It’s a diminutive getaway in a bucolic and historic setting.
This circa 1860 former lock tender’s cottage, located at 1314 Route 213 in High Falls, is on the market and perhaps ideal for someone looking for a weekend hideout, although it also spent years as a guest house.
The rectangular wood frame cottage is seven bays wide with a central entrance, a peaked cross gable with arched windows and decorative eave brackets. Its name is not a fake romantic moniker but speaks to the original purpose of the modest structure.
High Falls, located in Ulster County, was a bustling place in the 19th century. In the early 1820s, naturally occurring cement was found nearby, a product in high demand for building projects. But what really got the small hamlet booming was the arrival of the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Construction started in 1825 and was completed in 1829. During the 19th century, the canal moved goods to the Hudson River, particularly anthracite coal from the mines of Pennsylvania.
Small houses such as this one would have been scattered along the length of the canal to provide housing for the important workers who needed to be on-site at each lock to keep the commerce of the canal flowing.
What exactly was the duty of a lock tender or keeper? According to an 1882 list of duties printed up by the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, a tender had to be in constant attendance during the open hours of the canal. In 1882, only from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday were excluded from service. Work included inspecting permits before guiding boats through the lock, keeping the locks in good order and making sure lamps and lanterns were clean and lit. The only activity listed as forbidden in a lockhouse was the selling of “ardent spirits.”
The arrival of the Erie Railroad gradually made the canal redundant and operation largely ended in 1898. Fortunately, some of the original canal structures survived in High Falls and the cottage is included within the High Falls National Historic District. The entire canal, from Pennsylvania to New York, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1968.
We don’t know the names of the many dwellers in the little cottage after the canal closure, but by the late 20th century the house was owned by John Novi. A renowned chef, Novi had purchased the much larger Simeon Depuy House across the street from the cottage in 1964. He restored the 18th century house and launched it as the Depuy Canal House Restaurant in 1969. By March of 1970, Craig Clairborne, the New York Times food critic, gave it a four-star review, calling it “one of the most interesting and best suburban restaurants in America” with an atmosphere of “a wonderfully reconstructed place without an excess of hokum.”
If you want a peek at the interior, patrons and food styling, watch “The Taste,” a fabulous 1984 piece about the restaurant produced by AT&T. A menu from the 1980s, available at the New York Public Library, could also offer some Thanksgiving inspiration.
Novi expanded his enterprise to include guest accommodations, including the cottage which he dubbed “Locktender Cottage Guest House.” The restaurant closed temporarily in 2011, before reopening and then closing for good in 2015. The cottage was sold in 2011 and the Depuy House was sold to the Delaware and Hudson Canal Historical Society in 2015. Restoration work is currently underway and the former restaurant will eventually re-open as a museum, library and community space.
While the Depuy Canal House is being transformed for a new use, the little lock tender’s cottage across the street awaits a new owner.
Inside, the house has a modest, quirky charm. There are painted wood floors and modest moldings.
On one side of the central stair is a parlor, with plentiful windows and a door leading to a side porch. The room has wainscoting and some decorative painting. While there’s no fireplace, baseboard heating can be found throughout the house.
Since the cottage has been functioning as guest accommodations for the last several decades, it doesn’t have a fancy chef’s kitchen. The kitchen is actually located on the second floor and while the sloping ceilings may not accommodate every home cook, it has the basic requirements.
For a small house, it manages to fit two bedrooms and two full baths in its roughly 1,424 square feet. There’s one on the first floor, across the hall from the parlor. It’s got plenty of windows and the same painted wood floors found elsewhere.
The other is upstairs, part of a suite that includes the kitchen. When it was being run by the Depuy Canal House Restaurant it was called the Chef’s Quarters. There are sloping ceilings and quirky built-in cabinets.
There’s also a full bath upstairs, one of two in the house. They both appear to have some vintage fixtures and a bit of rustic charm.
The house is set on under half an acre of land close to the local attractions of High Falls. While The Delaware and Hudson Canal Historical Society museum is not yet open across the street, their current location is still open and it’s just a couple of blocks away. There’s also the Five Locks Walk, a roughly half-mile trail along the canal towpath. Intriguing for anyone interested in Brooklyn history is the ruin located adjacent to the cottage. John A. Roebling, later of Brooklyn Bridge fame, came to the area in the 1840s to construct an aqueduct over the nearby Roundout Creek. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1917 but some remnants are still visible.
The house is listed for $199,900 by Jeff Serouya of Berkshire Hathaway. As noted in the listing, the agent “has a financial interest” in the property.
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