Traveling from Schoharie to Albany in the early 19th century was a long, hard trip, and for those who couldn’t wait to get to the state capital, the Mynderse-Frederick House in Guilderland Center was a great place to stop and quench your thirst.
“It was right along the major route from Schoharie to Albany, and many drovers would stop there with their animals,” said Alice Begley, town of Guilderland historian. “The gentlemen would come in the front door and head downstairs into the tavern, and the ladies would enter through the front door into a parlor on the main floor. It was a very popular spot.”
Situated on Route 146 in the hamlet of Guilderland Center, the Mynderse-Frederick House is now owned by the town of Guilderland and is maintained by the Guilderland Historical Society. The group will host its annual holiday open house this weekend from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
WHAT: Holiday open house
WHERE: Route 146, Guilderland Center
WHEN: 4-8 p.m. Friday, 1-6 p.m. Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: Free, but contributions are accepted
MORE INFO: www.townofguilderland.org
Decorating the house for the occasion is the Guilderland Garden Club, which also calls the building home, as does the Old Hellebergh Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“We’ve been decorating this house for decades, and this year we’re going to have a Dutch Christmas, reflecting the Dutch Heritage of the house and our town,” said Merril-Lee Lenegar, a member of the Guilderland Garden Club. “We’re one of the few garden clubs that have an open house during the holiday season, and we don’t use silk or artificial decorations. They’re all fresh greens, and we have some beautiful blue and silver pine cones, as well as dried moss and wood, and different types of pine.”
Handmade ornaments will also help light up the house, which was built in 1802 by Nicholas Mynderse, a merchant from Schenectady who became the first town of Guilderland supervisor in 1803. At that time, Route 146 was called the Schoharie Plank Road, and Mynderse operated the home as a tavern and an inn.
When he died in the 1820s, the building was sold to Michael Frederick, who continued to operate the home as a tavern while also manufacturing cider, vinegar and wine. In 1900, the family stopped using the structure as a tavern and kept it as their main residence. The house remained in the Frederick family until 1940.
The large white five-bay house, which has a wide center hallway on both the first and second floors, is an example of Federal and Greek Revival architecture from the early 19th century. A two-story front porch and a rear wing were two of the major renovations made to the house, although during the 1960s those additions were removed to help return the house to its original look.
In 1974, the house and the property it was on was sold to make room for a nearby apartment complex. Fortunately, the structure was donated to the town of Guilderland, which preserved the site and turned the building into a museum that is maintained by the historical society.
“Our historical society began around 1972, and we feel very fortunate to have such a beautiful house,” said Mary Ellen Johnson, president of the Guilderland Historical Society. “It’s a beautiful old house. I like to call it my dream house.”
“The town bought it for a dollar, and it really wasn’t vacant for that long,” said Begley. “It was still very usable, and when the historical society took it over they were very generous in their care of the house. The town still owns it, but a lot of people use it, and at times we do rent it out, although not that often. The open house they do during the holiday season is really a great show. It’s all done very naturally, like it would have been done centuries ago.”
The house is home to a number of historical paintings and artifacts donated to the society over the years, including a day bed, or recamier, made of rare tiger maple and cherry wood that dates to 1805.
The historical society meets at least once a month at the house from February to May and September through November. This weekend’s event is free to the public, although contributions are accepted.
“The garden club does a great job of decorating the place,” said Johnson. “There are all kinds of beautiful arrangements throughout the house, and on a sunny day the light looks beautiful coming through the house.”
The historical society maintains a photo archive at the house, and has also reproduced a political banner from the middle of the 19th century promoting the Wide-Awakes, a branch of the Republican Party. The original is in poor shape but remains among the collection of the historical society.
“We had found this banner in the tap room that was in a tremendous state of ruin, and one of our members about 30 years ago actually made a brand new banner,” said Begley. “The Wide-Awakes were part of the Republican Party, and evidently they were in Guilderland and all around New York, and did a lot to get Abraham Lincoln elected in 1860. The new one is on display at times, but the old one is in a box upstairs in the storage room. We’ve been told not to touch it.”
“We have a lot of wonderful items that have been given to us over the years,” said Johnson. “People love this house, and they feel good about donating things to it.”
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