Sunday, March 6, 2016

Two Houses, One Legendary Figure

On Saturday, March 12, Peter Watson will present the second of two lectures that relate to the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, Hudson's own National Historic Landmark. Watson's first lecture was about Alexander Jackson Davis and the "picturesque transformation" wrought at the Bronson House and other estates in the Hudson Valley. In his upcoming lecture, Watson will focus in the original Federal design of the house, as it was constructed for Captain Samuel Plumb in 1812, and compare it with another early 19th-century house, the James Vanderpoel House in Kinderhook.

William Guy Wall, c. 1819 | New-York Historical Society
In his lecture "A Tale of Two Houses: Two Centuries of Change at the Bronson and Vanderpoel Houses," Watson will explore the evolution of these two quintessential Columbia County houses--how they were altered over time to reflect the changing needs and tastes of their owners and the difficult restoration choices facing past and current stewards of the houses. He will also share his investigation into "master mechanic" Barnabas Waterman, to whom both houses have been attributed, and the Colonial Revival lore that surrounds him.

A notable feature shared by both the Bronson House and the Vanderpoel House is the elliptical staircase. Building stairs was a high level skill in the joiners trade, and elliptical staircases were the pinnacle. More than anything else in the two houses, the elliptical staircases would have required the skill of a "master mechanic." Watson will compare the two staircases and other signature features found in both houses. He will also reveal an important new Waterman discovery.

The lecture, which is co-sponsored by Historic Hudson and the Columbia County Historical Society, will take place at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, at The School (Jack Shainman Gallery), 25 Broad Street in Kinderhook. Tickets are $15 if purchased in advance at If purchased at the door, they are $15 for HH and CCHS members and $20 for nonmembers.

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