Documentation of the Hart-Cluett House

In 1983, a collection of wooden trunks bearing Betsey Hart’s name on the outsides, were discovered at the Troy Savings Bank. These trunks held virtually all of Mrs. Hart’s bills and financial records for the majority of her years at the House. This unusual, infinitely detailed record provides a thorough understanding of how the Hart family lived in and took care of the house. Coupled with the few personal papers of the family that are known, and a set of photographs of the house’s interior, RCHS has been able to recreate a relatively complete picture of life in the Hart house for the second half of the 19th century.

The Cluett record is not as thorough, although family papers, photographs and reminiscences do exist and the public record of the business activities of the company is extant in the RCHS archives. Many personal items remain in the possession of the family. Recently, a survey, including oral histories, was conducted of the Cluett family by RCHS staff, and this research has been critical to the understanding of how the Cluett families lived in and used the house.

Additional documentation comes from study of the building itself. Careful examination of paint layers, architectural details and changes to the structure due to additions and different uses of spaces, when added to the information from documentary and photographic sources, provides a rare view of the occupation of the house over 125 years by private residents and almost 50 years of museum use. The ability to say with such certainty what was going on in the building at a given time is extremely unusual for most historic house museums and makes the preservation of the Hart-Cluett House even more important. The house, the documents and the collections, when taken as a whole, are of great significance to the study of American life.

Queen Anne

Architectural Styles in Rensselaer County: 1880s and 1890s

The Queen Anne Style takes its name from the reign of an 18th century English queen and was initially inspired by medieval English country cottages.

This style emphasized functional layouts, so these homes generally have a rambling plan and irregular roof lines. Gables, massive chimneys, dormers and bay windows are all common features of the Queen Anne Style.

These buildings are highly decorative. This effect was often produced by combining colors and textures. For instance, different wall surfaces, such as shingles, clapboards and panels of wood ornament may occur on one building. Extensive use of sawn ornament to accent dormer windows or detail porches also helped to create a decorative effect.

The wealth of Queen Anne details and preference for asymmetrical massing encouraged highly individualistic free-flowing designs.

Queen Anne - One50.jpg

Queen Anne buildings are often irregular in shape with a variety of colors, textured materials and ornamentation used.

Several types of siding materials can be use on one house: brick, masonry, wooden shingles and clapboard.

Windows may be a mixture of sizes and shapes including one-over-one double hung sash, stained glass, round-arched, or the Queen Anne window (see below).

The complex shape can be achieved with the use of dormers, towers, turret roofs, and porches.

Decorated chimney caps and iron cresting can set off the roof.

Queen Anne - One50.jpg

A large pane of glass surrounded by smaller panes, often of colored glass, is a component of the style and referred to as a Queen Anne window.

Walls and siding flare out between floors.

A variety of shingle patterns included the "fish scale" patterns at right.

Turned and carved wooden details were part of the "Eastlake" version of the Queen Anne style.

Decorative Gable

Decorative Gable

A number of Queen Anne style details can be seen in this photo:

  • Triangular pediments and other classical features
  • Decorative shingle patterns
  • Variety of window types including the Queen Anne window
  • "Eastlake" details such as turned wooden spindles

Bungalow

Architectural Styles in Rensselaer County: 1910 - 1940

The sturdy Bungalow is seen throughout Rensselaer County, in city neighborhoods and in the countryside. Its popularity was due in large measure to the fact that it was economical to
build, and therefore was within the reach of a wide home-owning public. The Bungalow’s comfortable floor plan and ubiquitous front porch encouraged an informal life-style that began to take hold in American society after World War I.

Details distinguish the Bungalow structure’s style. Typically, the Bungalow has wide, overhanging gables forming a porch at the front supported by heavy piers. The natural quality of materials is emphasized, such as stone used as cobblestone or as boulders; wood stained in earth tones; shingles and stucco for their textural qualities.

Fifteenth Street, Troy, NY

Fifteenth Street, Troy, NY

Strong cubic volumes.

Horizontal quality to shapes.

Overhanging eaves.

Multiple dormers and porch roof types.

Main Street, Berlin, NY

Main Street, Berlin, NY

Use of horizontal bands of windows

Fifth Avenue, Lansingburgh, NY

Fifth Avenue, Lansingburgh, NY

Variety of materials used for color and texture.

Fifth Avenue, Lansingburgh, NY

Fifth Avenue, Lansingburgh, NY

Bungalows are designed in a variety of styles including Colonial Revival and many internationally-inspired styles.

Italianate

Architectural Styles in Rensselaer County: 1840s and 1885s

The Italianate Style was inspired by the breezy openness of Italian villas. Abandoning the rigid forms of the Greek Revival Style, Italianate buildings have freer more asymmetrical massing and “romantic” features such as towers, cupolas and bay windows, but unlike Gothic Revival buildings, Italianate buildings have a boxy or square feeling to them.

The style is chiefly distinguished by the heavy use of ornamental brackets, set under wide cornices and under door and window hoods. Mass production of these ornamental brackets and hoods made them readily available and relatively inexpensive. It is not uncommon to find earlier styles which were transformed into Italianate structures during the mid-19th century.

Italianate homes were covered with clapboards and painted in rather deep yellow-green, gray or blue-gray colors. The brackets were usually painted in a strong contrasting color such as pale yellow or dark green. Many colonial and federal style houses were “remodeled” in the late 19th century into Italianate structures. this was done by adding brackets, elongated windows and bay windows.

In houses, look for:

Route 7, NY

Route 7, NY

Houses are often simple, cubic building shapes with hipped roofs. A “hipped” roof is one that slants on all four sides. The eaves of this house are supported by wooden brackets at the cornice line (where the walls meet the roof).

Tall, two-over-two double-hung windows, bay
windows.

Porches with carved posts.

Church Street, Hoosick Falls, NY

Church Street, Hoosick Falls, NY

The projecting central bay of this house mimics the tower popular in this style.

Maple Avenue, Troy, NY

Maple Avenue, Troy, NY

The tower of this front-gabled house has a mansard roof and iron cresting.

Castleton, NY

Castleton, NY

A hipped roof with a small central gable is common in some regions. The small tower on the roof is called a cupola.

An important distinguishing feature of the Italianate is the wide, overhanging
eaves supported by large decorated brackets at the cornice line.

Double doors, often arched.

Round-headed windows with curved wooden or brick arches. The window moldings are more prominent than in earlier styles. Some windows have curved or triangular pediments.

Italianate - hoodedwindow.gif

Many extend from the wall and are called "hooded" window moldings.

Bay windows and porches add to the shape of the house.

Vanderbilt Hotel, Stephentown, NY

Vanderbilt Hotel, Stephentown, NY

This commercial building example has a cupola.

In other commercial examples you might also look for cast iron ornamentation in storefronts or over windows

Greek Revival

Architectural Styles in Rensselaer County: 1820s to 1850s

The Greek Revival is often considered the first truly American style. Earlier styles were inspired by English building fashions and frequently built from English pattern books. The Greek Revival style arose out of a young nation’s desire to identify with the ideals of the ancient Greek Republic.

Inspired by the architecture of ancient Greece, buildings in this style are patterned after Greek temples. The triangular gable end which, usually faces the street, is analogous to the temple pediment, while the flat horizontal board which runs along the length of the gable represents the classical entablature.

The exterior surface is generally covered with clapboards. It was common to paint these clapboards in a buff gray or white tones to imitate the stone of Greek temples. Trim elements such as pilasters, cornices and the entablature were often painted in dark green or black. This style was perhaps the most popular building type in upstate New York during the first half of the
19th century. All kinds of buildings were built in this new style: houses, post offices, banks, schools and stores.

Look for:

The shift from Federal to Greek Revival can be seen in the use of wide, heavy trim at eaves, windows and doors. The gable end is often set to face the street.

Route 2, Troy, NY

Route 2, Troy, NY

A classical temple-front with triangular pediment and columns (some examples have wings on either side of the central section).

8th Street, Troy, NY

8th Street, Troy, NY

Set off with a triangular pediment
and corner pilasters.

Hoosick Falls, NY

Hoosick Falls, NY

Emphasized with cornice returns and corner pilasters.

Poestenkill, NY

Poestenkill, NY

Side-gabled, one-and-a-half storied examples often have small windows set in the wide
entablature along roof edge. These are called “frieze” windows because of their location in the entablature. They are also incorrectly referred to as “eyebrow” windows, but these are actually arched windows found in Shingle and later styles.

Windows continue to be double-hung, multipaneled, like this 6/6 ("six over six") example.

The architrave at the top (seen here with dentil molding); the frieze section in the middle; and the cornice at the bottom (seen here on top of the column with lonic capital).

The Greek Revival style returned to an earlier classical mode, and therefore, unlike the Federal style, imitates the post and beam structures of the Greeks who did not have the arch. Greek Revival doorways usually have rectangular transoms and sidelights.

There are some Greek Revival buildings which do have fanlights. These are transitional in style — or the result of a designer’s preferences.

Gothic Revival

Architectural Styles in Rensselaer County: 1840s – 1880s

High Victorian Gothic: c. 1865 – 1880
Late Gothic: c. 1890s – 1930s

Fueled by a romantic yearning for the past, Greek Revival architecture was set aside in exchange for the Gothic Revival Style. As Andrew Jackson Downing, a landscape architect and author of The Architecture of Country Houses (1850) noted, “It is in the solitude and freedom of the family home in the country which constantly preserves the purity of the nation and invigorates its intellectual powers.”

The style, as developed by Downing and others, was rooted in the landscape. A Gothic Revival house rose steeply from the ground, with steeply pitched gables and a sharp roof slope. The gable in the center of the facade was a characteristic feature and usually decorated with carved wood trim. Windows varied in size and shape and were often asymmetrically placed.

“What, then, are the proper characteristics of a rural residence?” asked Downing. “The harmonious union of buildings and scenery…utility…expression of purpose…a style marked by irregularity of form and outlines, a variety of effect and boldness of composition.”

Gothic-gable.gif

Narrow shapes and ornamentation emphasize the vertical, giving an impression of heigh: steep, pointed gables and dormers with wooden trim called bargeboards, finials (piece projecting up) with pendant (piece projecting down).

Vertical board and batten siding

Vertical board and batten siding

Tall chimneys with decorated caps

Tall chimneys with decorated caps

Buildings can be symmetrical, but are most often asymmetrical and complex in shape. Porches and bay windows add to the change in shape. A bay window extends from the wall and allows more light and air into a room.

Main Street, Berlin, NY

Main Street, Berlin, NY

Windows may have dripstone moldings (middle top and right), pointed arches and tracery.