HVVA NEWSLETTER, September 2004, Part Two

One of the important historic features of the house is the original grain door into the loft. There is evidence in many of the old stone houses of Ulster County of similar doors and indicates that the lofts of these houses were not for living but principally for grain storage and that this accounts in part for the massive ceiling beams, characteristic of early Dutch houses here.

During the fire in the 1970’s a fireman had placed a ladder against the wall at the granary door and was about to destroy the rare artifact with his axe. Barbara Paul’s son Michael yelled to the fireman to stop but it had no effect so that he then shook the ladder and brought the fireman to the ground.

In the Paul’s later reconstruction of the roof a large gabled dormer that had had been added in the 19th century next to the granary door, a feature that Helen Reynolds had regretted when she saw it in the 1920’s, was replaced with a shed dormer, more fitting to the 18th century character of the house.

According to the latest understanding of the house, it began with a unique four-room plan with docked roof gables that were later removed. In looking through photographs of the house taken after the fire Barbara Paul noticed evidence of a horizontal line on the exposed front chimney and had deduced it. After inspection of the few charred original rafters remaining in the loft it was confirmed that the roof was docked, what is sometimes called a “jerkin head.” It is a very Old World feature that is rarely found today on Dutch houses in the Hudson Valley but perhaps were more common than we realize.

Friday, August 27 met Tom Colluci at a 4-bay side entrance hillside barn with a basement for cows in the Town of Gardiner, Ulster County, NY. It is a large barn, 30-feet wide and 60-feet long, with side walls 20-feet high. The frame is entirely of white oak and contains reused parts from a barn or barns originally framed with studs for horizontal weatherboard siding, this barn was framed with girts for vertical siding that has been removed, stickered and stacked on a trailer in preparation for taking the frame down next week. The timbers have been numbered with metal tabs and the metal roof removed. These pans will be used later, as a temporary roof, when the frame is stacked. The siding, 3,000 feet, is for sale. It is 1-inch tongue and groove, 9” to 11” wide, some nail holes but not in bad condition.

Jesse Selman (845) 255-6203 has been organizing the barn move. He comes with an interest in agriculture and building. He is helping Dan Guenther (845) 255-9297 who also believes in local agriculture and has helped found two other local farms. They have formed a not-for-profit organization, Brook Farm Project, which is renting 70-acres of the Smiley Brothers Inc. land to establish their farm. The barn was donated by the owner who had no use for it and thought the farm was a worthy cause, as do other local people who are helping with the move.

The present barn and its reused parts all seem to be “square-rule”, dating it to after 1815. It is in A-One condition with no rot or damage anywhere. The fact that the frame is of oak and the sections of many of the timbers are rectangular, rather than square, seem to date it as a reconstructed frame with early timbers. Its reconstruction shows skillful and careful work. One feature I have never seen before are the rafters. Tom Colluci says he has seen it on a 1870 corn crib.

The rafters are of mill sawn oak, they are about 2-inches wide and are tapered from 6-inches at the bottom to 2-inches square at the peek where they butt and are nailed, no ridge board. They are about 20-feet long, are bird-mouthed on the plate and overhang it by about 10-inches.

My guess is that the frame parts date to circa 1825 and the reconstruction to circa 1870. It is a reconstruction that reflects the agricultural change to more dairy. When last used the original basement could hold about 50 cows and this had been expanded to 100 in the 20th century. There was a round wooden silo which is being saved with the intention of reconstructing it.

This Gardiner barn now joins the Solite Dutch barn in Saugerties (see From the Editor) as historic buildings in storage and awaiting money for reconstruction. We hope to keep an eye on them.

FROM THE EDITOR: The timbers of the Solite barn that was taken down last year have been neatly stacked and stickered under tarps behind the 1727 Kierstead stone house museum in Saugerties, Ulster County, NY. I met with Dave Minch, the architect who, with input from Randy Nash and others, is supervising the job. We met with Bill Reihardt, custodian of the Kierstead house, and walked the back acre where the barn will likely go. We noted evidence of stone foundations that are probably from the 19th century barn complex, of which there is a photograph but nothing remains of its frames.

In the 18th century, there would likely have been a Dutch barn somewhere near here with its roof ridge in line and offset from the roof of the original 1727 one-room stone house. This was a gable entrance house with its entrance facing east to the road. The roof was rotated 90-degrees in about 1800 when an addition was made off the north side. The 19th century barns would certainly have reused the few stones left from the original Dutch barn foundation, so that it is unlikely there is evidence of its exact location.

A local merchant has donated $500 to the Solite barn project and this will be used to hold a stash of wide 1-inch thick clear pine boards that were cut as siding for a Dutch barn project in Columbia County, This project was recently terminated and the frame put up for sale. The barn frame was taken down 9-years ago and some people who examined it recently said its condition is questionable. Over the last 20 years there have been many barn frames, especially Dutch, that have been poorly documented, stored with the best of intentions and then for some reason neglected.

The Solite frame is elevated 3-feet from the ground, resting on donated cement blocks and is covered with two temporary $25 tarps, fastened tight to the 2x6-inch plank scaffolds, on four sides of the 40-foot-long pile of timbers. Dave and I spent an hour doing a preliminary documentation of original nail patterns on exterior surfaces of timbers that would indicate the width of the original weatherboard siding. This was possible because we could identify and remove studs and posts from the stack easily. Randy said that sometimes the builders placed the narrow siding at the bottom, giving it more weather protection there. We found that the nail pattern on this barn was random on the front end wall, 12 to 15-inches apart, but from evidence found on one stud from the west side, 5 to 7-inches apart there.

A note from Joyce Berry, our web master, says “I just checked your counter and you have had 2000 visitors, which I think is great. The first year of the Fort Klock site we only had that many visitors for the whole year. I believe the counter has been running for four months.

Carla Cielo has organized a great tour of early Newar k, NJ, houses for this Saturday. Try and car pool.

We have been invited by the Fishkill Historical Society to meet with them Saturday morning, 10AM at the Van Wyck house museum on Route 9 at Route 84. We will be meeting with their new president Todd Hiller, Roy Jorgensen, who has organized the visit, and Dick Valinski who has done an extensive study of the large 18th century frame house. Dennis Tierney is working on access to some nearby houses for after lunch.

Peter Sinclair, Editor, West Hurley, Ulster County, NY


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