Brouwer House

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Brouwer House
General information
Location14 North Church Schenectady, New York
Town or cityNew York
CountryUnited States of America
Known forHistoric home

Brouwer House also known as the Brouwer-Rosa House, the Hendrick Brouwer House is a historic home in Schenectady, New York. Located at 14 North Church Street in the federally designated Stockade Historic District (the earliest part of the city settled by Europeans) the house was donated to the Schenectady County Historical Society in 2017 by the last owners of the property, the Kindl family. Debate has ensued for centuries as to whether the Brouwer House or the nearby Yates House is the oldest in the city of Schenectady. Today the Hendrick Brouwer House is a creative space for local arts and culture, branded as “Brouwer House Creative”

Early history

It is unclear how Hendrick Brower came into possession of the property now identified as 14 North Church Street. It is possible he acquired it through his marriage to Maritje Borsboom in 1692. As a fur trader with a reputation of being fair to the local Mohawks, he could have been living in the woods until his marriage. The property likely passed to Maritje, a widow with a young son, upon the death of her first husband in 1691. [1] Maritje's first husband, Teunis Carstensen, acquired the property around 1679/80 from prior owner Jans Janse Jonckers who was granted the house lot circa 1665. It is probable that Jonckers had built a house on the lot. [2] In 1686, Teunis and Maritje sold 2/3 of this lot to Jan Mabee (settler of the Mabee Farm Historic Site, also owned by the Schenectady County Historical Society) who married Maritje's sister, Annatja. [3] In 1686/7, upon the death of their father, Pieter Jacobse Borsboom, Maritje and each of her sisters inherited 1/4 of the hindmost lot No. 8 which was nearby.[4]

Hendrick Brouwer, Maritje and Teunis Carstensen, and Maritje's three sisters and their families all survived the 1690 Schenectady Massacre. It is thought that both Hendrick's fair dealings with the Mohawk, and Maritje (and at least one of her sisters) having maternal Mohawk heritage, spared them. [5]

Debate has ensued over the years as to whether the house that was on the lot in 1690 survived the massacre, and if any of it was incorporated into the current structure. French reports following the massacre indicate that only the John Glen house on Washington Avenue was spared. Other reports indicate up to six structures were left standing. [6]

The earliest documentation of a house on the property is in the will of Hendrick Brouwer dated December 12, 1706. In it, Hendrick left his estate to his wife during her lifetime and in case she should marry again "an inventory shall be taken of the property and my wife shall be holden to give security for same in order that after her decease, the same shall go to all my children and my wife's son Benjamin by a former marriage to share equally with my children". [7] After Hendrick's death in 1707, it is assumed Maritje lived in the house with her nine children. Jan Mabee's will of 1725 indicates Maritje’s son Benjamin (Carstensen) van Vleck was the owner of the property, which bordered Mabee’s property to the north. On January 9, 1737/38 Benjamin traded the 14 North Church Street house and lot with his Brouwer half-siblings for land bordering the house on the north, upon which he built a house for himself, now numbered 18 North Church Street. After the trade, 14 North Church Street was in the possession of Cornelius, Hendrick's son. [8]

The house stayed in the Brouwer family for the rest of the 1700s. Upon the death of Cornelius in 1765, it passed to his son Hendrick. This Hendrick lived there until his death in 1801, when he willed it to his son, Hendrick. [9] During those years the house was expanded with an adjoining building facing the street, and a rear addition.


It is in the house's basement that the 1936 HABS survey identified what is believed to be the foundation of the original building as well as the subsequent additions. This includes an early fireplace and Dutch oven, as well as a cistern. / Schenectady County Historical Society

Dendrochronology done by Cornell University's Tree-Ring Dating Laboratory in 2007, taking wood samples from three floor joists under the front room on the main level of the house, indicates that the current structure was built in 1731. [10] That being the case, it is unknown whether any part of the foundation remains from an earlier structure. The 1731 date puts construction of the current house during the ownership of Benjamin. At that time, his mother and some of his half siblings may have also been living in the house.

The 1731 home was built of hand-hewn lumber in the typical Dutch style with exposed beams, low ceilings and steep pointed gables. The basement foundation is over 3 feet thick, composed of massive stone blocks. The space between the interior and exterior walls are lined with brick then covered with siding of very wide, thick boards fitted closely together. The floorboards of the first-floor average over 18 inches in width. As with most houses of the period, the wooden framework was joined by small pegs instead of nails. In the living room is a massive fireplace now restored to its original Dutch open, jambless style. The fireplace is without sidewalls, the fire built in the rear center of a large hearth with a wood canopy about 6 feet above the floor extending the full 8-foot width of the hearth. [11] Perhaps the most interesting features of the house are several secret hideaways, large enough for one or two people. These could be entered by lifting floorboards, some leading to the cellar. There is speculation that at one time a passage connected the cellar to the nearby Mohawk River. Indeed, the property has many legends and lores attached to it. [12] At the rear of the house is a spacious shade garden well over 200 feet deep.

New ownership

In 1802 the house was sold to James Rosa [13], a prominent industrialist and developer who later became a superintendent of the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad. He made extensive renovations to the home, converting the front to its present Georgian center hall style by constructing a roof across the front two buildings and eliminating the Dutch gable. However, a steep Dutch gable can still be seen at the rear of the house.

The home stayed in the Rosa family for over 100 years, and was known as the Rosa House during that time. In 1919, three of James Rosa's grandchildren sold it to Jean and Gertrude Canivet, who converted the single-family residence into three two-story apartments. [14] In 1969, Fred and Katy Kindl purchased the house from the Canivets' grandchildren. [15] In the 1970s, the Kindls undertook an extensive restoration project converting the home back to a single-family residence. They uncovered many original features of the house including beams, wide plank flooring, and the open sided fireplace. They also added an addition onto the rear of the house containing a modern kitchen, and a garage/tool house behind the main building. [16] Fred Kindl passed away in 2009 and Katy passed away in 2016. Her wish was to donate the home to the Schenectady County Historical Society. In 2017 her daughters transferred ownership to the Historical Society. [17]

Historic significance

Either by preservation or re-creation of significant, character-defining features, the building has very recognizably Dutch architectural details, common on other Dutch structures of the era. Examples of the Dutch detailing are evident throughout the exterior and interior of the building. The 1936 HABS report describes the building as follows: "The building has the appearance of Colonial type, two stories and attic with five windows in the upper floor and four in the lower; structure frame with brick - fill. The ridge of the roof runs north and south."

Operation as a creative space

The Brouwer House is currently the only Colonial era Schenectady house to be open to the public. Rather than operating it as a house-museum, the Schenectady County Historical Society opted for adaptive reuse of the structure. Today, Brouwer House Creative functions as creative space for arts and culture in the city, hosting NorthEast Theater Ensemble, the EQ Wilbert Songwriting Academy, [ Sweet Sprig soapsmith, the Electric City Food Co-op, and the studios of Deborah Angilletta Fine Art and Sizz Handmade: Tapestry Studio, the Brouwer House is a vibrant community space. The large living room and kitchen provide a unique venue for community functions and Historical Society events. It is open to the public by appointment, or during special events.


  1. Staffa, Susan Jay. PHD. “Earliest History of Number 14 North Church St. Now Called the Hendrick Brauer House”. 7/29/2001. Unpublished.
  2. Staffa, Susan J. PhD. Schenectady Genesis: How a Dutch Colonial Village Became an American City, ca.1661 to 1800 Volume 1. Purple Mountain Press, Ltd. 2003. P.66
  3. Staffa, Susan Jay. PHD. “Earliest History of Number 14 North Church St. Now Called the Hendrick Brauer House”. 7/29/2001. Unpublished.
  4. Pearson, Jonathan. The History of the Schenectady Patent. Schenectady: Joel Munsell's Sons, Printers. 1883.
  5. Staffa, Susan Jane PhD. “Oldest City House, 14 N. Church, Likely Dates Back to Early 1660s”. Daily Gazette
  6. Staffa, Susan Jane PhD. “Oldest City House, 14 N. Church, Likely Dates Back to Early 1660s”. Daily Gazette
  7. Vrooman, John. Forts and Firesides at the Mohawk Valley New York. Baronet Litho Company Inc., Johnstown, New York, 1951. P. 68.
  8. Staffa, Susan Jay. PHD. “Earliest History of Number 14 North Church St. now called the Hendrick Brauer house”. 7/29/2001. Unpublished.
  9. Vrooman, John. Forts and Firesides at the Mohawk Valley New York. Baronet Litho Company Inc., Johnstown, New York, 1951. P. 69.
  10. Stanforth, Lauren. “In Wood Samples, Clues to History”. Times Union, Nov. 26, 2007.
  11. Featherstonhaugh, Duane. “Secret Room is Part of House Built in 1670”. Schenectady Gazette, March 16, 1926.
  12. “City's Oldest Home Situated on Church Street”, Schenectady Gazette, June 26, 1948.
  13. Schenectady County Clerk,” Deeds", in book 44, 1865, page 340.
  14. Schenectady County Clerk,” Deeds", in book 276, 1919, page 165.
  15. Schenectady County Clerk,” Deeds", in book 906, 1968, page 399.
  16. Hart, Larry. “Brouwer House Dutch Room is Possible”. Schenectady Gazette. May 11, 1970.
  17. Buell, Bill. “300-year-old House Donated to Schenectady Historical Society”, Daily Gazette, December 10, 2016

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