In the early morning of July 16, tragedy struck the Pawling community when the historic Hall Christy House on Quaker Hill was destroyed by a fire. This sad event marks the conclusion of 270 years of history for the local landmark, which was rich in historical and architectural significance.
Built in 1747, the Dutch frame house was first located on Clove Valley Road in the town of Union Vale. The original owners were Peter John Hall, a Quaker from Rhode Island, and his wife, Ruth Reynolds Hall, a relative of Continental Army General Nathanael Greene. Hall was one of the first men to explore the Clove Valley, using Native Americans as his guide. Upon his death in 1782, Hall left the house to his son Gideon who would raise ten children there with his wife, Rachel Clements. Gideon also served as a Captain during the Revolutionary War, fighting in the Battle of White Plains.
Gideon’s daughter Ruth would eventually inherit the house, and with her husband, Leonard Christy, would also raise ten children there. Their son, Gilbert Hall-Christy, was born in 1807 and would eventually partner with his wife’s brother to form the Tilton-Christy weaving firm. This business manufactured blankets for the government during the Civil War. His son, Peter Harrison Christy, would use the house as the site of the PH Christy Trout Breeding Pond. This was the first trout-stocking venture in New York State’s history.
The Hall Christy House would remain in use by family descendants until the 1940s. After that, it would remain unoccupied for nearly forty years. Eventually a local gun club purchased the surrounding land and the house parcel, and in the late 1980’s the new owners decided to dismantle the house and seek a new location. The new owners, with the assistance of the 18th Century Company from Hamden, CT, undertook the process of dismantling, numbering, labeling, photographing, and storing each individual piece of the house. The preservation of these materials was important, for the simple fact that the Hall Christy House was one of the few surviving Dutch frame houses. Whereas there are many examples of stone houses from that time period, the wooden variants are often modernized and unrecognizable.
A New Location
When a suitable location was found on Meeting House Road in Pawling, the process of restoring the Hall Christy House’s unique construction began. Neither the Hall or Christy families were of Dutch descent, signifying that the home’s builder was responsible for the construction style. The construction of the house used independent H-bents for its structure. These were large, H-shaped beams that ran the length of the house and supported the second story. There was a notable lack of plaster ceilings, meaning that the floorboards from the second floor were visible from underneath. The house featured museum-quality Hudson Valley paneling in the original paint surface, including those in the Groot Kammer (Dutch for great room).
All of the house’s original details were meticulously retained, including plain sheathed paneling for the parlor, molded paneling with original Hudson Valley spruce paint in the dining room, pan hinges particular to the Hudson Valley, floor boards, doors, butterfly hinges, and original glass with family initials etched in one of the window panes. The restorers also laid more than 10,000 bricks in the courtyard. The Hall Christy House was featured on numerous historical house and garden tours, most recently the August issue of the Old House Journal. The gardens surrounding the home were also registered with the National Garden Conservancy
A Treasure Lost
At 5:20 a.m. on Sunday, July 16, a passerby reported a glow emanating from the area of the Hall Christy House. Members of the Pawling Fire Department arrived on the scene to find a fully involved structure fire. The blaze is believed to have originated in the basement, but the cause is undetermined due to the extent of the damage. The Dutchess County Fire Investigation Division conducted an investigation of the incident and found no evidence of foul play.
When the fire claimed the Hall Christy House, the Pawling area lost a landmark treasure of the Hudson Valley. The event is especially tragic considering the arduous and extensive process of moving and restoring the house at its new location. The home was not only architecturally significant, but also deeply ingrained in local and national history.