HVVA NEWSLETTER, April 2004, Part Two
(Click on graphics/photos for larger view)
HVVA Newsletters

The 1760 Wentworth-Gardner House
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Wentworth-Gardner House with its early hip style roof, is owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution and is preserved as a 2-story furnished Georgian brick house of the 18th century with a contemporary 2-story framed outbuilding, one end of which served the household as a dove-cote, a place for doves to roost that could occasionally provide food for the table. It is of special interest.

Like all of the roof framing we would see in New Hampshire, this out building had English principal rafters connected with short purlins that supported vertical roofers. It was different in this building in that the ties of its internal rafter pairs were joined to the posts like a Dutch anchorbeam with upper braces.

The Wentworth-Gardner Outbuilding with Dove-Cote.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Originally the internal walls of the dove cote were lined with nesting boxes. These were removed. Each hole had a separate box, probably with a door through which the dove or squab could be removed from its nest.









The Moffatt-Ladd House, 1760-1764
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

(Click the photos for a larger view)







The Moffatt-Ladd House is a 3-story brick house built between 1760 and 1764 and is one of the largest 18th century houses in Portsmouth. Like the previous house it is another example of the local hip-roof Georgian style, their facades copied from English books. The ornateness of their interior carving and paneling, expressing the privileged positions of their owners and the care and cost of their craftsmanship. The complexity of the Portsmouth carving and use of Classic elements is in contrast with the contemporary Hudson Valley Dutch Georgian interior with its rich crown moldings, exposed beams, and incorporating elements of Dutch tradition like two part doors.

St. Johns Episcopal Church, 1807
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The last building visited was St. Johns Episcopal Church. The parish was founded in 1638 and the present church, the third on this site, was built in 1807. It was designed by 26 year old Alexander Paris, from Portland, Maine. It was one of the first brick churches built in New Hampshire. Richard Cande writes, “Paris’ innovative design for St Johns combined Boston influences with English book design concepts. The architect’s plan for the exterior of the church was derived from Plate 39 of Asher Benjamin’s American Builder’s Companion.” (2.)

While crawling on all fours in the dark and dirty loft, examining St. John’s trusses that support the vaulted ceiling, I met Ken Rower who had a flashlight and knowledge of trusses. Ken is Editor of Timber Frame, the quarterly journal of TFG. He has been publishing a series of articles on roof trusses. The last one dealt with queen post trusses and the next will cover king post trusses. He admired Saint John’s trusses that include crown posts and lots of metal parts, but was not sure how to classify them.

The TFG articles have made me aware that this newsletter’s occasional references to “Dutch trusses” may be misnomers. Should they be called Dutch roof systems? The Guild article defines a truss as a structure to increase the distance that a roof can span without support from bellow. In a queen or king post truss, the posts are under tension. The purlin of the major/minor rafter system is similar to what the English call a clasped purlin.

One thing the conference and tour made me think more about was where the boundaries of the vernacular tradition are. The framing of the historic houses of Portsmouth is vernacular. A local framing carpenter could build new shapes as style dictated but solved them with the local vocabulary of building he was familiar with. It is hard to see the lavish carving and the plan of the high-style Georgian houses in Portsmouth as vernacular, but they are important in understanding the vernacular both in their influences on it and their occasional provincial expression of the latest high style. Many things in the high style Portsmouth houses like their use of butt hinges, would not generally appear in the Hudson Valley for fifty years.

(1.) Harris, Richard, Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings, Shire Publications Ltd., 1978

(2.) Candee, Richard M., Building Portsmouth: The Neighborhoods & Architecture of New Hampshire’s Oldest City, Portsmouth Advocates, Inc., 1996.

These books can be ordered from: Summer Beam Books, Clifton Springs, NY, (315) 462-3444 or (877) 272-1987

Thursday, March 11 with Todd Scheff and Alvin Sheffer, we spent the afternoon measuring the 1766 Conyn/Rensselaer House (Col-Cla-6) in Claverack. We noted a number of new things, including the very simple design of the first period window frames that are preserved in a few places. Mark Dreher from Kinderhook dropped by. He knows the houses of his area and told us of an 18th century English frame house near Stockport.

What we had originally thought was a re used barrack plate in the frame addition of the Conyn House, turned out to be a re used longitudinal strut from a Dutch barn, with evidence of holes for a stake wall. The pattern of the spacing of holes will be useful in the reconstruction of the Solite barn in Saugerties. It is noteworthy that the holes were drilled with a spoon bit but not drilled through the timber as was commonly done.

On the way home we stopped at the 1753 Van Deusen parapet gable brick house with stone addition under Becraft Mountain and talked with the new tenants.

<-Click for larger view

Re-Used Fragment of Longitudinal Strut from a Barn Conyn House, Claverack

This strut was part of the stake wall to which cows were chained.



Conyn/Rensselaer House (Col-Cla-6) (right) this drawing, not to scale, shows the joinery of the gambrel roof system that is probably a New World Dutch innovation. (Click for larger view)






(left) this section shows the original Dutch fireplace with a brick smoke hood supported on the hood beam and trimmers.




Saturday, March 13 with Todd we visited two houses in the Stuyvesant Falls area.

The William Van Heusen house (Col-SF-2) owned by Susie Grenchi. It is an 18th century center-hall brick house. The house had exposed beams but jambed fireplaces and very tall ceilings. Its builder ran the local mill. The exterior walls show a variety of bonds, or patterns that the mason used in laying up the walls.

The second was The Knitt House (Col-SF-3) a center hall frame house that has been stripped to the frame. The original one-room house is thought to date to the early 1700’s. It was added onto with another room and center hall. It is a classic Dutch frame with jambless evidence and a steep roof, but no original moldings or door and window frames that might help establish a date. In the original house there are two angled studs in the end wall loft that follow the angle of the original smoke hood. A few circa 3” boards are trenched into the top of the rafters. The original house may have had brick infill and the addition has trenched posts that had mud and straw infill on riven lath. Both houses are for sale.

For Sale from HVVA – Postage Included

Historic American Timber Joinery: a Graphic Guide, by Jack A. Sobon, $14
soft cover, 54-pages, pub. by The Timber Framer’s Guild 2002.
Influences on New York’s Early Dutch Architecture, by Shirley Dunn $5
soft cover, 12-pages, pub. by HVVA 2003.
The John Bowne House, Flushing, Queens by John Stevens $3
soft cover, 11-pages, pub. by HVVA 2003
HVVA Newsletter - Index of Sites and Subjects: Volumes 1 thru 5, $5
paper, 8-pages
HVVA Newsletter Volumes 1 & 2, soft cover cloth binding with index, $18 each.
HVVA Newsletter Volumes 3, 4 & 5, the same $20 each

FROM THE EDITOR: Saturday, March 27, about 25 people attended the joint meeting of HVVA and the Dutch Barn Preservation Society (*). The DBPS is now headquartered at the Mabee Farm Museum in Schenectady County. We met at the Persen House in Kingston. Many of the attendees have a joint membership and serve on both boards. The organizations share preservation goals. Both groups conducted their business and then joined in a discussion of an international intern program that both organizations might eventually participate in to register historic sites in the Hudson Valley. Hubert de Leeuw from Belgium, who has been working to instigate the project has been finding some interest with preservation groups in Europe to share in the program.

Organizing another Fall conference like that on Dutch barns held in Ancramdale last year was discussed, suggestions made and a committee selected to carry it out.

After the meeting, Ken Baricklo, the architect who has directed the restoration of the Persen House gave the group a tour of the complex multi-roomed stone house built on an important historic site, the stockaded village of Wyltwick, burned by the Natives in the 1660’s and burned again, 117 years later, by the British. The house is owned by Ulster County which has spent two years and much money restoring it and is now looking for ways to use it.

You may notice a higher level of spelling and punctuation in this HVVA Newsletter. It is because of the proof-reading and editing of Paul Spencer of Columbia County. Joyce Berry of St. Johnsville, NY, has joined us in producing an HVVA Newsletter site. Our Web-site address is hvva.org. We will be joining with the Fort Klock site that Joyce produces on history and preservation and other sites in the Hudson, Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys. The first 8-page issue is now under construction and we hope to have all of the back issues of the newsletter online over the next few months, Paul says.

Work has begun again on the Palatine Farmstead in Rhinebeck where HVVA has established a temporary headquarters room that has acquired some local artifacts, books and a drawing table. Wednesday has been assigned a work day. Some of the siding has been removed from the front confirming a late 18th century timber frame of crude construction, and exposing lots of rotten timbers and poor attempts at repair, some of it dating to the 1840’s restoration. A little more has been learned about the original house and much more is awaiting us at the back of the house that was recently stabilized by John Hatch.

Peter Sinclair, Editor

(*) Paul Spencer, Mike Barberri, Hubert De Leeuw, Neil Larson. Walter R. Wheeler, Jim Decker, Peter Sinclair, Robert Erlich, Maggie Mac Dowell, Amelia Anderson, Keith Cramer, Alvin Sheffer, Jonathan Nedbor, Jerou von der Huch, Richard Crawford, Jack Boden, Ned Pratt, Kathleen Gray, Bob Anderson, Tom Colucci, Dawn Elliott, Bob Hedges, Kenneth Barricklo, Hugh Bennet and Richard Comeford.

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