HVVA NEWSLETTER, October 2004, Part TWO
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HVVA Newsletters


Saturday, September 18, Continued

Next we visited the Sydenham stone house dated circa 1760. We did not examine its interior. It is a complex house showing evidence of enlargements and additions. According to HABS documentation, It is story-and-a-half, 2-rooms deep with a center hall.

The Sydenham House 1710
drawing by Richard LaRovere


Next we viewed, a two room stone house with a center hall and wood frame additions on the back that is known as The Rose Cottage. The 3-page HABS report of 1936, says that in 1720 it served as the parsonage for the Reformed congregation and that according to family tradition it was constructed in 1690. We did not view the interior.

Carla said there were many of this type of house along the river in Belleville before their recent destruction for the highway. This is the last survivor. Like the Sydenham house, the Rose Cottage has a stuccoed façade. Many of the houses we saw had cut red sandstone on the front side and more irregular stone work on the back and sides. Local taste seemed to favor a finished look to the front of the house and this stucco may be a way to later hide their rough irregular stone work when the house was up dated.

The next two houses, The Van Winkle house circa 1797 in Lyndhurst, and The Van Riper house, circa 1708–1731-1788, in Nutley, we could only examine on the exteriors.

After lunch the group visited The Van Gisen/Vreeland House, circa 1760, in Nutley, now home to The Woman’s Club of Nutley, Elena Cedrone. gave us a tour of the building and the site. It began as a story-an-a-half, two-room center-hall house and has retained that form.

The Van Gisen house has 4x8-inch exposed ceiling beams and 5x9 beams in the cellar. The two rooms are each 8 bays long. That is, each room has seven exposed interior beams where three interior beams of varying dimensions are typical for Dutch houses of the period.

The Van Gisen/Vreeland House
circa 1760
Nutley, Essex County, New Jersey
NABS photograph by R. Merritt Lacey, 1936

We next visited The James R. Hay House, in Nutley, and toured the grounds. This two-story center-hall stone house is one room deep and was built in 1806 in conjunction with nearby cotton, calico, saw and grist mills, now gone. According to HABS documentation it had Dutch Pad Hinges on some of its doors.

The James R. Hay House 1806
Nutley, Essex County, New Jersey

We next visited the Kingsland House in Nutley and were given a tour by Catherine Derkawitz. This story-and-a-half center-hall two-room deep stone house was built in the late 18th century and in the 19th century added on each end with smaller wings. It was bought by the town in 1977 and has been restored and maintained as a museum house by the Friends of Kingsland Manor. It has plastered ceilings, H-L hinges and a “slave dungeon” in the basement.

The Abram Speer House and
Slave Quarters, circa 1760
Nutley, Essex County, New Jersey
A second story was added to the
main house in about 1880.

The final house visited was the Abram Speer House in Nutley. Built in circa 1760 it was lived in by the Speer family until 1929. Presently the home of Bob and Annell Wald, it has been lovingly maintained for many years by them. It was the only pure Dutch House we would examine in Essex County. This story-and-a-half two-room center-hall stone house had jambless fireplaces on the end walls. Its two 4-bay rooms, with 8’2” ceilings each has three exposed internal beams with molded edges. They are of varying dimensions, 9 1/4x7, 10 3/4X8 and 12x9-inches. The 12x9-inch beam 30-inches from the end wall is the hood beam. It has trimmer beams set into the end wall, 8-feet apart, to support the sides of the brick smoke hood. There is a later arched fireplace support in the cellar for the present jambed fireplace but there is a corbled stone in the back wall that is evidence of the original Dutch fireplace hearth support.

The house contains original paneling, all of the window and door frames on the first floor are original or good replicas. The House maintains a number of casement windows. The sash is later, set with butt hinges. They replace the original Dutch style casement window with H-L hinges and wide muntins. The frame is without a center mullion, an earlier form of the Dutch casement window. There is a smaller detached stone building that was a slave quarter, the last of whom “Nancy” was freed in about 1826.

One of the most unusual features in the cellar are the floor beams supported at each end by an internal stud wall. The beams are not attached to the stone foundation walls and no pockets in the stone can be seen. Some thought it might be original to the building used as a way of preventing the common problem of the beams rotting in their stone pockets. The framing of the stud wall is early. Could this represent a later change that increased ceiling height by cutting and lowering the floor beams?

The HABS documentation of historic houses in New Jersey in the 1930’s was extensive and is now easily available on the internet. Many of the houses in the Newark, Essex County area are no longer standing. The information is helpful today in understanding the houses and the early photographs are especially useful but there is little analysis of their structures and ethnicity. As in other parts of central New Jersey, there are elements derived from English and Dutch traditions. There is still a great deal that can be learned from further exploring and documenting these houses.

We were pleased to welcome your group to The Plume House on Saturday, September 18, and hope it was a good experience for you. We can’t recall any visitors who have demonstrated so much knowledge of and interest in the design and construction of this precious old house. We hope the rest of your day, including a peek at The Sydenham House, also went well.
Douglas Eldridge, Executive Director of the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee

Friday, October 1 about 15 people gathered at the farm of Ken Malcolm in West Berne, Albany County to spend the day documenting his Dutch barn and farm buildings. (see also the Saturday, September 1 report on page 1 and 2. of this newsletter) The session was organized by Ned Pratt who provided us with an agenda, and some historic maps that he and Wally Wheeler had copied and accompanied with a written orientation of the area. Ned also included ideas and good advise on documenting New World Dutch architecture.

Some attendees were local to the Mohawk River Valley, many came from diverse places in the Hudson Valley, both New York and New Jersey, and as far south as Staten Island. Especially welcome were our four guests from The Low Lands, Marieke Leeverink, Judith Toebast, and John Zuijlen, director of SHBO, a major research center in the Netherlands for preservation of vernacular architecture, located at the Open Air Museum in Arnhem, and Hubert de Leeuw from Belgium, who has been the inspiration in bringing this international event about.

There was a lively exchange of information about the barn and background on the farm. It was a Rensselaer tenant farm established in the late 18th century by the Schults family. No doubt Palatine Germans.

The evidence for the barn’s traditional horse manger is very like the surviving example in the Deertz barn (Fitchen 20, ) in Schoharie County, where the stakes are set in holes in the head high longitudinal struts, rather than nailed in gains as is more common. The cow stalls in the Shults/Malcolm Dutch barn have home made plank stanchions with wooden latches that could be original to the barn. In contrast, the Nielsen Dutch barn, we, would visit the next day, has evidence of the cows being chained to a stake wall, an earlier and more Old World method of tethering cows.

Saturday, October 2 about 50 people attended The Second Annual Fall Barn Conference organized by Keith Cramer, president of the Dutch Barn Society. It was held in The Nielsen Dutch Barn Museum on the Mabee Farm at Rotterdam Junction, Schenectady County, New York, overlooking the Mohawk River. Ned Pratt hosted the speakers: John Stevens spoke about early Dutch rafter systems in barn and house and their connection with Old World models, Niel Larson. from the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College, spoke on the history of HABS (Historic American Building Survey) documentation, the process and types of measured drawings, John Van Zuijlen, spoke about the complex regional styles of timber framing and farm types in The Netherlands and of the rapid rate of the destruction of historic farm buildings there, and the urgent need to document and re-study these monuments of our past. John looks forward to future exchanges.

Ed Cook, a dendrochronologist from Columbia University, gave an interesting history of this science, that began in the 1920’s, and some of its methods for dating wood, based on matching tree ring growth, with established data-bases of regional weather patterns reflected in the tree rings. It is an exact science, when properly done, that is relatively new to the study of vernacular architecture in the Hudson Valley, to date, only 15 buildings have been dendro-dated here by the Columbia Tree Ring Lab and some of these dates have already begun to change our understanding of early Dutch houses. The process is best done when a building is undergoing repair and restoration, when timbers are exposed. It costs about $2000, dependant on the complexity and distance of the job. 15 core samples are normally taken from posts and beams.

As dendro-dating progresses here, the availability of the information that is gained through this specialized science will be important to everyone who is interested in a better understanding of the past. At present not all of the Hudson Valley dendro-dates are available. One goal might be to make this possible. In England, since 1980, this information has been published annually for English buildings in their journal Vernacular Architecture. To date, more than 650 dendro-dates have been published there.

More about and more from the Annual Barn Conference in the next HVVA Newsletter.

After the workshop a small group who were driving home together made a short detour passing the Glen Sanders house and stopping to take a walking tour of the stockade area of Schenectady with John Stevens. It is one of the most attractive, interesting and well preserved collections of 18th and 19th century vernacular village architecture in the northeast, well worth a visit.

The following information was submitted by Ursula Brecknell of Belle Mead, New Jersey to correct the description of The Dirk Guflck stone house in Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, that this newsletter described in the August 2004, Vol. 6, No.8, Issue, page 4.

* 1 1/2 stories with slight water table.
* 4th wall, west gable, is now clapboard, brick filled, with a later Kitchen lean-to on it. Cooking fireplace on original stone wall was removed, but large chimney base remains in cellar.
* Other three walls are of rubble stone, somewhat coursed on main facade.
* House built at one time. Plaque tablet in wall says 1752.
* Has 3-rooms on the ground floor. On the east it is 2 room deep, on the west, one. large room, unusual for central New Jersey,
* Two front entrances. no center hall, unusual here.
* Large exposed beams run the full depth of the house, both in the full cellar and the main story.
* It once had a corner fireplace in SE room. The base still remains in the cellar.

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