Exhibitions: Decorative Arts Galleries and Period Rooms: Jan Martense Schenck House

Installation View of Jan Martense Schenck House

The Jan Martense Schenck House represents the oldest architecture in the Museum's period room collection. It is also the most complex of the period rooms in terms of reconstruction and interpretation.

Jan Martense Schenck House, 1891
Jan Martense Schenck House, 1891 (photograph by the Reverend William Edward Schenck)

The house is a simple two-room structure with a central chimney. Its framework is composed of a dozen heavy so-called H-bents, visible on the interior of the house, that resemble goal posts with diagonal braces. This is an ancient northern European method of construction that contrasts with the boxlike house frames that evolved in England. The house had a high-pitched roof that created a large loft for storage. The roof was covered with shingles, and the exterior walls were clad with horizontal wood clapboard siding. A section of the clapboard has been removed at one corner to expose a reconstruction of the brick nogging used as insulation. The interior walls were stuccoed between the upright supports of the H-bents.

Jan Martense Schenck House, circa 1900.
Jan Martense Schenck House, circa 1900, with kitchen wing added in the 1790s

A kitchen was added at a right angle to the house probably in the late 1790s. In the early nineteenth century a porch with four columns was also added. Finally, sometime about 1900, dormer windows were installed above the porch. The interior of the house was also changed. The large central chimney was removed, probably about the same time as the kitchen wing was added and new chimneys and fireplaces were built on the outer walls. Old photographs of the interior of the house on site in Flatlands show it with early twentieth-century wallpapers and an assortment of nineteenth-century furniture, all of which was discarded when the house came to the Museum.

Changes Over Time

Family History

Schenck Houses