Thursday, February 10, 2011

The James M. Townsend Estate Interiors

The accompanying interiors to the James M. Townsend estate, with alterations by William Lawrence Bottomley in Mill Neck. Click HERE for more on the J.M. Townsend estate.


Anonymous said...

Ancient, I agree with your comment yesterday about the privy out back or chambermaids emptying pots -- indoor plumbing requires ventilation. But the pipe also tells us there is probably a bathroom directly over the front door, which for some reason always bothers me in a house (I hope the floor is well insulated).

I'm posting my comment here instead of yesterday's comments because I cannot figure out why there is a staircase in the corner of the living room, not all that far from the main staircase in the entry, to take one upstairs where there appears to be only bedrooms. Any insight anyone?

I also appreciate that this house has a 'Writing Room' on the ground floor -- today I'm sure there is a wireless router in there.

(Ancient, I'm the one who asked young new-hires about Victrolas -- thank you for your sympathetic response.)

The Down East Dilettante said...

It's a safe bet that the secondary staircase provided access to two bedrooms, one above half the living room, and one above the new sunroom---many similarly remodeled early houses around here have similarly resolved circulation problems. The central stair logically could only access bedrooms on either side. I still like this place. Just a sure hand, no gilding of the lily.

The Ancient said...

Doug --

18th and 19th century houses often had what were sometimes called "birthing rooms." (My house in the country did, and it was precisely over the main door. Thinking about it, I suppose it was a good place for a smaller room, given a desire to have large symmetrical rooms on either side of the main staircase.) These smaller rooms -- including trunk rooms -- were often the ideal candidate for a bathroom when it came time to plumb the house. (In our case, there's no offending pipe, but only because of a very expensive plumbing solution that vents on the backside of the house.)

P.S. Many years ago, when we were renovating, we were visited by the nonagenarian daughter of a prior owner. When she pointed to the very spot where she had been born, I didn't have the heart to tell her it was about to become the master bath.

The Down East Dilettante said...

And, I might add, that although differently located than Ancient's, the 'borning room' in my own 200 year old house is also now a bathroom.

HalfPuddingHalfSauce said...

From MyNass property card - Pin oak floors and walnut paneling. Original part of house built 1740. Has been added to and remodeled several times. Part good and part VERY cheap. There was a south-side addition that was demolished 1959. It connected the still standing garage to main house.

1740/1789 - what ever year it was built who would have built in such a remote area at such an early time in the country's history? The Dutch or the English? What would have drawn someone to the area? Frost Mill Road - was there a Mill for grain or industry?

lil' gay boy said...

According to the previously mentioned article, at the time the house was built, the street was referred to as the old Beaver Dam Road. The article also states that the original part of the house, which "tradition fixes the date as 1789", consists of the central portion of the structure to the right of the front door, encompassing the width of the five upper floor windows. Given that, it's easy to see why that lovely staircase in the corner of the living room was retained as it probably is not currently code-compliant. The article further states that the living room, 33'x16', originally "was two rooms divided by a large chimney breast and some closets."

A further description of the exterior at the time (1914) indicated the shutters were a bright blue-green, with the first-floor ones being solid & containing the owners' initials in the lower panels, held by "old-fashioned black iron shutter fasteners." The original windows themselves are charmingly described as "hardly any two of them are exactly alike in dimensions. They were made from trees cut on the farm, for the most part by the farmer himself, who was very free in his carpentry."


Considering that the site is so close to the water, it's not surprising that someone built there, as the area had been settled for many years prior to the Revolutionary War, and it was not uncommon for ships headed to Manhattan to put in at one of the many coves along the North Shore.

Looking at the prop records does afford a better view of the entrance fa├žade with that hooded over-door detail (it's unclear if the lattices & seats are still extant). It also appears that under all that brown may be the shingles from 1912.

Property card is fascinating, including evidence of a now-demolished stable (but it's unclear by the dates how accurate this info is) ––– like going on a treasure hunt.

Zach L. said...

Definitely be a little wary of the dates on those property cards. They say that the house I grew up in was built in 1942. It was in fact renovated and enlarged to its current state in 1942 but stood for a good 35+ years before that as two connected houses occupied by the superintendent of an Inn located somewhere on the property next door. And later as a guest house to the main residence that is our neighbor.

Anonymous said...

setled in that area..Townsend family, most probably = Quakers.

Anonymous said...

Factory pond road, just down the street and yes, mills.I believe there was a house down the street that actually had a wind mill on the pond adjacent.

Zach L. said...

This particular Townsend was born in New Haven, CT but the Townsend family's presence in Oyster Bay is far older than this country.

The Down East Dilettante said...

House looks pretty good in the assessor's photo. The descriptions of the aged and handmade materials and the earlier colors would make this guy weep---so few people understand or admire the charm of that sort of irregularity and handcraft in a building anymore.

I found the direct design source for the door in 'Lost Examples of Colonial Architecture' by John Mead Howells, on a mid-18th century house in Newport RI. It in turn was copied from an English builder's book. One can see a full blown copy of the English original on David Adler's Castle Hill at Ipswich. Always fascinating to me to see how designs travel up and down the style ladder. If I have time this weekend, I think I'll do a post about those doors.

Turner Pack Rats said...

a few comments - construction irregularities were a way of life in these old arks - definitely true in the place where i sit. we bought it in 1865 - it was built somewhere around 1835 as a cape out of recycled lumber from a mill they demolished. in 1904, they cut the roof off, jacked it up and tacked in a second story (the tourists call it quaint altho that isn't the word i would use) so now i have 19 (!!!) rooms. none of the floors are on the same level or made out of the same material for that matter. god only knows where doors or walls or anything was when they built it cause so many things have been moved.
i am getting on the birthroom/bathroom bandwagon as they did the same thing here altho not until i was 13 in 1959. until then we had outhouses in the shed. we were upper class tho and had a four holer - two for adults - two for kids. as soon as i get the shed cleaned, i'll be selling it on ebay. our birthroom was right behind the kitchen to take advantage of the radiant heat from the huge kitchen chimney.
the townsend place was built "out there" to take advantage of farmland. you should remember that all those woods around it now weren't there in the 1700's because they cut them all for farmland. people who whine about them cutting woods today should remember that we actually have something like 200% more woods now than we had 150 years ago.

security word def - "raniumis" - a disease of the brain affecting only lawyers and land developers in which they appear to be insane. unfortunately the disease is prevalent 24 hours a day, is incurable, and leads to a long and otherwise healthy life.