Archaeology at the Andries DuBois House
Throughout 2004, the Andries
DuBois House has been undergoing a thorough "top-to-bottom" analysis, as we
delve into its history and evolution to develop a plan for its restoration and
use. Paint samples have been scraped from the exterior siding and interior
windowsills, nail samples have been taken from walls and beams, and countless
photographs and drawings
Society member June Simpson sifts through soil
have been developed to document each period of construction of this complicated building. There are some questions, though, that cannot be answered by inspecting the house itself. For these answers, we must "dig a little deeper".
In 2002 the Society conducted an archaeological excavation near the northwest corner of the house. This activity was mandated by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation administering our grant for the foundation stabilization project. Since this project involved potential excavation for the masonry work, we had to contract with professional archaeologists to investigate the area of proposed ground disturbance. This dig yielded several interesting artifacts dating to the nineteenth century, as well as a "burn layer" suggesting a fire on the property. Many Society members gained firsthand experience during the dig by screening for artifacts, as
well as in the "laboratory" washing and cleaning the hardware, bone, pottery, and other items unearthed. A report of this excavation is in the Society's archives.
Last October we conducted a voluntary dig to answer some questions about the house. For example, what did the original entryway look like? The current front porch dates to the mid- to late-20th century, and there is photographic evidence of an earlier but similar porch. Above the front doorway, there are signs that an even earlier porch might not have extended the length of the front facade but was similar to a "stoop" found on many early houses. With no photographs available, archaeology may provide a clue.
What about that burn layer found at the northwest corner? Would we find more evidence of a fire covering the extent of the house site? This would be an important part of the history of the house, and archaeology could provide some information Excavations began with several shovel tests to determine the best place to put the 5'x 5' unit. This unit was brought down to "virgin soil", where there was no evidence of human activity. During the excavation of the unit, Society volunteers assisted with screening for artifacts. the artifacts were bagged and labeled by the level where they were retrieved.
Archaeologist Arnold Pickman records progress during the dig under the DuBois House front porch.
However, before a trowel or shovel could be put in the ground, the Restoration Committee had work to do. The first step was to fully document the existing porch with photographs and drawings. Many photographs have been taken by Society volunteers since the house was acquired. A complete set of drawings was made by Society member and professional architect Joseph P. Trapani. We now have a complete record of this part of the house to be dismantled.
The next step was removing the porch floor. The remainder of the porch was kept intact, to shelter the archaeologists and volunteers from inclement October weather. With the floor removed, Wendy Harris and Arnold Pickman from Cragsmoor Consultants could get to work.
While we must await the final excavation report to see if any of our questions were answered, we do have the following initial statement written by Wendy Harris:
One of the more interesting discoveries were two stone footings that most likely supported an earlier porch. (We) also found several pieces of pottery dating to the 1700s. This is noteworthy because it indicates that the house (or an earlier house at the same location) was occupied during the 18th century. In addition to pottery from the 18th and 19th centuries, the dig also uncovered artifacts that had belonged to former occupants of the house such as coins, children's toys, buttons, and a bone comb. Prehistoric Native American artifacts were also found. More will be known once the artifacts are processed and analyzed.
The dig also found a "bum layer" just above the virgin soil, continuing the question of whether the whole site had been cleared by burning before the farmstead 'was established and the house was built. Or, was an earlier house destroyed by fire and replaced by the existing Andries DuBois House? The questions continue for this fascinating house.
The Society wishes to thank the following Society members for making this project possible: Joseph P. Trapani for drawing the porch; Stewart Crowell, Paul Dale, and John Isaksen for removing the porch floor; Barbara Bouffard, Karen Dale, Michael Dunnigan, Freda Fenn, Kristina Rose, June Simpson, and Ed Weed for screening artifacts; Doris Callan, Karen Dale, Freda Fenn, Jennifer Parker, and Cassie Myers and Wallkill High School students Kaylee Flinton and Greg Mowjean for washing and cleaning artifacts; and archaeologists Wendy Harris and Arnold Pickman of Cragsmoor Consultants for making this project an educational experience for everyone. Funding was made possible by grants from the Ulster County Legislature and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's John E. Streb Preservation Services Fund for New York.
Source: Newsletter Historical Society of Shawangunk & Gardiner Volume 3, Number 4
Porch Removal Reveals Clues to DuBois House Architectural History
To Remove, or Not to Remove ... This question plagued the DuBois House Restoration Committee for more than two years. Concerns about the dilapidated front porch urged many Society members to cry, "Tear it down!" However, the committee faced a serious dilemma: how to remove the porch without further damage to the brick facade.
Before any action could be taken, the age of the porch had to be determined. A circa 1940 photo of the house shows a similar but slightly different porch. When the existing porch floor was removed for an archaeological investigation in 2004, committee members found a "1981" date inscribed in the plaster joining the porch floor to the lower wall of the house. Newspapers also, dating to 1981 were discovered lining the plastered area. Based on this evidence, the existing porch was deemed not historic.
Next, the porch had to be documented with photographs and a measured drawing, as a permanent record of this 20th -century feature. Committee member and professional architect Joseph P. Trapani volunteered his services by providing the necessary drawing. Society archives also contain many photographs of the porch. As a further step, the Society received a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to fund an archaeological investigation along the front facade. One objective was to locate evidence of an historic porch, to assist in the eventual reconstruction of a porch more appropriate to the house's period of significance.
During this time, the Restoration Committee continued to grapple with the delicate technical aspects of the porch removal. The issue was finally settled this past summer, when prospective bidders for the painting and restoration carpentry projects toured the site. Originally, both projects included stabilizing and painting the porch. However, when more than one contractor expressed serious concern about climbing on the porch to reach the dormer windows, the decision was finally made to dismantle the porch altogether.
With the porch now gone, fascinating aspects of the house's historic architecture have been revealed. It is believed that the current building was constructed circa 1815 on the original foundation of the house built by Andries DuBois (circa 1769). A close examination of the front facade reveals many details of the early nineteenth-century appearance of the house, including crowns above the first-floor windows and remnants of a narrow porch roof above the front doorway. Major modifications to the house occurred circa 1840, when the house took on its - current "Greek Revival" appearance. The first-floor windows were reduced in size and the doorway slightly relocated in conjunction with interior renovations. The front of the Andries DuBois House has much to tell us about changes in architectural styles during the early-to-mid nineteenth century.
A portion of the brickwork was left unpainted for two reasons. This section was damaged as the deteriorated porch gradually pulled away from the front of the house. Brick and mortar stabilization will be addressed in 2007. Also, a careful examination of the unpainted brickwork reveals patterns of glazed' brick - another important clue about the 1815 "look" of the Andries DuBois House. When the new porch is built, the brickwork will remain unpainted for visitors to see this historix feature.
As part of the recent restoration work at the house. a temporary entryway was constructed. A lively discussion has ensued about what type of permanent entry to construct. The historic structure report for the Andries DuBois House, developed by our architects, recommends a "shed-roofed Greek Revival style [full length] porch", in keeping with the dominant 1840s period of significance.
However, some Society members believe that more archaeological work must be conducted for a final determination. The 2004 archaeological investigation located the footings .of a narrow porch the width of the doorway, in line with the cut joists noticeable above the door (mentioned above). The archaeologists concluded that this narrow covered entryway might have been built in the mid-19th century. Therefore, it would have been contemporary with the Greek Revival modifications to the house.
To Remove, or Not to Remove ... the answer to this question has revealed many .clues and raised more questions about the fascinating Andries Dubois House.
Source: Newsletter Historical Society of Shawangunk & Gardiner Volume5, Number 1