Yorktown Celebrates Restored Homes
by Kathy Grantham
Last year, Yorktown Historical Society presented the First Annual Heritage Preservation Awards, selecting the First Presbyterian Church and the Lee/Chessa House, located on adjacent corners of the intersection of Routes 202 and 132 in Yorktown.
Charles and Linda Kiederer, owners of the restored Hallock Farmhouse on Granite Springs Road, and Kevin and Cheryl Lodewick, owners of Golden Hill on Mohansic Avenue, were recipients of the 1989 Heritage Preservation Awards, presented at a meeting of the Yorktown Historical Society.
The award was instituted by Yorktown Historical Society Trustee William Jakubowski, chief building inspector for the Town of Mamaroneck, formerly an assistant building inspector in Yorktown. His expertise has proven that recognition of current restorations of homes and building s in Yorktown generates a surge of interest in local history.
"Homeowners who undertake historic restoration of their old homes have a sense of history and appreciation and deserve recognition for such efforts," said Robert Lockhart, president of the Yorktown Historical Society.
The Lee/Chessa House
The Lee/Chessa House, built in the 1730s in an area then called Crompond Corners at the corner of Routes 202 and 132, is one of the oldest houses in Yorktown. During the Revolutionary War, the house commanded a strategic position on the King's Highway, now Route 202, near the site of raids in 1779 by the militia on partisan outposts.
The Chessas discovered that Ezekiel Hyatt, a grocer, lived there in the 1850s. When beam work was being done in the attic, the carpenter found a grocery sign on the under side of an attic floorboard. Nothing was ever thrown away, everything was recycled. Chessa researched the early history of the house and learned the grocer's first name. The plank bearing the legend, "E. Hyatt, Grocer," was brought downstairs and nailed to the kitchen lintel.
The house doesn't have a single fireplace, yet, in the basement, five mantels attest to their earlier presence. John Chessa placed one of those mantels in the living room, expecting to complete the colonial restoration with a real fireplace in the near future.
The east side of the house is the former site of a tavern or inn with original wide pine flooring and old bubble glass windows still intact.
There are rumors that a tunnel existed between the house the First Presbyterian Church across Route 132, which was used during the Revolutionary War. It was thought to have been used for smuggling arms from the church when a raid was anticipated. While it makes for interesting conversation, the actual tunnel is mythical, since it has not been found after many years of rebuilding and restoring.
The Chessas lived in high ranch for 12 years, and friends thought they were berserk to go to a busy corner and a house that needed so much work.
"This house talks to us," said Judy Chessa, "it's a haven! I feel almost a sense of responsibility to take care of it!"
The Lodewick House
In a picture postcard setting on Mohansic Avenue, the Lodewick house, Golden Hill, sits up high, with graceful weeping willows bordering the front.
In the 1930s, it was called Fairview Farm with an apple orchard and herd of cattle grazing in the open meadow. Today, the cattle are gone, and 10 trees remain, yielding a bounty of golden delicious apples.
Longtime residents remember it as the old Carr House, not for its beauty, but for the informal tavern that provided a friendly watering place for all the locals. Nobody cared that the house was rotting away, the bar was always open, and it made a great sopping-off place. The Lodewicks removed the tavern that was located above the kitchen area, and extended the space to a majestic height, replacing the past with a cathedral ceiling and a fan-shaped window at the upper level.
"We were the crazy people who saved this house from the bulldozer," said Cheryl Lodewick. "I dreamed about it for a year, and the realtor didn't even want to show it to us." You don't want to look at that house,' he said. 'It needs too much work, and the taxes are high!'
But they did look at it, saw the potential, and bought it-cheap. And then their expenses began to escalate as they gutted the building.
Blessed with Bruce Barber, a young builder/architect who knew what he was doing, the interior was finished within a few months. However, Cheryl remembers, "I got discouraged because we needed more money, constantly."
Driving up the hill in pouring rain, the house looked dreary. There was a 30-yard dumpster in front, the kitchen area was filled with water, but the Lodewicks had a dream that supplied unlimited enthusiasm. Unmindful of the steady downpour, Lodewick got out of the car. "Where would you like this lamppost," he asked, holding it up in the rain.
"Doing this house was like going to college," said Barber.
He encountered every possible building problem. The original inspection took four hours and showed that every problem was a big one.
According to an old tobacco tin found in the wall, the kitchen area is 100 years old. Removing moldy sheetrock, Barber found a beautiful fieldstone wall that is one of the standout features of the kitchen/family room.
Although the house was gutted, many good features were retained and repaired, like irreplaceable zinc and tin ceilings, a genuine stained glass window, radiators and fine old banisters, with every dowel and spindle refinished.
"We had good friends who left here muttering to themselves after our first visit on a cold and rainy Halloween in 1984," remembers Cheryl Lodewick. "But looking through this dank, dark, gloomy, rotting house did not disturb my dream of what it could be."
The Hallock Farmhouse
The Hallock Farmhouse, Farm #2, now owned by the Kiederers, originally comprised 192 acres, subdivided in 1730. The interesting language of the deed reveals the old way of surveying: "subdivided by the disposition of the needle (compass)," and probably by counting chains and links. It was part of Stephanus Van Cortlandt's estate.
Van Cortlandt received this grant of land from the King, with permission to purchase it from the Indians. The Indians sold the land because they could also continue living on it. They often resold the same property over and over. Could this be the origin of the still-common expression, "Indian giving"?
The house, built in 1766, had several owners, Jeremiah Travis, the owner and builder. Lived in it from 1766-1786. Dr. Ebenezer White purchased it from the commissioner of forfeitures (tax evaders were apparently alive and well in the 18700s), and owned it from 1786-1834. His son, Dr. Theodosious White, sold it to Tyler Fuller in 1834, and bought it back from Fuller in 1850 with five additional acres called Black Ash Swamp, probably what today is "Sparkle Lake," a man-made lake that was once a stream.
William Hallock's large Quaker family came to this area in 1850 from Long Island. They were important to the economic progress of this period, because they owned the mills and the forge. They were pacifists during Civil War times. On Quaker Church Road in Amawalk, the Quaker Meeting House and a Quaker cemetery remain as landmark sites of the past, and continue in present use.
The Kiederer house was owned by the Hallocks into the 1890s. Sold in 1893, the house changed hands quite often. Alice Sniffen, now a resident of Hanover Street in Yorktown, lived in this house as a tenant farmer in the early 1900s.
Bill and Robbie Sedgwick owned it for 34 years, from 1943-1977, completing a restoration and an authentic colonial garden that was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
"Almost every year a new plant emerges that I never knew was there," said Linda Kiederer," and Robbie Sedgwick identifies it for me, including a rare strawberry shrub with branches that smell like mentholatum and flowers that smell like strawberries."
The only other known Westchester property that has this rare shrub is one of the Hudson Valley restorations. Caretaking on their four acres, Kiederer commented, " I just pull weeds."
The living room section is the original farmhouse, saltbox in shape. It was once three rooms, a large center room with fireplace, and tow tiny rooms beside it. The Boston Windows in the front parlor are standard for that early time, tow over two, meaning two panes at top, two panes at bottom. Much of the house was already restored when the Kiederers purchased it in 1983.
The house is lucky to have Linda Kiederer, because she's a modern day woman of the 1800s, with the skills and the know-how to build a picket fence, wallpaper, hang a shelf, or refinish a unique corner cupboard she found in an old barn.
The kitchen is quaint and warm, with stenciled curtains and a hutch filled with favorite china. The family really lives in the living room, where the piano commands a large corner and an easel gets the best light. Collectibles adorn the shelves, and rare old glass is displayed above a doorway. Sasha, the family's white cat, snoozes in an armchair with a stuffed Peter Rabbit.
The peaceful house, with lingering traces of other people, other times, invites a return visit.
Source:North County News, June 21 - June 27, 1989
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