The DeFerriere Residence (2089 Genesee Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The DeFerriere House is a one-and-one-half story frame Greek Revival style building that stands on a slight rise on the south side of the former Seneca Turnpike or Great Genesee Road (now known as Genesee Street) southwest of the center of the city of Oneida. On its parcel are scattered old trees but surrounding it to the north and east are large modern suburban retail outlets, gas stations and the like, as well as a few residences of the same scale but with compromised integrity.
The building appears to be approximately square in footprint, and has three wide bays on the front and side elevations. Each of the wide bays is sheathed in clapboard separated by wide pilasters that have no articulation in the stone foundation but rather appear to float above it. Within each of the bays on the facade and west side are single windows. On the east side are single windows in the end bays and a door and window in the center bay.
In the center bay of the facade is a door flanked by nine-over-nine floor-length windows. The entry is reached by a Gothic-inspired porch with supports comprised of thin paired six-sided colonettes with square latticework between on the vertical elements and lattice quatrefoils in parallel horizontal elements resting below the bracketed overhang of the roof. A historic photograph of the building shows that the upper and lower horizontal railings between the vertical supports had narrow diamond-patterned lattice between them.
The walls of the facade and two sides are capped by a heavy Doric entablature pierced by eyebrow windows, a heavy overhang, and a wood parapet with articulations above each of the pilasters and a higher panel running the width of the center bay of the facade.
The highly articulated facade and side elevations of this house belie its undecorated rear elevation. It is actually a U-shaped building with no architectural decoration on the three interior rear elevations. Because of its U-shape, the roofline of the building consists of three shed roofs that meet in valleys at the interior corners of the U. The house was obviously intended to be viewed primarily from the road, as the front and side elevations project a very imposing appearance and the rear courtyard created by this U has no decorative features. There is only one entry directly from the kitchen to the courtyard and this may be a more recent alteration. All other rooms that face the courtyard have only windows looking out onto it.
The interior of the house reflects its unusual shape. Inside the front door is one large room that extends to the rear of the center section. It is trimmed with shouldered and battered door and window architraves and retains its original two-paneled front door and nine-over-nine flanking front windows. The rear wall of this room contains a three-part Greek Revival window with six-light upper sash and single-paned lower sash that probably replaced six-light sash. In the rear corners of the east and west walls are doorways that provide access to the remainder of the house. A high wood baseboard with a Greek Revival profile runs around the room and wide pine floorboards are present throughout.
In the west wing are a front corner room, a small modern bathroom in the center, and a rear room accessed from a small hall off the center room. The front and rear rooms were probably originally bedrooms. In the front room are wood closets with floor-length single panel doors and wood crown molding, features that are either original or constructed soon after the house was completed. Behind the rear room is the carriage barn contained within the footprint of the house, accessible only on the exterior via two wood vertical-planked doors facing the rear (south) elevation. The west exterior elevation contains a centered blind window frame in the southern bay, identical to the other two bays, thus disguising the function of this part of the house as a carriage barn.
On the east side of the center room, the door opens to a large room that extends from the east to the west walls of the wing. North of this room is a room similar to the one in the west wing (probably a bedroom), and directly off the larger room is a sharply pitched staircase that provides access to the upper floor. Within the larger room is the only mantelpiece in the house, attached to its only chimney. There is also a china closet with glass doors above and drawers below; this appears to be an early twentieth-century feature.
At the south end of the east wing is a modern kitchen and half bath. There is an original door on the east side of the kitchen and on the west side is a modern door that enters the "courtyard."
On the second floor, the rooms are low-ceilinged but full height on the outside perimeter of the house, where there are eyebrow windows with fixed wood blinds. There are sloped ceilings that follow the pitch of the shed roofs, leading to a knee wall on the inside that is approximately one-and-one-half feet in height. Walls and ceilings are plastered in the west wing, except for the carriage area, across the entire front, and in part of the east wing. There are no finishes on the walls and ceiling in the remainder of the east wing, indicating that it was used solely as a storage attic.
There is a modern non-contributing garage at the rear of the lot to the east of the building.
The DeFerriere House is significant as a highly intact example of a Greek Revival residence built in the first half of the nineteenth century in rural Madison County. It is one-and-one-half stories in height and its front and side elevations appear to be about equal in length, suggesting a monumental square building. In actuality, however, it is U-shaped, only one room deep, and contains a carriage barn disguised within the footprint of the building, making it one of the most unusual buildings of the period in the vicinity, if not in a much larger area of New York State. It also contains only one chimney and fireplace, suggesting that it was not constructed for year-round use, but was only used during warm weather.
It was built on land owned by the family of one of the earliest white settlers of this part of the state, French emigre Angel DeFerriere, who married Polly Dennie (or Denny), the daughter of one of the most prominent families of the region, whose mother was Oneida Indian and her father of French origin. Its exact date of construction is not known, although stylistically it appears to have been constructed in the 1830's based upon its significant amount original interior and exterior fabric. It may have been used by DeFerriere's descendants, as Angel died in 1832, perhaps around the time the house was under construction.
Prior to the settlement of the area by European-Americans after the close of the American Revolution, present-day Madison County was the home of the Oneida Indians of the Iroquois Six Nations. By the time of the survey of the state after 1789, the entire northern half of the county was part of the Oneida Reservation while most of the southern part had been divided into rectangular townships within the large County of Herkimer. These "Twenty Towns" had been purchased by Governor George Clinton for the State of New York from the Indians in 1788.
European-American settlement of the area had begun along the road laid out in 1790 by James and William Wadsworth, on their way to the Genesee Valley at present-day Rochester, 100 miles to the west. This road, now NY Route 5 and the site of this building, went from present-day Utica to Oneida Castle, the center of the Oneida Reservation, and opened up what is now Madison County to development. Within a few years, white settlers began to arrive within the current bounds of the county. Around this time, the large area of Herkimer County was broken up, and in 1806, Madison County was formed by the breakup of Chenango County (formerly part of Herkimer), which now lies to the south of Madison. It was named for the U.S. president in office at the time of its formation.
The county was also traversed around 1800 by the Great Western or Cherry Valley Turnpike, beginning in Albany, about 90 miles east of Madison County, and once ending at the village of Cazenovia at the western end of the county. This was one of the earliest turnpikes in the state and helped open agricultural development of the interior of New York away from the Hudson River. When Madison County was formed, its first county seat was at Cazenovia along the Cherry Valley Turnpike.
A history of Madison County published in 1872 gives a glimpse into the life of Angel DeFerriere and his impact on the early European settlement of this part of New York State. DeFerriere was born in 1769 to a family of French nobility under the reign of Louis XVI. During the turbulence of revolutionary France, DeFerriere and a companion fled to Holland in 1792. There they were introduced to some men who belonged to the Holland Land Company, who suggested that DeFerriere and his companion try their fortunes in the United States. DeFerriere sailed for New York, where he met Col. John Lincklaen and traveled with him to Cazenovia. While in what is now Madison County, DeFerriere met Lewis Dennie (Denny), a man of French and Oneida descent, and soon married Dennie's daughter Polly. Shortly thereafter, the couple settled permanently in Madison County and amassed land holdings of about 3,000 acres.
According to that history, DeFerriere built a tavern, a saw mill and grist mill, distillery and brewery. The 1872 account continues, "His land extended nearly to Oneida village (now the City of Oneida); he subsequently sold much of it to white settlers, many of whom, or their successors, today possess old titles and papers in the orthography and chirography of Angel DeFerriere. His own house, long since removed, stood near the tavern and opposite the cottage built in later years, which is now standing on the homestead farm." The "cottage" noted in this history is the subject of this nomination.
DeFerriere returned to France in 1817 to reclaim his vast estate there and he was able to pay off all debts on his land in Madison County. He and his wife raised five children at the location and he died in 1832.
The house passed through several owners in the last 150 years and is undergoing restoration. Its one-and-one-half story elevation and U-shaped plan make it one of the most unusual buildings in the region and worthy of National Register listing.
Books Ellis, David M., Frost, James A., Syrett, Harold C., & Carman, Harry J., A History of New York State, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1967.
Hammond, Louisa M., History of Madison County. Syracuse, NY: Truair, Smith & Co., Book and Job Printers, 1872.
Smith, James H., History of Chenango and Madison County. Syracuse, NY: Mason and Company, 1880.
Tuttle, William H. Pioneers of Madison County, Interlaken, New York: Heart of the Lakes Publishing, 1984. (This publication is transcribed from the notebooks of Tuttle, former Madison County Historian.)
Other Newspapers: Oneida Dispatch, 19 July 1928. Syracuse Post Standard, 12 November 1978. Chittenango-Bridgeport Times, 29 September 1982.
Address: The Angel DeFerriere Family, by George B. Russell, 17 February 1909, before the Madison County Historical Society (Archive File #338).