This restored 1830s Greek Revival villa, at one time known as Crow Hill, has an unusual design and an interesting history.
The house is located at 2705 Route 9H in Kinderhook, N.Y., the Hudson River Valley town known for its charming downtown and numerous historic sites. The stark white house sits just outside the center of town, perched on a hill near the Kinderhook Creek and overlooking the Catskill range.
Kinderhook is an architectural treasure trove dotted with 18th century Dutch houses. Like much of the Empire State, it was booming in the early 19th century, leading to the construction of Federal and Greek Revival-style houses, many of which still survive.
Greek Revival architecture dominated the American landscape in the 1830s through 1850s. As archaeological excavations were inspiring an examination of Greek and Roman design and our relatively new country was seeking to create an identity independent of England, the clean lines and classical proportions of Greco-Roman architecture defined a new architectural style in the country.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Crow Hill has a fairly well documented history. In 1839, Charles and Margaret Whiting paid $1,950 for five acres of land just outside town and began construction on the house. Charles was a prosperous stove merchant in Kinderhook and built a villa with some flair rather than a traditional farmhouse.
The 1.5-story house is considered a somewhat quirky example of Greek Revival. While many Greek Revival houses are miniature Greek temples, Crow Hill has an unusual square shape and hipped roof with a central cupola — possibly inspired by Palladio’s 16th century Villa Rotonda.
Doric-columned porticoes make a restrained appearance, but do not dominate the facade.
It is not know if an architect was involved in the design — some of the interior elements, such as the ear moldings, can be traced to the readily available architectural pattern books of the day by Asher Benjamin and Minard Lafever.
As shown on an old floor plan, the house has a central hall with rooms radiating from it, a classical arrangement. It happens to allow generous windows in each room, taking advantage of the natural light and views toward Kinderhook and the Catskill Mountains.
While center hall plans most commonly have statement-making central stairs, here the staircase is placed off to the side, leaving grand open spaces at the center of the house.
The Whitings owned the house until 1852. After changing hands several times, it was bought by the Howard family in 1862, and the family owned the house until 1912. Their early 20th century ads for the sale of the property pitched it as a “rare example of the perfect architecture of the early part of the last century.”
The house was in fairly rough shape by the 1990s when it was purchased by a designer who began a major interior and exterior restoration. A brief article in the World of Interiors documented the house just before he put it up for sale, apparently defeated by the restoration’s structural demands. Its author mused the original owners, like the designer, may have been inspired to take on the project by a vision of perfection seen on a teacup — perhaps Palladio’s Villa Rotunda.
While the floor plan still adheres to the original design, rooms have been altered to accommodate modern living — including a kitchen and 2.5 bathrooms.
At the time of the National Register designation in 1997, it was noted that most of the mantels had been replaced by later 19th century ones. Only one original wooden mantel remained — possibly the one pictured above.
There are five bedrooms, two of them tucked upstairs in the former servants quarters. More details of the Columbia County property, now on the market for $2.7 million, can be seen on the listing, from Gary Dimauro of Gary Dimauro Real Estate.
The property includes more than 123 acres of land — a substantial increase from Whiting’s original five-acre purchase. There is a “luxurious” swimming hole, according to the listing. Also included is a more modest but historically interesting original Greek Revival wellhouse.
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