1857 House, Main Street, Grahamsville, New York


It's a story I tell over and over again on this blog: Someone starts an industry that helps found a town, then wants to build an appropriately fancy house to overlook his empire. 

We had the Seltzer King, the cigar widow, and the Muskogee banker. Today we have the judge/tanner. 

In 1857 Judge Stoddard Hammond owned a prosperous lumber business along Chestnut Creek in Grahamsville, New York. When he realized the tannins in Eastern hemlocks of the Catskills region were also great for tanning hides, he built a tannery. All he needed was the fancy house to overlook his empire.

He picked up an 1850 copy of architect A.J. Downing's The Architecture of Country Houses (actual full title: The Architecture of Country Houses: Including Designs for Cottages, Farm Houses, and Villas, with Remarks on Interiors, Furniture, and the Best Modes of Warming and Ventilating. Whew.)

It was the go-to architectural reference of its day, and Stoddard decided the Plain Timber Cottage-Villa depicted here on the book cover was the plan for him. 

The book suggests the house cost about $2,800 to build. It was meant to be simple and inexpensive, and let "the size and arrangement of the rooms, the spacious hall, and the picturesque exterior point it out as the residence of a gentleman." (Downing also claimed there was "no attempt with inch board finery to dress up and make Gothic what would otherwise appear a very plain house" which seems like exactly what he was trying to do, but oh, well....)

Stoddard didn't follow Downing's plans exactly, as you can see below. Originally there were porches on each side wing, which were eventually extended to create one long front veranda. 

More changes were made in the 1950's, including covering the board and batten siding with shingles and modifying the porch to how it appears today:

But at least the barn still has the original siding (and a nifty barn quilt):

Unfortunately it's since been converted to a three-family residence, but a little TLC could turn it back into a house worthy of that barn.

The foyer has "ample recesses for hat stands and coat stands":

It's still the spacious hall worthy of a gentleman's house...

...and so is the library:

Well, at least it would be if it were mine and I let designer Miles Redd go to town on it:

Miles' design would look fantastic with the existing fireplace:

The kitchen needs some attention, but has a lot of potential to be a great space:

The house has 4,704 square feet. Upstairs are 7 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, or as Downing would say, "the 2nd floor has 6 excellent chambers with suitable closet accommodation." (I've heard he wasn't really a fan of closets.)

2 of the rooms have been converted to upstairs kitchens. 

The bathrooms are all pretty similar and could use some updating...

...including the one that's been updated:

The house is known as the 1857 House because that's how it's referenced on the National Register of Historic Places. It's also known as the Reynolds House, after Judge Hammond sold it to his partner John Reynolds after the Civil War. (When the tannery's fortunes started to decline, after its boost of sales to the Union Army.)

Finally, it's also known as the Manville Wakefield House, for the artist and author who came to Grahamsville in 1953. "Wake" taught art at the Tri-Valley School (conveniently right beside the house). 

Judge Hammond's tannery might be long gone, but his house still overlooks a part of his empire. This is the old company store (now a home), right on the other side of Main Street.

The Old House Dreams listing is here.

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