Two side-by-side examples of the work of prominent Kingston architect Myron S. Teller stand empty today. The once-stately residences in Kingston’s East Chestnut Street historic district face an uncertain future. The condition of the houses at 11 and 17 East Chestnut has raised the concerns of neighbors, the Friends of Historic Kingston and the city’s building safety department.
The two houses, now slightly over a century old, are notable not only for the quality of their architecture but also for their first residents. One house was owned Dr. George Chandler, the first superintendent of the New York State Police. The other was owed by Grove Webster, the City of Kingston’s first treasurer and later Ulster County sheriff.
On June 24, 1905, the Daily Freeman announced that Myron Teller had prepared plans for two new houses on East Chestnut. The article did not comment on their very different architectural styles. Teller had designed 11 E. Chestnut for Chandler and his wife Martha Marie Schultze Chandler in a picturesque Tudor style related to then-in-vogue Arts and Crafts movement. Seventeen East Chestnut, being built for Ulster County sheriff Grove Webster, was in the Colonial Revival style associated with a classical approach to design.
In recent times, the two Myron Teller houses on East Chestnut became the property of new owners who until recently maintained the houses in something close to their original state. Now each is in a different state of limbo.
By 2004, the Chandler house, acquired by New York State, had become a live-in mental-health facility. In 2011, perhaps for budgetary reasons, the state vacated the house, leaving it without a live-in caretaker. Early in 2013, now empty for more than a year, the outside of the building seems early in 2013 still to remain in an adequate state of repair. However, Ben Rosen, a state spokesman, has so far been unable to learn the department’s plans for the building and how much longer it will be vacant.
Next door at 17 East Chestnut, the former Grove Webster house seems more clearly at risk. Deteriorating for several years and empty for about the past year, neighbors and the city’s building safety department have taken steps to minimize further deterioration. With the present owner of record currently out-of-state, the house is now in “pre-foreclosure” with a non-local bank. Former city alderman Hayes Clement, owner of a house nearby on West Chestnut and a real estate agent with Westwood Metes & Bounds, estimates that, with the number of houses in foreclosure nationwide, it could be two to three years before the house would be listed for sale. Clement terms the abandoned house, sitting unheated through multiple winters “a potential death sentence.”
City building inspector Richard Longendyke, assisted by Clement and other members of the Friends of Historic Kingston, has taken steps toward stabilizing the condition of the Webster house. Currently, the upper porch railing is coming apart and the exterior is in need of new paint. In December, Longendyke contacted the mortgage-holding bank and arranged for the yard to be cleared and the house secured. The bank’s representatives also closed up the historic carriage and stable house in the rear of the property.
The Chandler house
Before 11 East Chestnut was built, Chandler, educated at Syracuse University and an 1895 graduate of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, had his home and office at 15 W. Chestnut and 249 Broadway. In March 1903, the Daily Freeman announced the Chandlers’ purchase of the Madden property on East Chestnut Street, where the physician and his wife intended to build a new house.