Kirby Cottage, 221A Main Street
Kirby Cottage, built circa 1850 as an independent "one-up-one-down" structure, may have been originally located somewhere about the "Kirby's Corners" property which encompassed the intersection of Main Street and East Broadway. Sometime around 1870 the cottage was attached to the Van Nostrand-Starkins house, being moved into the angle formed by the early 18th century leanto and the mid-19th century leanto of its late 18th century wing. In 1970-71 the once-independent cottage was detached from the Van Nostrand-Starkins house, relocated on the southwest corner of the lot, restored and slightly enlarged by the Landmark Society as a residence. The lot upon which the cottage stands, one of the oldest settled parcels of land in the village, is shared with the Van Nostrand-Starkins house, which has been dated by characteristics of its construction circa 1680. William Van Nostrand was living in this house at the end of the 18th century. (The first U.S. census in 1790 lists William Nostrand as the northerly neighbor of William Valentine, whose house site is established by a photograph by George Brainerd in 1878, and by Francis Skillman's description of conditions in Roslyn during the first half of the 19th century). The house was sold in 1795 to Joseph Starkins, a blacksmith. (Queens County Liber 65 of Deeds, pg. 291). The 1800 Federal census lists Starkins as a neighbor of William Valentine, having the same relationship as Van Nostrand had had ten years earlier. In 1850 the house and four acres was sold by Joseph Starkins, Jr. to William Verity of the Town of North Hempstead, (Queens County Liber 85 of Deeds, pg. 486) and in October 1852 Verity sold his land to Captain Jacob M. Kirby, who already owned property on the east side of the present Main Street. Captain Kirby operated a fleet of sloops, including the "Mary Ann" probably named for his first wife, the "Mary Hicks", the "Sarah Elizabeth", the "General Washington" and the "Andrew Jackson", between Roslyn and New York. He carried farm produce, cordwood and locust logs to be sold by New York's commission merchants whose tall brick warehouses lined the East River shipping district along South, Water and Front Streets. Business made him prosperous, and by about 1845 Kirby was able to build the seventeen room Greek Revival mansion which stood until 1941 on the southeast corner of the intersection. The mansion fronted East Broadway with a monumental Doric portico, grand if ungainly in its design. (In 1941 the Kirby mansion, the site of which had been sold for the Silver Hill apartments, was moved to Wheatley Hills, where it now forms the west wing of the Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney house. Roslyn News, April 18, 1941.) According to the construction and style of the Kirby Cottage, it was probably built around the time when Jacob Kirby purchased the Starkins house parcel, in 1852. A minuscule building, it originally contained only two rooms, one on the ground floor 35 and one above. There was an interior chimney but no evidence remains of a kitchen. Although the Walling Map of 1859 is vague in its records of outbuildings, the BeersComstock Atlas of 1873 contains this information: a. On the parcel within the V formed by the intersection of Main Street and East Broadway there is the early element of the existing dwelling house, the existing Kirby store facing Main Street, a barn, and a small cottage on East Broadway. (An early 20th century photograph including the cottage shows that it was not the building known as the Kirby cottage). b. There were no outbuildings attached to the mansion; and . c. Behind the Van Nostrand-Starkins house, slightly north of the present site of the Kirby cottage, stood a tiny building labelled "office." No known photograph includes it, but the one-story building behind the present 219 Main Street, which seems to date ca. 1850 -55, traditionally known as the "dame school", was moved in 1963 from a spot behind the Van Nostrand-Starkins house very close to the place where the Kirby "office" was shown on the 1873 map. This leaves no unidentified outbuildings on the Kirby holdings, but the little cottage might have been somewhere at the "corners" and unrecorded in 1873, or it may have been brought from another location. Jacob M. Kirby, having married a second time in 1875, died on January 5,1880 (his gravestone in the Roslyn Cemetery reads January 3, 1889) leaving the Van Nostrand-Starkins house, to which the cottage was by then attached, to his son, the Reverend William Wallace Kirby. W. Wallace Kirby was a Justice of the Peace for the Town of North Hempstead from 1874 to 1878, and supplied the pulpit of the Roslyn Presbyterian Church (Tour Guide, 1973-74) from spring, 1870, to July of 1871. As part of the larger house, the cottage was owned by Wallace Kirby's family until 1918, when his wife Susan Eliza deeded it to her son Ralph Kirby. Ralph's brother, Isaac Henry Kirby, lived in the house from the time of his marriage in 1916 until 1934, and was the last member of the Kirby family to occupy it. In later years it was the residence of George J.G. Nicholson; then of John G. Tarrant, who sold it in 1963. In 1966 it was acquired by the Incorporated Village of Roslyn, the present owners, who rent it on a long-term lease to Roslyn Landmark Society for restoration and operation as a house museum. The restoration is being supported by a matching grant from the New York State Division for Historical Preservation. The original "Kirby Cottage" probably was a workman's cottage. 141/4 feet square, having a lower all-purpose room heated by whatever device served for cooking with an additional unheated room above, with a sloping ceiling on two sides which provided an additional sleeping area. Originally there was a hole in the floor above the stove, the plug of which could be removed so that the heat would circulate to the upper room. On the basis of its construction, i.e. clapboarded exterior with corner boards, the slope of the roof, rough log floor joists, mortise-and-tenon joinery and careful dovetailing of the sill corners, the house is assumed to have been built during the mid-19th century. It is similar to, but somewhat smaller and slightly more ambitious than the design for a farm worker's cottage published by William H. Ranlett in 1849 as Plan XLI. Ranlett estimated the cost of his building at 374.12. Sometime around 1870, when the cottage was joined to the Van NostrandStarkins house, it was placed upon a cellarless rubble foundation. In this location the lower room was used as a kitchen and the upper room as a bedroom. It remained in this location for about a century and was not recognized as having been a separate building originally until stripping procedures conducted by the Landmark Society in 1970 disclosed the survival of its west wall clapboards behind the east wall of the Van NostrandStarkins leanto. In addition the south wall of the Kirby Cottage was independently framed at its connection with the Van Nostrand-Starkins house. The scars of this connection are still visible on the west wall clapboards of the Kirby Cottage in its present location. At the time the Kirby Cottage was attached to the Van Nostrand-Starkins house (about 1870) an overall modernization program was undertaken. This included new interior plaster, the addition of a new Victorian dormer window to the south roof slope of the late 17th century Van Nostrand-Starkins house and the construction of a bay window at the east end of its late 18th century wing. A 6/6 window, replaced by the bay window, was relocated in the north wall of the first floor of the Kirby Cottage. The remaining sash in the Kirby Cottage were probably of a 4/4 type. These were replaced with 2/2 sash which have survived today. An early 20th century photograph in the Landmark Society Collection shows the Kirby Cottage as it looked after its attachment to the Van Nostrand-Starkins house. At that time it had overhanging eaves and an interior chimney. The most substantial change was the reversal of part of the rafter pitch of the leanto of the late 18th century Van Nostrand-Starkins wing so that its roof slope would more closely approximate the roof slope of the Kirby Cottage. Subsequently the eaves of the Kirby Cottage were "clipped" and an interior chimney taken down and replaced by a single flue exterior chimney. At this time the hearth was demolished and a new concrete slab for a kitchen stove poured. In 1970, as part of the overall Van Nostrand-Starkins House Restoration Project, the Kirby Cottage was detached from the Van Nostrand-Starkins House and relocated on its present site, maintaining the same orientation the cottage had when it was attached to the Van Nostrand-Starkins House. The cottage was placed upon a concrete foundation having a full cellar to provide space for a heating system. The visible foundation was brick faced in conformity to the practice followed in Roslyn in the mid-19th century even though it had a rubble foundation when it was attached to the Van NostrandStarkins House. EXTERIOR: Basically little was done to the exterior of the original "one-up-one-down" cottage. It was decided to retain the Kirby Cottage as it had been modified when it was attached to the Van Nostrand-Starkins House as so much detail survived from that period. The 6/6 window mentioned above was removed from the north wall of the first floor of the Kirby Cottage and returned to its original location in the east end of the late 18th century wing of the Van Nostrand-Starkins House. It was replaced by stylistically appropriate 2/2 paired windows. The simple doorway east of this window was removed as it would have served no useful purpose in that location. The 20th century single flue chimney was replaced with a more appropriate double flue chimney derived from a surviving example in the Ralph Tubby house at 1401 Old Northern Blvd. The Victorian dormer window from the south roof slope of the Van Nostrand-Starkins House was inserted into the north slope of the Kirby Cottage roof. Unfortunately, the early 20th century photograph referred to above which showed the Kirby Cottage with extended eaves was not known of at the time of its relocation.Otherwise this characteristic of the 37 original cottage would have been restored. In addition to these few changes a small utility wing was added along the south side of Kirby Cottage to provide space for such 20th century amenities as closets, a bath and a kitchen. The rear doorway with its four panel, ogee moulded door which has been mentioned above, was relocated from the north wall of the cottage. The bay window, which dated from the time of the attachment of the Kirby Cottage to the Van Nostrand-Starkins House was attached to the south wall of the new wing of the Kirby Cottage. This relocation not only provided for the survival of the stylistically qualitative bay window but also provided additional, badly needed space in the new kitchen. The front entrance also was placed in the new wing. This included a small, pent-roof stoop trimmed with lamb's tongue-and-chamfer decorative bracing. The four panel ogee moulded front door is a survival from the demolished Virginia Morris house on East Street in Roslyn Harbor. The Victorian door bell is not original to the door but is of the same period. All of the louvered shutters remain attached to their original plain surrounds. The present plain water table is stylistically appropriate to the Kirby Cottage but it is impossible to establish whether it dates from the original freestanding cottage or from one of its subsequent revisions. The Kirby Cottage restoration and addition were designed by Guy Ladd Frost, A.I.A., and executed by the late Adam Brandt of Greenvale. This project was the first in a series of restoration projects accomplished by this team. It was decided to extend the eves as shown in the early 20th century photograph previously mentioned in this text. This work was completed in September 1975 by Edward Soukup and Steve Tlackowski. Completion of the eve extension contributes to the delightful appearance of this small cottage. INTERIOR: The interior of the new wing all dates from 1970 and will not be described. However, the plain flat surround of the bay window is the original and the remaining door and window surrounds come from to those of the original part of the cottage. The four panel, ogee moulded interior doors are in period with the house and come from the Landmark Society's stockpile. All were fitted with appropriate stoneware knobs and cast iron rectangular or square rim locks of the period. The board-and-batten doors to the bath and second floor closet had been discarded from the Samuel Dugan House I (Tour Guide 1966-67). The principal architectural feature of the parlor is the enclosed stairway which winds around the fireplace. This is sheathed on both sides with 4 1/2 inch beaded sheathing which dates from the 1850-60 period. The sheathing on the room side of the stairway is placed vertically; that on the wall side is placed horizontally. The board-andbatten door which opens to the stairway and a small closet door beneath it are made of the same vertically placed sheathing. The patent reciprocating thumb-latch on the stairway has cast decoration and appears to date from about 1860. It was found in its present location. The stair wall also includes a small window which rotates on its horizontal axis. This arrangement was intended to allow heat from the stove to penetrate to the chamber above. It probably dates from the attachment of the Kirby Cottage to the Van Nostrand-Starkins House. The parlor fireplace is entirely conjectural as the interior chimney was moved to the exterior and a concrete stove slab poured early in the 20th century. The present brick fireplace, hearth and chimney were designed by Frederic N. Whitley, Jr., an internationally known authority on chimney and fireplace design. The flat panelled mantel with its late Tuscan moulding dates from about 1860 and comes from the Landmark Society stockpile. The parlor dado is make of narrow, beaded vertical sheathing of the type called "wainscot". Like the pine parlor flooring, placed over the early floor, it dates from about 1870 when the Kirby Cottage was attached to the Van Nostrand-Starkins House. The flat door and window surrounds are beaded on their interior edges. The east window surround and its sash are original to the house. The moulded Victorian bookcase, circa 1870, in the chimney embrasure, was in use as shelving in the Kirby Cottage parlor when it was the kitchen of the Van NostrandStarkins House. It was restored and the flat panelled lower doors reconstructed for use as a bookcase in its present location. As mentioned above, the stairway retains most of its original beaded sheathing and continues upward to terminate at the level of the original four inch yellow pine flooring of the upper story. The stairway with its narrow treads, high risers and triangular steps is a bit hazardous especially when descending. At some time during the attachment of the Kirby Cottage to the Van Nostrand-Starkins House this stairway was 'straightened out" and the triangular treads eliminated by extending the stairway through the south wall of the original Kirby Cottage into the leanto of the late 18th century wing of the Van Nostrand-Starkins House. This modification isolated the lower part of the stairway. Since this was enclosed and retained its original board-and-batten door, for many years it was used as a kitchen closet; the lower three steps serving as shelves. Originally the stairway was enclosed above the second floor level but insufficient evidence remained to reconstruct this enclosure For many years no protection of any kind surrounded the stairwell at the upper front level. During the restoration of the Kirby Cottage in 1970-71 a discarded section of stair rail from the Epenetus Oakley House (Tour Guide 1973-74) was installed utilizing a contemporary newel from the Landmark Society's stockpile. The mahogany stair rail is circular in cross section and the balusters slender, tapering, mahogany rods. The newel is maple with an urn-turned shaft and turned finial. The original interior single flue chimney was located only a few inches from the stairwell at the second story level. It must have required considerable agility to negotiate this small space before descending the stair. The bedroom baseboard is a simple, uncapped skirting dating from the 1870's. It is not original to the house as during the recent restoration areas of beaded pine sheathing, matching that of the stairway, were found under the bedroom plaster. This suggests that in the original room-over-room house, the entire bed chamber was sheathed in this material. The sheathing which remained was removed and used in patching the stairwall. The flat east window surrounds are original and match those of the parlor. The dormer window surround was reconstructed to match it. The Kirby Cottage includes and attractive array of 18th and 19th century cottage furniture and 19th century prints, some of which descended in local families.