It was a gala affair this past Saturday evening on Huguenot Street in New Paltz, where friends, neighbors and ancestors came together for the celebratory reopening of the circa-1721 Abraham Hasbrouck House.
The preservation/restoration project of the “Abe House” was a massive undertaking based on the findings of ten years of intensive research conducted by a team of architectural and material culture historians to achieve a historically accurate restoration. This home is one of seven early-18th-century stone houses owned by Historic Huguenot Street (HHS) and is a repository of historical revelation — culturally, architecturally and archaeologically.
Local officials including town supervisor Susan Zimet and village trustees Sally Rhoads and Stewart Glenn were on hand during the speeches, awards and ribbon-cutting ceremony. So were members of the Hasbrouck Family Association (HFA), HHS staff and board members, history enthusiasts and those who worked hands-on to restore this local treasure, which is part of a National Historic Landmark District and one of the homes on the oldest incorporated street in America.
Robert Hasbrouck, president of the HFA, praised everyone involved with the project, and noted with a laugh that while taking a tour, people should look at the “historically accurate nails that were used in this restoration. They’re not like modern nails, and they cost $4 apiece! Imagine what they cost in the 18th century!”
The HFA gave out awards to skilled volunteers, whom they called the “life-blood” of any successful organization. One of two people recognized for their benevolent efforts on this project was Rose Marie McBridge, who worked with a small team to oversee the design and sewing of cloth to be historically accurate to the 18th-century home. “Her skills and expertise were invaluable, and she did the work entirely without cost,” said Hasbrouck.
“We want to acknowledge her sterling and heartfelt efforts with something sterling in return,” he said as he handed her the framed photo of the Abe House with a special insignia acknowledging her work towards its preservation. “It was a labor of love,” she said.
Sanford Levy of Jenkinstown Antiques was also singled out as someone who volunteered his expertise in period furniture during the restoration project. “My expertise is in Hudson Valley-related antiques,” he said after receiving his award. “I was just there to make sure that items were not from the 1795 period — too late, or from the 1810s — way too dragged out.” He even lent many of his precious antiques to the Abe House as it reopened to the public, including coverlets, tea tables and other period dressings.
Levy also provided ceramic pieces based on the shards discovered by SUNY professor of Archaeology Joe Diamond, who conducted a summer field-study archaeology school at the Abe House after the stone floor was ripped up and prior to the historically accurate wooden floor was replaced. During that time, Diamond and his students unearthed hundreds of archaeological finds underneath the floor in the living room, which revealed many clues about 18th-century Huguenot Street life and culture. “I used his ceramic shard samples and matched them to my own antique collection of ceramics, and was able to authenticate and provide the HFA with many of those items,” said Levy.
Tours are now available to the public in the Abraham Hasbrouck House, which has had its roof and frame replaced and restored, the interior of the house including rafters and attic stairs, fireplaces and floors, wall furnishings, windows, doors and historically accurate paint all restored to reflect life as it was when the home was built and lived in.
Construction of the Abe House was begun in 1721 by Daniel Hasbrouck, the son of Abraham Hasbrouck, a French Huguenot and an original European settler of New Paltz. The stone house was completed in 1735. According to the HHS, “Typical of New Paltz stone houses, it was built in three sections, with the center one being the earliest and flanking rooms built as the family’s size and wealth increased. The house contains many elements of Colonial Dutch architecture, including large jambless fireplaces and an opkamer, or upper chamber, where it is believed Maria Hasbrouck, Daniel’s widowed mother, resided.”
The interpretation of the house focuses on the mid-1760s, the years leading up to the American Revolution, when Daniel Hasbrouck’s widow, Wyntje Deyo, lived in the house with six sons and one daughter, along with enslaved Africans. “During the 18th century, a married woman’s legal rights were limited under English law. A woman could only control her own fate, buy and sell land, handle money or sign contracts if she was single or widowed,” explained HHS. Thus, tours and interpretations of the home will include the personal story of “Widow Hasbrouck,” who became the family’s primary decisionmaker, caregiver and property-owner. Collection pieces from HHS — some with Hasbrouck family provenance — are arranged to introduce visitors to rooms where people slept, cooked, ate and performed a variety of daily activities necessary to support family life.
Tracy McNally, the executive director of HHS, took the opportunity with a captive audience, who were enjoying hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and a breezy summer evening, to congratulate the team effort and the HFA for its generous donations towards the Abraham Hasbrouck restoration, as well as highlighting more goings-on at HHS. McNally noted that several of HHS’s historic homes had been repainted, including the Deyo House, thanks to contributions from the Deyo Family Association and various grant sources. She also noted that HHS is hopeful of receiving a grant award from the Fred Brotherton Foundation to reinstall a kitchen in the Old Fort, now the site of the HHS gift shop, exhibitions and tour guides. “There was a kitchen there in 1830 and again in the 1960s (when the Old Fort was a popular restaurant), and we’d like to have a kitchen again, so that we can continue to host great events like this!”
The Abraham Hasbrouck House is now officially opened to the public. To learn more or to sign up for a tour, go to www.huguenotstreet.org or call 255-1660.