Dutch Barn Preservation Society

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NEWSLETTER, SPRING 1996, Vol. 9, Issue 1THE SAUGERTIES BARNS: Six Dutch-American Barns of Saugerties, Ulster County, New York

by Peter Sinclair The township of Saugerties was part of the common lands granted by Governor Dongan in 1667 to the freeholders of Kingston. The historian of Saugerties, Benjamin Myer Brink, wrote that aside from the "little sawyer" who had a mill on the Saw Kill, there was no record of settlement in Saugerties before 1688 when Cornelius Lambertsen Brink bought land and perhaps built a Dutch-American barn beside his simple stone house, parts of which still stand where the Plattekill meets the Esopus creek [1]. Cornelius was a survivor of the Esopus Massacre. Along with 22 others, he had been taken captive by the Esopus Indians after their attack on Wyltwick (Kingston) and Nieuw Dorp (Hurley) in 1663. In 1710 there were two families living in Saugerties, the Brinks and the Winnies. In October of that year 257 "poor Palatine" German refugees arrived at West Camp where they built bark and log huts to survive the winter. More Palatines arrived the next year but most eventually left for the Schoharie Valley and some to Pennsylvania. A few Palatine families stayed on at West Camp and eventually acquired land in Saugerties. Although German was their native language, by 1734 Dutch was the language used in their Reformed Church at Katsbaan. By the end of the eighteenth century, with a population less than 700 - mostly of Dutch, Palatine and African origin with a few French Huguenot and two or three English families Saugerties had remained a sparsely populated frontier community with a distinct Esopus-Dutch-American architecture, typical of Ulster County [2]. Many early stone houses and a few Dutch barns survive. The author knows of 10 Dutch barns still standing in Saugerties, some only in fragments. They date from approximately 1 740 to 1840.

Dutch Barns of eighteenth-century Saugerties varied in size, from the diminutive Rightmyer barn (Sa-7) at Katsbaan (Drawing 2), originally a two-bay barn with a 20-foot nave, to the large Wolven barn (Sa-l) on the road to Woodstock (Drawing 3), with three bays and a 30-foot nave. Barn size probably reflected the size of the farm and the means of the owner, but all of the early Saugerties barns were likely to have been true-form Dutch barns, that is, ground level aisle barns with wooden hinged wagon doors at either end of the wooden threshing floor. Their pentice roofs were supported on extended mow-poles.

<-Interior, Wolven/Skolnick Barn (Sa-1). This detail of an internal H-bent shows the lap-dovetail joining of the purlin braces to the column. The upper anchorbeam brace is a later addition. All photographs are by the author, c. 1988.

By the late eighteenth century new forms evolved in the Dutch-American tradition, like the tall side-ramp barns seem to have been designed for hay farming. They are found on the east side of the Hudson River in Columbia and Dutchess County but not in Ulster. Until the mid-nineteenth century, Dutch barns continued to be built in Saugerties. They continued to vary in size and were often individual in their form and use of space. Henry Snyder's tall Dutch barn on a hillside above the Esopus Creek (Sa-l0; Drawing 5), is a three bay barn with an 18-foot nave and a 24-foot-tall side wall. The lowered-side aisle was common on later Dutch barns of the Mid-Hudson Valley.

John Snyder's three-bay ground-level barn (Sa-5; Drawing 6) with a 22-foot nave has wooden-hinged wagon doors set back in an open bay, what the Snyders call the "driveway and open bint". The open-bay is a form found occasionally in Ulster County, especially the upland barns of Marbletown, but so far not found in Dutchess or Columbia counties [3].

These drawings were done in 1988 and the measurements are approximations. The drawing of the cross-sections of timbers are exaggerated. These barns should be more carefully measured and documented.

Drawing 1. Reconstruction of the Eleigh/ Wulven/Meyers true-form Dutch Barn (Sa-8) c. 1740: The Eleigh;Wolven/Meyers barn, of Blue Mountain contains an H-bent and other parts of an early Dutch barn moved to the farm. I have suggested the barn's original form in the drawing. Many elements in the framing of Dutch barns follow clear evolution of style and indicate age. Because of a number of elements including the short "verdiepingh" (distance from anchorbeam to purl in), the lap-dovetail joining of the anchorbeam braces and the diminished-haunches or shoulders of the anchorbeam, (Sa-8) could contain parts of the earliest of the six Dutch barns. I have assigned it a 1740 date. All of the dates are conjecture but are used to suggest development.

Drawing 2. Reconstruction of the Rightmyer/ Richters two-bay with one-bay added true-form Dutch barn (Sa-7) c. 1750: The Rightmyer barn has lap-dovetail joining of the anchorbeam braces but a higher verdiepingh than (Sa-8) illustrated in drawing 1, The builder felt the high verdiepingh needed support and added tie beams near the top of the columns, Evidence in the door posts and beams indicate it had inward swinging wooden-hinged wagon doors on either end of its original two-bay form and on the added third bay. The short purl in braces with full mortise-and-tenon joining on the added bay indicates its later date.

Drawing 3. The Wolven/Skolnick three-bay true-form Dutch barn (Sa-1) c. 1765: The Wolven barn is the best preserved of the true-form pre-Revolutionary barns of Saugerties. Its later date is indicated by the use of mortise-and tenon joining of the anchorbeam braces and square shoulders where the anchorbeams join the columns. It was built without tie beams in its H-bent, but upper braces were added later.

Drawing 4. The Brink/Muller four-bay Dutch U-barn with lowered side aisle (Sa-9) c. 1800: Although this barn was converted to a true-form barn later, its original form was a Classic U-barn with wagon doors at one end and lowered anchorbeams in the wide back bay. The U-barn form, in which the back bay often served as an aisle to shelter animals, was a design to enlarge the hay and animal storage and diminish the threshing floor as grain became less important in the local farm economy. The use of the U-barn form was widespread.

Drawing 5. The Henry Snyder three-bay Dutch barn with lowered side aisle (Sa-10) c. 1840: This barn takes full advantage of the hillside and in the design of the frame the H-bent is diminished and the side walls are strengthened. The 24-foot side-wall posts measure 10 x 10 inches and the H-bent columns measure 9 x 9 inches. These square dimension timbers are characteristic of later barns. This barn has a stone cistern and a well preserved granary. The open-bay at the back is to shelter cattle and may be a later modification.

Drawing 6. The John Snyder three-bay side entrance Dutch barn with open-bay (Sa-5) c. 1820: This ground level barn is one of the most evolved and individualized Dutch barns in Ulster County, as illustrated in the unequal width of its side-aisles and bays. The barn is still in use by the Snyder family and contains a great deal of evidence of early designs such as wooden rain gutters and stake-mangers. The anchorbeams, which originally had lap dovetail joining of the braces, are reused, perhaps from the Snyder's original barn which stood higher on the hill. Family tradition says that the stone house was built in 1820 to replace the original log house that stood near a spring across the road. Hanging partitions and poles to separate horses are an important feature of the stable.

Open-bay, John Snyder Barn (Sa-5). The right side of the open-bay leads to the horse stall. This had a dirt ramp. The Snyders used horses until recently. The left opening is the driveway ramp that leads to the threshing floor. Two over-lapping wooden rain gutters shelter the entrance. The triangular holes above the entrance are for pigeons.



The Saugerties Barns: Notes

1. The Early History of Saugerties: 1660-1825, by Benjamin Myer Brink, 1904, reprinted by Hope Farm Press, 1992.

2. Some people speak of early Palatine and French Huguenot style houses in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and there may be ethnic traces in the traditional architecture of Ulster County other than Dutch. Occasional German style hinges and hardware were used, but aside from the English forms which later replaced many of the Dutch forms, the author has found that eighteenth-century immigrant groups adopted the Dutch-American traditions of architecture which had been established here in the seventeenth century. This seems to confirm Wilbur Zelinsky's ideas of "first effective settlement."

Five of the six families associated with the building and early ownership of the six Saugerties barns in this article came with the 1710 Palatine immigration. They are Eleigh, Wolven, Meyers, Richtmeyer, and Snyder. Brink is the only Dutch family name. The Palatine families that moved north to the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys also built Dutch-American aisle barns. Those that moved south into Pennsylvania eventually built Pennsylvania-German basement barns with forebays and ramps.
3. These include the American barn complex (Hu-10) Wolven/Mones and the Dutch barn (Hu-4) Palen in Hurley, as well as the Marbletown Dutch barns (Ma-10) Ratner and (Ma-5) Davis/Bleeker. The last three of these barns are open-end bay in form as distinct from open-side bay.

Interior of the open-bay facing in John Snyder Barn (Sa-5). Hay and straw can be pitched from the open loft into the back of a pick-up-truck sheltered in the open bay below.

Front-side, John Snyder Barn (Sa-5), Ken Snyder and his mother Madaline. The Snyder's Dutch barn has become the center of a complex of specialized buildings built over the generations.

Interior, four-part wooden-hinged wagon doors, John Snyder Barn (Sa-5). The four hinged sections are fastened to a removable center post. This type of wagon door was typical of early Dutch barns in Ulster County. Only a few examples have survived.

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