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Casparus F Pruyn House


Casparus F. Pruyn House (207 Old Niskayuna Road, Colonie Town Multiple Resource Area) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

The Casparus F. Pruyn House (constructed between 1824-1836) is set back from the road on a small rise and has numerous outbuildings surrounding it creating a well preserved and intact farm complex. The five acre parcel is the surviving property associated with the house; the balance of the farm has been subdivided with a large open parcel maintained adjacent to the house property.

This two-story late Federal/Early Greek Revival style house is five bays wide and rectangular in plan. The end walls rise above a flat roof, forming parapets with four symmetrically placed end chimneys. The recessed center entrance has side lights and a transom with a tripartite window above.

The windows have stone lintels and sills, and are of the six-over-six type. A two-story, one-bay-wide wood addition on the rear covers the rear entrance of the first floor and the basement.

The interior retains its original Greek Revival details, including doors, moldings, grey marble mantels, newels and balustrades. An unusual feature of the house is the large size of the entry hall and second floor hall (at least 16' x 20'). A large cooking fireplace with offset beehive oven is situated in the basement.

The property is complimented by a number of outbuildings which date to the period of significance of the property and give an impression of a nineteenth century gentleman's farm complex. A carriage barn, smokehouse, and woodshed and privy contribute to the significance of the property. A later shed, garage, and wellhouse do not date to the historic period of the house and do not contribute to the property.

The Casparus F. Pruyn House, a traditional, five-bay two-story, central entrance residence with Greek Revival style detailing, is significant for its historic association with Casparus F. Pruyn, the primary business agent for the Van Rensselaers. The Pruyn House survives an outstanding example of the larger, more architecturally distinguished homes built by associates of the land-owning elite of the upper Hudson Valley in the early nineteenth century.

The Casparus F. Pruyn House exhibits several unusual features such as a low pitched shed roof concealed by parapets and a recessed central entrance with sidelights and tripartite transom. The interior retains the original doors, moldings, window and door surrounds and staircase. The parlor fireplaces are distinguished by grey marble facing and marbleized Greek Revival style mantels.

The house was built by Casparus F. Pruyn, the business agent of Stephen Van Rensselaer III and his son, William P. Van Rensselaer. Rensselaerswyck was a manor laid out on both banks of the Hudson River in 1630 and confirmed to the Van Rensselaer family in a perpetuity in 1685. The manor passed down through the eldest sons until the inheritance practice was forbidden in New York state after the Revolutionary War. Stephen Van Rensselaer, the last patroon to inherit the entire estate, died in 1839 and divided the land holdings amongst his heirs. His two oldest sons, Stephen and William received the West and East Manor respectively.

Under the land holding system, the farms were perpetually leased but never sold to the tenants, many of whom had lived on the farms for generations. In the early 1840s, the Van Rensselaer brothers attempted to collect the back rents of farmers in the less prosperous hill districts on both sides of the river. The farmers organized themselves and resisted the serving of warrants and evictions from their homesteads. The "anti-rent movement" continued until the late 1840's when the Van Rensselaer brothers were forced to sell much of their holdings.

Pruyn's residence in Colonie was built either by Pruyn or his father-in-law, Robert Dunbar, who had previously served as the Van Rensselaer's agent and had owned the property before Pruyn. After serving as Stephen Van Rensselaer's business agent in Colonie, Casparus Pruyn was hired by William Van Rensselaer in 1839 to manage his business affairs on the East Manor. Pruyn moved to the city of Rensselaer and built a substantial brick residence with an attached office (listed on the National Register as the Patroon Agent's House and Office, 1979). The Colonie house then served as Pruyn's country estate. Between 1839 and 1844, when he resigned, Pruyn was a central figure representing the Van Rensselaer interests in the "anti-rent movement." Letters which survive indicate that he felt himself better able than his employer to handle the tenant opposition and to collect rents. Retiring to Colonie, Pruyn died there in 1847.

Source

Reynolds, Helen Wilkinson. Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley Before 1776; New York: Dover Pub., 1965; Albany County Clerk's Office and Assessor's Office; New York State Library: Manuscripts and Special Collections; interview with property owner.

  1. Barnet, David G., Town of Colonie Historian's Office, Casparus F. Pruyn House, 1982, nomination document, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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