He rents out the fields and has maintained a large collection of its farm buildings in wonderful condition. We only had time to inspect the 6-bay 3-aisle Dutch barn built between 1790 and 1810. A 3-bay single-aisle side-entrance barn was added soon after in an interesting way. The Dutch barn incorporates a modification found in other northern barns. It is a type of New World Dutch barn without a name, one of the various modifications of the true form that accommodates increased hay storage, in this case, by reducing the 25-foot wide center aisle to 12-feet in a 20-foot long end bay. The addition is essentially an English barn with its side attached to the end of the Dutch barn. We found no marriage marks but the joining of the Dutch barn shows scribe-rule features.

Original 1-inch weatherboard siding was preserved on the Dutch Barn when the addition was made. We could see from what remained that the wide siding, up to 20-inches wide, was applied at the bottom and the narrow siding, under 10-inches, applied above the wagon doors to the peak. The martin holes were round. The weatherboards were fastened with cut nails. These were not carefully examined and might help date the construction of the barn. The tenons of the anchor beams are not extended through the columns and wedged. The Dutch call this type of beam “Studebaker” rather than “ankerbalk”. In New World Dutch barns it is a later stage in the development of its H-Frame.


The second barn visited was located nearby in Duanesburg, Schoharie County on the Little family farm. It is a 5-bay side-entrance barn with a 2-bay extension. The original barn has a five sided ridge beam that is joined and braced to the rafters, a rare occurrence (*.). The frame of the original 5-bay barn is square-rule circa 1810-1820. It is a Dutch frame. It has raising holes and H-bents, but its roof structure is unique, complex and interesting. Much of the original interior roof framing was removed, probably in the late 19th century, to accommodate a hay track, leaving intriguing empty mortises in the ridge beam, anchor beams and rafters of the original barn. The sequence in which the timbers for the framing of this roof were put together is a puzzle that some carpenter may eventually unravel.

The 2-bay extension has a common rafter system that supports a ridge beam for the hay track. The beam is not a structural member of this later frame but is supported by the rafters.

At first there were a number of guesses made to explain the missing parts in the original frame, these ranged from collar ties to queen posts, but the clue lay in the complete end bent, with a king post and struts, used to support the rafters (bent type A). The beam, in the bent to the right of the door (bent type B) is without a lower center support and seems to function like a swingbeam, allowing a two-bay area of threshing floor for a wagon to turn around, or for the use of a horse powered devise. This bent has a king post truss in which the post is under tension, rather than compression, as in the other bents. The post, now missing, was held in the anchor beam with a long tenon and three pins.

The fact that the barn frame and its rafters have survived more than 100-years of heavy use with no serious distortion, despite the removal of internal king posts and struts, indicates that the barn was originally way-over-built. The only explanation for its complex design seems to be that the barn is the result of a timber frame carpenter’s love for his trade and a farmer’s willingness to pay for it.

(*.) The origin and distribution of the five-sided ridge beam, that is joined and braced to the rafters, are not known. I first saw it in the frame of a water powered sash mill in Palenville, Green County, from which Jim Kricker and his crew removed the saw mill parts. In this one-story mill the ridge beam, its rafters and their bracing seemed to function as part of the machine, giving the moving parts of the mill stability. I later saw it in an outbuilding in association with a mill in southern Ulster County.

Bent Type and Center Section. Little Family 5-Bay Side-Entrance Barn, circa 1810-1820. Duanesburg, Schohaire County, NY

In East Fishkill, Dutchess County, there is a 3-aisle Dutch barn with a 5-sided ridge beam. Like the Duanesburg, example, it is a barn that mixes sophisticated framing in non traditional ways. The East Fishkill barn uses a truncated king post truss on a pair of lowered anchor beams (tussenbalken).to increase hay storage. See HVVA Newsletter August 2000, for the East Fishkill barn.

Saturday, September 18
Six members of HVVA met at the Plume House on Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey, to visit 9 stone houses in the Passaic River Valley, Essex County, that Carla Cielo had organized. These houses are very likely the last of the 18th century vernacular houses that survive in this urbanized area of the Hudson Valley, Some of the houses were examined only from their exterior others were examined inside, checking basements and lofts, viewing paneling and moldings.

Douglas Eldridge, Executive Director of the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee, gave us a tour of the Plume House. The two-story stone house, two rooms deep, is dated circa 1725. It was built by a wealthy Puritan family from Connecticut who were part of a small group of pioneer settlers in the Newark area who had bought the land from the local natives.

Like all eight houses we would visit that day, the Plume house is constructed of red sandstone, a distinct regional building material. In 1849, the Plume house became the parsonage for the third Episcopal parish in Newark which built a stone church close by in the style of one from rural England.

The Plume house has undergone changes over the years. At present the ceilings are plastered but from what we saw under the floor of the loft, the beams were originally beaded and exposed. In the cellar the beams are set on circa 2-foot centers and measure 11x4-inches. These long light cellar beams are supported on stud-walls that correspond approximately with the internal walls on the floors above.

There was discussion about whether the gambrel roof was a conversion from an original gable roof. The original 1x1 1/2-inch lath, set on 10-inch centers, seems to be for 30-inch shingles. The shape of the Plume gambrel has a narrow upper roof. The structure is without queen posts, a form that is associated with English construction in the mid Hudson. The Plume House has a collar tie on the lower rafters suggesting it may have been converted from a gable with two ties like the Conference house on Staten Island we visited recently. The history of the gambrel roof in the Hudson Valley is a mystery that is slowly unraveling.

October Newsletter, Part Two

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