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Daniel Winne's House, Built About 1751

Town of Bethlehem, Albany County, NY


Webpage by Cliff Lamere    Nov 2003



Although the article below reports that the house was built around 1730, Brian Parker told me (24 Jan 2004) that after the article was written a dendrology boring of a beam showed that the wood used to build the house was cut in 1750.  This determination was made by comparing the tree rings of the beam to known tree rings in the collection at Columbia University.  Determining the year of cutting requires that you know the year that the tree stopped growing.  Finding a beam that has a piece of the bark still attached insures that you will have the final growth ring of that tree.  Chances are pretty good that the house would have been built the following year, after the wood had dried.  Wood that is still "green" may warp as it dries, thus throwing parts of the house out of alignment.  Green wood is avoided as a building material whenever possible.


** The following copyrighted article is presented here with permission from Albany's newspaper, the Times Union. 



Times Union


Page: B1

Date: Wednesday, March 5, 2003



Bethlehem House found to date from 18th century and now is on its way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art


ANNE MILLER Staff writer


A large piece of Bethlehem history that was almost demolished soon will find a new home at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.


This week the 18th-century, two-story Dutch house, which had been hidden amid decades' worth of additions, is being dismantled and shipped to the museum in Manhattan. By Friday, barring unforeseen weather, the last beams will be stacked in a shipping trailer. Curators hope to include it in an overhaul of the museum's American Wing in the next five to 10 years.


The original homestead's condition is so pristine that restorers recently discovered antique blue and white ceramic tiles in the fireplace, untouched for centuries, said Michael Kelley, who is in charge of the project. The original owner's initials, DW, are clearly carved into the wood siding, although few details are know of the life of Daniel Winne, who built the structure around 1730.


"This house could be right out of Amsterdam,'' said Kelley of Niskayuna, whose company, J.M. Kelley Ltd., renovates, rebuilds and moves historic homes. "It's the best possible thing for this house,'' he said of the museum's involvement.


The project, which came close to disappearing, was saved by a series of coincidences.


Rocco Marando, a New Scotland construction contractor and real estate investor, said he bought the 16 acres that include the house about two years ago. After the tenants moved out, he planned to renovate the building. When that proved too costly, he considered tearing it down.


" I didn't think it was that old,'' he said.


His attorney, John Howard Breeze of New Scotland, an amateur architectural historian, saw something of interest in the beams and called Kelley, an old friend.


" When I found this building hidden away within another building, it seemed appropriate that it should be preserved, only in the way Michael Kelley could,'' Breeze said. "The rest has become history.''


Kelley purchased the house from Marando -- he declined to name the price -- with the intention of selling it and moving it for the buyer. But he couldn't find one.


He mentioned his struggle to a friend whose house he had restored a few years earlier. That friend, who preferred to remain anonymous, is an antiques dealer who occasionally contracts with the Metropolitan Museum. The friend told curators about the Winne House, Kelley said.


" It was just one of those perchance things,'' Kelley said.


Kelley said it's a minor miracle that the house survived this long.


" Think of the chances that someone didn't burn the house down over the past 250 years, that somebody didn't accidently leave the stove on,'' he said.


The homestead lies a few yards down a driveway off of Creble Road in an area of farmland and industry. The debris of later years -- vinyl siding and plywood, linoleum and foam -- lie in big piles around the small house.  The original beams are still secure in their tongue-and-groove joints, planed and polished to a smoothness that would have gleamed, literally, in candlelight, Kelley said.


The fireplace rose from the basement into a hood that would have hung from the ceiling of the first floor, Kelley said.  He traced an imaginary vent with his hands as he talked, hovering above his workers using sledgehammers on the brick foundation.  At his feet lay square, red hearth stones, also original.


Kelley began restoring homes when he was 16. Now he does it full time.  His firm was featured on Home and Garden Television a year and a half ago for its work on the restoration of a 1709 Dutch house in New Paltz.


To work on a house like the one in Bethlehem and to have the Metropolitan Museum entrust him with the project are highlights of his career, he said.


" It's hoped for that it would be part of a room setting,'' said museum spokesman Harold Holzer. "The American Wing collects at the same time that it contemplates improvements.''


Kelley is using drawings and photographs to document each item in the building.  The physical labor calls for delicacy and caution.  "You have to treat this not as building material but as an antique,'' he said.


He has offered to provide copies of the paperwork and photographs to the town historian.


Marando said he is glad not to have to pay to demolish the structure.


Breeze said he cannot wait to see an exhibit include the tiny home long forgotten on the edge of Bethlehem.


" If they come from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and they want to see what housing was like here, they'll see that,'' Breeze said.  He predicted that the day an exhibit opens, his family and Marando's will make a field trip to see it -- led by Kelley.



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