The oldest surviving house in the upper Hudson Valley also happens to be (from the research we’ve done) the oldest stone dwelling in the state of New York. The story of this sweetheart of a stone cottage begins with Pieter Bronck, a sailor from Holland, who emigrated with his wife, Hilletje Jans, to the colony of New Netherlands in 1653. They originally settled at Fort Orange (now Albany, New York) on the banks of the Hudson River, and made their living as tavern keepers and brewers.
Bronck. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like Bronx, right? Peiter happened to be a close relative of Jonas Bronck for whom the borough is named.
The life of a tavern keeper was not without its trials, and Pieter experienced his fair share of financial troubles. Hoping for a fresh start, the couple set their sights on the Catskills region of the colony and a life of farming (and perhaps fur trading). So in 1662, Pieter headed downriver to purchase 250 acres of land from Wappinger Indians in exchange for 150 guilders-worth of beaver pelts. He chose his tract of land, which native peoples called “Koixhackung” (now the town of Coxsackie), for its proximity to a major trade path.
The home built on the site a year later reflected rural Northern European home building practices of the time. The one-room 20′ x 20′ structure (we’re talking only 400 square feet!) featured 12-inch-thick fieldstone walls and massive 14- by 8-inch beams that supported a small storage garret and roof above. Wide-planked 18-inch floorboards and a hand-dug cellar were more defining features. The home was expanded in 1685 with a hallway, main room and loft, and in 1738, Pieter’s grandson, Leendert and his wife, Anna de Wandelear, built a brick home that was then connected to the stone cottage by what was called a “hyphen hallway.”
Farming as a profession proved a wise choice for this family, as through the years, they expanded the property with outbuildings. The estate passed through eight generations of the Bronck family until 1939, when the last family owner, with no heirs, gifted the farming estate to the Greene County Historical Society, which has maintained the home and land as a museum ever since.
Wondering how the original stone home has survived nearly four centuries? Credit must go to caring members of the Bronck family and their ability to keep this home within the family. Its location also played a part – off the beaten path, away from the harsh elements of the coast, etc. And lastly, its solid stone construction. Those New Yorkers know a thing or two about building homes that last ;-).