Historic 1749 home to be on display

The stone-walled home adorning the corner of state routes 5 and 67 has been standing solid for 259 y
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The stone-walled home adorning the corner of state routes 5 and 67 has been standing solid for 259 years.

Sir William Johnson’s home will be the focus of a walking tour this Saturday led by Ronald J. Burch, New York State Museum art and architecture curator.

The three-story dwelling, completed by Johnson in 1749, would have been considered a mansion back then.

“That was quite a palatial house for the western frontier,” said Burch, who said the home must have been built over several seasons.

Stone quarrying typically took place in the winter when the ground was frozen and transported by sled, Burch said. Wagon wheels would get stuck in the dirt, he said.

The stones likely came from a quarry along the banks of the Kayaderosseras Creek.

Trees felled for use as construction timbers had to season, and masonry work was done in warmer weather to prevent mortar from freezing.

Johnson, who came to America to manage his uncle’s land holdings, amassed a fortune through his fur trading before playing a role in the Legislature and leading Native Americans in French & Indian War battles.

And with that fortune came servants and helpers who stoked his fires and washed his clothes.

“Somebody like Johnson who was rich enough to have a servant staff and people to clean for him, he was able to live a nice, kingly sort of existence,” Burch said.

On the other end of the spectrum were the homes of commoners, most of which had the space equal to two rooms in Johnson’s home, Burch said.

“You’d be surprised how small some of the working class or yeoman farmers’ houses were,” Burch said.

Late 1700s changes, likely made by Johnson’s son John Johnson, are less-easily noticed at a glance, Burch said.

The mantle pieces on the fireplaces were modified with different trim, closer to 1773, Burch said. John Johnson’s changes were likely updates to the home’s style, he said.

Though considered a work of the early Georgian architecture period, Burch said people attending the tour will see aspects related more to the late Renaissance.

Unlike the homes of less-affluent people, Johnson’s was built to last.

“Really disappeared over time are the houses of the common folk. You got a better house if you could afford it,” Burch said. “You didn’t get better than Fort Johnson,” Burch said.

Tickets for the tour, which starts at 11 a.m., cost $5.

More information can be found at www.oldfortjohnson.org.

Categories: Schenectady County

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