Dutch Colonial Architecture on New Paltz's Historic Huguenot Street

Ever since reading The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by  Russell Shorto, I have been fascinated by the history of the Dutch in America. That fabulous book (read it if you haven't!) focuses on the island of Manhattan, as the title indicates. But while New York City has paved over most vestiges of its Dutch past, just a few hours north of the city, an entire Dutch colonial settlement survives intact.

New Paltz, New York's Huguenot Street is one of the oldest continuously occupied settlements in the United States. First occupied by American Indians, in 1678 French protestant John Calvin, purchased the land now referred to as Huguenot Street after fear of persecution in France led them to flee to first Germany and then, in the 1660s and 1670s, to the religiously tolerant Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.

On a plot of land purchased from Esopus Indians, the Huguenot pioneers built a community which included farms, orchards, and a church. The initial wooden structures were replaced by stone buildings in the Dutch colonial style. Unlike traditional Dutch architecture, many of these structures are modified so the gable ends do not front the street. Their interiors, which I did not have the opportunity to see, also retain New World innovations. Historically important details include the Jean Hasbrouck House's original (1722) jamb-less fireplace which is remarkably one of only three extant in America. Read more about it here.

The historic importance of this community was recognized as early as the 1890s when a non-profit organization was founded to purchase and preserve the buildings in situ. Huguenot Street is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark District covering 10 acres and including 30 buildings of which seven are stone houses dating to the beginning of the 18th century.

 The reconstructed 1717 French Reformed Church

The cemetery containing the tombstones of some of the original settlers

The DuBois stone "fort house" was built by one of the original settlers, Louis DuBois, whose descendants still live in the area

 Another view of the DuBois house

Unfortunately, I only have this side view of the Bevier House, built in 1698

 This Greek Revival church was built in 1839 but its congregation dates from 1683. Read more about its history here

Abraham Hasbrouck House circa 1721


Here are a few more shots of Huguenot Street from the beautiful early spring day that I visited:

 To support Historic Huguenot Street and learn about tours visit www.huguenotstreet.org.

Copyright 2016 Antiquarianation All Rights Reserved

Bookseller profile: Honey & Wax

A few weeks ago, while shopping at The Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair (a.k.a. the Shadow Show), I came across a relatively new antiquarian bookseller -- Honey & Wax Booksellers -- and was blown away by their carefully curated booth and beautiful catalogue (which has already gotten some buzz, excuse the pun).


Heather O'Donnell founded Honey & Wax Booksellers in 2011, after learning the business at the venerable Bauman Rare Books. Wanting to focus solely on literature, she started Honey & Wax in her Brooklyn dining room and has since carved out a unique niche for herself in the book world. As her website states, "Honey & Wax Booksellers offers great works of literature: rare first printings, beautiful and curious editions, copies with surprising stories of their own. We handle unique books, striking books, books with no downloadable equivalent." 

The name "Honey & Wax" is itself drawn from a nineteenth-century epigram: “use books as bees use flowers." O'Donnell also addresses the conventional wisdom that books are dead in the introduction to her catalogue. "Our easy access to digital text makes us more aware of the qualities unique to the printed book. Some people rarely miss those qualities. Others really do. As artifacts, books communicate more than the words on their pages in type and design, materials and construction, they remind us that ours is not the only historical moment. They satisfy our desire to own and handle well-made objects, to live among them, to give each other something lasting, rather than simply clicking 'share.'"

Lovers of Shakespeare are never going to own a first folio but at Honey & Wax they can pick up Dramatic Characters of Different Portraits of the English Stage, colorfully illustrated and published in London in 1770 (Price $6000) or promotional broadsides for performances of Shakespeare staged in London, New York and Philadelphia in the first half of the 19th century. The posters are beautifully illustrated in O’Donnell’s catalogue and are being offered individually (priced between $500 and $850).

In my conversation with her, O'Donnell said she's “increasingly drawn to unique copies and things that exist around the edge of great literature.” For example her current stock includes a first edition of American poet Wallace Stevens' Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction but she has also acquired a blank sheet of Stevens' letterhead from his job at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company that stands in contrast to poems.

To see more of Honey & Wax's splendid inventory visit their website: http://www.honeyandwaxbooks.com/

Copyright 2013 Antiquarianation All Rights Reserved

How the world is celebrating the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's most enduring novel. And the world is celebrating!

Perhaps most exciting is the BBC's reenactment of the Netherfield Ball.

That's right... the Regency ball in all its historic splendor will be held at Chawton House, Hampshire, the Elizabethan manor house which belonged to Austen's brother and which is now The Centre for the Study of Early English Women's Writing, 1600-1830. The resulting television special, Pride and Prejudice: Having A Ball at Easter, will air on BBC2 this spring.  

The blog Austenprose is hosting The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013 which encourages Austen devotees to read not only the original but also enjoy various prequels, sequels and motion picture versions. And there are fun Jane Austen-themed prizes!

Austen scholar Susannah Fullerton has published a thorough analysis of P&P and its enduring popularity in her Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece. Fullerton talks about her book on the excellent Jane Austen's World blog.

 Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece by Susannah Fullerton

Another book, The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne, examines how Austen's experiences, possessions and surroundings shaped the author. The volume analyses everything from a drawing of her childhood home to her notebooks, and belies the notion of Austen as an inexperienced spinster, instead showing her sophistication and worldliness. 

 The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne

While you're waiting for Amazon to deliver your books, take this challenging quiz  to test your knowledge of P&P and enjoy this brilliant cartoon synopsis of P&P drawn by brilliant writer and cartoonist Jen Sorensen.

Thank you Jane Austen for giving us Elizabeth Bennet!

Copyright 2013 Antiquarianation All Rights Reserved

Downton Abbey, the Demise of English Country Houses and the Surprising Endurance of the Norman Conquest

With the much anticipated season 3 of Downton Abbey, we see the reemergence of a theme from season 1 -- the precarious existence of English manor houses like Downton Abbey in postwar England, a very complex and interesting chapter in British history.

Highclere Castle in Hampshire, the fictional Downton Abbey

Although the strain of maintaining these grand country houses was already beginning to show prior to World War I, after the war, the ruin of such homes accelerated. The tremendous cost of the war, led to the United Kingdom dramatically raising taxes.  

“The question of who should bear the costs of the First World War was a central element in the aftermath of ‘profound disorder and turbulence’ which… formed a ‘critical period in the disciplining of change, in the survival and adaptation of political and economic elites, and in the twentieth-century capitalist order they dominated,” (“How to Pay for the War: State, Society and Taxation in Britain, 1917-24,” English Historical Review, M. J. Daunton, 1996). 

However, the war's repercussions weren't just financial. After the war, staff, without which these estates could not be run, was increasingly hard to find. The war broke down class distinctions and created new work opportunities. But, most notably, many of those killed in the trenches came from above and below stairs, depriving these ancestral seats of both their heirs and servants. The British killed during the war totaled 995,939 and the wounded were in excess of 1.5 million.

 Reaseheath Hall in Cheshire was sold after the war and is now the home of Reaseheath College

Many of Britain's country houses sought to stave off financial ruin through the sale of their collections of books and manuscripts, paintings, sculpture, tapestries, antiquities, furniture, textiles, and even pieces of the houses themselves. Notable country house auctions of this period include the contents of Buckinghamshire's Stowe House in October 1921 which had over 3,700 lots.

In June of 1922, Hertfordshire's Cassiobury Park held an auction of 2,606 lots, including the house which remained unsold. Cassiobury Park was razed in 1927.

Cassiobury Park circa 1880

Pendlebury's Agecroft Hall was sold at auction in 1925 to an American buyer and reassembled in Richmond, Virginia

The Second World War further strained such stately homes through requisitioning and the loss of country estates continued for decades. During the 1970s, increased awareness helped slow the loss and such groups as SAVE Britain's Heritage have saved and restored numerous houses.

 The Waterhouse building at Eton Hall, the country house of the Duke of Westminster, was razed in 1963 and replaced by a more modest structure

Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, where Brideshead Revisited was filmed, was badly damaged by fire in 1940 and much of the contents were sold off in 1944. Portions remain a mere shell.

On his blog dedicated to documenting the destruction of English country houses, Lost Heritage, Matthew Beckett lists the current total of manor houses demolished as 1,848. He also maintains a list of the country houses that have been demolished and a list of country houses at risk.

The deaccessioning of libraries and collections of these great houses continues today with sales like this one. But many country houses have reinvented themselves in order to survive. The most successful example is probably Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke of Devonshire in the Lakes District. 

Chatsworth served as Mr. Darcy's estate Pemberley in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice starring Matthew Macfadyen

In addition to being a popular film location, Chatsworth is open to the public, an enterprise recently chronicled in a three-episode documentary

And despite the loss of so many country estates, their dominance over the figurative and literal landscape of the United Kingdom remains. According to a recent story in The Guardian "Just 0.3% of the population – 160,000 families – own two thirds of the country. Less than 1% of the population owns 70% of the land, running Britain a close second to Brazil for the title of the country with the most unequal land distribution on Earth."  

This inequality can be traced back to 1066 and the Norman invasion after which William the Conquerer declared the entire island his property and parceled out property to his allies. And, "The land grab was not the only injustice perpetrated by the Normans that has echoed down the centuries. William built a network of castles with English slave labour from which he controlled the rebellious populace by force. This method of colonisation and control was later exported to Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as the descendants of the Norman kings extended their empire from England to the Celtic nations," (ibid.). In short, history is alive and well and living in the English countryside.

The Bayeux Tapestry chronicling the Norman conquest of England

Copyright 2013 Antiquarianation All Rights Reserved