This inviting little house with its bench-adorned pedimented porch and graceful entrance presents a few investigative twists and turns, adding to its old-house allure.
Located at 130 South Hamilton Street in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the early 20th century property is on the market for $210,000, listed by Lori S. Rheingold of Houlihan Lawrence-Lagrangeville Brokerage.
The listing for the four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home is initially intriguing because of the claim that it was the former home of Helen Wilkinson Reynolds. While her name may not add instant allure for some, for those with a passion for old houses and Dutchess County history in particular, it should trigger a glimmer of recognition. Reynolds was an early 20th century enthusiastic advocate for history, an intrepid explorer of old houses and a prolific writer on all things related to Dutchess County history.
Born in Poughkeepsie, Reynolds was largely self taught as a historian. According to the New York History journal article “The President as Local Historian: The Letters of FDR to Helen Wilkinson Reynolds” by Kevin J. Gallagher, she was an excellent student at the local Lyndon-Hall prep school but was forced to leave at the age of 15 because of a “spinal ailment.” Whatever the ailment, it didn’t stop her from leaping into local history, joining the Dutchess County Historical Society in 1914 during its founding year.
She is perhaps best known for the massive 1929 book Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley Before 1776, with a forward by another local history buff — Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Reynolds and Roosevelt kept up a regular correspondence about their shared passion for history from the 1920s until her death in 1943. In her New York Times obituary it was said that Roosevelt praised her as knowing “more about Dutchess County than any person I know.”
Alas, by following her intrepid example, it was possible to determine that this was not her home. It is, however, a wonderful speciman of the tangle of history and how complicated it can be when trying to dig up some quick facts about real estate.
It turns out the house was indeed the home of a Helen Reynolds — just not the Helen Wilkinson Reynolds. City directories and Reynolds’ own writings reveal 130 South Hamilton Street was actually the home of couple James and Helen Southgate Reynolds — her aunt and uncle, part of the same large, old Poughkeepsie family. Confused yet?
Regardless of the “celebrity” connection, it is a lovely house with some intriguing features — and Reynolds did write about one of the standout elements of the house.
In her very detailed 1931 book Dutchess County Doorways and Other Examples of Period Work in Wood 1730-1830, Reynolds included a black and white image of the parlor mantel of 130 South Hamilton with its “gouged flutings” in “oval and circular swirls.” Described as a “familiar” style in the area during the early 19th century, she very kindly thought of future historians by mentioning that the mantel was actually salvaged from an earlier home and put into the “newly built house of James Reynolds.”
The house has a bit of worn elegance about it, with faded wallpaper and well-lived-in coziness. While there is no floor plan, the photos show a center hall with a graceful staircase and a front door with a fanlight and sidelights.
The parlor and dining room show wide-plank floors, deep baseboards and nicely detailed door and window moldings.
There’s a built-in china cupboard in the dining room.
The kitchen is not exactly up to date, but the early 20th century sink gives it some vintage character as does the Dutch, or split, door, which leads to a porch.
There are four bedrooms — presumably all upstairs — and the wide-plank floors and simple moldings continue on the upper level.
The most charming of the bedrooms has a Palladian window, with a hefty vintage typewriter already in place to lure an aspiring writer.
There are two full baths in the house. Neither are recently updated but both have some nice vintage fixtures.
The house is set on a wide corner lot with a stone patio out back and two sleeping porches — glass-enclosed porches stacked above each other on the first and second floors — from which to enjoy the fresh air and views.
It is located across the street from the Poughkeepsie Tennis Club, which was built in the 1890s as the surrounding area was being developed as a residential district. Nearby is the Dwight-Hooker Avenue Historic District, filled with prime examples of late 19th and early 20th century housing stock.
While Poughkeepsie has 17th century origins, it is really a 19th century city. Its downtown and residential neighborhoods filled with buildings when the railroad and rapidly growing industry brought prosperity to the area.
With easy train access, a scenic location along the Hudson River, and a wealth of historic properties, the city offers lots of intriguing old-house possibilities.
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