Barn Preservation Society
to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns
SPRING 1996, Vol. 9, Issue 1THE
SAUGERTIES BARNS: Six Dutch-American Barns of Saugerties, Ulster
County, New York
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 . 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 . 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.
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
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 .
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
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
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
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
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
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