The newsletter of The Society for the Preservation of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture arrived this week,Vol. 14, No. 10-12. Walter Richard Wheeler described the documentation before the Luykas Van Alen House in Kinderhook, NY, was restored.
Here is a partial view of the HABS drawing reproduced in the newsletter.
(1934, HABS, Adam Van Alen House, Kinderhook, NY, E. J. Potter, delineator. Please see the foot note for explanations and caveats.)
This morning I took out my compass to see what I could learn about the design of the house.
I used the HABS 1934 floor plan for my base drawing. As this house was built by people of Dutch descent who would have known Dutch framing systems from the Continent (NOT England) I was uncertain about what I would find. I looked first at the main house, the 2 rooms with fireplaces on the left. The floor plan fits within the circle.
Then I looked at the wing - the right side beyond the stair. It is thought to be a little later, perhaps beginning as a barn. Here the layout is more complex: (A) is the arc from the length of the wing. It intersects the continuing length of the house at the location of the partition. (B) is the arc of the width of the house and wing. Its length seems to determine the placement of a beam beside the stair. Its diagonal (C) may determine the location of the door and steps into the room on the end (the north room, on the right in the drawing). One would enter the room on the corner of its square, the room itself is the Golden Section.
Footnote: I also found the beams to be located at points determined by circle geometry. However:
The drawing I am using is very small, About 10 ft = 1 inch. As a architect I consider this to be 'schematic' - definitely too small for construction. The elevations in John Stevens' book are only about 1"=20', much too small to be able to identify a relationship between the plan geoemtry and the elevations. The next step is to print out the HABS drawings which are available on-line.
I am also thinking about how the circles were actually used. The builders might have drawn the first circle on the ground where they intended to build. Or maybe not.
2/3/2-12: I am not really comfortable with this analysis. I have decided not to delete it until I have better understanding. But read it with skepticism!
HABS: Historic American Buildings Survey
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Alen_House is an excellent introduction to the house. It includes a photograph which shows the main house and the wing.
The best book on Dutch 'Colonial' construction is Dutch Vernacular Architecture in North America, 1640-1830, John R. Stevens, HVVA, NY, 2005