Historic House Tour: Homes with rich stories

A watercolor of one of the homes on the tour by artist Nancy Campbell

The hamlet known as Flatbush consists of a strip of land bordered by the Hudson River on the east and a limestone ridge on the west, and extends from East Kingston on the south to Glasco on the north. It is over a mile wide and five miles long, with a main thoroughfare, Route 32, also called Flatbush Road, traversing its length. Several references tell us that the name, Flatbush, came originally from the Indians who knew it as “the place of flat woods.” The Dutch honored that description by calling it Vlakkebosch or Flat Woods. As early as 1722, the trustees of the Kingston Corporation had deeded land in Flatbush to James Whitaker, and shortly after that to the Osterhoudt and Burhans families. More land was purchased by settlers in the early 1800s when the Commons lands were divided into “classes” and each of these “classes” was further divided into smaller, numbered lots of 30-45 acres. Much of the farming community in Flatbush traces its beginnings to this land distribution.

The fourth annual Saugerties Historic House Tour, sponsored by the Town of Saugerties Historic Preservation Commission with assistance from the Town of Ulster historian Rob Sweeney, will enable participants to visit eight locations within Flatbush. The buildings on the tour range in date of construction from the early 1700s to the late 1800s, making them representative of the evolution of this agrarian community. In addition to houses, the tour will also feature barns—wonderful spaces that speak through their sheer volume and soaring roof lines of documented construction techniques and use of materials that evoke an earlier time and place.


The Hudson River played an increasingly important role in Flatbush in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s as the brick and ice industries flourished along the river banks with barges providing an economical form of transportation to New York City. At the height of the brick-making era, there were at least twelve brickyards operating concurrently in Flatbush, with a total output in the 1906 season estimated at over 140 million bricks. The rich clay silt deposited on the banks of the Hudson during the ice age provided a vast supply of raw material for making the bricks that were needed to fuel industrial and commercial development. Two of the featured sites on this year’s tour served as homes for prominent brickyard owners.

Winter weather made it impractical to produce bricks year-round. Fortunately for the brick-workers with families to support, the ice industry needed workers to harvest ice from the Hudson during winter months. Huge wooden ice houses were built along the west banks of the Hudson where cakes of ice were stored, insulated with hay and sawdust. When the warm season returned, barges were filled with ice and towed to New York City and other points along the way. Another featured site on this year’s house tour is a replica of an icehouse that includes many of the tools and implements used to harvest ice.

At the southern end of Flatbush is the Benjamin Ten Broeck house, one of the most historically important houses in the Hudson Valley. Although the house now bears the Ten Broeck name, it was, in fact, built in 1751 for Johannes Maximilian Velde (Felten), a descendant of Palatine refugees who came to the Hudson Valley in 1710. The Velde (Felten) family lived in this stone house for the duration of the 18th century. Benjamin Ten Broeck purchased the house in 1804 and his descendants resided in the house until 1869. Built in three phases, the earliest center section holds a date stone from 1751. The first expansion was added to the west in 1765, and the final kitchen addition to the east predates the Revolutionary War. This stone house, filled with period furnishings, has been carefully and meticulously restored and is an excellent example of New World Dutch vernacular architecture. It was formally listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Advanced sale tickets at $15 for the tour can be purchased from Smith Hardware and Hudson Valley Dessert Company, both in the village of Saugerties, until May 9, or by mail until May 4. Tickets on the day of the tour will be $25, available at the QuickChek Station on 9W near the intersection of 9W and Rt. 32 from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. This is the starting point of this self-guided driving tour, where an informative booklet that includes maps, directions and descriptions will be given to each tour participant as they check-in.

Boxed lunches prepared by the Flatbush Reformed Church Women are available for $10 and must be ordered in advance. See ticket information. Lunches will be ready for pick-up 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on the day of the tour at the church.

For more information, visit www.historichousetour.com. l

Compiled by Susan and Rich Davis and Susan Puretz on behalf of the Saugerties Historic House Tour Committee