Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wemp Barn

Yesterday was a lovely summer day, perfect for a ride in the country on the hunt for the Wemp barn.  

After dropping the daughter off at Crossgates Mall, with a vague notion that the barn is off 32 in Feura Bush, I set off on my own cross country excursion on the back roads of Guilderland, Bethlehem, and New Scotland.  There were many historic homes along the way.  I especially enjoyed Bullock Road including this historic marker tribute to Matthew Bullock "Introduced English Short Horn Cattle into Albany County about 1815 and won premiums at fairs" 

Then I made a quick zip through Clarksville on Delaware Avenue (lovely homes and lots of historic markers thanks to the Clarksville Historical Society) and a left turn onto Tarrytown Road knowing that Tarrytown came out on 32. Ended up crossing 32 onto Cedar Grove and somehow ended up in South Bethlehem.  Along the way I saw a pair of nice older homes near the intersection with Blodgett Hill Road ( I think this is Callanan's Corners.) One is an old stone one, the other a large brick structure with a formidable mansard roof.  No historic markers here but they sure deserve one!

Turn around, back to 32.  Taking a guess, I turned on Onesquethaw Creek Road with the idea that I could at least pick up some corn at Stanton's Farm on my way home even if I didn't find the barn.

And lo and behold there it was, and worth the trip.

 The Wemp Barn is a classic New World Dutch Barn.  It was originally built about 1700 in Fort Hunter, Montgomery County by Jan Wemp and moved here in 1990 by the Dutch Barn Preservation Society.  Here's a link to the whole story

Here are some adjectives about the barn and its setting: beautiful, rustic, architectural, functional, geometric, awesome, airy, huge, warm, sheltering, spacious, hand made.

And then there was this guy, who gave me quite a start when I rounded the corner....

 And to add to the rural setting, next door to the barn is this....

And finally just over the one lane bridge over the Onesquethaw is this lovely farm vista.  And what looks like another old stone house off in the distance.

I hope you enjoyed this excursion into the country side.  And I will claim a Bethlehem connection for two reasons.  One: Bethlehem has its own Dutch barns, but they are not open to the public.  Two: when these stone houses were most likely built, they would have been in the Town of Bethlehem.  New Scotland was created out of Bethlehem in 1832.  So there.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Old Roads


Heading down 9W this morning on the way to Selkirk, I got to thinking about the way the roads used to line up in this part of town.  Consider this 1893 map.  Notice the three red stars. 

The top one marks the intersection of Lasher Road and Route 9W (near today's Becker School), the middle one marks where Maple Avenue (Rt 396) makes the turn at Beaver Dam Road and the bottom one marks where Pictuay Road meets today's Old Ravena Road.  Notice the rectangular shape to the left of the word Selkirk.  Are you with me so far? Ok, below is a map from 2007 with the same three spots marked.  Can you find that rectangle?


Next time you are out and about in the southern part of town, take a ride on some of these old roads.  It is hard to imagine that at one time they were the main drag.  There are some lovely old homes on Lasher.  This morning I went down Old Ravena Road with the thought of finding the location of Selkirk's one room school.  No sign of that, but, there is a lovely old Victorian that I had no idea was there. If you keep going over into the Town of Coeymans, just over the Coeymans Creek is the Tobias TenEyck House. It was built about 1758 and is on the National Register. 

If you would like to look at the original USGS map from 1893 plus ones from 1927 and 1950 visit this website:  Just for fun, switch between them and Google maps.

Feel like exploring some more old roads?  Here's a list of all of them (except for Olde Coach which I don't think is really old anyway.) They are Old Glenmont Road, Old Kenwood Road, Old Oakwood Road, Old Quarry Road, Old Ravena Road, Old Road, Old River Road, Old Route 9W,  Old School Road and Old Town Road.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Stop mowing at 2 pm"

From the journal of John R. Adams

July 20, 1900 Commenced harvest at Vorheesville...stop mowing at 2 PM...move bales in the barn to make room for new hay

July 28, 1900 finished all hay  23 wagons in all

Yes, I am still thinking about hay and barns.  Once the heat breaks (maybe next week) I am going out to the Wemp barn in Feura Bush.  I believe this barn was moved to this site, BUT, it if had been built here, it would have been in the Town of Bethlehem at that time (The Town of New Scotland was created out of Bethlehem in 1832). 


And if you are curious, John R Adams (1834-1905) is the son of Nathaniel and Rhogenia Adams.  Nathaniel and Rhogenia moved to what was to become Adamsville (get the connection?) in 1836 and built the Adams House Hotel in 1838.  (Now NYSARC and the Delmar Fire Department at 393 Delaware Avenue, Delmar)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An old house weekend

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting a whole bunch of historic houses. 

On Saturday, I was in Hurley, New York for their Stone House Day.  What a special place with many, many old stone houses.  Dutch doors, jambless fireplaces, and huge wooden beams abound.  We heard stories of George Washington, British spies and  pot cheesers (visit the website for an explanation of that one.)  We got so used to the low ceilings and big beams that a visit to the parsonage was startling with its smooth ceilings (all the beams are covered up) and knotty pine paneling installed in the parlor.  Not exactly historically accurate, but cozy none the less.

My favorite was the "bonus" house.  Across Hurley Mountain Road from the Ten Eyck Bouwrie farm (which was on the tour) is the Newkirk House.  Not officially on the tour, but for sale so the real estate agent had it open.  While the lovely stone work, original windows, many additions and rooms (5 bedrooms!) were great what was most appealing to me was that it was pretty much empty.  Other houses on the tour were packed with family stuff and antiques, some with museum-like displays and lots of old colonial stuff.  Which is all well and good and very interesting.  But having the house empty makes you really notice the architecture, the shape of the rooms, the quirks of the stair case, the angle of the ceiling and dormer windows.  The modern bath and kitchen.  The old open hearth with built in cupboards on each side.  The 1888 carefully etched in the window by a happy bride.  You notice different details without the distracting stuff.  Plus you can imagine living there - not that I could afford it!

Main street in Hurley (

Benjamin Newkirk House (

1752 Newkirk (Nieuwkerk) farm house & barn, Hurley Mtn. Rd. (19c. archival photo)
A historic view of the Newkirk house (

On Sunday I was able to visit the Barent Winne house which is located near Henry Hudson Park in Bethlehem.  It is also for sale and the agent was having an open house.
141 BARENT WINNE RD, Selkirk, NY 12158- Primary Photograph

What a contrast to the day before.  An idyllic setting on the Hudson River, ornate Italianate style, large breezy rooms with high ceilings, sweeping verandas with views of the river.  Just lovely. 

Hurley, with its busy Main Street and stone houses lined up close to the street, seems so different from this c.1857 home in its park like setting.


back in the day, the Hudson River was the bustling main street between the hinterlands of Bethlehem and New York City. Bethlehem farmers took their cash crops (oats, hay, apples) to Winne's dock and sent them to market in NYC.  Farmers and shopkeepers would order goods that were delivered to the dock for pickup.  The Winne's had a busy operation here what with their dock and store as well as storage buildings for coal and  hay.   Their elegant home oversaw it all.

Here's what Allison Bennett wrote about the Winne home in her article "A careful restoration on the river" published in 1976.
Barent Winne Sr. was born in 1818 and during the next several decades the Hudson River became one of the major transportation arteries of the nation. Barent was a man with a penchant for business. He established a barge and freight line at the river house in 1860. He built large warehouses on his dock near the house, where merchandise was stored for shipment on barges to New York and other markets. Farmers of Bethlehem brought their apples, vegetables, hay and other farm produce here to be loaded on the boats, and Winne's Dock was known far and near as a "Hudson River Landing." He also established a trading store where the farmers could purchase needed goods and supplies, even coal in later years. All of these items came to the dock by boat from the larger cities.

From all of this activity prosperity naturally developed. We find that in 1868 the old stone house, probably no longer thought fashionable was torn down, and Barent Sr. built the present house. His son, Barent Winne Jr., resided there and lived to an old age, sitting on the front porch watching the river traffic from his rocking chair, white-haired and with a blanket wrapped around his knees. He was childless, but he was always ready to grant permission to the local families and young people to enjoy a swim in the river from his beach on the hot, humid summer days we so often have here in the Hudson Valley.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Driving along Meads Lane this morning, I was again thinking about barns and hay.  Some of the fields there have been mown, with the cut hay lined up and ready to be baled.  Hay was big business for Bethlehem farmers with much of it being sent to the hungry horses of New York City.

Above is a large hay barn on Clapper Road.  It was built by the Clappers in 1892 and has a built in hay press inside that was turned by horse power.  Below is an ad I found on the web for a horse powered hay press. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

July Then & Now article

July's Our Towne Bethlehem features my Then & Now article about the Cedar Hill Observation Station.   Check it out at

July 4, 1900

Here's what John R. Adams wrote in his journal for Wednesday July 4, 1900

"Clarence, Dane and Self hauled in Hay near house.  Hoed cabbage amid the din of Powder Crackers. Home all day. Fair + warm"