If you are looking for a house with a smattering of quirky history across the centuries, this early 19th century house offers everything from Thomas Edison as a house guest to murals by a contemporary artist.
The Greek Revival house currently on the market at 116 1st Street is in Newburgh, a town rich with a complicated history of its own.
Perched on a scenic spot along the western banks of the Hudson River, Newburgh is a town that might be easy to miss amidst the competition from other Hudson Valley spots. But for any 19th century architecture buff, the town is a must see.
To walk through the streets is to gander through an architectural guidebook with Federal, Gothic, Italianate and Queen Anne styles leaping to life in front of you. In the 19th century, Newburgh was the center of an architectural scene with a group of designers who would have a lasting impact on the American home — including hometown boy Andrew Jackson Downing, a designer and horticulturalist, along with architects Alexander Jackson Davis, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Clarke Withers.
There was also the less well-known, home-grown designer, Thornton Niven. A stonemason and architect, Niven was active in the early 19th century and responsible for numerous houses and public buildings in the town, including the still-standing 1841 Newburgh Courthouse.
Niven is also credited as the architect of a Greek Revival stretch which includes 116 1st Street. Known locally as “Quality Row,” the five houses were all constructed in the mid 1830s. According to the historic sign in front of the house, No. 116 is referred to as the Clinton-Deyo House after early owners. Clinton stands for James Graham Clinton, the earliest known owner. Clinton was a half-brother of New York Governor Dewitt Clinton and a politician in his own right.
The house was bought by Dr. Nathaniel Deyo in the 1850s and it remained in family hands until 1976, according to the records of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands. Nathaniel’s son John, also a doctor, was a lover of history and served as a trustee of Washington’s Headquarters at Newburgh in the early 20th century.
The historic sign in front of the house also claims that No. 116 was Newburgh’s first private home wired for electricity. Thomas Edison is said to have stayed as a guest of the Deyo family in 1883 while he was in town overseeing construction of the Montgomery Street Electric Station. Opened in 1884, it was the first electrical plant in the region.
Some sources claim Edison himself wired the house, true or not, it is presumed that the wiring has had some upgrades since then.
The same year the electric plant opened, the Deyo family welcomed a daughter, Mildred. She would be the last Deyo family member to live in the house. Like her father John, she was also a local history lover, serving as the curator of Washington’s Headquarters in the 1930s.
In more recent history, the house was purchased by the late Don Herron. A photographer, Herron was based in the East Village and immersed in the 1970s and 1980s art scene there. He captured some of that creative crowd in his ‘Tub Series’ with Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ellen Stewart and others posing in porcelain (with and without suds) for black and white portraits. Herron’s series is coincidentally on view through November 3 at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in Manhattan.
In 1986, Herron arrived in Newburgh and bought several properties on Spring Street. While urban renewal projects had taken a toll on the historic fabric of the city in the 1960s, a successful preservation fight and education effort led to the establishment of a historic district in 1973. Herron joined in those preservation efforts, working on the restoration of his properties and then in 1994 acquired 116 1st Street. In reminiscing about his Newburgh house experiences for the Times Herald-Record in 2002, he wrote of the 1st Street house that, “I’ve finally found the perfect house for me.”
Herron followed the example of the previous owners of his house and embraced the history of Newburgh, volunteering with the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands according to a 2013 obituary on the blog Newburgh Restoration. For years his charming house sketches ornamented the brochures for the society’s popular annual Candlelight Tour of Homes.
While Herron restored the house, he also left his own stamp on the historic property, with some fanciful design decisions and murals which are still evident in many of the spaces.
On the main floor, where much of the historic material survives, Herron preserved the refined details and layout of the Niven design. The original moldings include door and window surrounds with ornamental corner blocks.
The listing photos show six mantels, including two of black marble on the first floor. The listing doesn’t note whether or not any of the fireplaces are in working order.
While the kitchen originally would have been located on the garden level, a more contemporary kitchen was installed in the rear of the parlor level.
Herron’s decorative murals remain throughout the house, particularly in the bedrooms and hallways of the upper floors.
The house is deceptively large, with five bedrooms and 4.5 baths. One bedroom includes an en-suite bath with wood paneled walls.
Off another bedroom is a quirky bath with an eclectic mix of tile.
The listing notes that the house needs some work but pitches it as “an extremely comfortable residence while doing the repairs.”
The garden level is a rental unit, although the listing doesn’t specify how many bedrooms are in the apartment. It does claim that the fireplace of the original kitchen is intact with a crane still in place.
Outback is Herron’s studio — which, in case you aren’t the artistic type, the listing notes could be converted to a two-car garage. It would be a fanciful garage, with Herron’s murals adorning the walls.
There are even some painted surprises on the exterior of the structure.
The house is located less than a 15-minute walk to the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry landing, with weekday ferry access to Beacon and the MetroNorth stop there. For architecture and history buffs, the house is also less than a 10-minute walk to Washington’s Headquarters and the Reformed Dutch Church by architect Alexander Jackson Davis.
The property is listed for $379,000 by Rosemary Lee of Apple2Orange Realty.
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