Muitzes Kill Historic District
The Muitzes Kill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Muitzes Kill Historic District (Muitzeskill) is a rural hamlet at the crossroads of the Muitzes Kill Road and the Schodack Landing Road. The Muitzes Kill Historic District includes Schodack Landing Road for a distance of 9/10th mile to the east of the crossroads; Sultan Lane for a distance of 6/10th mile north of its junction with Schodack Landing Road; Muitzes Kill Road 1200 feet north of the crossroads; Muitzes Kill Road 1000 feet south of the crossroads; and Schodack Landing Road 1200 feet west of the crossroads. The Muitzes Kill Creek, once the site of numerous mills, cuts through the Muitzes Kill Historic District running north-south, Crocco Lane parallels the creek on the west side and is included in the district as far as the boundary of Columbia County.
The visual focus of Muitzeskill is the building of the Reformed Church of Schodack at Muitzeskill, situated directly at the four corners. Built in 1876, it is a post Civil War country frame church built on the foundations of, and to the same dimensions as, a much earlier Federal style New England meetinghouse. The 1876 builders, wishing to pattern the new church after the old one, nevertheless gave graceful Victorian overtones to the meeting house by including round-headed Italianate windows, and a shaped roof on the central tower. In a rare church survival, pressed metal wall covering still decorates the interior.
Nearby, an exceptional Dutch house, thought to be the house that appears under the name of Nicolaes Ketel (Nicholas Kittle) on the John R. Bleecker "Map of Renselaerwick, 1767," now in somewhat deteriorating condition but still lived in, marks the western boundary of the Muitzes Kill Historic District. Evidences of mid-nineteenth century changes appear in the window sash and upper facade of the building, and a piazza at the rear has been closed in. Nicholas Kittle, who died in 1781, is buried in a small cemetery on the property.
To the south, a Greek Revival type farmhouse, built between 1833 and 1840, in excellent condition, still serves a working farm. In 1900 the roof of the south extension was raised, and in the 1940's an outside chimney was added to the main house. The northern limit of the Muitzes Kill Historic District is marked by a house built in the first third of the nineteenth century in Federal style on the foundations of an earlier house. The eyebrow windows and interior gable chimneys shown in an old photograph were eliminated when the house was raised to two stories.
To the east of the four corners is a well-preserved hip roof, square block brick house of the mid-1800's. It is a two-story, four-bay house with off-set entrance and ground floor windows to the floor. On its property is a large, rectangular, flat-roofed barn which once housed a carriage shop. Farther to the east, a house from 1802 on a high foundation, of relatively unchanged appearance except for Victorian porch trim and outside chimney, houses, on the third floor, a private, arch-ceilinged meeting hall decorated with Masonic symbols.
Other houses and barns at the four corners or spread along the road eastward are of Federal, Greek Revival, or mid-century character. Three houses are thought to incorporate as wings early Dutch houses. A former store and cooperage is now used for apartments, a Grange Hall houses apartments, and a tailor shop is retained as a private home.
First, an early Dutch farming community, then, a village of small mills, and now a residential area awaiting the inevitable wave of suburban development — the crossroads hamlet of Muitzes Kill has survived the changing times while retaining the special relationships, simplicity and flavor of a mid-19th century village.
By the 1750's, perhaps ten Dutch families had settled on the flat tableland east of the Hudson River in the southwestern corner of the East Manor of Rensselaerwyck. Located in the center of good farm land, at a crossroads and near water power, Muitzes Kill evolved into a hamlet devoted to supplying the needs of the surrounding farm community. By the time the hamlet had become a full-fledged milling and trading center, the farm population had multiplied and had become vastly more anxious for services that could be provided by water-powered mills and by individual specialization. Wool carding, fulling, cider milling, grist and plaster milling, and sawing were provided on the upper reaches of the Muitzeskill Creek by the 1820's. By the same time, specialization of services in the persons of a tailor, blacksmiths, storekeepers, a doctor, and (later) a cooper became available. A school was built, a public house was kept, and a Mason's Hall occupied an attic. Transportation of goods proceeded by water from Schodack Landing on the Hudson at this time.
Significantly, the community of which the Muitzes Kill Historic District represents the center, illustrated to perfection the changes that swept the new states after the Revolution when machines powered by water and later steam began to do the work of hands, when services could be bought for money or barter, and when integrated communities overlaid the early settlement pattern. In this era Muitzeskill was at its most bustling, although it was never very big. At no time did it serve more than probably fifty families.
This restriction of size helped to preserve the unity of the community when, at about mid-century, Muitzeskill became the victim of a new cultural wave and was left behind. In 1840 and 1851 railroads were built across Schodack, each close by but not including Muitzeskill as a station. Farm products could now be shipped to Albany and New York City more easily, but, even more importantly, the increasing success of mass production of cloth, wagon parts, furniture, dishes, and other necessities, of great variety and appeal, doomed the need for Muitzeskill's mills and local tradesmen. The cooper, blacksmith, and local country store persisted as late a 1900 but could not adapt to further improvements in transportation. By 1900 Muitzeskill was a backwater. As a result, growth in the form of building was stopped for all practical purposes in the district by the 1870's.
Now, a hundred years later, all except archeological vestiges of the mills are gone. However, the trade buildings and grange hall (converted to other uses), the church and many houses and barns associated with this historical period remain. Surprisingly, the wave of renovation which conquered many villages during the Victorian era appears to have touched lightly upon Muitzes Kill. This probably occurred because the village was at that time entering its decline.
How long this untouched condition, an accident of land ownership and rural isolation, will be maintained, depends on the willingness of individual landowners to forgo economic gain. The area is zoned for residential farm use, and one acre building lots are permitted. The nearby roads are developing as part of a suburban bedroom-shopping ring around the capital city, Albany.
Historic District Zoning, which it is hoped will follow this National Register designation, as well as increased prestige and fuller understanding, may help to preserve the integrity of setting and historical association which the Muitzes Kill Historic District presently possesses.
Leases and Maps, Van Rensselaer Papers, Manuscript Room, New York State Library, Albany, New York.
Rensselaer County Maps, 1854, 1861, Manuscript Room, New York State Library, Albany, New York.
Vital Records of the Town of Schodack, compiled by Lauretta P. Harris, Gateway Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 1970.
Wills and Deeds, Rensselaer County Courthouse, Second Street, Troy, New York.
†Shirley W. Dunn, Historical Society of Esquatak, Muitzes Kill Historic District, nomination document, 1973, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.