Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Schenck Houses in the Brooklyn Museum

There are many historical homes still standing in Brooklyn, New York, that date back to early days when it was a Dutch settlement. I've shown the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House, the Wyckoff Bennett House, the Hendrick I Lott House, and the Lefferts Historic House Museum before on my blog, which all remain on, or near, their original foundations. Now I'd like to show two homes that were dismantled and then reconstructed for display in the Brooklyn Museum to preserve them for all time


The Jan Martense Schenck House is one of the oldest house in the United States. It was built around 1675 in what is now known the Mill Basin/Mill Island neighborhood of Brooklyn, part of the town of Flatlands. Flatlands was one of five towns--Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend, and New Utrecht---to become the borough of Brooklyn. Jan Martense Schenck, the man who built this house, arrived in New Netherland in 1650. On December 29, 1675, he purchased the land on which he built the house, along with a half interest in a nearby gristmill.


The house survived through the first half of the 20th century in its original location, but in 1952 the house was at risk of demolition because of development in the area. The Brooklyn Museum arranged to have it dismantled and stored for a decade, until preparations for installation of the house could be made. On April 26, 1964, the house was opened to the public inside the Decorative Arts Gallery.

My photo enlargement  from an informational placard in the museum

If you remember my blog post about the Beautiful Houses in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, you can see how this neighborhood now looks. All of the marsh land has been filled in and the land where the Schenk house stood on is now a school yard.  I grew up in this area of Brooklyn, and while I don't remember the Jan Martense Schenk house being here my older brother and sister do!  They said it was in ruins and covered with vines.

My photo enlargement from an informational placard at the museum

During the 275 years that the house stood in its original location, it underwent many changes to accommodate the needs of new generations. In the museum photo above, the Jan Martense Schenck House is shown with the porch and dormers which were added by about 1825. When reconstructed in the museum it was returned to the original two-room structure.


Part of the exterior clapboard siding has been removed in one section to show a reconstruction of the brick nogging originally used to insulate the house. The museum web site states:  "For many years the house was painted gray. Recent analysis of the exterior paint layers on the original clapboard surviving in the corner at the short end of the building revealed that the house was originally white and then red. Since the interior of the house is interpreted to the first decades of the eighteenth century, we decided that the house might have received its second coat of paint, the red layer, by that time."


None of the original Dutch colonial furniture owned by the Schencks is known to have survived. The curators have assembled the interior-decorations and furniture using objects that would be typical in an interior of a prosperous family of Dutch descent living in colonial English Flatlands. The rooms are viewable behind glass, so unfortunately there is some glare on the glass in my photos.

A linen press.


This informational placard by the second entrance to the house describes the more formal room of the house. (please double click on the photo to enlarge it)


Notice the built in bed boxes with heavy drapes on the fireplace wall on the left side of the room. Staying warm in winter was a challenge, and this was a way to block drafts and utilize radiant heat.


A beautiful wardrobe from the 1600's that would be the type that would have been in a house such as this.
The Schenck family owned the house for three generations, finally selling it in 1784. It was abandoned and in disrepair when rescued by the museum.  How fourtunate that the Brooklyn Museum had the foresight to preserve for all time such a treasure from Brooklyn's past.  It tells the almost forgotten story of the people who were among the first settlers in the United States.

The next house in the exhibit is the house of Nicholas Schenck (1732–1810), the grandson of Jan Martense Schenck,  in what is now the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. It was built about 1775, and installed in the museum in 1929.


The house was heavily remodeled in the early nineteenth century and is therefore installed here as it might have looked about 1830 when Nicholas Schenck, Jr. (1765–1836) lived in it with his family.


A model of what the house looked like when it was on its original location.


Let's enter the Dutch door and enter the house.


The color of the woodwork is based on fragments of paint found under the fireplace mantel and accurately reproduces the original color.

The dining room.

The furnishings of the house, like its architecture, are a mixture of both eighteenth and nineteenth century styles and traditions.

Parlor/living room

Large fireplaces, considered inefficient by 1830, have been closed up and replaced as sources of heat by cast-iron stoves.


The Master bedroom

A child's bedroom.
Although small and rustic, both houses revealed that life was not that much different in the 17th, 18th and 19th century, than modern day life. The kitchen was the heart of the home, and adequate dining accommodations and comfortable bedrooms were important assets to have. 

In addition to the Schenck houses the museum also had other period rooms to view and many decorative items on display.


17th and early 18th century China and silver pieces

17th century glassware

The Brooklyn Museum's collection of decorative arts is considered one of the most important in the country.  It is a fascinating way to look at how life was lived over 300 years ago.

For anyone interested in antiques, American architecture and interior design the Decorative Arts galleries, the American Identities: A New Look gallery and the Luce Visible Storage Study Center in the Brooklyn Museum are not to be missed!



Bookmark and Share

51 comments:

Barbara F. said...

That house has stood the test of time, Pat. All the period furniture and artifacts are impressive, too. xo

Claudia said...

I so appreciate when museums and groups of people preserve the past. It helps me to connect the dots to where we've been. I do appreciate that large fireplaces were considered "inefficient" and changed to wood-burning stoves. Some things never change.

camp and cottage living said...

What's not to love about this house. The exterior color, the vibrant furnishings, the fireplaces-I love it all!

Sara Lorayne said...

Wonderful post! I love that 18th century glassware...I could look at that all day long, as well as the interiors of these homes and all the artifacts and furniture, etc. So very interesting. I can't help wondering if my ancestor who was in the area at the time had any interaction with the owners of this home....who knows!

Sara Lorayne said...

Or..I should have said...17th century glassware! We sometimes think of previous centuries as being more rustic and backwards than we are today, but in some areas they were just as civilized with lovely china and glassware and silver....nicer than most of ours in fact!

Pamela Gordon said...

What an amazing story of these 2 old houses. I enjoyed this post and all the history behind them. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing. Pamela

podso said...

Beautiful. It's amazing to me when a house is rebuilt inside a museum. Thanks for another interesting tour!

ellen b. said...

That is so interesting. I really love those long farm tables and I've always enjoyed dutch doors. So many things to see...

Sarah said...

Great post! I so enjoyed seeing this museum. Also caught up on some previous posts I've missed this past few weeks. Looks as if you've been out and about having all kinds of fun. ;-)
~ Sarah

The Gathering Place said...

What interesting houses. I love the paint color, too. It would be fun to see it in person.

Ginny said...

What a wonderful tour! They really made sure to faithfully reproduce everything. I am surprised at the original colors, I always thought of things as being very drab back then. Some of these rooms almost looks modern! I wouldn't mind living in some.

Kris said...

SO interesting! I love that you are a history buff!!

Pondside said...

I love this sort of museum. How wise of the municipality to save these buildings, such a beautiful part of your history.

Ola said...

I love the color of the plates in the dining room! I always notice in such places that the beds used to be so small and so short these times!

Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

That's really neat Pat! Love the cast iron stoves and the glassware was very pretty:@)

guild-rez said...

An amazing preservation of the Schenck house. A look in the past!!
Great post!!
Gisela

Old Kitty said...

I love how the Schenks kept their European genteel way of life in the many re-incarnations of their home's interior! How brilliant!! Oh so glad their home is preserved! It definitely looks most odd in the setting it was built - the wild open plains of America! Yay for museums!!

Take care
x

Snap said...

It never fails to amaze me (and I often wonder why) about the wonderful colors our ancestors used in their homes. They weren't afraid of color and for some reason, we seem to enjoy white and cream the most! Love the blues and reds!

Sheila said...

I read this post with great interest and realize how much time it must have taken you to do Pat. After seeing the photo of the vine covered house that your brother and sister remember I really do wonder why the exterior has been covered in the red modern siding (apart from the fact it was painted red at one time). In my opinion, t looks too modern and would have been more interesting had the brick and wooden exterior been restored.

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Thanks for the tour. I love the furnishings...and could nicely go shopping in that Schenk house!

Like Sheila said...these posts must take a lot of time to do...what with all the research and history. Thanks for taking the time!

Theanne and Baron said...

Marvelous...thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the "The Schenck Houses"...thank you for an enjoyable post (as always Pat!!!)

Riet said...

What a wonderful post. I just want you to know that this is more how the well to do people lived, not the ordinary or poor people. There is a lot of beautiful furniture in that house plus the beautiful china and glassware.Not common for ordinary people.:)))
Have a great day.
Riet

Grandmother said...

What a good thing to preserve. I love the glassware.

Oliag said...

I have been to the Brooklyn Museum but didn't see this part! What a wonderful exhibit! Thanks for taking us along Pat:)

The living/dining room in my childhood home was painted that dark blue of the second house shown...I have always been impressed that my mother chose such a dark, vibrant color and now I know that it was historical too!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Gorgeous, Pat... So glad they preserved the Schenck house... Wow---1675? That is awesome... Don't think I've ever seen on that old before... It's great the way the museum has reconstructed it.... Thanks for sharing.
Hugs,
Betsy

Anne said...

What an interesting and informative post!

And the pictures are really lovely.

Many thanks for taking me along and I didn't even have to pay an admission fee!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

How beautiful. I love the furniture.

Farmchick said...

How very beautiful the house AND the furniture are. So nice to see that it has been preserved.

Susie said...

The house is awesome. It is wonderful to see so many old things in great shape. You are the lucky girl...never a shortage of adventures in N.Y. Smiles, Susie

Cindy said...

That was a fascinating tour, I enjoyed it very much, thank you so much for the chance to learn about your amazing city.
The old homes were very beautiful, and very colorful!
Hugs, Cindy

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I love seeing these large pieces of history preserved so you get a sense of how people really lived back then. I know where I'm going on my next trip to Brooklyn.

Kathleen said...

Very interesting! I've toured many historic homes here on LI, but not in Brooklyn which is part of LI. Have you ever been to Bethpage Restoration Village? I think I could be a docent there as I was there at least 35 times while teaching!
Have a great weekend, Brooklyn Pat!

Joanne Kennedy said...

How fun! I love history and seeing how homes were years ago. I had no idea they were so brightly colored! For some reason I always picture drab and lots of browns, greys and whites. I also love their dishes and glasses from back then.

I wonder if someday the homes we live in will be seen as beautiful and lovely as we see the homes from our past.

H said...

It's so interesting to look into the past and see what similarities and differences there are with the present. In spite of modern technology, there is much here that sits comfortably with life today.

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

Oh, wouldn't I love to get my hands on that table with the bench for a dining table of my own!!

I will be in Buffalo next week for the National Trust for Preservation meeting. Any hot tips??

blessings ~ tanna

Tracy said...

This was FASCINATING! I love such things... I've got shivers... all that history...*sigh*... I could move into that house! LOL...Happy Weekend, Pat ((HUGS)) P.S. I'm having a tiny giveaway, stop by soon if you get a chance. :o)

Vee said...

A marvelous example of architecture and paint and all the things that made a home of that time. I would be happy to live there now! It is a charming home.

KarenHarveyCox said...

Pat,
This is fascinating. I love learning about old historical homes. I especially love it when a museum takes the effort to reconstruct the details and history.

Thank you for posting about it Pat.

Karen

Donna said...

Beautiful old houses. I love to be taken back into that era and just imagine what it was like....
Interesting colors and funiture.

Hugs,
Donna

Yvette said...

Fascinating stuff, Pat. Those early settlers really did love their bright colors. Contrary to what we originally might have thought.

It's wonderful that this house was saved and is now on exhibit. Thanks for sharing. :)

Lovella ♥ said...

It almost seems like a Mennonite name. Our Mennonites from Russia originally come from the Netherlands.
Now. .I wonder.
Thank you for taking us through that historical home.

PⒿ @ $ € € ₦$ ₣®0₥... said...

I'm so glad you get out and about so that I may live vicariously through your travels, Pat.

I remember homes with Dutch doors. Always found them charming.

How's your mom doing?

Just a little something from Judy said...

Pat, I mentioned you and your beautiful blog on my post today. Just thought you might like to know.

lindsey said...

just found your blog...really enjoyed looking through. Our daughter lived in Brooklyn for a number of years so we have visited lots...really miss it now she's in South Africa. Will be back!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

How wonderful that these homes have been restored and their history can be appreciated! I really enjoyed seeing all of the furnishings.

Lisa@GrandmasBriefs said...

That is incredible. I'm in love with that awesome wardrobe. Such a great thing, to have preserved these structures and their interiors.

Skye said...

How interesting! I Love learning things like this... and sooo close to home too! :)

Marilyn said...

I did find your article very interesting but have to say your sister must be mistaken about it all covered in vines!! The vines were removed in the early 40's, if not before. My father was the one who use to white wash the old house, my grandfather hated the vines and they were getting under the clapboards and roof so they were all pulled down. My grandparents moved into the home on 1921, my dad was 3. He grew up in the home. I also lived in the house until I was three but visited my grandparents there until about 1954 when the upkeep became to much for my grandfather. The house was owned by the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company, who have since backfill all the water that was next to the old Mill and a housing development now stands where the house was .... the school was already there, it was not built on the land where the house stood. Just thought I would let you know. Thanks for the nice post, it brings back many memories.

Pete said...

Thank you for posting such a valuable story about my ancestor's home. We have heard many stories about the home, and the current story is probably more believable than those passed down from generation to generation in our family history.
Your post will help preserve our family history even more.
Thank you for your interest in our home.
Pete Schenck

tony p said...

I lived on East 63rd st from my birth in 1951 to 1958 when we moved to NJ. Our house was one of those 1 story brick houses near the schoolyard where the house was located. I went to that elementary school from 1956 to 1958. My father remembers the house being their and we have some items from it or so he says. Keys, clay pipes etc. It was wonderful to see the old house and my first home on 63rd still standing. Google Maps thank you!

John RING said...

Thanks for this great post! I live in Taiwan, but my grandmother was Mary Schenck, one of nine Schenck girls. My daughter was able to use this page to do her homework--"Find a picture related to your family history, one at least 30 years old, and write about it."