NEWSLETTER, September 2001
Saturday, August 18 nine people attended a short tour of two barns in the Town of Saugerties, Ulster County. They were Jean Goldberg, Alvin Shaffer, John and Marian Stevens, Hank Zigler, Jennie Marshall, Alec Wade, Barry Benepe and myself. It was organized by the Saugerties Historical Society and HVVA.
The first barn visited was the 3-bay Dutch barn on the Solite Corporation property. An effort has begun in the Saugerties Historical Society to obtain the building for its 1.5-acre museum site at the 1724 Kierstead stone house a few miles away. It would be an ideal solution for preserving this building. The project would involve not only the work of moving and restoring the barn but an archaeological and historical survey of the site that includes the foundation of a house and a small intact stone building.
The Solite Dutch barn (Uls-Sau19) is one of about 6 surviving examples with a major/minor rafter system known in the Hudson Valley. This rafter system was first identified in the Niewkerk/Kaufman Dutch barn in Hurley. Few barns have positive dates of construction but the Niewkerk barn is inscribed 1766 on an anchorbeam. In many ways, including the steep pitch of its roof and the low height, 9 feet, of its side walls, the Niewkerk barn seems to be the earliest of the examples known. The Solite barn is then circa 1770 although it includes some earlier features.
The rafter system of the Solite barn is not a New World tradition but the survival of a European tradition with Medieval origins. We have very few examples of pre-Revolutionary barns. Most of our experience is with the 19th century or late 18th century examples almost all with common rafters but these early major/minor rafter system barns suggest that Hudson Valley architecture of the 17th and early 18th century may have had more Old World features than we are aware of.
The last barn visited was the Brink/Mueller 4-bay Dutch U-barn (Uls-Sau-9). This is a small sized barn with a 20-foot naive (the Solite barn is a medium size barn with a 25-foot naive). The barn was built soon after 1805, the date Cornelius Brink bought the land. The Brink and Winne families were the first to settle the Saugerties area in the late 17th century. Built as a U-barn with lowered anchorbeams in two bents that formed a wide end bay, it was later converted to a true-form drive-through Dutch barn by cutting through the lowered beams and adding wagon doors on the other end wall. The barn has a lowered side aisle used as a horse stall. As in the Solite barn there is evidence of built in stake hay mangers for the horses. The stall in the Brink barn seems low for the manger but the floor is presently dirt. Originally it may have been higher with a plank floor resting on sleepers.
The oak frame of the Solite barn is in generally good condition. A metal roof and recent repairs to one wall plate and replacement of several rafters has stabilized and saved the structure. It no longer has a threshing floor and not much of its sills survive. The Brink barn has a wood pegged threshing floor in good condition and many original features that could help in the restoration of the Solite barn. In both barns the longitudinal struts on the cow side have been removed.
On returning to the Kierstead house we attended a festival being held to announce a new historic preservation project, the rebuilding of the North River, Fulton's first steam powered ship to sail the Hudson River in 1807. Like the revival of the Catskill Mountain Railroad now underway it will be a great tourist attraction. I expressed my concern about the safety of steam having read of a recent accident with a steam tractor in Iowa but the HW A's senior historian of architecture and transportation, John Stevens, assured me that Fulton's early engine was low pressure, 5-lbs per square inch. Not as efficient but safer than later high pressure models.
Saturday, August 25 spent the day at the Hornbeck/Grace farm (# 58 in the Town of Rochester, Ulster County, NY, registration). Worked with Robert Stevens, son-in-law of the present owner of this third generation Grace family farm, and with a tenant removing and examining timber from the collapsed frame of the 1766 Dutch barn. The bents of this 5-bay Dutch barn with 30-foot anchorbeams and gouged marriage marks match those of the 3-bay Niewkere/Kaufman barn in Hurley and the two barns were probably erected by the same builder in the same year. The barn was altered in the 19th century by raising the side walls and its major/minor rafter system replaced with common rafters
Three of the six 30-foot anchorbeams survive including the "AHM 1766" inscription beam. Some of the frame has already been removed by Steven and is in safekeeping in the 30x40-foot circa 1870 side entrance barn that has an end wall in need of repair. Two longitudinal struts from the left horse side of the 1766 barn survive with notching for a hay manger and struts from the cow side survive with a series of holes drilled vertically to form a stake wall.
The Hornbeck farm was visited by Helen Wilkinson Reynolds who described both the house and the barn in her classic 1929 book, Dutch Houses of the Hudson Valley, page 207.
We also jacked and placed blocks under the wheels of a wooden wheeled box wagon and two independent sets of wheels that were sinking into the moist mud floor of the cellar of the granary. The wheels seem in good condition. Wagons and barns were made for each other and both are endangered in the Hudson Valley.
I returned a week later with Bob Hedges to estimate repairs to the side entrance barn and moved a few more parts. Acquired a 2-foot section of a notched manger strut for a future museum.
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