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HVVA Newsletters

From the Editor...The interest in vernacular architecture of HVVA's senior architectural historian, John Stevens and his wife Marion, began close to their home in eastern Canada. John graduated from the historic restoration and preservation program at Columbia University and studied on site restoration practices in England, France. the Netherlands and Belgium, sponsored by UNESCO.

In the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia John was actively involved in the analysis of early buildings for the Federal Government. In 1965 he and his wife Marion moved to Long Island where he assisted Old Bethpage Village in obtaining and moving vernacular buildings to their open air museum site on the border of Suffolk and Nassau Counties.

The tops of the poles of this tall barrack have light ties like the barracks on Prince Edward and eastern Long Island. The lower braced structure holds in the hay and stabilizes the building. It is characteristic of Magdalene Island barraques.

In the 1970's on one of his endless searches for early buildings, John discovered a four-pole hay barrack on the eastern end of The Island and brought it back to Bethpage to go with the Dutch barn he had brought down from Schoharie County. The Bethpage barrack, if it is still standing, is one of the only "original" Hudson Valley example ever saved. It represents a stage in the buildings development when plank roofs were adopted and thatch abandoned. Its thin poles with top ties.make it look like the examples from Prince Edward Island, Canada, illustrated in Arthur and Witney's classic book, The Barn. 1972.

The presence of barracks in eastern Canada has been attributed to the large forced migration of New York and New Jersey loyalists after The Revolution. These farmers also brought the New World Dutch barn to Ontario.

In the last few years John and Marionhave returned to Canada and John has taken aninterest in the rare survivals of Acadian buildings and noted how their framing shows Dutch characteristics.

No barracks survive on Prince Edward Island but John got word that there were still some on the Magdalene Island in Quebec. After some exchanges of e-mails, John and Marion were on their way to this small remote place where trees are few and hay barracks are still in use. They spent four days hunting down barracks and meeting natives. The Magdalene are a group of Islands northeast of Maine with a native population of 10,000, 60,000 in the summer. The barracks are no longer used on the English speaking islands but survive on the French speaking ones. They have adopted a standing rigging, block-and-tackle, to raise and lower the roof. This is easily explained by the profusion of ship wrecks that have supplied the island with wood and metal for many generations.

What is surprising is an illustration of nearby Fort Lawrence in Chignectou with a hay barrack. It is dated 1755, a generation before The Revolution. Perhaps there were two Dutch hearths in the New World.

I asked John Stevens to do a write up on Magdalene Island barraques but he was too busy finalizing his book and preparing for the talk he will be giving on Dutch/American Acrchitecture at the three-day Eastfield Village Conference at Nassau in Rensselaer County, NY, August 12 to 14 and he gave he his Magdalene Island photographs and notes to include in my Eastfield Village talk on The Hay Barrack.

John Steven's Book Dutch Vernacular Architecture in America (1640-1830) will be the result of 35 years of his study and documentation both in Europe and America. It is nearing completion with the printer here in Ulster County. It will not be out for the Eastfield conference but soon after. It will be large format, about 450 pages with photographs, drawings, text, bibliography and index, both hard and soft cover. I hope to include some excerpts from the book in the September Newsletter.

We expect production costs will be known by then and a price for the book can be set. We have begun to collect names and addresses of people and institutions interested innotice of its publication and of purchasing the book directly from its, publisher, Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture (HVVA). Send it to the HVVA Newsletter Editor:

Peter Sinclair
P.O. Box 202, West Hurley, NY 12491

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