Sunday, July 9, 2017

Back Hall

In the back hall you will find the rear entrance of the home which would have led into the working courtyard of the estate. From maps and descriptions, we know that this courtyard included two twenty foot by twenty foot wing buildings - a public office and a nursery; likely for plants rather than children - the kitchens, and the "necessary" (outhouse). Other buildings were interconnected with these by a covered walkway or "shed" which extended from this back entrance, but 19th-century changes to the property left modern historians with little evidence of where precisely these buildings may have been during the Schuyler's residence. They included a "lumber loft", "fowl yard" (chicken houses), a "small room to warm in", a gardening shed for tools and seeds, an ice house, and a coach house. Reference to a room with an "ash hole" beneath may imply that a furnace for smithing was also available, or that this building was intended for use in making lye which was needed in the making of soaps.

A scaled portion of a 1790s map of Albany
shows less than half of Philip's estate,
including a 2 acre enclosed yard where
the labor for the house was done by
enslaved servants and laborers.
This courtyard would have been the work space for many of the people enslaved by the Schuylers as they went about their long days of grueling work in the back courtyard as carters, cart-wrights, laundresses, cooks, servants, smiths, and carpenters. This back hall was their entrance to the home. Census records show between 8 and 13 enslaved laborers in residence at the property at any given time, and references in family letters imply that they did the majority of the skilled and semi-skilled labor that kept this household running. Shipping barrels are on display to demonstrate the types of goods the family was importing from Europe and the other colonies. [Read about the movement of goods by enslaved laborers Lisbon, Dick, and Bob]

The most famous feature of the back hall is the noticeable gouge in the railing of the staircase, purportedly the result of a historically documented attack on the house - when a force of Loyalist militia and British soldiers attempted to kidnap Philip Schuyler from his home in August 1781. While Philip and the family were unharmed, several defenders were wounded during the fighting and two of Philip's "life guards" (body guards) were taken prisoner. The gouge in the Bannister became infamous through a later family legend attached to this Loyalist attack which attributes the mark to a tomahawk. The story claims that the Schuyler's infant daughter Caty was left downstairs during the attack, and a throwing ax was thrown at 3rd daughter Margaret "Peggy" Schuyler when she went to retrieve her baby sister. Primary sources from both Philip Schuyler and the Loyalist band led by Captain Jans Waltermeyer however, make this story unlikely, and the true origins of the mark remain a mystery.
A legend, first told in a memoir of youngest daughter Catharine Schuyler Cochran Malcolm (Caty) in the 1830s, spread like wildfire during the 19th-Century as an explanation for a cut discovered in the banister of the Schuyler's former home. There are no contemporary mentions of the mark in the railing, or the story that spawned from it, during the Schuyler's residence (c.1765-1804). The earliest versions of the story relate it to the Loyalist kidnapping attempt in 1781 (see the British uniforms in the background of far left) whereas later versions turn the story into an Indian raid, which never occurred on the property.

With the Front Entrance at Your Back:

Going backwards will bring you to the Central Hall

Left will bring you to the Library

Right will bring you to the Dining Chamber

The staircase will bring you upstairs into the Salon

Other Rooms:

Formal Parlor

Family Parlor

Blue Chamber (Upstairs)

Yellow Chamber (Upstairs)

Green Chamber (Upstairs)

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