Amy Kasuga Folk on Kyle Marshall. Americana: Farmhouses and Manors of Long Island. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2019. 208 pp. ISBN: 0764357867. $39.99.
The early history of Long Island is the history of two cultures: the Dutch and English. It is also the history of two very different styles of architecture. While the early Dutch houses were erected on the west end of the island and the early English homes were on the east end, the architectural styles of the two cultures eventually met and meshed across the island. The houses of the earliest settlers of Long Island no longer stand, but spread across the island exist a number of historic structures born of the two cultures ranging in age from the late 17th to the 19th century.
At a glance there are a number of differences in construction between the earliest Dutch and English homes on Long Island. The most obvious differences can best be seen in the style of the roof and the location of the fireplaces. Many early Dutch farmhouses on the island have a curled bottom edge on the front of the roof. In contrast, English structures have the edge situated in a straight line. While in most early Dutch homes the fireplaces were located on either end of the house, the English preferred a central massing of the fireplace and chimneys in the center. Over time, the architectural characteristics of the two cultures combined into the familiar Long Island farmhouse, which can often be found with a straight edge roof and chimneys on either end of the building.
Kyle Marshall’s book tackles the topic of the Long Island farmhouse which has only been lightly explored. He presents fifteen homes whose original structures range in age from the 1660s to 1920s, with the majority of the houses dating from the early to mid-1700s. The buildings are a mixture of private homes and houses that have become museums. The book concentrates mostly on the surviving large Long Island style farmhouses that once populated the area as well as some of the remaining manor houses that graced the colonial landscape.
Americana is chiefly comprised of beautiful color photographs that showcase the exterior of the historic houses and features a number of interior, antique strewn decors that now adorn the homes. In each chapter, Marshall gives short histories of the structures, briefly discusses the architectural style of the building, and details the renovations and restorations that each underwent over the years. In many cases, he concentrates his non-technical, un-footnoted essays on the Colonial Revival movement and the impact of the movement on the structure. The images tend to highlight sections of the rooms and the decor of each house, more so than the architecture.
Unfortunately, only in the introduction of the book does the author include drawings of the architectural layouts of the rooms. This allows the reader to grasp the intention of the book: to draw distinctions between the original footprints of the buildings and the additions made over time. Readers would have greatly benefitted if the architectural drawings continued throughout the remainder of the book. Additionally and somewhat perplexingly, in the introduction the author references six houses to highlight themes of the book, yet does not include the aforementioned houses in the subsequent chapters.
Nonetheless, Americana will appeal to the casual reader seeking to learn more about the decor and history of some of the earliest houses built on Long Island.