7 Conklin Street
Location: 7 Conklin Street
The story of 7 Conklin Street is a Tale of Two Houses
The back stone portion of the house is 18th Century, and the front building with the porch was built around 1850 and added on later. There are several problems in researching old houses and properties: inaccurate maps and sketchy ownership information, especially when it comes to the late 1700s and early 1800s, but this application puts together a reasonable history from a variety of sources that, although not fully provable via records in a court of law, that seems to make sense.
In a nutshell, the stone section of this house was built in the 18th Century and is one of the earliest (if not THE earliest house in New Hamburg). It survived in full until around 1867 when it was altered so that the front wood house could be joined with it. The front wood house was built ca. 1845-51 but NOT where it now sits. It started life on the east side of Stone Street on the other side of town, and since it had to get out of the way when the railroad dug out the rock out croppings that would separate the hill side of New Hamburg from the water neighborhood, it was MOVED to what became #5 Conklin Street by Asa Conklin in 1867 and ‘wed’ to the existing stone house.
Interestingly, almost everyone who lived in and owned this house is buried either in the Wappinger Falls Rural Cemetery, or on the Presbyterian Cemetery off New Hamburg Road and above Wappinger Creek. For example: Tunis Cooper (1787 – 1868) buried here in Wappingers; buried not far from Asa Conklin and his family.
The story of the house begins (at least on paper) with “Tunis Cooper and his wife Maria selling the house to Francis Drake on Sept. 9, 1830”. Of course, 1830 is late in the game since the back house was indeed 18th Century, so the question was who preceded Cooper; who owned it before Cooper and/or who built it. The name Brower kept coming up.
By 1797, a lime kiln was in operation on the shores of the river where the New Hamburg Yacht Club is currently located. Purchased by Adolph Brower from New York City in 1837, the Browers prospered in their production of pig iron, and in addition to building several fine Greek Revival houses for themselves at the water’s edge, they were able to buy large tracts of land on the hillside where Conklin Street now sits.
This is the 1858 map showing the JOHN Brower house on what is now Conklin. This explains part of the Brower name involved in all the mess with Asa Conklin in the 1850s – more about that later. But it looks like #7 was a John Brower house in 1858. Although that doesn’t square with the transfers of ownership during the period. However, as I’ve found over the years, nothing is for certain.
The implication is that John Brower was related to ADOLPH Brower who came to the hamlet in 1837 to his iron business. But after searching, it can be found that a John Brower proceeded Adolph and is listed as living in Poughkeepsie (as the entire area was called then) in the 1790 Census
There are also records of John Brower as having served in the Revolutionary War and receiving a government pension for that service as recorded here in 1833
The question then became – if John Brower was in the hamlet before Adolph Brower arrived 1837 and his name shows up as the owner of either the house or the land of this property on the 1858 map, how does this tie back to his presence in the 18th Century when the back house was built. The answer in the records of the Library of Congress:
First, this is the 1799 Tax Assessment list for Poughkeepsie showing that he did indeed own property here.
And then the most important piece of evidence,
The 1798 Map of what would become New Hamburg.
This is the earliest known map of the area, and as can be seen, the Lyme Kilns are listed AND a house owned by “Brewer”. Most likely a misprint and it's possible this indicates that John Brower was either the original or the oldest owner of the house that we can record, and the same John Brower in the 1799 Tax Assessment. Clearly, the “Brewer” house is located approximately where 7 Conklin Street sits.
Note too the name Drake on the south shore of Wappinger Creek, most likely John Drake (1766 – 1837), who built the first bridge over the creek in 1808, and was the father of Francis Drake who bought the house in 1830
Son: Francis Drake
New Hamburgh Presbyterian church Baptismal records Francis Drake – born 1806
As noted in the overall Conklin Street narrative, Asa Conklin, the master carpenter/builder was responsible for most of the houses on this street. When Maria Smith leased this house to Conklin in 1845, it started what is reflected in all the myriad quit claim deed and law suits of the 1850. My guess is that Conklin wanted this house to expand it and to add to his buildings on the street, but then ran into conflicting land restrictions and unresolved property lines ending with the 1864 warranty deed that John Matthew Brower (John Brower’s son) and his wife Mary issued. All the names that come up in these conflicts are OLD landowners on the north side of what is now Conklin Street.
The “Back House”
Several things here are self-evident:
The stone house is remarkably similar in construction to the Georgian, 1765 Clinton House in Poughkeepsie. The Clinton house probably served as a meeting place for legislators during the time Poughkeepsie was capital of New York in 1777.
As this photo shows, the Conklin Street stone 18th Century house has been ‘cut’ to wed to the ca. 1850 wood house in the front. Neither structures are a whole house – the front more than the back, but the roof line of the 18th Century house shows that it was clearly truncated to fit in with its new neighbor.
The “Front House”
The answer lies in the history of the railroad lines through New Hamburg. The wood, front house is Carpenter Greek Revival ca. 1840-50. By carpenter, it is meant that it’s a simpler version of the more high-styled Greek Revivals like the Brower Water Street house, as the Greek style was very prominent in the early houses in New Hamburg.
The big question is – how did the Wood House get married to the much older, 18th Century house ?
It’s a very odd combination - not because putting 18th and 19th century architecture together is unique (there are many examples of this in Poughkeepsie), but because the half roof of the stone house ending at the near full back roof of the wood house tell us that something odd had happened on this property.
The Answer lies with the railroad expansion in New Hamburg in the mid-19 Century
Originally, the railroad lines ended at the southern point of the peninsula, and with no way over the hill of New Hamburg, passengers were put on a boat and ferried to the north end of the hamlet where a connecting train took them north to Poughkeepsie.
Later, the HHRR built a Tunnel through the large rock outcropping hillside just at the point where Conklin Street is now so that the rail lines could continue north unimpeded.
Looking south from the tunnel – that cross street is Main Street which crossed over the RR tracks
When the tunnel was built, as one can see from the photo, the hill that rose from the river up to Crow Hill where the school is above Conklin, was dug out to accommodate the rail tracks. That cut the hamlet in half and bisected Division street from the river to Stone Street. It then continued on the east side of the cut to what would become Conklin Street beginning at Lawson.
When the railroad was purchased by Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central Railroad
The tunnel was wide enough for two tracks but as the cars got bigger, the NYCRR found it easier to cut the hillside than to enlarge the tunnel.
The Tunnel still in existence in 2021
The CUT into the hillside was to the WEST of the tunnel, and that meant that
From 1867 to 1870 -- all the houses on the East side of Stone Street had to be removed. The yellow area shows the houses on the 1867 map that were in the way of the Railroad Expansion. Note, one of those houses was owned by Asa Conklin. Today, the east side of Stone Street is narrow with no buildings, and has a sharp drop off to the train tracks below.
These Stone Street houses were built in the later 1840s and early 1850s, and were simple, small, one and one-half story Carpenter Greek Revival homes constructed for railroad workers and their families with 2nd story eyebrow windows, a tight, a low-ceiling staircase and a basic wood or marble fireplace mantle.
That fits the wood house of 5 Conklin Street perfectly
Stone Street that had to get out of the way of the railroad (Losse, Ferris, Hones, Van Anden, Conklin).
There are no records that I’ve been able to find to confirm this, but hamlet lore and history have always maintained that at least four of those houses were MOVED to other sites in New Hamburg.
For certain, the houses at 52 and 54 Point Street were moved, and as you can see, all four houses share the same basic design, size, front porch, eyebrow windows, and roofline. These are virtually identical:
52 Point Street
9 Conklin Street
5 Conklin Street
Take away the right side porch and the kitchen extension, and you have the same house as those from Stone Street
Two of the Stone Street houses found their way to Point Street, one to the west side of Stone Street, and two found new life at #5 and #9 Conklin. In Asa Conklin’s development of the hillside, it would have been much cheaper and easier to move his Stone Street house to #5 and attach it to the existing 18th Century stone structure.
Stone Street 1860 – before the Move