Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns

NEWSLETTER, SPRING 1998, Vol. 11, Issue 1, part two

The Summer Kitchen

By Pamela Herrick, Roger Scheff and Peter Sinclair

An old picture of the summer kitchen of the Mabee House looking north. The two windows on the southwest wall at ground level are half buried and would have provided light to the cellar area. Photo courtesy of the Schenectady County Historical Society.

The building known as the summer kitchen at the Mabee House is a unique, story-and-a-half structure, with two exterior walls of brick, facing the road, and two of wood, facing the river. The building has a partial three-bay Dutch timber frame with two internal anchorbeams and, like the early brick houses near Albany, the exterior brick walls are supported on the frame. It is a partial frame in that there is no bent in the south west end-wall and a lack of a post, or column, in the south corner has finally caused structural problems in the brick.

The approximately 16x20 foot interior plan is, like the original house, typically wider than deep, the main floor has a side entrance and the cellar has an exterior entrance. The organization of the building's interior is like that of some other, early single-cell Dutch houses built in the Hudson Valley. Like the 1709 Kip house in Rhinecliff, Dutchess County, that was studied recently, it had a jam bed fireplace in the cellar and a Dutch jambless fireplace on the first floor.

The first floor jambless fireplace of the summer kitchen would have had a brick back that protruded from the wall as shown in this unmeasured perspective drawing of the first floor and cellar. This protrusion was the flue for the basement jambed fireplace. The cellar beam has been cut back in the drawing to show the three cradle beams which are supported by the lintel and the cellar beam. Drawing by Peter Sinclair.

The method used in the Mabee summer kitchen to connect the wide flues of the two fireplaces to one chimney is a very Dutch solution. They are placed one behind the other. In a similar situation the English would narrow the flues and place them side by side but then the English no longer built jambless fireplaces in the eighteenth century.

There were changes made to the fireplaces of the building in the nineteenth century when the jambless fireplace was replaced with an iron stove and a false mantle built on the face of a new brick wall. The cellar fireplace appears to have been converted to a kind of smoke house with a brick chamber above where the jambless fireplace had been. The finish of the walls and the cased and finished beams in the cellar suggest that originally it was a dwelling place and the jambless fireplace on the main floor was the kitchen hearth.

The summer kitchen on the Mabee homestead is a remarkably unaltered building, but all three buildings that have survived are filled with evidence of their eighteenth century conditions. The Mabee complex is a rare above ground archaeological site that needs careful maintenance and further study over the coming years.

Drawings are from Historic American Building Survey (HABS) of Mabee house outer view. Click to enlarge.

 

Additional clues to their existence are documented in Historic American Buildings (HABS) drawings available from the Library of Congress.

The jambless fireplace was brought here by seventeenth century settlers from Northern Europe and, in particular, by colonists from the Netherlands. Perpetuated by descendants, although they were long out of touch with Europe, the open fireplace was part of the distinctive regional culture noted by visitors to Dutch areas in the Northeast.

When fireplaces with sides or jambs, similar to those built in New England, finally became popular in the colony of New York, the old hoods and hearths and the huge tapering chimneys in Dutch and German houses were torn out and covered up. Eventually, almost all of the jambless fireplaces were gone. Thus, as the years passed, this unique feature so characteristic of ethnic Dutch houses and of Dutch family life was almost forgotten.

Left: The Mabee House as it looks today. The structure attached to the right side of the main house is a wood timber framed structure in the Dutch style. It could be a complete house itself of the eighteenth century that was moved to this site.

 

 

Left: The second floor interior of the timber framed addition. Notice the one and a half story design with collar ties typical of eighteenth century Dutch construction. This structure measured 19 feet 9 inches long and 19 feet 10.5 inches wide. Side walls were 13 feet high from top of sills to top of wall plate. Overall height was 22 feet 7 inches to peak. Three bays or four bents were used to construct this fine example of modest Dutch house construction. Notice the holes in the columns for pegs to support exterior gutters like some Dutch barns.

The Dutch Barn Preservation Society

c/o The Mabee Farm Historic Site
1080 Main St. (Rt. 5S)
Rotterdam Junction, NY 12150

Site Phone: (518) 887-5073

 

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