July 28, 2021
New members from 2020, David Sokol and Richard East are working hard to lovingly restore an iconic piece of Red Hook history: the Martin Homestead, just north of the Elmendorph Inn on Route 9 North. Below, David shares a unique insight into the search and restoration process.
This article first appeared in our April 2021 Membership Newsletter. Interested in receiving these exciting stories from our historic community delivered to your inbox? Become a member today!
The boy leaves the farm, sees the world, makes a fortune. Triumphantly returns for a local plum job. Renovates the family home to reflect the new position and make retirement easier. What could very well be the treatment of an episode of Property Brothers: Forever Home is actually a recap of Edward Martin’s homecoming in Red Hook, which took place 150 years ago. It was at this point that steamboat entrepreneur Thomas Cornell chartered the Rhinebeck and Connecticut Railroad Company and chose Martin as president. Edward had returned to Red Hook occasionally during his career as a railway civil engineer. In fact, the 1850 census lists him as occupant of the house originally built for his grandparents Gottlieb and Ann Catherine. But in order to plan and open the railroad popularly known as the Hucklebush Line, Edward decided to settle down for good. And, in the words of the Daughters of the American Revolution as “a bachelor of considerable wealth, [he] took great pride in keeping the house and grounds in excellent condition. “
The extent of Edward’s wealth was never a question. Triangulate his 1893 New York Times obituary with court records and other accounts and you will find that at the time of his death he was worth over $ 88 million in today’s dollars.
On the other hand, determining how proud he was of the Martin Homestead was only revealed last winter, when its interior was dismantled. For example, the removal of the plaster and slatted walls of the wing behind the stone house of around 1777 revealed that its structure was made of reclaimed wood and manufactured wood, which would have conformed to the chains of procurement and construction techniques from the 1870s. In the attic of the stone house, the exercise exhibited a similar construction. (This showed that the original stone house necklaces were also made from tree branches.) Edward wanted to make a statement with his Hucklebush presidency, and he did so by expanding the Martin Homestead and converting its attic in bedrooms.
Edward presumably spearheaded many other changes to the Martin Homestead. At first glance, the narrow south living room floor looks like it could have been installed at any point in the past century. On closer inspection, the planks are secured with cut nails, not the metal nails that dominated American construction in the 1890s. Meanwhile, the entrance hall and north living room still have their wide. original pine planks and their nails forged by hand. Some secondary sources also claim that Edward drilled through the 26-inch-thick stone walls of the north living room to flank his fireplace in double-hung windows. But we have yet to find any physical evidence, or any written record, to confirm this feat.
Indeed, preparing the Martin Homestead for its next big update has been the source of both clarifying and baffling discoveries. Why are there fragments of 1840s-style wallpaper attached to the plaster on the back of the stone house – could the Martin Homestead have gained a rear wing before Edward caught the the renovation ? Or what about the empty rafter notches we also found in the attic – maybe Edward had made his extension bigger? When our renovation is complete, we will continue to search, metaphorically speaking, for answers.
This press release was produced by Historic Red Hook. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.