by Danielle Funiciello
Visitors to Schuyler Mansion throughout November cannot help but notice the ongoing restoration work outside the mansion. If you were reading our blog last season, you know that Schuyler Mansion is working its way through a number of very exciting projects, gearing up for our 100th anniversary as a state historic site.
As our open season came to an end, with our regular tour schedule halting on October 30th, New York State Parks workers set up for some of the more significant projects to be completed by next year. Scaffolding has been set up on all four sides of the building and “what’s going on outside?” has become the first question from most visitors.
At the moment, “what’s going on” is the restoration of the double hip roof. The old roofing has been removed and new cedar shakes are being installed. The roof structure itself appears to be original to the house, though it has been re-shingled several times. The “List of real property belonging to Philip Schuyler” shows that the house was shingled in 1798, though the structure report prepared by New York State’s Division for Historic Preservation guesses that those shingles were white pine which was most common in Albany at the time as “such a roof is said to last forty years” according to 18th Century Albany visitor Peter Kalm. We are not sure which of the laborers that Philip Schuyler hired were responsible for the original shingling, but some of the hired carpenters included John Brown, Andrew Gautier, and Wert Banta, a freeman. John Brown may be the best guess, as Gautier seems to be a “joyner”, likely framing the house, and Wert Banta’s receipts show supplies and work related to the doors.
Once the roof is re-shingled, the homes’ balustrade - a Chinese style latticework - will be reinstalled. This latticework was removed at the beginning of the season for its own repairs and to be repainted. The balustrade for this home was almost certainly not part of the initial 1760s construction of the home, as no such architectural features have been dated before 1790 – that one at the historic home now known as the Morris-Jumel mansion then resided in by John Adams. It may have been added late in Schuyler’s lifetime, or perhaps by the first owner after the Schuyler family. Images from 1818 show the balustrade in place, though this was prepared by an architect who worked on the home and may have been a rendering of the house’s intended appearance. The importation of Chinese and other Asian styles was certainly underway during Schuyler's lifetime due to expanded trade with Asia, and this could have been a very fashionable addition to his very fashionable home.
The shingling is almost complete and we look forward to the many projects yet to come for Schuyler Mansion this next year. Stop by during one of our winter events or preregistered group tours – you can find information on our Facebook page – to see the works in progress. Stay tuned here on our blog for photos of the exciting work yet to come.