Dutch Town Homes,
page 2 of 8
Rev. Samuel Chandler, chaplain of one of the Massachusetts regiments, stopped several days in Albany in the year 1755. He tells of the streets with rows of small button-trees, of the brick houses curiously flowered with black brick and dated with the same, the Governor’s house having “two black brick-hearts.” The houses one story high with their gable-ends “notched like steps” (he might have said with corbel-steps), were surmounted with vanes, the figures of horses, lions, geese, and sloops. There were window shutters with loop-holes outside the cellars. Smith, the historian of New York, writing at the same time, calls the houses of all the towns, “built of brick in Dutch taste.” Daniel Denton, writing as early as 1670, tells of the “red and black tile (of New York) giving at a distance a pleasing aspect to the Spectators.” All the old sketches of the town which exist, crude as they are, certainly do present a pleasing aspect.
The chief peculiarity of these houses were the high roofs; some were extraordinarily steep and thus afforded a garret, a loft, and a cock-loft. There was reason and economy in this form of roof. The shingle covering was less costly than the walls, and the contraction in size of second-story rooms was not great.
Very few of the steep roofs in the earliest days had eave-troughs, hence the occasional use in early deeds and conveyances of the descriptive term “free-drip.” At a later date troughs were made of sections of the bark of some tree (said to be birch) which the Indians brought into town and sold to house builders. Then came metal spouts projecting several feet, as noted by Kalm. In 1789, when Morse’s Geography was issued, he speaks of the still projecting water-spouts or gutters of Albany, “rendering it almost dangerous to walk the streets on a rainy day;” but in New York more modified fashions obtained long before that time.
The windows were small; some had two panes. When we learn that the ordinary panes of glass imported at that time were in size only six inches by eight inches, we can see that the windows were only loopholes.
The front doors were usually divided as in Holland, into an upper and lower half.