Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lecture by Dutch stone house expert

John R. Stevens, author of Dutch Vernacular Architecture in North America, 1640-1830, will discuss the connection between the architecture of the Netherlands and its evolution in the New World, at 11 a.m. Saturday June 13 at the Persen House in Kingston. The lecture will cover all of New Netherland and how the early builders adapted local materials to the Dutch building tradition.

The Persen House, part of which is believed to date to the late 1650s, is one of the earliest stone houses built by Dutch settlers in this country. It will also be open to the public with guided tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Here is more from the news release:

Stevens’ book is said to be the most comprehensive examination to date of the houses, barns, and other structures dating from the time when New York was known as New Netherland. It is a scholarly work about a unique type of architecture that has been largely ignored by architects and historians. In 463 pages of drawings, photographs, and text, Stevens has crammed forty years of scholarship that Abbott Lowell Cummings, author of The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, calls “the achievement of a lifetime.” The book is published by The Society for the Preservation of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture (HVVA), a not-for-profit based in West Hurley, NY, that has spent the last 10 years examining houses and barns from an era that began shortly after Henry Hudson “discovered” the region in 1609 through well into the 19th century, and covering a geographical area that extends from Long Island to Albany and beyond.

Rob Sweeney, Editor of HVVA’s newsletter, defines vernacular architecture as “the common way of building…a product of regional culture and tradition.” Hundreds of years before the Vanderbilts and Astors built their castles along the Hudson—which some have called the “McMansions” of their day—the Dutch, and later German and English settlers, built modest homes and barns whose architectural roots can be traced directly back to Medieval Europe. For more information about the book and HVVA (which charges its members just $20 a year and includes its newsletter), go to http://www.hvva.org. Their mailing address is P.O. Box 202, West Hurley, NY 12491 USA.

Stevens’ talk is the first of a series of Persen House events that are currently being planned as part of the Hudson-Fulton Quadricentennial Celebration. The talk is also an effort to expand interest in the Persen House and its possible future as a regional heritage center about the Dutch in colonial America. The exterior of the Persen House has been restored by Ulster County. Much of the interior is unfinished, part of it intentionally so that visitors can see how the building evolved over time. The public is invited to tour the house this summer on Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm.

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