NEWSLETTER, October 2005, Part Two
FROM THE JOURNAL:
Wednesday, September 7, I went with Rob Sweeney to see two stone houses in the Town of Ulster, Ulster County that he had recently heard of. Originally part of the Town of Kingston or the Common Land, Town of Ulster was separated by gerrymandering it from the Town of Kingston in 1879 with State and County help as the result of the poor and unruly Irish bluestone quarry workers who, through their growing numbers and audacious acts, controlled town elections. Town of Ulster follows the twisted shape of the Esopus Creek and the rich low-lands that attracted early settlement and today, in the post agricultural age, the sprawling shopping malls. What is left of the Town of Kingston remains, with little industry and population, hidden in the rock infested hills of the Catskill Mountains.
The first house visited was in the Pine Bush area on a hill facing Old Kings Highway near the Plattakill. We Registered it:
Date Stone, edited freehand drawing by Rob Sweeney
The house has many Dutch features. The initials of its date stone connects it with the 1751 Benjamine Ten
Broeck stone house (NY/Uls/Uls/002) to the south in the richer and earlier settled area of the Esopus Valley. The walls of the Ten Broeck house are of white washed rough field stone while the Snyder stone work is very carefully done with a mix of quarried white limestone and warm shades of other kinds of stone. The farm has been used for many years as a Catholic summer camp. Despite some changes, the original form of the house is exposed on the interior. Evidence of its original front door indicates a double Dutch door measuring 3-feet wide and 6-feet high with a transom light above.
The house had not adopted the stylish side light entrance that had been used on other houses for many years, but stuck with its vernacular heritage in this and other ways.
Center Longitudinal Section of The 1804 Johannes Snyder/McCann Center-Hall Stone House Town of Ulster, Ulster County, NY
We are always looking for meaning in patterns we find. When first measuring the sizes and distribution of the three internal beams in the room on the right they seemed to mimic those in early Dutch houses with jambless fireplaces where the end-wall beam is the largest because it supported the brick smoke hood but when measuring the beams in the room on the right they were found to be graduated the other way.
The second house we found on Glenere Boulevard, in an area known today as Glenere. It is in a very narrow section of the Esopus Valley and perhaps settled later than the better farm land to the south. We registered it:
The Viviani family have owned this tall, center-hall white-limestone house for 22-years and have added a front stone addition. We did not examine the inside of the house but took some exterior measurements. The Viviani's do not know the history of the house or of any date stones. The beams are not now exposed on the main floor. From the differences in side wall height between the Snyder and Viviani house we thought Viviani was early 19 th century but probably later than Snyder. The two houses are the same length, 46'6", but the Viviani house is 25' wide with 15'6 high side-walls and The Snyder house is 27'8" wide and has side-walls 11'4".
One thing of note is the use of a water-table on the Benjamine Ten Broeck house. This is a 2-inch expansion of the stone wall at the main floor level. The reason for this step in the stone work is not known but is typical of Mid Hudson Valley stone houses. Its origin and distribution are unknown. The Johannes Snyder and the Viviani houses do not have water tables.
Thursday, September 8, I went with Tom Colluci to a farm near Canajoharie, in Montgomery County, to meet with John Wigens to see an early Dutch barn that John had recently discovered. The Owners want the barn removed. It is on its original site. We did not examine the two story frame house. John does not know the history of the farm.
We felt that there were a number of features that dated the barn early, perhaps before 1775. These were; 1, the long purlin-braces, some attached bellow the anchorbeam; 2. the heavy anchorbeam braces; 3. the diminished shoulders of the anchorbeams and of all of the braces and struts and 4. the bents seem to lack a lay-out-face as the components are all of the same width and the mortise and tenons centered. The fine finish of the hewn beams and braces, almost all made from pine, are attractive. A few braces are of oak. The lack of visible marriage marks is noteworthy on a clearly scribe-rule barn frame. It is likely they are hidden on tenons etc,
In the twentieth century when the barn was converted to serve a large herd of dairy cattle, most of the lower circa 6-feet of the frame was removed and replaced with metal posts, an unfortunate but common form of alteration in its time of educated progressive farming. Corner columns may have survived and some wall posts. They are covered. Fortunately in the surviving frame above, the plates and rafters are in excellent condition, a thing seldom seen in early barns.
An important question in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys is, what houses and barns are left that were built before the Revolution and were not burned by the Tories and Indians and how do they differ from the later ones?
When an important vernacular building like this barn, is threatened with some kind of alteration or destruction, it should be examined and documented, and so we spent observing and attempting to understand its original form, since we can not control who will buy the Canajoharie barn and what it will be used for.(*)
(*) We have since learned that the Canajoharie Dutch barn frame was sold to Brian Parker who will disassemble it and take it to the Peter Winnie House that he is restoring in Bethlehem, Albany County. It is the house depicted in the painting on the cover of John Steven's new book. It will be a good home for it.
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