36 Main St, Roslyn, NY, 11576

Jacob Kirby Tenant House, 219 Main Street

Jacob Kirby Tenant House 219 Main Street

The early history of the site of the Jacob Kirby Tenant House is described in the chapter on the Van Nostrand-Starkins House (TG 1992). In brief, on March 21, 1795, William Van Nostrand conveyed his four acre plot and the buildings thereon to Joseph Starkins and Ann Elizabeth, his wife, for £120 (Queens County, Liber 65 of Deeds, Pg. 291). In 1801 Starkins bought more land, north and south of his 17th century house, from William Valentine. Starkins' oven house and his blacksmith shop are both mentioned in the 1824 highway records (North and South Hempstead Records, Vol. 7, Pg. 43 and 45). Joseph Starkins died in 1844. In 1847, Joseph Starkins, presumably the blacksmith's son, mortgaged the property and in 1850 sold it to William Verity (Queens County, Liber 85 of Deeds, Pg. 486). Two years later, Verity sold it to merchant Jacob M. Kirby (Queens County, Liber 101 of Deeds, Pg. 142) who was acquiring land all around the Main Street—East Broadway intersection forming the locality known then, and still today, as "Kirby's corners." Kirby owned a fleet of sloops and schooners operating between Roslyn and New York, trading farm produce and lumber for fertilizer, dry goods and farm implements, which he sold in his Main Street store (TG 1986-1987). Following this initial purchase in 1852, Kirby descendants owned at least some of the land until 1973, following the death of Virginia Applegate Sammis. In 1937 Virginia Applegate sold the Van Nostrand-Starkins House and the Kirby Tenant House to Mr. and Mrs. John G. Nicholson, who sold both houses to John G. Tarrant in 1945. Tarrant divided the property, selling the Kirby Tenant House to Wilford E. and Natalie B. Neier in 1949. Subsequently it was sold to Elizabeth Mitchell (Nov. 2,1955) and then to James E. and Helen Conner on July 18, 1958. The Conners made substantial changes to the house. Following James Conner's death the house was sold to Captain Roland A. Christensen, M.C., U.S.N. (Nov. 22, 1961). Captain Christensen sold the Kirby Tenant House to Elizabeth Alden and Beverly Bay (October 31, 1962) who, in turn, sold it back to John G. and Julia Tarrant (June 28, 1963). At this time, following considerable zoning litigation, Tarrant sold the Van Nostrand-Starkins House and its surroundings for development as the Chalet Apartments and Mr. Tarrant moved the small Wallace Kirby Office (Kirby School) from the rear of the Van Nostrand-Starkins House to the rear of the Jacob Kirby Tenant House to prevent the demolition of this small building (TG 1979-1980). Subsequently the Kirby Tenant House was sold to Robert Hanson (Nov. 3, 1965) and then to John and Jeanne McNamee (Dec. 15, 1971). Following John McNamee's death, Mrs. McNamee divided her property and sold the Kirby office to Dr. and Mrs. Roger Gerry and the Jacob Kirby Tenant House to Dr. and Mrs. Norbert A. Krapf (July 11, 1977). They, in turn, sold it to the present owners on November 13th, 1990. While most of the house's owners actually lived in the house after 1937, it should be recalled that for most of the previous century it was usually rented to a tenant. The house is shown on the Walling Map (1859) as belonging to J.M. Kirby. It is indicated on the Beers-Comstock Map (1873) as a "J.M. Kirby Tenant House." A Town of North Hempstead Road Survey in 1860 also shows it as a "J.M. Kirby Tenant House." One of the tenants, Mrs. John Gschwind, of Roslyn Harbor, has been - 637 - restored in 1993. Drawing by John Hawkins. - 638 - extremely helpful in this description of the Jacob M. Kirby Tenant House. Her father, Thomas Kruger, first rented the house about 1910 and her family lived there for about 30 years. Prior to her marriage, as Alice Kruger, she lived there for many years. Mrs. Gschwind has had long conversations with Norbert A. Krapf, Ph.D., a recent owner, and described life in the Kirby Tenant House, furnishing considerable information, not otherwise available, i.e. that the residents of the Van Nostrand-Starkins House and the Jacob Kirby Tenant House shared a common well situated between the two houses. An understanding of the early floor plan of the Kirby Tenant House was obtained from the careful examination of Dr. Krapf's notes on their conversations which he made available to me (R.G.G.). Without these the considerable alterations made by James E. Conner (Bldg. Permit Application, 10/21/59 and Certificate of Occupancey 6/29/60) would have prevented an understanding of the way the house functioned prior to the Conner enlargement. While the discussion thus far has been directed entirely toward the history of the house as a tenant house developed by Jacob M. Kirby sometime between 1852 and 1859, and subsequently, it should be pointed out that the orientation of the house, with its ridge at right angles to the road, and probably, its original entrance on the south side, was for many years a decidedly 18th century characteristic. This opinion is supported by the survival of a unified system of heavy, adzed, joined framing in the attic in the late 18th century manner. The north-south oriented first floor joists are similarly constructed in the west half of the cellar. However, the first floor joists visible in the east part of the cellar are simple logs, dressed flat on top, which extend from east to west. These joists, similar to those of the Captain Jacob Kirby Cottage (TG 1974-1975) are suggestive of some mid-19th century framing. It may be conjectured that, prior to Captain Jacob Kirby's extensive alteration of the 1850's, the east side of the first storey level had an earth floor, and that the building originally may have been Joseph Starkins' blacksmith shop. Obviously, this historic use of the building is only conjectural and actual substantiation may never be obtained. EXTERIOR Apart from a description of the framing members in the attic and cellar, and of the foundation, not even conjectural evidence survives upon which to base an opinion of the 18th century structure. On this basis the description will be a comparison of the house as it appears today with how it appeared following the Kirby alteration of the 1850's. Unless otherwise specified, when the term "early" or "original" is used, it will refer to the appearance of the Kirby Tenant House in the mid-19th century. An excellent late 19th century photograph of the house survives. This was taken by one of the Kirby sisters and was given to the Society by the estate of Virginia Applegate Sammis. The original house has a pitched roof with the gable fields parallel to the road and the ridge at right angles to it. In this case these characteristics are based upon the 18th century framing and not a mid-19th century Greek Revival "Temple front" precedent. The principal, east, front was, and still is, board-and-batten. The battens are common shingle-lathe with no effort at moulding. The west front originally was finished in the same manner and a survival of the west board-andbatten gable field may be seen in the present attic. In 1984, the Krapfs exposed the second storey level of the west board-and-batten wall when they divided the large west master bedroom, created by James Conner in 1959, into two smaller - 639 - - 640 - chambers. This originally exterior board-and-batten wall has since been sheathed over. There is an attic window in the east gable field today, but this is of recent origin and is not present in the early photograph. The house is three bays wide. The north second storey window in the east front was, and is, slightly smaller than the other two. All have 6/6 sash and plain drip caps. The original roof was shingled and the original chimney, with its simple two-course projecting cap, has survived. The eaves overhang on all sides. The sawn, mid-19th century "sweeps," which were nailed to the 18th century rafters, may be seen in the open soffits of the north and south eaves. The shingle lathe survives in the east overhang. The north and south sides of the house apparently were shingled originally. So far as can be determined there was no water table or corner-boards. The shingles are now covered with mineral board shingles applied by James Conner when he extended the house to the west by continuing the ridge, in 1960. A vertical "break" where the siding has been replaced with beveled siding, on the north side of the house indicates the end of the original house and the beginning of the western addition which contains the present kitchen and two bedrooms above. Below this, at the west end of the Conner Living room, the present owners have added a small (6' x 8') vestibule in beveled siding using a window provided by the Roslyn Preservation Corporation. There are three second story windows on the north side. Two of these are in the early part of the house, but only the window in the center of the group is original. Like all the other surviving early windows, it has 6/6 sash and a plain drip cap. All the windows today are fitted with fixed louvered modern shutters. Originally there were no shutters on the second storey windows. The ground floor windows were fitted with board-and-batten shutters. The original north first floor windows no longer survive. They have been displaced by Mr. Conner's large living room wing constructed in I960. It is interesting to note that Roslyn's Historic District and Historic District Board were established in 1961. It is possible that the very considerable Conner additions were among the reasons for the adoption of this Historic District Policy. Prior to the Conner addition but apparently after 1940, there was an earlier north wing which opened to an east porch. Mrs. Gschwind does not remember this and it was demolished at the time the Conner wing was built. The early Kirby photograph shows a rubble foundation to the sills. This was replaced by the present concrete foundation, probably in 1960. The early photograph also shows a doorway with a nine-light glazed door near the west corner of the south front. This may survive in the fabric of the wall behind the stair. The principal decorative feature of the mid-19th century house was the delicate east stoep with its pitched roof, diagonally-braced railing and shaped brackets. This had been replaced by a somewhat larger, shed-roofed addition which the present owners removed in the summer of 1992 in order to re-construct the stoep. This was sheathed with lead-coated copper to simulate the original tin roof. The stoep, however, does not date back to the beginning of the use of the building as a residence, as the earliest panoramic photograph shows only the front doorway with a step. The photograph also shows a single storey, pitched roof wing which extended from the west front of the original house. According to Mrs. Gschwind, this was the original kitchen. It is vaguely on the same site as the present kitchen. The present cellar entry remains at or near its original location. CELLAR The present cellar was excavated in the summer of 1992 by the present owners. It extends a small circular cellar that was probably from the 1960 - 641 - alterations, and a very shallow crawlspace. At the west end of the cellar may be seen the original 4" x 5", adzed, north-south oriented floor joists, which are set on 32" centers. The floorboards above are 6" in width. However, there are notches in the upper surfaces of the joists for "floor-lathe" to prevent drafts. These are set on 10" centers and suggest that the original flooring was that width. The floor joists at the east end of the cellar are rough logs, dressed flat on their upper surfaces, which are 6-8" in diameter and extend from east to west. These are set on 24" centers. They resemble the principal floor joists of the Captain Jacob Kirby Cottage (TG 1974-75) and this type of joist seems to be a mid-19th century characteristic, at least locally. The early pine flooring above the logs is iy2" wide and in excellent condition. This inclusion of a ground floor area of much later constituents from the rest of the framing leaves room for conjecture that this part of the building was not floored. A conjecture supported by the discovery during the excavation of the cellar in 1992 of a 2-3" layer of manure over a layer of compacted earth. If this hypothesis is correct, then the building may have originally been Joseph Starkins' blacksmith shop. A Town of North Hempstead road lsurvey in 1824 (North and South Hempstead Town Records, Vol. 7, pg 45) suggests that Joseph Starkins' Blacksmith shop was at a considerable distance from his house. However, Starkins bought his house next door approximately 30 years earlier than the road survey and may have had his original smithy closer to home than the one mentioned in the road survey. ATTIC The original attic has eight pairs of adzed 4" x 4" rafters set on 36" centers. There is no ridge member, but the paired rafters are pinned at the ridge. There are adzed collar beams, joined to the east and west gable rafters by means of pinned joints. There are about 12" above floor level. There is a similar, much heavier, collar beam set between the 4th pair of rafters. This projects only slightly above floor level. The 10" wide pine flooring may be early material, but does not appear to be original to this use. The original mid-19th century chimney projects from the early attic and part of the original west gable field board-and-batten sheathing remains in place and delineates the west end of the original structure. The under surface of the early shingled roof may be seen with its shingle lathe set on 10" centers. INTERIOR—FIRST STOREY The house was entered originally through a doorway in the northeast corner of the present study. The original doorway survives. Its facings are trimmed with back-bands having cyma mouldings and a recessed bead at the inner edge of the surround. The latter feature represents a "last gasp" of Greek Revival detail. Immediately inside this doorway was a narrow hallway which extended from east to west, completely across the room. The early stairway, now occupied by a closet, was located against the exterior wall of the hallway. Part of the original stair-well fascia still may be seen in the ceiling in this location. The doorway, and possibly the door of the early stairway closet, may be seen at the west (far) end of the present closet partition. The door has two vertical panels in the Greek Revival Style, but has no mouldings. The inner surfaces of its stiles are lightly chamfered. If this closet door is original to the house, probably all the early doors in the house were its duplicates. Opposite this closet doorway was the doorway to a long narrow room which extended the entire north-south dimension of the house. This had a - 642 - 6/6 window at its north end, vestiges of which are now buried in wall fabric, behind a bookcase in the present living room, and a 9-light glazed door at its south end. This elongated room, which was used by the Gschwinds as a dining room, also included the doorway to the kitchen wing as well as a doorway to the exterior, south of the kitchen wing, at about the site of the present kitchen doorway. Virtually all traces of this early room were eliminated in the 1960 alteration. The front parlor, on the other hand, has survived in fairly large degree. It's parti-wall, with the missing stair-hall, was removed in the 1960 alteration, at which time the front parlor flooring was covered with strip hardwood flooring. The entrance to the front parlor was located just inside the front doorway, on the south side of the missing stair-hall. The original windows, two south and one east, still survive in the front parlor. These are trimmed in the same manner as the front doorway and the other door and window openings. None of the windows ever was panelled beneath the sash. The original plain baseboards have cyma-moulded caps, similar to those embellishing the door and window facings. The wall which divided the front parlor from the dining room was located at approximately the site of the present bookcases. The original chimney survives at the south end of this modern bookcase. Originally most of the chimney projected into the front parlor and provided a single flue for a cast-iron stove in the front parlor and another in the dining room. INTERIOR—SECOND STOREY The upper floor plan was very similar to the lower and survives in its original form to a far greater extent. The floored-in site of the original stairwell may be seen in the original six inch wide yellow pine flooring at the north end of the present east chamber. The interior stair-wall is missing today but boxed-in vestiges of its framing remain at the north end of the east chamber. At the small landing at the head of the stairway, at the west end of the floor patch, there was a doorway on the south which led to the present east chamber. This survives buried in the wall. It was exposed briefly, in 1991, during plumbing procedures. Another doorway, on the west side of the landing, led to the long, narrow, west chamber, which extended the full length of the house from north to south. The attic trap-door was in the ceiling of this landing. During the 1991 plumbing work, the west second storey tie-beam was uncovered. Its center section had been removed to provide access to the master bedroom, in 1959. The north section of the west tie-beam, together with its angular brace, was removed during the plumbing project. Both tie-beam and its brace are hand-rived as is the framing still exposed in the attic. The tie-beam is 5 by 7 inches and its angular brace, which is mortised into the tie-beam, is 3 by 4! /4 inches in cross-section. Both tie-beam and angular brace are on exhibit in the loft of the Van Nostrand-Starkins House. The original 6/6 windows survive at the north and south terminations of the original long, narrow west chamber, although the north window has been re-trimmed. The south window is trimmed in the same manner as those below. Apart from the changes already described, the south wall of the east chamber was modified by the Krapfs in 1984. At that time a later closet in the southwest corner of the room was extended to the east to form paired closets with a window between. This south window was re-trimmed and a window seat installed. These modifications, together with the dividing of the large, west bedroom, were designed by John Collins. The three east windows in the east chamber are entirely original and are trimmed in the same manner as the other windows in the house. The northerly of - 643 - these is slightly smaller than the others, perhaps to provide space for the early stoep roof beneath it. If this should have been the case, the stoep was anticipated at the time the structure was converted to a house or else the window was reduced in size at the time the stoep was constructed. Where they survive, the plain second storey baseboards are trimmed with caps consisting of a narrow torus moulding having a quirk. NORTH LIVING ROOM The present living room on the first floor is new and, with the present kitchen and master bedroom, represents the third construction phase of the house. In 1960 James Conner constructed the present single storey north wing with its large fireplace. The interior trim of the room created, which occupied the entire north wing, was so haphazard and undistinguished that, after they bought the house in 1977, the Krapfs retrimmed the door and window openings using plain facings PORTIO N ft5MOVED* XVI IS&O ALTERATIO N PORTION REMOVE b I N I \r Bent Vm Drawing of Bent VIII done in 1992, showing sections removed in 1960 and in 1991. - 644 - with interior beads in the manner of the second half of the 19th century. A conforming baseboard with a beaded cap also was installed. To assist in the project, the Landmark Society provided a pair of four-panel, ogee-moulded doors and a distinguished "Colonial Revival" mantel, of the World War I era, all of which were taken from the demolished west wing, circa 1890, of the Van Nostrand-Starkins House, next door. At the west end of the living room is the new vestibule, which has been wainscotted with beaded boards. EXTERIOR PAINT COLORS During the reconstruction of the mid-19th century stoep, during the summer of 1992, some fragments of associated vertical boards were sent to Frank Welsh for color analysis. The only mid-19th century paint was a dark brown, oil-based gloss paint which contained no lead. (Munsell #10R3-512). This probably dates from the barn or blacksmith shop era as no one would have painted a house this color unless the battens had been included in the trim colors, as in the East Toll Gate House (TG 1982-1983). Color analysis of the battens was not completed at that time. During early 1993, the new kitchen interior was revised. A washer-dryer was removed and was found to have been recessed into the original rear (west) wall of the house. These boards seem to have been painted the same reddish-brown as the original paint of the Van Nostrand-Starkins House which was applied ca. 1790 and which survives on the now south interior wall of the Van Nostrand-Starkins House north leanto. If further color analysis confirms that the two reddish-brown paints are the same, it lends support to the dating of the original construction of the Jacob Kirby Tenant House as circa 1790. It is not understood why the front (east) wall and the rear (west) wall were painted in different colors although obviously, the two paint colors appear to be of entirely different dates. Color analysis of the east and west battens and the west vertical boarding may provide the solution.