Kinderhook, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley, is one of the oldest towns in the entire state, with the name appearing on documents as early as 1614. More than 150 years later, Martin Van Buren, the only president whose native language was not English (he grew up speaking Dutch), was born there, which is how he came by the nickname “Old Kinderhook.”
This elegant and pleasantly symmetrical Georgian manor house in Kinderhook was built in 1774 by David Van Schaack, one of the dozen-plus children of influential 18th century attorney Peter Van Schaack. It was considered “a magnificent dwelling, substantially constructed, and elegantly finished.” Note the stylish Palladian window, the classic five bays of Georgian and Federal houses, and the Greek-style entry. Today, with two wings which were added in the early 19th century, the house spans almost 5,800 square feet with six bedrooms and three bathrooms plus a powder room. Most of the rooms are bursting with color, a decorative touch that is entirely in keeping with the period of the home. It’s set on a generous 6.8 acres of flat land, so a new owner could easily add a pool. Asking $2.95 million, the house is represented by Andrew Gates at Houlihan Lawrence.
Tax records show the house is owned by antiques dealers Audrey and Stuart Peckner and, unsurprisingly, it is jam-packed with a treasure trove from a lifetime of collecting. (Most of the furniture and objects in the house are eighteenth century English pieces, which tend to fetch much lower in prices than similar American antiques.) The Peckners purchased the house in 2005 as a weekend retreat — at the time they lived full time in West Palm Beach — and the first order of business was to make a laundry list of repairs that included replacing or fixing the roof and foundation, the flashing and brickwork, the plumbing and all eight of the chimneys. Operating as N.P. Trent Antiques, the couple have built a flourishing business in English and European decorative arts, the best of which are shown off to perfection in the Kinderhook house. They moved north permanently in 2013, opening a since shuttered shop in Kinderhook as well as selling online.
The floors are mostly polished northern pine, the kitchen and bathrooms are updated, and while every room has a fireplace, only a few are original, including some adorned with hand-painted Delft tiles. Early nineteenth century renovations included the addition of porches at each end of the house, as well replacing the original wooden mantels with marble ones. A rear wing was also added around 1820 to accommodate a new kitchen as well as living quarters for slaves. (New York State abolished slavery in 1827.)
The house is popularly known as Burgoyne House, after General John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne, who commanded a British army force in the Revolution. Burgoyne fought two small battles near Saratoga but was surrounded and outnumbered by American forces. He surrendered at Saratoga on October 17, 1777. On his way back to England after defeat, Burgoyne stayed at this house, as both an honored guest and a prisoner. Later, the mansion hosted Aaron Burr as a guest; and in Martin Van Buren’s time Henry Clay, Washington Irving, and Senator Thomas H. Benton visited the house.
Burgoyne’s surrender in 1777 is often considered the turning point of the American Revolution. The fact that Burgoyne stayed here on his trip back to London makes this house of especial historical interest. Fortunately, the current owners, through careful stewardship, have ensured this fascinating dwelling will survive for the next century, at least.