Thursday, October 17, 2013

HABS is habit forming

Recently I had the chance to take a tour of the Van Schaick Mansion in Cohoes.  It is a wonderful Dutch colonial home built about 1735.  While in the front hallway, the guide pointed out a certificate from when the home was surveyed as part of the Historic American Building Survey, otherwise known as HABS.  Which got me thinking about Bethlehem and HABS.

The Van Schaick Mansion

First off, here's a little HABS history from their web site (I couldn't write it better myself)

"The Historic American Buildings Survey was created in 1933 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to provide much-needed work for architects, photographers, and historians, who documented America’s built environment at a key moment in modernization and nationalization. The effort provided an invaluable historical record of sociological, technological, and design development as well as art, information and inspiration for Americans of that time and ours."

HABS continues today, along with its buddies HAER (Historic American Engineering Record) and HALS (Historic American Landscape Survey) through the National Parks Service's Heritage Documentation Program.  They partner with the Library of Congress and private donors to make the images and documents available on line.   HABS is the only New Deal program that is still going today.

When you have a lot of time to kill, check out the LOC Prints and Photographs On Line Collection.  That's where you'll find the HABS items as well as a lot of other cool historic stuff.

Here's a link

Bethlehem has several buildings that were surveyed by HABS in the 1930s.  Bethlehem House on Dinmore Road is one. It was also built circa 1735 and bears a resemblance to the Van Schaick House.

Bethlehem House, also known as the Nicoll Sill House

Another is Sunnybrook Farm on Route 32 just past the Elm Avenue Park. It was the center of a cattle holding farm run by members of the Corning family.  In 1943 Charles Waldenmaier and his wife Virginia Elmendorf purchased the property for general farming and improved the land with extensive apple orchards. 

Sunnybrook Farm

There is an old family cemetery on the knoll beyond the barn. Buried there are Frederick Britt and his wife Helena Burhans.  Britt had his sons-in-law Frederick and John Luke build the house about 1801 after his service with the 1st Regiment, Ulster County, New York Militia during the American Revolution.  He died in September of 1811 at age 66.  Helen followed him in October 1838.   Their daughter Leah married John Albert Slingerland.

There are many architectural drawings of Sunnybrook Farm, including the one above.

Other Bethlehem properties include the Haswell Houck Tavern which still stands on Feura Bush Road at the corner with Elm, and the Hendrick Van Wie House, another brick Dutch colonial which was torn down to make way for the Niagara-Mohawk Steam Generating Plant on Route 144 River Road in Glenmont.

NOTE: All of the images on this post are from the HABS website.  If you would like to learn more about the Van Schaick Mansion, visit

1 comment:

  1. Hello Susan,
    have you thought of looking into the local History of the Corning family in Bethlehem?
    Once of their large homes, along with other structures, are still standing today.