Hudson Valley Home Fall 2011: Restoration of Colonial-Style Stone House in Ulster County, NY, Features Wood Paneling
Master carpenters restore museum-worthy wood paneling to an Ulster County house
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In 1933, a Kentucky antiques dealer who’d come by some elaborate 18th-century interior paneling scored a good mid-Depression deal by selling it to Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Palladian-style paneling, which is still part of a permanent exhibit in the museum’s American Wing, supposedly came out of the Benjamin Hasbrouck house, a 1752 stone house near High Falls, Ulster County. Although the museum’s experts agreed that the paneling originated in the Hudson Valley, whether it came from the Hasbrouck house was in doubt. It wasn’t until 2003 that curators visited the building and found clear evidence that the paneling had once formed half of a 20-foot length surrounding a fireplace. (The other half has yet to surface.)
Edward Katz, an ardent American history enthusiast, was in the process of buying the stone house when the curators returned in 2007 to do more analysis. He was already in love with the place because of its unusual configuration, and learning about the paneling sent him further, he says, into “hog heaven.” Although the house needed considerable restoration work — more than he’d imagined, it turned out — Katz decided he wanted to restore that museum-quality paneling.
Left: Dentil molding, fluted pilasters, and raised panels are among the fine details in the replicated paneling. The view down the hallway offers a glimpse of how the Colonial rooms at the rear of the house give way to more elegant, Federal-style rooms in the front.
Nobody knows who built the house, although Katz believes the initials “IBV” scribed into one wall (along with the date 1752) might stand for Jacob Bevier; “I” was commonly used in place of “J,” and the Flemish-style paneling suggests it was made for a Huguenot rather than one of the Dutch families settling the area. Why the original owner — whoever he was — added such fine and costly detailing to a relatively simple country dwelling; and how a craftsman capable of such highly skilled work came to be in agrarian Ulster County, are also mysteries.
The first known owner, Benjamin Hasbrouck, acquired the house in 1802, and enlarged it shortly afterwards. Rather than add on laterally, in the usual way, Hasbrouck tore off the front, raised the roof about two feet, and created a more symmetrical Federal-Colonial style dwelling, two rooms deep. It was during that expansion that the paneling to the left of the fireplace had to be removed. What Katz finds particularly interesting is that Hasbrouck, evidently a man of considerable means, kept the Colonial interiors of the original rooms in the rear while adding more elegant, Federal-style rooms in front.
“It was those two different styles representing the two eras that attracted me to the house in the first place,” Katz says. “It’s charming. He left the old, exposed beams and what must have seemed almost quaint paneling — he obviously appreciated it. He spared no expense on the rest of the house, so it was obviously a clear choice on his part.”
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