Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between rounding up historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2016 and has been updated with the most recent information.
About 90 miles north of New York City, along the west bank of the Hudson River, is the idyllic enclave of Ulster County, home to bucolic landscapes and some of the most charming 18th-century stone houses you’ll ever see.
In the past, we’ve looked at stone houses in Pennsylvania. But not all stone houses are alike. While the houses in Pennsylvania were built by English settlers, the ones in Ulster County were constructed by the Dutch, who first set foot in the region in the early 17th century.
The stone houses of Pennsylvania look more like the symmetrical Georgian homes one may find in the English countryside. But Dutch farmhouses are categorically different.
Dutch stone houses generally have a steep roofline and a simple floorplan—just two or three rooms on the first floor. The structure is usually bookended by two chimneys, and one chimney is usually larger than the other. The larger of the two generally leads to a cooking fireplace, while the smaller chimney acts as a vent for a coal stove.
These farmhouses were originally designed as single-story dwellings, with the space under the steep eaves of the house allocated for hay storage. In many stone houses, you’ll still find an odd window or small door on the second floor that was used for transporting hay in and out of the house.
As these homes lost their original function as a farmhouse and became houses for more modern use, the hay storage space was converted into bedrooms. As a result, be prepared for second-floor bedrooms to be small, oddly shaped, and have rather low ceilings.
These are still, though, incredibly charming, cozy houses perfect for riding out the days of late fall and early winter. Want to snag one of your own? Here are three up for sale right now.
This home is built for fireplace lovers. Typically, there aren’t many fireplaces in stone houses. That’s not the case in this 1755-built home on four acres of land.
The house has fireplaces in the living room, dining room, kitchen, and one of the bedrooms. That’s especially rare, considering the second story of the house was usually a place for storing highly flammable hay—aka not the best place for an open flame. Our guess is that fireplace was put in slightly after the house was originally built.
However, our favorite is in the basement, where the original cooking fireplace is, complete with a beehive oven. Granted, the ceilings look a bit low, but other things, like the gorgeous wide floorboard and original hardware on the doors, might be charming enough to make up for it.
It’s not uncommon to find stone houses that have been added onto over the course of their lifetime. Case-in-point: This 18th-century house with a 19th-century addition.
The 19th-century extension added elements like a proper foyer and bedrooms into the classic farmhouse mix. The house has maintained some of its 18th-century charm, though, most notably in the dining room with the massive brick-and-stone fireplace.
While that room may now be used as a dining room, it was almost certainly used as a kitchen in the early life of the house. Tell-tale signs of its former use include the beehive oven off to the right and the flame-resistant brick floor.
While the house received an update in the 19th century, it has also received a welcome modern renovation, too, which added things like spacious bathrooms and a kitchen with stainless-steel appliances.
Every so often, a stone house with grander proportions will land on the market. A bit later than the other two we have looked at so far, this 1805-built house has two full stories and sits at the end of a tree-lined driveway.
One of the most notable qualities of the house is the ceiling height, which is at least 18 inches higher than what’s typically found in stone houses. The house also has three fireplaces, in the living room, dining room, and wood-paneled den. The den fireplace features two ovens.
The house was renovated in the 1930s, which means that the majority of the historic details—like the mantled and floorboards—have been replaced with modern alternatives. However, what that leaves you with is a house that’s more-or-less move-in ready—or one that’s ripe for a restoration project, if you’re looking to take one on.