Barn Preservation Society
to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns
SPRING 1998, Vol. 11, Issue 1, part two
The Summer Kitchen
By Pamela Herrick, Roger Scheff and Peter Sinclair
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Dutch Barn Preservation Society
The Mabee Farm Historic Site
1080 Main St. (Rt. 5S)
Junction, NY 12150
Phone: (518) 887-5073
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