“EVER WONDER why our Yankee forebears seem to have been incapable of designing a bad house?” asks Rural Intelligence, a year-old culture website that is like a New York Times Styles section for the Hudson Valley and Berkshires.
It’s a point that will be abundantly illustrated this Sunday, June 14th, when the town of Canaan, N.Y., in northern Columbia County, launches its 250th birthday celebration with an historic house tour featuring eleven houses dating from the 1780s to the mid-1800s, some open to the public for the first time ever.
Upstate farmers may have built some fine vernacular dwellings in the late 18th century, but they went on to do some pretty strange remodels in the 19th (above). Many of the houses on the tour started as humble homesteads, usually two rooms up, two rooms down, with a central stairwell. As their owners prospered, they would either build a larger house adjacent to the smaller one, or remodel the existing house, often in the Greek Revival style.
Sometimes it is hard to discern the “hidden homestead,” but at Turning Leaf and in the Daniel Warner and Jason Warner houses, the original residence is a clearly defined 1790s wing at the back of the 1814 and 1830 main houses.
The Daniel Warner house has halved logs supporting the second-floor floorboards of the older sections; the Jason Warner house has trimmed and incised beams in the older part of the house, meant to be seen and therefore decorated – an unusually fancy finish for an 18th century farmhouse.
The Canaan 250 House Tour runs from 1-5PM, Sunday, June 14; tickets ($20) and maps available at Canaan Town Hall, County Rt. 5, just south of State Rt. 295, starting at 10AM.