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Dutch Framed Houses

in New York and New Jersey

W. Zink


is a

unique vernacular building technology

and a keyelementin defininghouses built
in America by the Dutch. While Dutch American
timber houses today appear to be less common
than masonry ones, they were the commonest
structuresin the seventeenthand eighteenthcenturies.The evolution of timberframingthroughout the Dutch American period (from 1624 to
earlyin the nineteenthcentury,yearsin whichthe
influenceof the Dutch remained discernible)illustratesboth the transferenceand the adaptation of
European material culture to the New World, especially the process of acculturationas expressed
in traditionalbuildingpractices.Scholarshave usually defined Dutch American houses by outward
forms,such as a gambrel roof witha spring eave,
or by certain interiordetails, such as a jambless
fireplace. Some have noted the Dutch systemof
CliffordW. Zink is a consultantin the restorationof historic
buildingsand is workingon a historyof industrialarchitecture.
He is a partnerin an architecturalfirmand executivedirector
of a nonprofitcorporationthatis planningthe preservationand
redevelopmentof the John A. Roebling's Sons Co. historicindustrialcomplex in Trenton, N.J.
This articleis based on the author's 1985 master'sthesisfor
the Columbia UniversityGraduate School of Architecture,
Planning, and Preservation.Many people have contributedto
this research, including several with whom the author first
learned to look at timberbuildings while restoringGlencairn,
an early eighteenth-centuryfarmstead in Princeton, N.J.:
Stephen Zink, Elric Endersby, Alexander Greenwood, and
Richard Hunter. Others who helped him to understandtimber
framing include Yun Sheng Huang, Joseph Hammond,
Richard Harris, and Karen Peterson. Persons who provided
assistance include Henk Zantkuyl and Piet van Wijk in the
Netherlands; Neil Larson, Bill McMillen, Ruth Piwonka, and
Ken Walpuck in New York; GwendolynWright;Frank Matero;
Gordon Loader; Leslie Goat; ShirleyDriks; and Theo Prudon,
the thesis reader; and especially his thesis adviser, Catherine
Lynn, Columbia University.
? 1987 byThe HenryFrancisdu PontWinterthurMuseum,
Inc. All rightsreserved. oo840-416/87/22o4/ooo3$o4.oo

heavy floorjoists and have begun to address types

of floor plans, but no researcher has adequately
examined and identifiedDutch American timber
The particulartimber-framing
systemused by
the Dutch colonists came from the Netherlands,
and that,in turn,had its originsin earlynorthern
European building types. The systemfollowed a
structurallogic-a conceptualizationof handling
space, structuralforces,and aesthetics.This logic
determinedthe formof both timberand masonry
buildings because the spatial parameters were
based on the physical limitationsof timber.The
earliest American houses show that the Dutch
transferred their seventeenth-centurybuilding
technologyto the New World in simplifiedforms
that relied on their rules of constructionyet met
the need for expediency in settlinga new land.
Since New Amsterdamwas establishedas a trading
post by a privatecompany,therewas littleimpetus
to give its structures the elaborate decorative
treatmentcommonlyused on buildings in seventeenth-centuryNetherlands; instead, the builders
employed only key elementsof the Dutch conceptualizationof building,some of whichbecame symbols of the colonists'culturalheritage.The refinement of the key elements over the 200 years
followingthe initialDutch settlementillustratesthe
transformationof a parent culture in a colonial
setting: immigrant builders adapted their Old
World traditionsto new environmentalrequirements, material sources, and building ideas and,
followingthe English conquest of 1664, merged
their timber-framingpractices with those of
Anglo-Americans. They eventually created hybrids thatdemonstratea cross-culturalmeldingof
European-based house-building technologies in
America. This studyidentifiesthe timber-framing
characteristicsthatdefine Dutch American houses

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and traces their evolution over time. Floor plans,

roof types,and other details willbe discussed only
in relationto framingcharacteristics.1
Among the major European buildingtraditions
broughtto the New World, that of the Dutch has
received comparatively little attention.2 Most
Dutch American buildings were vernacular structures. There are no landmark or monumental
houses that epitomize Dutch American design, as
Paul Revere's house and Westover representEnhouse
glish seventeenth-and eighteenth-century
buildings survive, nearly
the early buildings in New Netherland have long
since disappeared. Most settlersin New Netherland built timberhouses for expediency,knowing
that these could be replaced by more permanent
masonry structuresas time and prosperitypermitted.3That, combined withthe continuingpressure for new developmentin the region whichhas
occurred since the beginning of European settlement,has contributedto the destructionof houses
and most other evidence of the early Dutch culture,except forplace names and road layouts.The
1 Restoration and moving of eighteenth-century
and barns in the centralNew Jerseyarea, wherebothDutch and
English settled,has provided the opportunityto studydistinctions between theirbuilding traditionsfirsthand.These buildings,and othersrecorded in surveyslike the HistoricAmerican
Buildings Survey(HABS), are in Mercer,Somerset,Middlesex,
Morris, Monmouth, Hunterdon, and Bergen counties in New
Jerseyand in Brooklyn,Staten Island, and Rockland,Dutchess,
and Columbia counties in New York. The research has also
included early archivaldocuments of New Netherland,studies
of Dutch and English houses in America, published drawings
and photographsof houses in the Netherlands,and fieldtrips
to open-air museums and to sites in England and the Netherlands that have historictimberhouses.
2 Scholars have studied English American timber houses
for years in New England, Maryland, and Virginia,but with
little comparative analysis. Abbott Lowell Cummings, The
Framed Houses of MassachusettsBay, 1625-1725 (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard UniversityPress, Belknap Press, 1979), is the
most comprehensive study of traditional timber framing in
America to date. For New England, see also J. FrederickKelly,
of Connecticut(1924; reprint, New
Early DomesticArchitecture
York: Dover Publications,1963); and Norman M. Isham and
Houses: An Historicaland ArAlbert Brown, Early Connecticut
Study(1900; reprint,New York: Dover Publications,
1965). For early timber buildings in the Tidewater area, see
Cary Carson, Norman F. Barka, William M. Kelso, Garry
Wheeler Stone, and Dell Upton, "ImpermanentArchitecturein
the Southern American Colonies," Winterthur
Portfolio16, nos.
2/3(Summer/Autumn1981): 135-96. Studies in Quebec focus
on the traditionof elaborate roof trusseson masonrybuildings
and on colombage,the Norman-derived framing system of
closely spaced studs. See Michel Lessard and Marquis Hude la maisonQudbicoise(Montreal: Agence
de distributionpopulaire, 1972); and Michel Lessard and Gilles
au Qudbec(Montreal: Editions
Villandr6,La maisontraditionnelle
Aux Hommes, 1974).
3 Thomas JeffersonWertenbaker,TheFoundingofAmerican
Civilization:The Middle Colonies(New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1938), pp. 64-65, 75.

survivingbuildingshave been alteredor expanded

and have become even less noticeablewiththe suburbanizationof the region.
Students of Dutch American material culture
have always faced the problem of definingwho
were the "Dutch" in America. New Netherlandwas
a polyglotsettlementfrom the beginning:besides
the Dutch, there were Flemings, French Huguenots, and French-speakingBelgians. For the
purposes of thisarticle,Dutchwillbe used to refer
to people from the Netherlands and adjacent
countrieswho were of Dutch birthor who became
commonly identifiedwith the Dutch during the
colonial period and retained thatidentityeven after the establishmentof New York.4 A "Dutch
house" is one that exhibits,in form and fabric,
those architecturalfeatures commonly found in
the Netherlands or adjacent Lowlands regions. A
"Dutch American house" is one constructedin the
New Netherland area by "Dutch" colonists,using
architecturalprecepts that were transferredfrom
the Netherlands.
Initially the Dutch settlers built houses they
perceived as suitable to the type of settingthey
were creatingin theircolony. In New Amsterdam
and otherurban settlements,theybuilthouses that
resembled those in small citiesin the Netherlands
(fig.i), while in the agriculturalareas of the lower
Hudson Rivervalley,such as Brooklynand northcentral New Jersey,they built houses resembling
farmdwellings.Followingthe English conquest in
1664, the colony's urban settlementsrapidly absorbed English culture, and Dutch-styleurban
buildingsbecame increasinglyscarce,except in the
upper Hudson region near Fort Orange (now Albany) where the English culturaland economic influenceremained weak. Thus, in the upper Hudson region, urban Dutch buildingsinfluencedthe
design of farmand villagehouses in the surrounding areas well into the eighteenthcentury,as the
Dutch clung to earlier, and often obsolete, architectural symbols of their cultural heritage.
of these settlershad firstmigratedto the Nether4 Many
lands to escape religiouspersecution.Other settlerscame from
Germany, Scandinavia, and even Poland and Hungary. For
Flemish origins,see Wertenbaker,Foundingof Civilization,
35-36, 67-68. Peter Wacker has observed: "This diversityof
ethnicoriginsis reflectedby the factthat Demarest,Zabriskie,
and Banta are good and common 'Dutch' names in New Jersey.
Many settlersarrivedin the New World bilingual,especiallythe
French speakers,but in a generationor so the Dutch language,
favored by the Company, the government,and the Dutch Reformed Church, won out, as did English, later on" (Peter O.
Wacker, "Dutch Material Culture in New Jersey,"Journalof
Popular Culture11, no. 4 [Spring 1978]: 948-58). The Dutch
language and legal system,the emphasis on commerce with
Holland, and intermarriage,all contributedto the dominance
of Dutch culture in New Netherland.

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view(detail),ca. 166o,seventeenth-century
Fig. i. "Prototype"
townhouses,New Amsterdam.
Maud Esther Dilliard, AlbumofNew Netherland
(New York: Twayne Publishers,
1963), frontis.

the Dutch American barn. While early documents

Throughout the rest of the region, rural Dutch
indicate that Dutch settlersbuilt some of these
architecturebecame the dominant influence on
barn dwellingsin New Netherland,the vast majorDutch American house types,especiallyin Dutchess and Columbia counties and Brooklyn and
ityconstructedseparate dwellingsand barns. Wertenbaker speculated, "perhaps the heat from the
Staten Island, as well as Monmouth, Middlesex,
cattleand horses was uncomfortablein the scorchcentral
New Jersey.Today the largest number of timber ing American summers, perhaps it was deemed
unwise to have the thatchedroof of the barn too
houses appears to survivein Dutchess County and
in central New Jersey.Both areas are particularly near the roaring firein the residence necessitated
by the bittercold of winter."6
noteworthybecause theyalso possess a number of
Architect-authorThomas T. Waterman inibuildand
tiallycalled public attentionto a distinctframing
tween Dutch and English colonial cultures.5
style,explaining: "Dutch carpentersused widelyThe two principal books on Dutch American
spaced heavy [anchor] beams carryingvery thick
floorboards instead of the girders,closely-spaced
houses were written fiftyyears ago by Rosalie
joists and thinfloorsof the English colonial buildReynolds. Although
ers. The feature of the huge, low beams of the
thors relied heavilyon genealogy of familiesand
Dutch houses alone gave a verydifferentcharacter
exteriorformof the houses, their studies remain
to the interiors,and especiallywhen the posts carof
comprehensive surveys
ried angular brackets [corbels], like ships' knees.
American houses. Architecturalanalyses of Dutch
American houses have occurred primarilyas part
of largerstudiesof Americanarchitecture.In 1938
historian Thomas Wertenbaker identified the
Houses and Familiesin
6 Rosalie F. Bailey, Pre-Revolutionary
NewJerseyand Southern
New York(New York: W. Mor"lower Saxon peasant house," a combined barn
row, 1936); Helen W. Reynolds,DutchHousesin theHudsonValand dwellingalso called a loshoes,as the source for
leybefore1776 (New York: Payson and Clarke, 1929). The HolRecent surveysin the upper Hudson counties have recorded many Dutch American timber houses, but published
informationis limited.Ruth Piwonka and Elise Barry's"Study
of Ethnic Pre-Federal Architecturein Columbia County,N.Y."
(Columbia County Historical Society,Kinderhook, 1984), surdocuments
veys building contractsin the seventeenth-century
of old Albany Co. and analyzes several buildings.The presence
of Massachusetts-typeframe houses in Columbia Co. offersa
good opportunityfor comparing Dutch and English framing
techniques. See also Leslie Goat, "Historical Survey: Town of
East Fishkill(Dutchess County),N.Y." (Town Hall, East Fishkill,
1984). The RichmondtownRestorationon Staten Island and
Old Bethpage village on Long Island have a concentrationof
Dutch American timberhouses, many of whichwere moved to
these sites. For cross-culturalarchitecturalinfluences,see Wertenbaker,FoundingofCivilization,
pp. 53-57.

land Society, for whom the book was published, wanted

Reynoldsto include only those houses to whichmemberscould
trace theirlineage. Other studies have focused on specificgeographicareas or on promotingthe "Dutch Colonial" as a model
for new suburban houses: Maud Esther Dilliard, Old Dutch
Houses of Brooklyn(New York: Richard R. Smith, 1945); John
Boyd, "Early Dutch Houses in New Jersey,"Architectural
36, no. 3 (July 1914): 31-48; Aymar Embury II, The Dutch
ColonialHouse: Its Origin,Design,ModernPlan and Construction
(New York: McBride, Nast, 1913). Wertenbaker,Foundingof
Civilization,p. 63. Wertenbaker analyzed "Flemish" building
typesbut did not address framingor explain whythe Flemish
houses of New Netherland relate more to Dutch anchor-bent
framingthan to the colombage frames favored by the Canadians. Nor did he explain adequately why these settlersbuilt
Dutch barns and not the long, narrow,Flemish-stylebarn that
prevailsin French Canada.

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... The beams are usually about seven inches by

More recentlyscholarshave focusedon formor
decoration, as did Bailey and Reynolds, and on
floorplans. A fewresearchershave recognizedthe
basic differencesbetweenDutch and Englishframing techniques, particularlyin regard to barns.
While the origins and the engineering of Dutch
American barns have been carefullystudied,these
have not been fully related to the framing in
houses. No one has specifically analyzed the
rationale and variations that characterize Dutch
American house framing.8
The StructuralLogic of Timber Framing
To comprehendDutch Americanor any othervernacular building tradition,we must examine the
structuralsystem'seffecton outwardform,on distributionand use of space, on decoration,and on
orientation.A structuralsystemexpressesthe solutions to the problems the builders confrontedand
the decisions they made, whether consciouslyor
unconsciously.By studyingthe changes in framing
techniques,we can perceive how carpenters'conceptions of the process and functionof building
evolved during the 2oo-yearperiod of thisstudy.9
7 Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Dwellingsof Colonial
America (Chapel Hill: Universityof North Carolina Press,
1950), p. 213.
8 Allen G. Noble, Wood,Brickand Stone:TheNorthAmerican
Landscape,vol. 1,Houses(Amherst:Universityof MassachusettsPress, 1984), compares Dutch Americanhouse forms
to those of other European origins. Studies of barn framing
offer the best comparisons of timber-framingtraditionsin
America: Eric Arthurand Dudley Witney,TheBarn: A Vanishing Landmarkin NorthAmerica(Toronto: A and W Visual Library, 1972); Henry Glassie, "The Barns of Otsego County,"
and Man 5 (June 1o, 1974): 177-235. These showthe
visual differencesbetween Dutch American barns and AngloAmerican barns but do not correlatebarn framingwithhouse
framingor identifya structurallogic. John Fitchen,The New
WorldDutchBarn: A StudyofIts Characteristics,
Its Structural
System,and Its ProbableErectionalProcedures(Syracuse: Syracuse
UniversityPress, 1967), analyzes framingfroman engineering
perspective,identifyingthe propertiesof wood thatcontribute
to its use in framingand the engineeringforcesthataffectthe
buildings. He also discusses how joinery and framingdesign
account forthese forces.Theo Prudon, "The Dutch Barn: Survivalof a Medieval Tradition,"New YorkFolkloreQuarterly
2, no.
4 (December 1976): 121-40, identifiesthe origins of Dutch
American barns in the medieval hall-house traditionin northern Europe and queries the relationship between barn and
house framing.Elsa Gittlemandiscusses some Dutch framing
details in "Staten Island Houses" (Master's thesis, Columbia
University,1982). Dell Upton, "Traditional Timber Framing,"
in MaterialCultureoftheWoodenAge,ed. Brooke Hindle (Tarrytown: Sleepy Hollow Press, 1981), pp. 35-93, compares English, German, and Dutch framing and discusses some key
features of Dutch American timber framing, including an
9 Upton and others have cited timberframingas the most

Richard Harris developed the conceptof structural logic as he studied timber-frame

logic is a rational system for organizing the load-carrying
components of a building to accommodate engineering, spatial, and aesthetic requirements.It
guides the builder's thoughtprocesses as he contemplates the project. The structurallogic that
shapes a vernacularbuilding is significantbecause
it representsthe conceptualizationprocess of one
or a few builders, and it is a fairlysuccinctand
personal statement.The logic is not necessarily
somethingthat the builder is consciouslythinking
about and probably reflectsthe ways in which he
learned to conceive of a building. Such concepts
become part of an unconscious process. An analogy exists in everyday speech, inasmuch as we
speak withoutconsciouslythinkingof the logic of
our language; we follow the rules and use the
pieces automatically. In buildings, carpenters
could incorporatechanges in some aspectsof their
structures,but they rarelyvaried certain features
even though acceptable alternativesexisted. Harris theorized that these were "keys to the process: withoutany one of them its logic would be

Like language, the logic of buildingis culturally
bound; it is based on the culturethatproduced the
logic and thatis nativeto the builder. The cultural
expressiveness of traditional carpentry has not
been fullyexplored for several reasons: carpentry
is oftencovered by surface finishes;most scholars
are unfamiliarwithstructuralprinciples;and carpentry was not a process that was described in
Americandocumentsuntilthe late eighteenthcentury.Because traditionalpracticeswere handed on
interestingof European American building technologies.The
extensivesupply of virgintimberin America promoted, for a
time, a resurgence in timber-framing
technology,which had
lagged in Europe as sources of timber became progressively
depleted. See Upton, "Traditional Framing,"pp. 38-41.
10 Discussions with
Harris, an architectand a historianof
medieval buildings,in 1980 encouraged me to definethe structurallogic of Dutch American framing.An outlineof his theory
is contained in Richard Harris,Timber
Arts Council of Britain, 1980), pp. 13-21, a catalogue for a
traveling exhibition on English buildings. For formationof
group symbolsand how these relate to aspectsof our conscious
and unconscious, see Richard Kuhns, Psychoanalytic
Art:A Philosophy
Principles(New York:
of Art on Developmental
Columbia UniversityPress, 1983), PP- 39-81. Of all the group
symbolsor collective representations,architectureis particularly potent as it is ubiquitous and enduring. Vernacular architecturerepresents group symbolsdifferentlyfrom formal
architecturebecause it is based on local interpretationsrather
than national or internationalones. How this affectsidentity
and interaction with the artifact is a question for further

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Dutch Americaninteriorwithexposed anchor-bent

Fig. 2. Seventeenth-century
N.Y., ca. 1675,as
at theBrooklynMuseum.(BrooklynMuseum.)
fromone builder to another, the buildings themselves are for the most part the only documents."
Although all timber-framing
techniques share
similaritiesbased on the nature of wood, the tools,
and the process, the structurallogic of framing
varies among differentcultures.Cultures thatare
very differentwill most likelyhave widely divergent framing concepts-for example, northern
Europeans relyon triangulationforrigidity,while
the Chinese employ horizontaland verticalinterlockingto achieve the same result.Related cultures
may share certainframingtechniques,such as the
similar use of anchor bents in northernGerman
and Dutch structures.But variationscan also occur
within a culture, as Harris has observed: "a regional [building]dialect can achieve great diversity
while still obeying the rules of a national language," whichexplains the variationsin bent framing in barns. The logic of Anglo-Americancarpen11Since structural
logic was not a writtentradition,there
are no documents that articulate it. Early building contracts
contain some evidence, and drawings such as those by HABS
provide informationsince the framingdisplays a visual logic.
To comprehend the logic,one has to learn to thinklike a traditionalcarpenter,and the bestwayto do thisis byworkingon the
buildings,as thisforcesone to conceptualize the logic fromthe
process and the materialitself.Details of timberselection,spacing, tooling,and joinery illustratehow carpenterscompensated
for the forces theyperceived in the frame. Anchor-beam-post
joints, for example, can vary from one building to another in
the number of pegs, in the shape of mortises,and in the extended tongues, showing how differentcarpenters conceptualized the structuraldemands and solutions.

tryis based on the box frame,Dutch Americanon

the anchor-bentframe,French Canadian on colombage(close studding)and rooftrusses,and German
American on Fachwerk(panel framing).12
Timber framesthat serve decorativeas well as
structuralfunctionsare particularlyinformative,
foraestheticchoices influencethe selection,sizing,
finishing,spacing, and joining of timbersas much
as engineering considerations do. These choices
stronglyexpress the building'sidentityas a cultural
object. Compare, for example, the concepts expressed in a Dutch Americaninterior(fig.2) to the
concepts expressed in an Anglo-Americanhouse
in Massachusetts(fig.3). The Dutch-derivedframe
relies on a close series of large timbersto bear the
loads. The English-derivedframegives primacyto
the summer beam, which bears the major loads
much like a keel in a boat. The minglingof these
framingsystemsin America created a hybrid:by
the earlyeighteenthcenturycarpentersworkingin
Dutch English areas framed houses witha combination of summer beams and anchor bents,barns
12 Harris, Timber
FrameBuildings,p. 13. Log-buildingtraditions,which are not really framingsystems,also show cultural
originsin theirexecution. If we were to give the same problem
of building a structureof a particularsize and utility,saya onestoryhouse of a certain dimension, to traditionalcarpenters
from England, the Lowlands, and China, the result would be
thatthe organizationand technique of the timberframeof the
firsttwo would be differentbut would relate more to one another than to the third. For illustrationsof traditionalChinese
buildings,see Nancy Steinhardt,TraditionalChineseArchitecture
(New York: China Institute,1984), pp. 37-45-

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interiorwithexposedbox framing.
Fig. 3. Seventeenth-century
house, Saugus, Mass.,ca. 168o. (Courtesy,National
ParkService,Saugus Iron Works.)
with a combination of anchor bents and box
In framinga building withtimber,or steel for
that matter,the structuralskeleton organizes and
defines architecturalspace, the individual members attenuate the resulting physical forces, and
the joinery transfersthese forces fromone member to another. Posts and tying,or anchor, beams,
are assembled into transversesectionscalled bents,
creating two-dimensionalspace. These are linked
with perpendicular framing members-girts (in
the middle of the posts) and plates (at the top)-to
make the space three-dimensional.Jointsare designed to maximize the abilityof wood to handle
the kind of force that is being transferredfrom
one timberto the next. A simple dovetail linkinga
post to a beam primarilyresiststension; a tenon at
the foot of a rafterresistscompression. The anchor-bentjoint resistsboth tension and compression; it has long tenons (or tongues) thatprotrude
through the post and are tightenedby the insertion of wedges (fig. 4). Some joints link framing,
and thereforeforces, in two dimensions (for example, anchor-bentjoints), while otherslink three
dimensions (for example, lap-dovetailjoints).13
'3 For the evolutionof English framingand joints, see Cecil
Alec Hewett,TheDevelopment
ofCarpentry,2oo- 1700: An Essex
Study(Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1969).

fig 1 construct e tussenbalkgebint

fig. 2 constructie ankerbalkgebint


constructie kopbalkgebint

fig. 4 constructie dekbalkgebint

Fig. 4. Netherlands H-frameanchor-bentjoinery. Top:

anchorbents.FromG. Berendset al., De Benaming
Boerderijonderzoek,1982),p. 17.

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Dutch Framed Houses





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bearer ailllilil1 L



According to Harris, the three key elementsin

a traditionalEnglishbox frameare the lap-dovetail
joint, the bay system,and the upper face orientation (figs.5, 6). The lap-dovetailjoint connectsthe
plate, the tie beam, and the post in a single intersection,which requires a thickerpost at the upper
end (like a gunstock). Principal raftersare usually
framedinto the top of the tie beam throughseparate lap-dovetailjoints. The linkingof postsand tie
beams forms two-dimensionalbents, the major
structuralcomponentsof a frame.The bay system
separates bents into cubicles or boxes that define
rooms withinthe plan. The carpenterenlargesthe
building by adding boxes side by side or one atop


ij ij


ii ~I







iii ;j

girt Fig. 5. Seventeenth-century
Anglo-American timberbox framing.Gedney house,
stud Salem, Mass., ca. 1665 and 1700. From AbbottLowell Cummings,TheFramedHousesof
Bay, 1625-1725 (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard UniversityPress, Belknap
Press, 1979), p. 58.

the other. Because bents are widely spaced, the

main loads from the roof and floors are transferred through the plates and other horizontal
beams to the posts, which then carrythe loads to
the ground. (The horizontalbeams thatrun parallel to the eave wall between the bays are called
summerbeams in the interiorwallsand girtsin the
eave walls.) The horizontal transferof loads is a
principal element in English framinglogic. The
upper faces of the bents are the sides fromwhich
the carpenterslay out the frame and join the timbers. Despite the varyingdimensionsof the beams
and posts,Englishcarpentersjoined themflushfor
framingaccuracyand placed these upper faces toward the most importantspaces in the building.
While there are some variables, the key elements form the logic of the frame because they
controlthe interconnectionsthattransformthe individual pieces into a three-dimensionalstructure.
Since theydo not "predeterminethe design of the
building, they [can] be applied to ... anything
from the humblest cottage or barn to a manor
house or palace." The logic behind this framing
systemis readily visible in early American buildings framed by English carpenters.14
The StructuralLogic of Dutch AmericanFraming
Dutch American timber framing displays an
underlyingstructurallogic that developed within
the framingtraditionof the Netherlands.'15 It, too,


Fig. 6. Seventeenth-century
Anglo-Americanlapdovetailjoinery.Fairbankshouse, Dedham,Mass.,ca.

1637. From Abbott Lowell Cummings, The Framed

Houses of MassachusettsBay, 1625-z725 (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard UniversityPress, Belknap Press, 1979),
P. 53.

14 Harris, TimberFrame Buildings,p. 21. See Cummings,

FramedHouses,pp. 63, 86; and Kelly,EarlyArchitecture,
pp. 23,
42. In later Anglo-Americanframing,carpentersavoided the
complicated lap-dovetailjoint by loweringtie beams below the
plate level to allow separate plate/postand tie-beam/post
'a This descriptiondoes not attemptto identifyfullythe
structurallogic in the European source areas, which can be

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is based on three key elements: the anchor bent,

the anchor-bentjoint, and the close spacing of
bents. The anchor bent,the basic two-dimensional
component, is assembled in an H-shape configuration. It carries the main forcesgenerated by the
weightof the materials(dead loading), the use of
the building (live loading), and external pressure
in the transverseplane (wind loading). It also begins to define the major space withinthe building
and determines, in part, the one-and-one-halfstoryform.Carpenterscould expand the buildings
verticallyby raising the posts 4 feet or so, but
longer posts were more likelyto bend, given the
pressures exerted by the roof. Some carpenters
built two-storystructuresby employingtwo-story
posts with a second tie beam at the top, but this
variationon the basic formhad limiteduse because
of its inherent instability.Most carpenters expanded the buildingsin the transversedirectionby
adding a side aisle (or aisles, in the case of most
barns) to the anchor bent or by lengtheningthe
anchor beams to widen the span.
The anchor-bentjoint, between the vertical
post and the horizontal anchor beam, is the primary connector in the building. This twodimensionaljoint transfersthe floor loads to the
posts and, more important, stiffensthe frame
againstracking,or going out of plumb in the transverse direction. The structuredetermined which
variationof thejoint the carpenterchose: a simple
mortise and tenon, or reinforced with diagonal
braces (corbels),knees, or protrudingtongues. All
were designed to bear the stressesinherentin the
anchor-bentframe;the lastwas nearlyalwayspresent in Dutch barns (because the size of the building
put increased tension on the anchor-beamjoint)
and was also used on some houses in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Quebec, Canada (figs.


The close repetition of anchor bents creates

three-dimensionalspace and transfersthe loads
from the upper stories and roof directlyto the
ground (unlike the box frame in which loads are
quite elaborate due to the mixing of traditions.It identifies
essentialaspects of Dutch framinglogic whichcharacterizeseventeenth-century
practicesboth in the Netherlandsand in New
Netherland. The two traditionsevolved somewhat differently
in the eighteenthand nineteenthcenturies,the formeradhering to itsorigins,and the latterdivergingunder new influences.
In Dutch American barns,because of theirlarger size, the separationbetween the bents is wide enough to formbays,a major
distinctionbetween these and houses; however,barns lack girts
to transferthe major loads horizontallybetweenbents,and the
space is not divided according to the separationof the bents,as
in English framing.





Fig. 7. Flemishtimberframing
anframingin Normandyand West Flanders;center:
anin EastFlanders;right:
and panelframing
in Flanders.FromH. Meijburg,


(Brussels, 1920).

transferredlongitudinallythrough girts or summer beams perpendicularto thebents). In the purest form,carpenterslined up the rafterswiththe
anchor bents. Buildings were expanded longitudinallybythe additionof anchor bents.In contrastto
the Anglo-Americanhouses, in which individual
bays 12 to 16 feetwide typicallydefine rooms,the
widthof rooms withina Dutch American house is
dependent on the number of anchor bents.
Withthe threebasic elements,Dutch American
carpenterscould design and framedifferenttypes
and sizes of domestic structures-one-room cottages, multiroom houses, and barns. Yet while
houses and barns displayed the same structural
logic, theyrequired somewhatdifferentexecution
because of theirsize and utility.In the earlyhouses
and in barns built during all three periods, the
framingmembersexpressed the structuralaesthetics of the building, and the carpentersemployed
various techniques,fromrough planing to beaded
and chamfered edges, for visual effect.As architectural tastes evolved, houses were subjected to
more changes than barns. The increased availabilityof mill-sawntimbersof smallerscantlingmade
framingmore expedient but less attractive.With
the concurrentshiftin aestheticstoward plastered
surfaces and applied rather than structuralornamentation, fewer framing elements remained
visible. During the eighteenthcentury,posts that
carpenterswould have leftexposed in the earlier
period were hidden behind wall finishes;however,
the displayof floorjoists persistedin manyhouses
as an expression of Dutch American building into
the nineteenthcentury.Eventually,thecoveringof
the interior framingdiluted the structurallogic
because it diminishedthe value placed on the size,
dressing,and spacing of the components.

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I A&L,







framing.Pichethouse,SainteFig. 8. FrenchCanadian timberframing:colombageand anchor-bent

Famille, Ile d'Orleans, Quebec, eighteenthcentury.From John Rempel, BuildingwithWoodand Other

Buildingin CentralCanada (Toronto: Toronto UniversityPress, 1980), pp.
Aspectsof Nineteenth-Century

In large part the hallmarkof Dutch American

framinglogic is itssimplicity.The Dutch have long
been associated withthriftin the Netherlands,and
their dwelling and building traditions reflected
this. In the early period the Dutch American colonists used first-floor
spaces for both living and
sleeping, theyrequired onlysmall,simpledwellings. The simplicityof the framinglogic had another implicationas well: it limitedthe formsand
sizes of theirbuildings.'6
Constructionof Dutch American houses was
not a particularlydifficulttask,which was important in New Netherland because labor was scarce
and expensive. Carpenterscould lay out a full-size
sections and
template for anchor-bent-and-rafter
then make as manyof these as needed. Since there
were no elaborate three-dimensional
joints to fashbuilders
repertoire of simple joints for the entire project. The
simplicityof the constructionis borne out by the
early building contracts,which usually specified
the size of the building but limitedframinginfor16Some
Anglo-American one-and-one-half-storyhouses
were builtwithone-storybox frames.The second-floor
joists sat
on top of the wall plate,and the upper halfstorywas formedby
knee walls recessed fromthe first-story
wall plane. See Henry
and Gardens
Chandlee Forman, TidewaterMarylandArchitecture
(New York: ArchitecturalBook PublishingCo., 1956), pp. 73,
78; and H. Chandlee Forman, The VirginiaEasternShoreand Its
BritishOrigins: History,Gardens and Antiquities(Easton, Md.:
Eastern Shore Publishers'Associates, 1975), pp. 69, 239.

mation to comments such as "the end bents with


Secondary principles determined the number

and spacing of anchor bents.Typicallyhouses usuallyhad an odd numberof bents,withfiveor seven
common in small houses. The originsof this may
lie in the shortage of timber during the Middle
Ages, which had prompted some regulationsthat
limited people to gathering only enough timber
for a five-framehouse. New Netherland had no
scarcityof timber,yet settlerscontinued to consider five-benthouse and barn frames appropriate.'8 The spacing between bents in Dutch American houses usually ranged between 3/2 feet and
17 Early box-frame constructiontechniques were considerably more elaborate. For framingtechniques in the Netherlands, see L. A. van Prooije, De Vakleuen et vak (Arnhem:
StichtingHistorisch Boerderij-onderzoek, 1984), pp. 36-46.
Arnold J. F. van Laer, trans.,New YorkHistoricalManuscripts:
Dutch,ed. Kenneth Scottand Kenn Stryker-Rodda,vol. 2, RegisteroftheProvincialSecretary,
I642-. 647 (Baltimore: Genealogical PublishingCo., '974), P. 13; forothercontracts,see pp. 15,
16, 33, 35, 91, 147. For Anglo-Americanframingcontractsand
techniques, see Cummings, FramedHouses, pp. 52-94. A ca.
1637 descriptionof a box-framehouse in Massachusettsstates
thatthe girts"mustnot be pinned on, but rathereytherlettin to
the studdsor borne vp withfalsestuddsand soe tenentedat the
ends" (Winthrop
Papers,4th ser., vol. 7, Collectionof the MassachusettsHistorical Society [Boston: For the society,1865], pp.
18 In the Netherlands,even numbersof bentswere not uncommon (Prudon, "Dutch Barn," p. 131). Fitchen,New World
Barn, p. 42. Fitchen also illustratesbarns withmore bents.

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sevenanchorbents4 feeton center,withone frontroomand tworear

Fig.9. DutchAmericananchor-bent
rooms.Hand house,DutchNeck,MercerCo., N.J.,ca. 1740; demolished1978.(Drawing,C. W. Zink.)
feet. Five-benthouses were commonly15 feet
wide withroughly3/2 feet between bents, 18 feet
wide with4/2-footspacing,and 22 feetwide with5foot spacing; seven-benthouses were typically22
feetwide with3/2-footspacing or 24 feetwide with
4-foot spacing (fig. 9). There were, however,exceptionsto these rules. The Jan MartenseSchenck
house, erected in Brooklyn,had twelvebents,and
later houses had more bents to accommodate the
addition of hall passagewaysto the plans. Many of
the survivingDutch American barns have either
four-or five-bentframes,withthe space between
them varyingbetween io and 14 feet, although
some barns had six, seven, and nine bents.'9
19Fitchen,New WorldBarn, pp. 115, 118.

Secondary principles also guided the use of

inotherjoints: half dovetailsat collar-beam-rafter
tersectionsto resisttensionand compression;gains
forattachingsmallersecondarymembersto larger
ones; and notches on plates to keep raftersfrom
sliding.20 Conventiondeterminedthe size and positionof timberswithinthe frame. Anchor beams
were alwaysrectangularand placed vertically,
the height-to-width
ratio varied roughlybetween
S1/? to i and 2 to 1. The vertical
the greatestresistanceto deflection,and the proportions maximized timber's weight-to-strength
ratio. First-floor
joists were often placed horizontally,had widelyvaryingdimensions,and were po20

Fitchen,New WorldBarn, p. 124.

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sitioned closer together than second-floorjoists.

They were seldom lined up withthe anchor bents,
eliminatingthe need for three-dimensional
Posts within the walls were rectangular,and the
wider side was placed perpendicularto the anchor
beams to strengthenthe mortisejoints.
The built-inlimitationsof the systemprevented
carpenters from using it in structuresthat had
complex functionsor aesthetics.Unlike the AngloAmerican carpenter,whose box framewas readily
adaptable to the two-story,center-hall,Georgian
house in the eighteenthcentury,the Dutch American carpenterhad to integratehis structurallogic
witha design thatrequired differentframingtechniques. While we oftenthinkof traditionalcarpenters as conservativein theirbuilding practices,the
evolution of Dutch American framingillustrates
the Dutch carpenters'abilityto adapt their structural logic to meet changing demands.21
In theirearliestform,the primaryand secondary principlesof Dutch American structurallogic
derived directlyfrom the timber-framingtraditions carpenters had learned in the Netherlands,
although not all the regional variationsin Dutch
techniqueswere transportedto the New World. To
comprehend the structural logic employed by
Dutch Americancarpenters,we mustbrieflyexamine these antecedents.
Dutch American Framing Origins
in the Lowlands


Fig. to. Developmentof anchor-bent
in northwestern
prehistorictimes to the eighteenth
(Drawing,C. W. ZinkafterM.
in Theo
Prudon,"The DutchBarn:Survivalof
a MedievalTradition,"
NewYorkFolklore Quarterly2, no. 4 [December
1976]: 124.)

The Lowlands encompasses distinctregionsof the

Netherlands, Germany, and France, and within
these are areas in whichthe varyingbuildingpracticesintermingled,
just like the population,such as
in Flanders. Lowlands timberframingis a broad
topic,and in thisessaywe can onlyidentifysome of
the principal sources for Dutch American house
In northwesternEurope, timber-framing
techniques derived from the prehistorichall house
built with stakes driven into the ground and covered with a simple A-shape roof (fig. io). Later
houses had horizontalties thatopened up the center area and created a loftfor storage. Nave-only
and nave-and-two-aisletypes emerged simultaneously, with a nave-and-one-aisletype evolving
fromthe latter.All threerelied on the anchor bent
as the basic structuralcomponent.22

Environmentalconditionsin the Lowlands affectedthe developmentof the buildingtypes.The

region had limitedforests,strongwinds,frequent
rain, a high watertable, and softsoils,all of which
encouraged low-profilebuildingsthatused timber
conservatively,minimized the effectof the wind,
and spread loads evenly along the walls. Builders
came to favor the one-and-one-half-story
anchorbent framewithside aisles and witha roofextending close to the ground. This frame had advantages over other typesof construction:houses with
masonryload-bearing walls required pile foundations on soft soils; box-framehouses withwidely
spaced posts likewiseconcentratedloads; and colombage framinghad more closely spaced studs
that required more timber(see fig.7).23

Prudon, "Dutch Barn," p. 123.

Karl Baumgarten, "Some Notes on the Historyof the
German Hall House," VernacularArchitecture
7 (1976): 15-20;
and Prudon, "Dutch Barn," pp. 123-26.

See Fitchen,New WorldBarn, pp. 40-41. Commentsregarding the Dutch house in the landscape developed fromPiet
van Wijk,conversationwithCliffordW. Zink,March 14, 1985.
Van Wijk is a culturalgeographer on the staffof the Stichting


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The damp climatepromptedLowlands carpenters to build structuresthat would enable farmers
to store grain in the loft,thus a single roof sheltered food, humans,and livestock,as warmthfrom
the inhabitants,livestock,and open hearth slowly
dried the grain. Over time the barn and dwelling
areas were moved to opposite ends of the building.
In the barn portion the nave provided a wide
threshingfloor,large overhead grain-storageareas
required heavier timbers,and the side aisles became stablesforthe animals (fig. 11). In the dwelling portion the nave served as the livingarea, the
aisles were used for bedsteads (built-in bed
cabinets),and the loftforstorage.The aisle dimensions became closely linked with the sizes of the
bedsteads. The open central hearth was replaced,
firstwith hoods made of timber and eventually
with masonry jambless fireplaces that were relocated to the gable end forstability.The talljambless fireplaceallowed more air to reach the slowburning peat, the principal fuel, which projected
warmth throughout the rooms. Detached naveand-two-aislehouses grewout of the dwellingportion of the hall house, and thenby eliminatingone
aisle, householders could add windows along the
side that faced the sun, yet stillmaintainthe protectivelow profileon the north (figs. 12, 13, 14).
This promptedthe relocationof the entrancefrom
the gable end to the longitudinalwindow side and
fostered the constructionof longer houses with
side-by-side rooms that took advantage of the
Scholars have identifiedfivetypesof traditional
farmbuildings in the Netherlands,four of which
relate to Dutch American buildings.The firsttwo
of these,the "Frisianbarn" and the "aisled house"
(or loshoes), derived from the early hall house.
During the medieval period the dwellingarea remained closelyintegratedwiththe stableand cropstorageareas. Althoughstillattached,the dwelling
HistorischBoerderij-onderzoekin Arnhem,an associationthat
has been studying,recording,and restoringfarmbuildingsat
its open-air museum since 1912.
24 The nave-and-two-aislebarn portionsof barn dwellings
in certainLowlands areas, such as Zeeland, in the southeastern
Netherlands,are antecedentsof Dutch Americanbarnsbecause
of theirframingand use. There is also a "Flemishbarn group"
in the southeastern Netherlands, with asymmetricalanchor
bents and sometimesdouble rooms between the anchor-bent
posts, that relates to barns built in New Jersey,as discussed
below. See R. C. Hekker, "HistoricalTypes of Farms-Plate X1," in AtlasoftheNetherlands
(Delft: Topographic Service,1973).
Henk Zantkuyl,at the Monumentenzorg in Amsterdam,believes that the spacing of anchor bents in Netherlandshouses
was originallytied to the appropriate width for a bedstead
(Zantkuyl,conversationwithZink, March i1, 1985).




41 - ;--,.'.






: .:-.? .s
...? . .
. ",
;..,, .:.

combiningbarn and
Fig. 11. Netherlandsfarmhouse,
vande boerderijFromR. C. Hekker,"De Ontwikkeling
vormen,"in Duizendjaar bouwenin Nederland,vol. 2, De

ed. S. J. FockemaAndreae
na da middeleeuwen,
(Amsterdam:AlbertDe Lange, 1957).

portionof later houses became more discernibleas

a distinctsection.
The second twotypesrelevantto Dutch American houses are the "Zeeland barn group" and the
"Flemishbarn group," both of whichdeveloped in
the sixteenthcentury,firstas houses attached to
barns and later as separate buildings.The Zeeland
group mixed elements from Frisian and western
Flemish houses. They were rectangularbuildings
withthe gable on the shorterside and a cross passage similarto those in houses in the Hudson valley. The Flemishgroup, influencedby the Flemish
preferencefor side threshingfloors,developed as
a rectangularbuildingwiththe gable on the longer
side, a large living area in the front,and smaller
rooms in the rear. This type relates to houses in
Brooklyn,Staten Island, and New Jersey.25
Because of the proximityof Flanders,theselast
two typesalso relate to Flemish houses. Flanders,
in westernBelgium,was influencedbyboth France
and the Netherlands yet developed its own building types.Flemishbuilders oftenemployed a combination of anchor-bent framing and elaborate
roof trussesand, instead of the more typicalDutch
practiceof infillingbetweenanchor bentswithwattle and daub or bricks, used either colombage
framing or fachwerk framing. Colonists transferredsome of these traditionsto the New World:
Huguenots in the Hudson valley relied on roof
trusses; French Canadians on both elaborate roof

Hekker, "Historical Farms."

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( r

i 'IL.

Fig. 12. Netherlandsnave-and-two-aisleanchor-benthouse withbedsteads in the aisles (boxed Xs). Broek in

van 13oo-i8oo
Waterland,Leeteinde 1672. From R. Meischkeand Henk Zantkuyl,Het Nederlandse
(Haarlem: H. D. Tjeenk Willink,1969), p. 365.

Fig. 13. Netherlands nave-andsingle-aisle anchor-bent house.

From R. C. Hekker, Nederlandischeboerderei
in hetbeginderi9e
eeuw (Arnhem: StichtingHistorischBoerderij-onderzoek,1967),
p. 82.

NetherlandsanchorFig. 14. Early seventeenth-century

bent framing:nave-and-single-aisleconstruction.(Drawing, Henk Zantkuyl.)

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and brickcladding:two
Fig. 15.Netherlands
roomswidewithintheanchorbents.Edam,Spui,ca. 16oo.FromR. Meischke

and Henk Zantkuyl,HetNederlandse

van 13oo-18oo
Tjeenk Willink,1969).

trussesand colombage. The long, narrow,Flemish

barns that lacked side aisles were built by French
Canadians, but not by Dutch settlers in New
Flemishhouses have several characteristics
are found on Dutch American houses. The Flemish often added overhangs to protect the soft
stucco on exterior walls, and the overhangs provided some shelter for inhabitantsand animals.
The framingfor these overhangs was not part of
the rafter-and-wallsystem,but was added. Waterman identifiedthis "Flemish flyinggutter"as the
prototype for the curving, or spring, eave employed by Dutch and French Canadian settlersin
America. In farmhouseswithnave-and-single-aisle
constructionin parts of Flanders and Zeeland,
builders extended the aisles to create full rear
rooms for sleeping or storage, instead of the
Dutch-stylebedsteads. Watermanidentifieda floor
plan of one large frontroom and two small rear
rooms as typicalof early Dutch American houses
in certainregions,and Wertenbakercited a "Flemish cottage"floorplan, withtwo main rooms in the
frontand three smaller rooms in the rear aisle.27
While there were numerous variationson the
basic building types, and others with pyramidal
roofs, carpenters in the rural Netherlands never
built timber-framehouses as elaborate as those in
Germany, Belgium, Normandy, or England. In
26 See Lessard and Villandrd,La maisontraditionnelle,

212, 214. English settlersframed some early buildings with

close studding, which was a common technique in England

(Cummings,FramedHouses,pp. 70-71, 126-27). For Flemishstylebarns in Quebec, see Arthurand Witney,Barn, pp. 11539; for reasons that Flemish settlersin New Netherland built
Dutch barns, see Wertenbaker,FoundingofCivilization,
p. 76.
pp. 204, 71; Wertenbaker,Founding ofCivilization,pp. 73-74, 71.

(Haarlem: H. D.

those regions carpentersdeveloped such framing

systems,often with intricatelycarved half-timber
panels, partiallyin response to a demand forlarger
buildingswithupper stories.28
In urban settings builders of Dutch timberframe town houses applied, withsome variations,
the basic structurallogic of anchor-bent-framed
rural houses. The high demand for land and the
limitedstreetfrontageled to long, narrowlotsand
the constructionof unaisled houses withthe main
facades in the gable ends facing the street.Early
town houses consisted of single-story,one-room
buildings.Bedsteads were located along side walls
(fig.12), and hearthswere located in the middle of
the houses, along side walls, or occasionallyat the
rear (see also figs. 14, 15). Carpenters expanded
houses lengthwisesimplyby adding anchor bents
and widened them by lengthening the anchor
beams to create two fullrooms between the posts.
In these one-storyhouses the posts stopped at the
top of the anchor beam, and large, decoratively
carved corbelsmade the connectionsrigid.For additional space in the garret,builders placed upper
crucks (timbers) above the anchor beam or extended the posts to the one-and-one-half-story
level in a typicalH-framepattern.For houses two
or more stories tall, they piggybacked the bents
(figs. 16, 17).29
28 See Harris, TimberFrameBuildings,pp. to, 26; Jacques
Fr6al, L'Architecture
paysanneen France: La maison(Paris: Serg,
1977), pp. 194-214; Clemens Trefois, Van vakverktotbaksteen
bouw(Sint-Niklaas:UitgeverijDanthe N.V., 1979), pp. 103-14;
and Walter Sage, Deutsche Fachwerkbauten(K6nigstein im
Taunis: K. R. Langewiesche NachfolgerHans K6ster, 1976).
pp. 42, 49-50. For
the developmentof Dutch town houses, includinga rare summaryin English of Dutch research,see R. Meischke and Henk
Zantkuyl,Het Nederlandsewoonhuisvan 13oo-z8oo (Haarlem:
H. D. Tjeenk Willink,1969), pp. 524-32.

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FromR. Meischkeand Henk Zantkuyl,
woonhuisvan 13oo-18oo
link, 1969), p. 101.

Fig. 16. Netherlandstwostoryanchor-bent

framingwithclapboards.De Rijp, North
Holland,ca. 1650. (Drawing,
As early as the sixteenthcentury,to reduce the
risksof fire,towns adopted regulationsrequiring
that timber buildings be covered with thin outer
walls of brick. These brick-veneerwalls, which
were not load bearing, might be applied to one,
two,or all four sides of town houses. Builders also
began constructingmasonryhouses withfullinteriortimberframingor withcorbels supportingthe
second-floorjoists. Thus timberhouses withbrick
veneer and brick houses with timber frames became visuallyindistinguishablefromone another.
Since timberframingprovided the structuralsupport for the early masonry houses, its structural
logic continued to determinemuch of theirdesign,
including room dimensions and spacing. In villages like Broek in Waterland,timberhouses were
often separated from each other on larger lots
which had the effectof reducing firehazards."3
After1650 new fashionsled to coveringof the
30 Meischke and Zantkuyl,Het Nederlandsewoonhuis,pp.

(Haarlem: H. D. Tjeenk Wil-

interiortimberstructurewith boards and, in the

next century,plaster. As floorplans became more
formal, bedsteads and stairwayswere removed
from the main rooms, fireplaces were made
smaller, and secondary rooms were transformed
into additional primary rooms. These changes
eliminated the visual importance of timberframing and encouraged new buildingtechnologies,although traditional framing continued in rural
building well into the 18oos. Similar changes occurred in the New World.
New Netherland Timber Framing
The constructionof Dutch American houses can
be divided into three major periods. The firstincludes the Dutch colonial era (1624-64) and the
years immediatelyafter,while influencefromthe
Netherlands was strongest.Settlersmodeled their
town houses and farmhouseson antecedentsfrom
the Lowlands, building simplifiedversionsfor expediency. The enduring impact of these prototypes confirms what cultural geographer Fred
Kniffen has termed the theory of initial occupancy: the firstimprintof a cultureon a new landscape is long lastingand surviveseven aftera new

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ethnicstockhas succeeded the originalsettlers.AcDutch building traditions slowly disappeared in

house constructionbut continued to influencethe
erence for all subsequent adaptation, and his theframingof barns and outbuildingssince thesewere
less subject to changing architecturalstyles.As in
ory supported by seventeenth-century
that make referenceto details or techniques used
the hybridizationof house framing,carpentersin
in previouslybuilt structures.In this firstperiod,
central New Jerseybuilt hybridbarns combining
timberframeswere highlyvisibleinteriorelements Dutch and English techniques.
and included large floorjoists, wall posts,and corSince none of the earliest buildings from the
bels. Jamblessfireplaces,nailing-platehinges,and
firstperiod survive,documentarysources provide
the best evidence of their construction.These individed-lightcasement windows were common in
New Netherland houses; however,many standard
clude pictorial images such as maps and views,
travelers'descriptions,and legal manuscripts.The
decorative features of Dutch houses, such as ba"Prototype" view of New Amsterdam, redrawn
roque gables and elaboratelymolded corbels,were
not used in the colony. Thus in the initialtransfer and printedin Amsterdamfromsketchesmade on
the site (see fig.1), and the "Dankearts"or "Labadof Dutch culture,simplifiedversionsof the essentialarchitecturalelementsbecame the detailsof the
ist" view, drawn in New Amsterdam,both dating
from the 166os, provide the earliestvisual details
colonial prototypes.31
The second period extends from the third of houses. In appearance the New Amsterdam
houses are typicalof those in smallDutch townsin
quarter of the seventeenthcenturyto the middle
that period: long, narrow structureswith gables
of the eighteenth century. Builders developed
what have commonly become known as Dutch
facing the streets,one-and-one-halfstories high,
American house types and came under the inalthough some may be two storieshigh. There is a
mixture of timber buildings-characterized by
fluenceof Englishbuilding practices.While adherclapboard gable ends and roofswithoutparapetsing to basic Dutch traditions,carpentersdeveloped
and brick buildings-characterized by stepped
variations peculiar to the New Netherland area,
such as the gambrel roof witha springeave. They
gables and brickarches.32
also began constructingsymmetricalfacades, but
Following Dutch practice many New Netherland "brick" houses were actually timber-frame
often kept the interiorplans asymmetrical.They
built fireplaces with side jambs and sometimes buildingswithbrickfronts.Officialrecordsin 1649
located them in corners. Carpenters came to rely specify,"the houses in New Amsterdamare forthe
on smaller timbers,placed bents closer together, most part built of wood and thatched with reed,
and abandoned the practice of leaving wall posts besides which the chimniesof some of the houses
visible. The persistenceof the one-and-one-half- are of wood." Local governmentsadopted numerstoryformand exposed anchor beams are strong ous fire regulations, including the abolition of
thatchedroofs and wooden chimneys,and began
indicationsthat,despite many changes in the apDutch
requiring brick facades on timber buildings. A
1661 contract of sale for an existing house
mained largely
The third period extends from the middle of
specified,"the seller to be holden in the monthsof
the eighteenthcenturythrough
quarter Septemberand October nextat his own expense to
face the house on all sides ... withbrick."In 1676
of the nineteenth century. Strongly
governmentin Albany regulated house size
by Georgian
material: "All new buildings frontingin the
through pattern books,
houses withsymmetricalplans and plasterceilings. streetshall be substantialdwellinghouses, not less
Their carpenters developed hybridframes,com- than two rooms deep and not less than eighteen
bining anchor-bentand box-framingpractices,to
32 For early views and maps, see I. N. Phelps Stokes, The
constructlarge houses withgambrelroofsand cenIconographyof ManhattenIsland, 1498-90o9, vols. 1-2 (New
ter-hall plans. Toward the end of the period,
York: Robert H. Dodd, 1915-16). Some recentinterpretations
"l Fred Kniffen,"Folk Housing: Key to Diffusion,"Annals
55, no. 4 (December
of theAssociationof AmericanGeographers
1955): 551. For Dutch American windows,see Regina Kellerman, "The Stadt Huis of Nieuw Amsterdam" (Ph.D. diss.,
PennsylvaniaState University,1983). WilliamMcMillen,supervisor of restorationat Richmondtown,Staten Island Historical
Society,has also done considerable research on this subject.

of architecturehave relied heavilyon these documents. For a

drawing with specific window and gable details, see Gary
Schwartz,trans.,TheBirthofNew York:NieuwAmsterdam,
16241664, ed. Roelof van Gelder (Amsterdam:AmsterdamHistorical Museum, 1982), p. 42. The Museum of the City of New
York has builta model of New Amsterdam,ca. 1661, as partof
a permanentdisplay. For informationabout brickconstruction
in the colonyof New Amsterdam,see Kellerman,"Stadt Huis,"
pp. 27-34.

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Fig. 18.Eighteenth-century
Broadway,Albany,N.Y. (HistoricAmericanBuildingsSurvey,NY-378.)
feet wide, being built in the front of brick or
quarrystone and covered withtiles."Travelers' descriptions from the eighteenth century, when
many early houses were extant, also confirmthe
continueduse of masonryfacades on timberbuildings in places as widely separated as New Brunswick,New Jersey,and Albany,New York.33
A few brick-veneerhouses survived into the
twentiethcenturyand were recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey. Attributedby
the surveyto the 173os, both the Abraham Yates
house in Schenectadyand the house at 922 Broadway in Albany (fig. 18) display typicalcharacteristics held over from the seventeenthcentury.The
former has a full brick front with mouse-tooth
parapets; the latterhas brickonlyon the first-story
facade. The Jan Breese house in Rensselaer (ca.
1723), has a timberframethatwas clad withbrick
on threesides and infilledwithbrickon the fourth
side, whichmayhave had an additionattachedto it
(fig.19). The expected period of survivalformany
timberhouses was usuallyfortyyearsor less; bythe
1790S William Strickland wrote, "the old ones,
builtoriginallyin the Dutch styleare fallingfastto
pieces, as is always the case with wooden houses
3 For a discussion of fire regulations,see Stokes, Iconography,2:211. Piwonka and Barry, "Study of Architecture,"p.
43; JonathanPearson, trans.,EarlyRecordsoftheCityand County
rev. and ed. A. J. F. van
ofAlbanyand theColonyRensselaerswyck,
Laer, vol. 3 (Albany: Universityof the State of New York,
1918), pp. 85-86.

towardsthe end of twentyyears,if the proprietors

have not the means, or the inclination to keep
them in repair."34
Building contracts contain much information
about earlybuildings,and the majorityof contracts
are for timberbuildings. Most specifythe dimensionsof the house or barn, and some referto previous contractsfor additional details. While theydo
not provide explicit instructionsabout framing
procedures, their legal descriptionsof the buildings indicate the persistence of Dutch structural
logic. For example, several enumerate the number
of anchor bents and corbels and refer to side
aisles.35They also demonstratethatsome earlyset34Adolph B. Benson, ed., TheAmericaof1750: PeterKalm's
Travelsin NorthAmerica,theEnglishVersionof1770, vol. 1 (1937;
reprint,New York: Dover Publications,1966), pp. 61 1-12. For
the Yates house, see HABS NY-378; and Alice P. Kenney,
"Neglected Heritage: Hudson RiverValley Dutch MaterialCulture," Winterthur
Portfolio20, no. 1 (Spring 1985): 6o. William
Strickland,Journalofa Tourin theUnitedStatesofAmerica, 7941795, ed. J. E. Strickland(New York: New-YorkHistoricalSociety,1971), p. 13535 Nearly three-quarters of the houses in Bailey's PreHousesare masonry,but manytimberhouses, such
as those in central New Jersey,were left out because of their
modest size. Surveysin Dutchess and Columbia counties indicate thatmanymore Dutch timberhouses survivethan has been
commonly recognized (Goat, "Historical Survey"). For New
Amsterdam, see van Laer, New York Manuscripts;for Fort
Orange, see Pearson, Early Records.For New Jersey,see N.J.
HABS; and Elizabeth G. C. Menzies, MillstoneValley (New
Brunswick,N.J.: Rutgers University,1971), pp. 121-22, 132,
140-41. Piwonka and Barry,"Study of Architecture,"p. 40.

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. . -. .




- ~s~L'~iVal
:_---, .--- ':--.
., .--.--



timberframewithbrickcladdingon frontand side

Fig. 19. Eighteenth-century
walls.JanBreesehouse,RensselaerCo., N.Y. (HistoricAmerican
tierscombined barn and dwelling,unmistakablyin
the Netherlandsstyle.In 1641, two Dutch carpenters promised:

which fivebents threeare to have brackets,a double door at the frontend of the barn,and one door
in each of the extensions."This barn had typical
Dutch features:a centralnave withinanchor bents
to undertaketogetherto makeand builda farmhouse
. . to be ninetyfeetlong and twenty-four
feetwide that were supported by corbels; two side aisles;
insidetheposts;thehouseto consistof tenbents,which wagon doors in the gable ends; and smallerdoors
in the aisles fortendinglivestock.Several contracts
are tobe setninefeetapart,thebeamsofthebentstobe
cited specific barns for the builders to copy. In
twenty-four long,
incheshigh; twelveand one-halffeetstoryunderthe
1678, two Rotterdam carpenters contracted to
beamsand twosideaisles(uytlaten)
as longas thehouse, build a barn at Catskill"accordingto the specificaone beingnine feetwide and the otherten feetwide, tions of the barn of Herman van Gansevoort at
withthreedoorsin eachaisle,one doorat eachend and
Catskill,of which [one of the carpenters]has had
one door in themiddleof each side aisle;at theend of
the contract."Such referencesto previous buildthebuildinga large,widedoor,consisting
of twoupper
confirmthatbuildersused existingprototypes
and twolowerdoors..... The house shallbe provided ings
and demonstratethe theoryof initialoccupancy.37
withatticjoists... abovewithtwolights... [and]on one
House contractswere similarlyphrased. One of
sideofthedoorwaya stairway
is to be madestraight
in Brooklyndescribed a two-roomplan in a
tothegarret]witha doorall properly
house "thirtyfeet long and
eighteen feet wide, with an outlet [aisle] of four
A contract drawn up in the following year
feet,to place in it seven girders[anchorbeams],...
specifieda similarbuilding ioo feetlong, withside
and in the recess [ofthe aisle] twobedsteads,one in
aisles for the 50o-footlength of the barn portion the frontroom and one in the inside room, witha
and a double chimneyin the 50-foot-longhouse
pantry at the end of the bedsteads." As in the
portion.36Beyond the legal references,thereis lit- Netherlands,the widthof an aisle was linkedto the
tle evidence of how many of these structureswere
size of the built-inbedsteads. The emphasis on anbuilt; none have survived.
chor beams and corbelsin manycontractsis indicaSome settlerserectedseparate barns,and a contive of theirimportanceto the Dutch settlerswho
tractfrom1675 confirmsthe continuedrelianceon
sought to articulatea concept of a suitable house
Dutch framingmethods. It specifiesa "barn fifty interior. The contracts often
specify ceiling
feet long and twenty-sixfeet wide with an extenheights,and some mention rooms, stairways,and
sion on each side ten feet deep and running the
other details that in combinationprovide data on
full length of the barn, and at each end a gable
the floorplans. In 1642 a "house carpenter"at Fort
with a sloping peak [truncated]; furthermoreto
make in said barn fivebentswithfiveloftbeams,of
36 van Laer, New YorkManuscripts,
2:16, 91-92.

37 Pearson, EarlyRecords,3:424-25, 462-63. For the scarcityof barn dwellings,see Wertenbaker,FoundingofCivilization,

p. 62.

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Amsterdamcontractedto build "a house thirtyfeet

long, eighteen feet wide [indicatingat least two
rooms], eight feet storyunder the beams, the end
beams withcorbels,all hewn square; the house enclosed all around withclapboards and covered with
a good thatchedroof, properlymade, a tightceiling of clapboards, three four-lightwindows,two
outer doors, a vestibule,a pantry,a bedstead, a
cased-in stairwayto the garret,the chimneywith
wood extendingabove the roof and a mantelpiece
builtaround it,a passage way threefeetwide, with
a partition."38
In 166o Jeremias van Rensselaer, director of
the colony of Rensselaerswyck,wrote a letterthat
conveysthe significanceDutch colonistsplaced on
anchor beams. Referring to his new house, he
stated, "as to the joists being too heavy, I never

pearance, althoughlimitedevidence about the earliest houses makes it difficultto establish a tight
chronology.Examples of type 1, the basic Dutch
form,were builtthroughoutall the periods. Types
2, 3, and 4, with rear-aisle extensions,were built
primarilyin the firstand second periods. Type 5
dates primarilyfrom the second period; type 6
from the second and third periods; and type 7
fromthe last.
The Schenck house, partiallypreserved in the
Brooklyn Museum, may be the oldest surviving
type 1 example (figs.21, 22). It originallyhad two
rooms, an entrance on the eave side, and a chimney in the middle. The house relates to a Netherlands urban type known as an unaisled double
house, such as those in Zaandam, but the Netherlands versionsusually had entranceson the gable
heardanyone sayso, exceptthatone beam,which end, with bedsteads and chimneysalong the side
walls that often abutted other houses. The availlies before the chimney,is a verythickand heavy
timber.And they ought not to be much thinner, abilityof open space in New Netherland led colofor owing to the extra width of the house all denial builders to relocate the entrance along the
eave wall and, in contrastto the Schenck house,
them .. . the chamber storyalso has good beams,
position the chimneyon the gable end. The onenot too heavy, and of dressed lumber, free from and-one-half-story
frameof the Schenck house has
knots."Large knot-freetimberswere readilyavailtwelveanchor bentswithcorbels,and nearlyall the
able in the New World, and their display in both
interior framing is visible. The roof
structure of tapered rafters and double collar
masonryand timber-framehouses (see fig.2) carried considerable prestige for these Dutch immi- beams is a simplified version of seventeenthcenturyDutch framingthat often had additional
grants. Indeed, the scantlingof anchor beams in
some Dutch American houses was extraordinarily support strutsbetween the anchor beams and the
rafters.In the colony, thatchor wooden shingles
large: the Breese house has an anchor beam which
measures 7/V2
by 17 inches despite thatthe house is
required fewerframingmembersthandid the tiles
only 24 feet wide.39
commonlyused for roofingin the Netherlands.40
An unaisled structurewas suitablefor masonry
or masonry-veneerhouses. The Breese house (see
Dutch American Framing Types
fig. 19), the Bronck house in Coxsackie, the Van
Alen house in Kinderhook, and the Mabie house
slave quarters in Rotterdam,all dating from the
Using combinationof archivaldata, fieldexamiand
experience,we can identify early eighteenthcentury,have timber frames as
seven categories of Dutch American house fram- the primary structure, despite their external
masonry.The circa 1711 De Windt house in Taping according to the design of anchor bents
adhere closelyto the
(table 1, fig.20).
pan has masonrybearing wallsyetfollowsthebasic
40 See
basic structurallogic, while the last two are variaMarvin D. Schwartz,TheJan MartenseSchenckHouse
tions. In both framingand form,the typesrange
(Brooklyn:BrooklynMuseum, 1964); and Henk Zantkuyl,"Het
Schenckhuiste Brooklyn,"Bulletinvan de koninfrom the simplestto the most complex, and they Jan Martense
bond,6th ser., 17 (1964): 59klijkeNederlandsche
are generally chronological in their order of ap8o. Recorded by HABS in 1934, it was reconstructedin 1964 by

Waterman,Dwellings,p. 19; van Laer, New YorkManuscripts,2:13-14. Zantkuyl has been drawing timber frames
based on the descriptionsin New Netherlandcontractssuch as
these to determinethe formand structureof the early houses
(Zantkuyl,conversationwithZink, April 1985)" Piwonka and
Barry, "Study of Architecture,"p. 49;
HABS NY-5A-2, sheet 4.

Dutch and American architecturalhistorians,who differedin

theirinterpretationof the location of bedsteads and partitions.
Zantkuylsees the house as an importantrepresentativein the
development of the unaisled double house because of its anchor-bentdetails, the large window in the east wall, and the
asymmetricalpositionof the fireplace,whichrelatesto the location of bedsteads thatwere usually placed in the aisles in naveand-aisle houses (Zantkuyl,conversationwithZink, March i1,

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Table 1. House Framing Types

Type 1 An unaisled structurewitha singleroom betweenthe anchor-bentposts,althoughitmayhave enough

anchor bents to be more than one room long. This, the simplestand mostbasic house type,was built
throughoutthe New Netherland area, and survivingexamples date from all three periods. Small
barns and outbuildingswere also oftenof thisplan.
Type 2 A nave-and-single-aislestructurewithbasic symmetricalanchor bents and a shed-roofextension,or
outlet,on the rear. The roof of the shed can have a separate pitch,or itcan followthe line of the rear
rafter(resemblingthe form of an English "saltbox" frame). In plan, this type can have one room
withinthe anchor bents and one or two rooms in the outlet,in whichcase the ridge is parallel to the
shorterside of the resultingrectangle.It can also have two rooms withinthe anchor bentsand two or
threerooms in the outlet,in whichcase the ridge is parallel to the longer side. The second-floorarea
above the aisle is too small for livingspace.
Type 3 A nave-and-single-aislebuilding withasymmetricalanchor bents and an asymmetricalgable. In the
transverseplane the framehas three posts of unequal height:the frontanchor-bentpost extends to
the one-and-one-half-story
height;the rear anchor-bentpost,whichis actuallythe middle of the three
posts,extends higherto supporta purlinplate at the collar beams, usuallyat the intersectionwiththe
rear rafters;and the aisle post is the shortestof the three,extendingto the heightof the rear wall,
which is lower than the frontwall. Type 3 has the same first-floor
plan and ridgelinepossibilitiesas
or as full-sizerear rooms,
depending on the roof pitch.
anchor bentand a symmetrical
gable. The front
buildingwithan asymmetrical
Type 4 A nave-and-single-aisle
anchor bent and aisle posts are equal in height; the rear anchor-bentpost (the middle of the three
posts in transversesection)extends higherto the purlinplate and supportsthe collar beams nearer to
theirmidsectionthan does the post in type3. Type 4 buildingshave the same floor-planpossibilitiesas
type 3.
Type 5 A structurewithsymmetricalanchor bents,a symmetricalgable, and anchor beams long enough to
partitionsextendonlyto the second-floorjoists; separate
span tworooms. Posts formingthe first-floor
plans: one
posts on the second floorsupport the collar beams. There are several possible first-floor
frontand one rear room betweenthe anchor-bentposts; one frontand tworear rooms (both of these
plans forma rectangularhouse withthe shorterside parallel to the ridgeline); two frontrooms and
two rear rooms; and two frontand two rear rooms witha central hall (both of these plans forma
rectangularhouse withthe longer side parallel to the ridgeline).The second floorhas space for full
frontand rear rooms withinthe knee walls.
Type 6 A two-storyframe that diverges fromthe basic anchor-bentstructurebecause it has two-storyposts
and two tie beams, at the second- and third-floor
levels,on each bent. The posts can extend equally
above the upper tie beam to forma symmetricalroof or unequally to forman asymmetricalroof.
Bents are more closely spaced than in other typesto promote verticalstability.Survivingexamples
include three plans: two side-by-siderooms, two rooms and a side hall between the posts,and four
rooms witha center hall.
hybridgambrelframethatcombinesanchor-bentand box-frametechniques
Type 7 A one-and-one-half-story
and illustratesthe effectof Georgian building practiceson Dutch American framing.Second-story
anchor bents at bay intervalsmaximize space. The main framingcan vary: typicalanchor-bentconstruction;closely spaced wall posts, anchor bents along hall partitionsand gable walls, and intermediatejoists joined to a summer beam; or anchor bents at bay spacing and intermediateanchorbeam-stylejoists supported by wall girts.In plan thistypeusuallyhad a centerhall and two rooms on
either side.

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Fig. 20. DutchAmericananchor-bent
types(see table1). (Drawing,based on actual
C. W. Zink.)
form,in a one-and-one-half-story
roof and second-floorframingdefiningthe shape
and size of the structure.41
Althoughcomplex house typesbecame increasingly common, carpenters in the outlyingareas
continued to build the basic type 1 frameinto the
early nineteenth century.The Burroughs house
(ca. 181o) in Harbourton, Mercer County, has a
two-room-wideframe with nine anchor bents. Its
anchor beams and posts are of smaller scantling
than in earlier houses, so the bents are closely
spaced. Except for the absence of corbels, the
framefollowsthe same basic design as the Schenck
house and demonstratesthe endurance of Dutch
The nave-and-aisle type evolved from Dutch
antecedents that were built to take advantage of
sunlight from the south and to resist inclement
41 The roof framingof the De Windt house, whichis more
elaborate than that of the typicalDutch American house, has
upper struts supporting the roof and relieving the outward
thrustat the top of the masonrywalls. It may derive fromthe
Flemish area of the Lowlands. HABS NY-4123-


framFig. 21. Dutch Americananchor-bent

nave frame.Jan
ing: one-and-one-half-story
N.Y., ca.
1675. FromMarvinD. Schwartz,Jan
1964), P. 14.

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Ia It 56 *
Fig. 22.
framing:FromHenk Zantkuyl,

Martense Schenckhuis te Brooklyn," Bulletin van de koninklijke

bond,6th ser., 17 (1964).

weather fromthe north.The aisle on most Dutch

houses was used for bedsteads or for storage. Although bedsteads may have been common in New
Netherlandduring the earlyperiod, Dutch Americans eventuallyfollowed the preferencein other
areas of the Lowlands for using the aisles as separate sleeping or livingrooms. Examples of type 2
framingwere common in the Netherlands(see fig.
12) and probablyin the colony as well. The early
section of the Nevius house (ca. 1747) in Hillsborough Township, SomersetCounty,has fiveanchor bents and a full rear room in the aisle. The
brick-cladBreese house had a rear aisle (see fig.
Ackerman house, a
19). The eighteenth-century
masonrybuilding in Paramus, Bergen County,is
also a type 2 house.42
The type 3 John Craig house, built in Monmouth County around 1720, has a particularlytall
middle post,but the roofpitchis too low to provide
usable space above the aisle on the second floor.
The John Welling house, built slightlyearlier in
Mercer County,has two frontrooms and twoback
rooms on both floors(fig.23). One rear room has a
corner fireplace,a common featurein centralNew
JerseyDutch American houses of the second period because of English influencefrom the lower
Delaware River valley.The anchor beams and the
42 For farmhousesof this type and period and for an architecturalsurveyof Netherlandsfarmsteadsat the turnof the
nineteenthcentury,see R. C. Hekker, "De Ontwikkelingvan de
boerderijvormen,"in Duizendjaar bouweninNederland,vol. 2, De
Boukunstna da middeleeuwen,
ed. S. J. Fockema Andreae (Amsterdam: AlbertDe Lange, 1957), pp. 197-323; and R. C. Hekboerderei
in hetbeginder z9e eeuw (Arnhem:
ker, Nederlandische
StichtingHistorischBoerderij-onderzoek,1967). Recent renovation of the Nevius house has enabled extensiveexamination
of the framing.The roof was altered in the twentiethcentury,
but evidence of the original nave-and-aisleframingexists.For
the Breese house, see HABS NY-5A-2; for the Ackerman
house, Wertenbaker,Foundingof Civilization,
p. 74.

aisle second-floorjoists are large and prominent,

in the Dutch American fashion. A third example
is the small section of the Pieter Wyckoffhouse
in Brooklyn, which has undergone numerous
changes,includinga recentextensiverestoration.43
The Corneles Couwenhoven house, in MonmouthCounty,builtin threesections,twoof which
the Historic American Buildings Survey dated
circa 1700 and 1735, is representativeof type 4
framing(fig.24). The oldest portionhad exposed
anchor beams and posts, and the anchor bents by
the exterior-wallfireplacehad corbels. The 1735
section also had exposed anchor beams. The second floorof the aisle has fullrooms,as in the type
3 Welling house, and the roof framinghas upper
collar beams, as in the type 1 Schenck house. The
41 The Craig house had no collar beams in the low-pitch
roof frame. Instead of the usual diagonal braces between the
posts and plate in the longitudinal section, it had one long
diagonal brace extending from plate to sill, similarto a wind
brace across rafters.The second-floorspace in the aisle is not
large enough for a room (HABS NJ-543). For the Welling
house, see HABS NJ-og. As in many other Dutch American
houses, that these two are associated with non-Dutch owners
illustrateshow the Dutch framing logic influenced building
practicesin adverselypopulated areas. Documents at the Monmouth County Historical Association indicate that the carpenter who built the Dutch-framedearly wing of Middleton
Hall, Monmouth Co., was English (Joseph W. Hammond, conversation with Zink, May 1980). For the Wyckoffhouse, see
HABS NY-428; and John Milner Associates,"WyckoffHouse
Historic StructureReport" (New York Department of Recreation, New York, 1979). The Schenck and Wyckoffhouses are
rare survivorsof early Dutch American houses in Brooklyn.
Since manyDutch settlersfirstlived in Brooklynbeforemoving
to farmingareas in New Jerseyand the Hudson valley,these
representhouse typesthatinfluencedDutch Americanbuilding
in subsequent settlementareas. An example of thisDutch migration from Brooklyn to New Jersey and its expression in
house formsare documented in CliffordW. Zink and Richard
and ArchaeolHunter,ArchivalResearch,Architectural
ogy at Glencairn(Trenton: New Jersey Historic Commission,

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t l



t HA



oM I-



Fig. 23. Dutch American anchor-bentframing:nave-and-aisleframewithfrontand rear rooms under an asymmetrical gable. John Welling house, Mercer Co., N.J.,ca. 1711. (HistoricAmerican Buildings Survey,NJ-4o9.)




0'A 4
0-?0 4.





: ro

I -.tI ILII-~

Fig. 24. Dutch American anchor-bentframing.Smallsection:

nave frame with added aisle
room; largesection:asymmetrical
nave-and-aisle frame under a
gable. CornelesCouwenhoven house, Monmouth
Co., N.J., 1700oo,1735. (Historic
American Buildings Survey,



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V' oi


/._ _,_






Fig. 26. Netherlandsbarn framingwithasymmetrical

aisle anchorbentsunderasymmetrical
gable. Barn sectionof barn dwellingin Brielle,Netherlands. (StichtingHistorisch Boerderij-onderzoek,

County,illustrates(fig. 26), although in that barn

the rafterframingis more elaborate and irregular
than on American examples.45
Type 5 houses became increasinglycommon
in the eighteenthcenturyand were of timberand
Fig. 25. DutchAmericanbarn framingwithasymmet- of masonry. As the availabilityof pattern books
aisleanchorbentsunderasymmet- increased and cross-cultural influences
ricalgable. Cole barn,HunterdonCo., N.J.(Drawing,
house framingbecame more standardizedand less
idiosyncratic.Type 5 framingallowed carpenters
to build largerhouses but stilluse simple,symmetthirdsection,which appears to be of a later date,
rical, anchor-bentframingthat adhered to basic
Dutch American structurallogic.
followstype 1 framing.44
The Hand house, built in Mercer County
around 1740 (see fig. 9), exemplified a type 5
barns of type4 frames.The Cole barn, built early
house prior to the dominance of Georgian symin the nineteenthcentury in Readington Towntwo
metry.Unlike many earlier houses, the framing
was regular; nearly all members were positioned
thatillustratethismostclearly(fig.25). The buildexactly 4 feet on center. The house had a large
ing's size promptedthe carpenterto place an addiroom in the frontwith a cooking hearth and two
tional post above the anchor beam to support the
smallerrooms in the rear,one withan English-type
rafterpurlin. The barn is square in plan, withentrances on the eave walls in the English tradition corner fireplace.The three-roomplan had a number of precedents, including what Waterman
ratherthan gable entrancesas used by the Dutch.
labeled the Flemish plan as well as plans of early
This barn demonstrateshow carpenterscontinued
Swedish and German settlersand one promotedby
to followthe structurallogic of a framingtype in
EnglishmanWilliam Penn for Philadelphia-bound
tecedents of type 4 framingexist in the Nether- colonists.Like manyotherDutch Americanhouses
from this period, the second floor had both a
lands, as a barn dwelling in Brielle, Monmouth


44The HABS drawingsinclude manymore framingdetails

than usual. In contrastto the second-floorjoists, those of the
first floor are continuous and exceptionally large. Corner
fireplaces show the influence of English architecture.HABS

45 The Cole barn and a similarone called Van Doren's barn

were recorded during dismantlingby Elric Endersbyas part of
the Princeton History Project, Princeton, N.J., in 1985. For
Brielle, see Jaarsverlag(Arnhem: Stichting Historisch Boerderij-onderzoek,1983).

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steeperthanin a normalA-shapegable.The gam-

brel design relates to techniques used in the

Netherlands: instead of continuous rafters,lower
rafterssupport a collar beam thatin turnsupports
upper rafters,whichcan have the same or a different pitch fromthe lower rafters(see fig. 26). The
framingis similarto thatin a mansard roof,which
is also a possible source of the Dutch American
gambrel in the lower Hudson region,throughthe
influenceof settlerswithFrench origins,including
the Huguenots.4s
The Jean Hasbrouck house (ca. 1712) in New
Paltz, Ulster County,New York, shows continuous
anchor beams spanning a depth of two rooms in a
type5 masonryhouse (fig.28). It also has an enormous roof trussin the styleof roof framingin the
Lowlands and France that reflectsthe Huguenot
originsof its builders (fig. 29).49
Type 6 is exceptionalbecause it does not follow
the one-and-one-half-story
anchor-bentrule, and
because there is little evidence to document the
extentof its utility.Its originsare uncertain:twostory frames in the Netherlands commonly had
double anchor bents,withthe second piggybacked
over the first(see fig. 16). Whetherbuiltin timber
or clad in masonry,these framesrelied on corbels
at every anchor bent for rigidity.Use of these
frames may have descended from the northern
Rhineland area where two-storyframing with
bents spaced closer togetherthan in box framing
was common. The Voorlezer house, built circa
1696 in Richmondtown, to serve in part as a
schoolhouse, has a frame of this type (fig. 30). It
has frontand back rooms and a side hall on both
floors.There are additional floor beams between
the anchor beams on the second floorin the front
room, which was not uncommon in the Netherlands. The second- and third-floor
side hall has smaller joists perpendicular to the
bents. Front posts extend to form a knee wall in
the attic,while rear posts stop at attic-floorlevel,
creatingan asymmetricalgable. This configuration
resembles types 3 and 4, which have unequal anchor-bentposts. Diagonal braces are located only
in the exteriorwalls,and the rackingof thisframe
over the years demonstratesthe inherentlack of
verticalrigidity,which may account for the rarity
of thistype.This instability
demonstratesthe interdependence of the key components in any struc-

46 The Hand house was recorded by Zink

during demolition in March 1978, in Dutch Neck, West Windsor Township,
Mercer Co. For an analysis of Penn's plan, see Carson et al.,
"Impermanent Architecture,"pp. 141-44.
47 HABS NJ-544.

48 For the mansard connection,see Waterman,Dwellings,

p. 201.
49 HABS NY-471; Lessard and Villandre, La maisontraditionnelle,
p. 97.



framFig. 27. DutchAmericangambrel-roof

Staten Island, ca.
house, Richmondtown,
1740. (Drawing,C. W. Zink.)
finishedroom with a matched-boardceiling and
unfinishedrooms withexposed rafters.46
The Holmes Hendricksonhouse in Monmouth
Countyexemplifiesthe influenceof Englishdesign
on type5 Dutch American houses. While the main
section, built circa 1752, presents Georgian symmetryin its facade and is asymmetricalin plan,
having two large frontrooms and two smallerrear
rooms, all are of differentsizes as in the type 3
Welling house, with no central hall. The three
fireplacesare in corners,but the framingis Dutch
in itsstructurallogic. The anchor beams are visible
the fulldepth of the house. The roof has the typical one-and-one-half-storyprofile and a spring


The Tyson-Gryon-Lake house (ca. 1740) in

StatenIsland, is a type5 house


withan earlyversionof the Dutch Americangambrel roof (fig. 27). Each lower pair of raftershas
two collar beams, the upper of whichservesas the
base forupper raftersset on a low pitch.No purlin
plates support the rafters,and the attic storybetween the collar beams does not have full headroom. This roof-framing
and provides more space on the second floor by
enabling the lower raftersto be pitched slightly

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?I r?r


turallogic: ifcarpentersvaried the rules too much,

theyrendered the systemineffective."5
Despite the difficultieswithrigidity,carpenters
built type 6 houses with closely spaced two-story
bents well into the nineteenthcentury.The Daniel
Polhemus house, two and one-half stories with a
two-room-and-side-hallplan similar to the Voorlezer plan, was built in Phalanx, Monmouth
County,circa 1760. The Cornelius van Liew house,
built in East Millstone, Middlesex County, circa
1743, had two-storyframingdetails witha centerhall plan. Another house with a side-hall plan,
builtcirca 1790 in Arneytown,BurlingtonCounty,
near Monmouth County, had anchor bents and
tiebeams rested
two-storyposts,but the third-floor
on top of the wall plates, a typical English technique. The Pinkneyhouse, built circa 1824 in Ontario,had remarkablysimilarframing(called multipost framing in Canada) but a one-room plan
between posts (fig. 31). That the lattertwo buildings were constructedwith a combination of anchor-bentand box-framedetails suggeststhat the
cross-culturalmixing of building technologiesled
to similarconstructionaltendenciesin widelyseparated regions. Other Canadian examples, with
closer spacing of bents, may derive from colombage framing.Multipostand type 6 framingmay


-- ---r-









Fig. 28. Dutch Americanhouse,withrooftruss.Jean

Hasbrouckhouse,New Paltz,N.Y., ca. 1712. (Historic

For timberhouses, see H. Janse and S. de Jong,Houten

huizen: Een unieke bouwwijzein Nord-Holland (Zaltbommel:
Europese Biblioteck, 1970), p. 24; for masonry houses, Meischke and Zantkuyl,Het Nederlandsewoonhuis,pp. lo0, 232.
McMillen believes that other early type 6 examples were built
on Staten Island (McMillen, conversation with Zink, August














- ---





Fig. 29. Netherlands

house, two rooms deep
with continuous anchor
beams between masonry
walls. Zogenaamd Schultenhuis, Wanneperveen.
From R. Meischke and
Henk Zantkuyl, Het Neder-

landse woonhuisvan 13oo-

18oo (Haarlem: H. D.
Tjeenk Willink,1969), p.

have related origins in the Lowlands-Rhineland

In the third period (late eighteenthand early
nineteenthcenturies),carpentersdeveloped type7
for large, Georgian-stylehouses. While the Dutch
employed gambrelroofs in the Netherlands,these
51 For the Polhemus house, see HABS NJ-693; forthe van
Liew house, HABS NJ-648. The Arneytown house was
stripped by looters in 1979, with the result that much of its
framingwas visible for photographing. For Canadian examples, see John Rempel, BuildingwithWoodand OtherAspectsof
Buildingin Ontario(Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1967), pp. 9, 99-158. Rempel theorizes that
multipostframingcould also be a forerunnerto the balloon
frame.PotentiallinksbetweenDutch structurallogic,the multipost frame,and balloon framingsuggest furtherresearch.

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_D j.-

Fig. 30. Two-and-one-half-story
Richmondtown,Staten Island, ca. 1696. (Drawing, 1972, afterLoring McMillen, 1939.)

were not commonlyused on rural buildings.The

English and Swedes placed steeply pitched gamhouses in the
brel roofson both one- and two-story
seventeenthand eighteenthcenturies. In the upper Hudson valley,carpentersbuilt one-and-onehalf-storyDutch American houses with steep English-stylegambrels. The distinctivelow-profile
gambrel roof became quite common on lower
Hudson valleyhouses, whethertimberor masonry,
during the thirdperiod. Together withthe Flemish springeave, thisgambrelbecame the twentiethcenturysymbolfor Dutch-colonialhouses.52
The facade of type 7 houses was almost always
symmetrical.The plans usually had center halls,
withfullfrontand rear rooms on each side. While
seventeenth-and eighteenth-centuryDutch settlerslocated theirsleeping spaces on the first-floor
level, by the end of the eighteenthcenturymore
formallivingarrangementspromptedthemto relegate bedrooms to the second floor,out of sightof
guests. Building such a structurerequired very
long rafterswhich lacked structuralsupport and
created an inefficiently
large space, as the type 5
Hasbrouck house demonstrates(see fig. 28). Carpenters responded to this problem by employing
narrow anchor bents on the second storyto support purlins. They spaced these anchor bents

i S.

SIl..? .









Fig. 31. Canadiantwo-story
atticjoistsabovethewallplates.Pinkneyhouse,Cooksville,Ontario,ca. 1824. FromJohn Rempel,Buildingwith
Wood and OtherAspectsof Nineteenth-Century
in Ontario(Toronto: Toronto UniversityPress, 1967),
p. 121.

52 For English American gambrels on one- and two-story

houses, see Forman, VirginiaEasternShore;and Kelly,EarlyArchitecture.
For a comparison of gambrels, see A. Lawrence
Kocher, "Gambrel Slopes of Northern New Jersey,"Bergen
CountyHistory(1970): 35-

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Fig. 32. Dutch Americanhybridframing:anchor-bent

summerbeam and second-story
anchorbentsat boxframeintervals.
DutchessCo., N.Y.
Palinhouse,ca. 1750,EastFishkill,
(Drawing,C. W. Zink.)

widely, as in the English or Norman box-frame

system, to allow a double pile of second-story
rooms. The roof frame employed shorterrafters
and provided maximum functionalspace on the
second story,while maintainingthe Dutch tradition of one-and-one-half-story
Such houses had eithertype5 framingwithrepeating anchor bents or a hybridizationof Dutch
and English framing.The type 7 Palin house (fig.
32), built circa 1750 in East Fishkill, Dutchess
County, has anchor-bent posts on the exterior
walls but anchor beams only above the central-hall
partitions.The other second-floorjoists are joined
to longitudinalsummerbeams thatrun the length
of the center partitions,as in a box-framedesign.
The floorjoistsin thisgambrelframedo not always
have to be continuous to resistoutward thrust,as
in typicalanchor-bentframingand the type5 Ty51 Kimball positsthe originof the mansard roof and hence
the gambrel also in "the desire to reduce the height of the
medieval roof [as in the Hasbrouck house], especially over
buildings of a double file of rooms" (Fiske Kimball, Domestic
oftheAmericanColoniesand oftheEarlyRepublic[New
York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922], p. 45). For AngloAmerican gambrel framing,see Kelly,EarlyArchitecture,
p. 6o.

son-Gryon-Lake house gambrel. Much of the

downward force from the roof, which tends to
push diagonally outward on the walls, is handled
by the purlins. Interiorposts,at the intersectionof
the central-hall partitions and the longitudinal
room partitions,carry the loads to the ground
floor. In the Palin house, the second-floorjoists
were covered by plaster,indicatingthatthe owner
had no intentionof displayingDutch-styleheavy
floorjoists. The first-floor
joists are much larger
and span the fulldepth of the basement,although
one might expect to see summer beams here as
Anotherversionof type7 hybridframingis the
Theodorus Wyck house, circa 1750, also in East
Fishkill(fig. 33). This house had continuous second-floorjoists which were exposed in the Dutch
tradition.Instead of a series of repeating anchor
had anchor bents widely spaced at bay intervals.
Horizontal girtsin the frontand rear walls supported the intermediatejoists and transferred
loads horizontallyover the windowand door openings, as in English box-frame construction.This
hybridmay be a forerunnerof the one-and-one-

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r 14

H0 USE. s
hybridframing. wing:widelyspaced
Fig. 33.
anchorbeams.TheodorusWyckhouse,East Fishkill,
DutchessCo., N.Y. (Drawing,C. W. Zink.)



half-storyframes in Greek-revivalhouses built in

New York State and parts of New England.54
Some nineteenth-century carpenters who
worked on Dutch American barns similarlyincreased the usable space in those buildings by
rotatingthe ridgeline 90 degrees and buildingthe
aisle posts up to the fullheightof the anchor-bent
posts, so that all the walls were two stories high.
They also shifted the entrance to the eave side,
and, instead of the low profileof a Dutch American barn withitsgable entrance,the buildingfrom
the exteriorlooked like a typicalEnglish barn. Yet
the timberframe was stillbased on anchor bents,
and the threshingfloorcontinuedto be dominated
by huge anchor beams overhead. Carpenters
created such barns fromexistingDutch American
barns, such as the Schenck barn in Dutch Neck,
Mercer County,and theybuiltnew barns withthis
framing,such as the Czahor barn in Neshanic,
Somerset County, erected in the mid nineteenth
century.The stone barn at Tusculum, Princeton,
Mercer County, circa 1811, displays this framing,
The Dutch English hybrid barns parallel the
mixingof Dutch and English house-framingpractices,and theirreadilyvisibleframingmakes them
potent examples to studycross-culturalinfluences
on timber framing in America. Like the Wyck
house, they illustrate how carpenters combined
keylogical elementsof differentframingtraditions
to create a hybridlogic. From the Dutch tradition,
the key element was the anchor bent withits two54The Wyck house was dismantled and recorded by
Hopewell Valley HistoricalSocietyin 1985, under the direction
of Kenneth Walpuck. My long-standingsuspicionthatone-andframingin Greek-revivalhouses relatesto Dutch
American framingis shared by Upton, "Traditional Framing,"
P. 75.





dimensional tyingjoint, and fromthe English tradition, the key element was the bay-spaced box
Besides the one-and-one-half-storyanchorbent form,the preferenceof the Dutch American
carpenterand his client for prominentfloorjoists
survived into the nineteenthcenturyas a major
Dutch building characteristic.These remnantsof
anchor-bent framing persisted throughout the
thirdperiod as the last componentof Dutch structural logic in many houses that otherwise were
primarily Anglo-American. The two-storyTen
Broek house (ca. 1760) in Somerset County is of
masonryconstructionin the Georgian style,but it
has continuous floorjoists in the Dutch fashion.
The only other Dutch featuresare the door at the
entrance and nailing-platehinges.55
In the nineteenthcenturythe reliance on pattern books and the development of balloon and
platformframingled to the demise, except in remote areas, of the timber-framingtradition in
houses. During the transition,carpentersframed
houses with a combinationof post-and-beamconstruction and infilled balloon-framed walls, another example of hybridbuilding.56
Today we see the major legacy of the Dutch
building tradition in familiar one-and-one-halfstory house forms from the Hudson valley and
55The Broek house is in Ursula C. Brecknell,Montgomery
Township:An Historic Community,
Township, N.J.: Bicentennial Committee, 1972), p. 62. The
early nineteenth-century
portion of the Wyckoffhouse by Six
Mile Run in Middlesex Co. along King's Highway(currentRte.
27) had exposed joists on the firstfloor;it was burned by vandals in 198356 The John McCosh house, built in Princeton in 1888,
combined a heavy timber,braced-and-pegged frame withballoon-frameinfilling,as observed during a major renovationin

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from Bergen County. While architecturalhistorians have usuallyconcentratedon such formsand
theirdecorativedetails,the studyof Dutch American house framingreinforcesthe importance of
understandingthe role of structurein the evolutionof traditionalbuildings.The abilityto identify
the structurallogic that guides building processes
will allow us to go beyond the physicalevidence to
the rationale that fosteredit. Like the process that
guided the constructionof these vernacularbuildingsin the firstplace, theirstudyshould be holistic:
examiningthemliterallyinside-outto comprehend

better the builder's conceptualizationof his work

and the reasons behind his decisions. Furtherresearch opportunitesinclude: the variationand distributionof Dutch American framingtypes; the
interrelationshipof framingto floor plans,jambless fireplaces,and window and door placements;
Dutch, Encomparisonsof one-and-one-half-story
glish, French, and German building technologies
in NorthAmerica; framingprecedentsin the Lowlands; and the influenceof Dutch Americanframing on laterbuildingtechnologiesand house types,
such as Greek revivaland hybridhouse forms.

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