A couple of days ago, my director at the East Fishkill Historical Society emailed our Board about an old Brinckerhoff House at Lake Walton in East Fishkill, New York. He encouraged us to take a look for ourselves because in a couple of weeks it wouldn’t be there. We were warned that it would be the last opportunity to see another original house of East Fishkill, recorded under the same family which our historic site was named after, before being bulldozed. This was routine for many of the Board members – for an historic house to be demolished by development companies – but for me – this was the first time when such a thing actually meant something to me. I would always hear stories about buildings being taken down, but this time – I felt like I needed to see it and take notes. I needed to take pictures of this Brinckerhoff house on Lake Walton because it wouldn’t be there again.
When I pulled up to the front, I immediately thought of Jumangi, but only the overgrowth was making its way inside the house through the windows. Nature’s force made her way over time. Before I even left from the East Fishkill Historical Society, I was warned from my director, who went the day before, to be careful of the poison ivy and ticks in the high grass.
The East Fishkill Historical Society inquired about saving the house for the first time in 2009, and developers replied with all intentions of preserving the historic building. However, after years of continued neglect, it seems as though this old house reached the point of no return. I was recently just getting myself acquainted with the attempted preservation of Van Wyck homes in Wiccopee by the Board members in the 1960s and 70s, and now, even though I could not do anything to save this Brinckerhoff house, I felt like the least I could do was try to saw something left of the house, weeks before it goes.
When I first turned into the street off Lake Walton Road, I was immediately reminded of my mother’s house in New Windsor. At the end of that street which I grew up on, there was a dirt path that went back into the woods, and as kids we would go back there to hang out. I recently found out that the name of the street was named after the farm which used to encompass the whole development off of Union Avenue, and that the original farmhouse was deep into the woods, further than any of my friends ever travelled. Much like the street my mother still lives on, this Brinckerhoff house was located past the dead end sign, and I continued to follow the dirt path until I parked in front. Even though it was early in the morning, the silence in the deep woods made the whole experience of walking into this vandalized house very spooky. I couldn’t imagine entering the house at night time, and I give credit to the many neighborhood kids who used to explore the interior before the porch collapsed over the front door.
I had to make myself a path around the house to see if there was another way to get in. As soon as I walked into the door, I proceeded to the more modern kitchen and completely went past the stairs to the basement. After I checked out the fire places and walls I realized that I needed to see the foundation; I wanted to try and figure out how old the house was. It certainly was placed in a beautiful location, and from a window upstairs I reimagined a cleaner lake and a mowed lawn. This must have been beautiful.
On the phone with my director, he said that he didn’t go into the basement, but I needed to see it. Plus, its so cool to see an original foundation – one that has not even been cleaned up. The masonry work on some of these old foundations is unbelievable. Since it was built with stones, I figured that the house was probably erected sometime in the 18th century, but not the whole thing. I was looking for a way to continue in the basement, but there was no way to enter into any other part downstairs. With a flashlight, I saw through some missing stones, and noticed that the rest of the foundation, which was inaccessible, was made out of cinder blocks. This meant that most of the house was added onto and then maintained after the original foundation and house was already there (much like the Brinckerhoff House Historic Site).
Exploring the house was an experience in itself, and my only regret is that I only found out about it less than a week ago. What could have been on a list for one of my favorite places to bring someone interested in history will not exist soon. Some more pictures: