Friday, May 5, 2017

Anxiety and Hope for a Historic House

Anyone who has ever traveled north from Hudson on Route 66 has noticed it: a curiously old and frail-looking house situated at the edge of the Dutch Village Trailer Park.

It is the Jan Van Hoesen House, believed to have been built sometime between 1715 and 1724 for Jan Van Hoesen and his wife, Tanneke Witbeck. The couple's initials--T I V H--are worked into a masonry monogram in the gable wall of the house.

Jan, who was born in 1687 and married in 1711, was the grandson of Jan Franse Van Hoesen, who in 1662 purchased a large tract of land from the Mohicans--the land on which Hudson and a large part of what is now Greenport are located. Van Hoesen descendants were among the folks who sold land to Thomas and Seth Jenkins in 1783, on which they founded the city of Hudson. 

Needless to say the house is of great historic significance--for its age and its association with people who played a role in Hudson's history and because it is a rare surviving example of kind of rural house that was characteristic of the upper Hudson Valley in the first half of the 18th century, a half-century before the American Revolution. So, when a reader contacted me earlier this week to share a rumor he'd heard that the new owner of the trailer park--and the historic house as well--considered the house a liability and wanted it moved or demolished, I set out to investigate further, with the intention of raising the alarm on behalf of the house if the rumor were true or quelling the anxiety if it were not true.

My quest for information led me to historian Ruth Piwonka, who provided an introduction to Ed Klingler, the president of the Van Hoesen House Historical Foundation. Klingler assured me that most of what I had heard was "speculation and rumor." He told me that he has been working with the new owner of the trailer park (and the house) since February to develop a plan to preserve the house in its current and historic location. The first step is to construct a security fence around to structure "to alleviate his insurance company's liability concerns." Through the summer, work will be done to stabilize the porch and other elements of the building's envelope. Under discussion, too, is the possibility of the Van Hoesen House Historical Foundation (VHHHF) assuming official stewardship of the house, either by a lease agreement or ownership. Klingler stressed that the new owner of property has a genuine interest in saving the house and concluded, "Now it's up to all of us who care deeply about its preservation to step up and do just that." 

VHHHF is planning to launch a major fund-raising campaign in the fall. In the meantime, contributions to the protection and preservation of the three-hundred-year-old house can be made to Van Hoesen House Historical Foundation, PO Box 254, Claverack, NY 12513. VHHHF is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation.


  1. The house has long been recognized at the Federal, State, and Town level. In 1979 the Van Hoesen House was listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places (one for the first to be listed in Columbia County). Beginning in 2005, the Van Hoesen House Historical Foundation was established and in 2009 the Preservation League of New York State listed the house on the Seven to Save. Last year, legislation was approved in Albany (with the help of Didi Barrett) to list the Claverack, Agawamuck, and Taghkanic Creeks as Inland Waterways. This allowed the Town of Claverack Historic Preservation Advisory Committee to apply for (and was successful in obtaining) a CFA Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) grant to help plan for waterfront revitalization along the three creeks including the Claverack Creek waterfront adjacent to the Van Hoesen House. (The program is the administered by the Department of State and carried out in partnership with local governments and state and federal agencies and makes it easier to obtain additional historical and environmental grants). The previous owner made it difficult to make progress until the mobile home park and historic house were recently sold to the current owner who is now willing to essentially give the house to the Van Hoesen House Historical Foundation. This is, indeed, very good news.

  2. I often drive by the Van Hoesen House and more and more lately I feel so strongly that the building needs to be save for its historic importance. I am so glad to learn that there is foundation just for that. I will be donating and offering any support I can give. Perhaps the Hudson Area Library History Room can lend some support and exposure for the foundation to get more assistance. I will reach out to Mr. Klinger. Thanks!!

  3. I have been told that the Van Hoesen House was owned by Charles Marriott (a well-known abolitionist) and his star Margaret M. Hyatt in the 1800's. I found a portion of an 1838 letter from Marriott on Fergus Bordewich's site: “Many fugitives from the South effect their escape. 3 passed through my hands last week.” stating Marriott's personal activity helping slaves on the Underground Railroad. He died in 1843 (I have his obituaries and his will from the Athenaeum Library and it seems he was in the Van Hoesen House then) so it seems likely he was in the house in 1838 also. Can anyone verify that? The history with the Underground Railroad seems like another reason to save this building.