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In 1784, General William Floyd acquired a sizable amount of acreage in Central New York. The General chose an area within that acreage that was situated on the Mohawk River approximately eight miles north of Fort Stanwix to build his new home. Although it is sometimes referred to as his retirement home, William, even at the age 69, had no intention of retiring. The area was still relatively wild, its settlement only having begun around 1789. A receipt dated 1795, suggests that Floyd was developing his land almost a decade before he and his family moved in. It reads as follows:

Mastick November 18, 1795 Rec'd of William Floyd the sum of Sixty five pounds in full for one year and half Labour at the Mohawk River - Theophilus Smith

Some sources claim that the General spent summers on the Mohawk, living in a small log cabin on the property and overseeing the building of his new house. The house was built on a limestone foundation and measured 50' by 36'. It is a two-story house, Georgian in design, with a center hall, flanked by two rooms on each side on both floors. Simple by Federal design standards which would arrive in Western less than a decade later, the detailing of the General's new home at that time would have been considered "high style" for the rural area in which it was built. The kitchen was an adjoining structure. A tax record in 1814 indicate that there was another dwelling house 30' by 16' as well. It is possible that this structure was for his slaves or servants, but its exact whereabouts is unknown.

In 1974, a Historic Resource Study was conducted by John M. Dickey, AIA by request of the North Atlantic Region office of the National Park Service. The purpose of the report was to evaluate the William Floyd Estate at Mastic Beach before it was given to the National Park Service by the Long Island Floyd family. Part of that study included an evaluation of the General William Floyd House in Westernville and how it related to the Mastic Beach structure. The following is that section of the report.

Floyd House in Westernville, New York

The Westernville house of General William Floyd, built circa 1803 after he left the Mastic House to his son, is of interest since it represents the achievement of a number of ideas he had earlier attempted in the Long Island House.

Although it is true that General William Floyd left his ancestral home at Mastic with a new wife and young family moved permanently to the western frontier in New York State at the age of 69, it was in some ways not as radical a move as might appear. He had acquired a large amount of real-estate in central New York just south of the Adirondacks, not in one large holding but in various dispersed tracts which he had started to buy as early as 1784, nearly twenty years before he moved.

His new house was built only eight miles from Rome, which in 1803 was a booming village called Lynchville, on the new (1797) canal of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, at that time the only canal linking the Great Lakes with the Hudson. The swamp southeast of Rome, just south of Westernville, was the eastern end of the great portage on the old canoe route across New York, where landings had been built for the Indians by the Colony as early as 1702, and which had been fortified since before the French and Indian War. Fort Stanwix stood here during the second half of the eighteenth century, and had survived a British siege and Indian massacre during the Revolution. Lynchville was in many ways more civilized than Mastic.

The existing building is probably much as he built it. The main house is approximately the same size as the one at Mastic; the ceilings a bit higher and proportions less rustic; but the difference between the two houses is basically intellectual. The architectural problems which could never be satisfactorily resolved at Mastic, in Western were taken in stride, using frankly conventional solutions, but without hesitation or confusion. The closets on either side of the chimneys, for example, which were never really settled at Mastic, at Western are solved in such an offhand manner that the closets were never finished inside; similarly the basement , the stairs, the fireplaces, and the roof framing at Western are simply and clearly solved. One is tempted to think of the man in Earl's portrait, handicapped throughout the Congress and was by lack of formal education, never quite sure of the proper conventional way to achieve the effect he wanted, handicapped architecturally by the old fashioned farmhouses of his grandfather; now at last educated by twenty-five years of war and government service, with more money than he had ever hoped for; starting over again with a new wife and house and country, and with clear ideas of what he wanted and how to get it. Happily, he lived for eighteen more years, and may well have enjoyed them.

What the Westernville House means to this report, however, is a cleared definition of his objectives in the work he did at Mastic, presumably between 1783 and 1792, when the portrait was painted, which we have called the Third Increment. The Westernville House is an analogy, from which we may draw conjectural solutions to some problems at Mastic. The house has a wide center hall, with two parlors of different sizes on the right and dining room and study on the left. The rooms are of generous scale, somewhat larger and higher than Mastic. The first floor is still low, with only two steps down to grade, but it is up a full foot above the older house, which always raised the faint suspicion that the floor might have originally been earth. The staircase, set properly and conventionally against the west wall, is narrow for the monumentality of the hall; the same width (36") as at Mastic. Here, however, the staircase is almost certainly original; the balusters are plain rectangular posts, only two to a tread. The string is open, on the first flight and has simple Georgian cutout brackets. The newels are square, tapered and do not break the rail, which has a plain cushion profile. The half-rail is a chair-rail, over a plastered wainscot without pilasters. The mantels, paneling, and millwork generally are well-proportioned and well made in the substantial, provincial Federal-Georgian style one would expect from the time and place. The existing kitchen wing on the west is probably a generation later, although the plan and structure is confusing, and doubtless it incorporates an earlier structure. This certainly contained the original kitchen, since there is no discernible evidence of a kitchen in the basement. The earlier kitchen may have been freestanding although it is more likely that it was adjacent but one-story. It is interesting to find the end ( west ) window of the dining room tight against the southwest corner, as the east window of the dining room is tight against the southeast corner in Mastic -- and appears there in the portrait. Also notable is the fact that access to the basement (which exists under the main house only), is from the wing as at Mastic. The width of these stairs and their location under a bulkhead in the wing indicates the probability that they were exterior stairs originally, and that the original kitchen was a separate building.

The roof framing of the Westernville House is completely different from any part of the structure at Mastic, and emphasizes the enormous technical advances made during the last two decades of the eighteenth century. Although the basic frame is still post and beam, all the framing members except the purlins are mill-sawn; the rafters do not taper, and only the heavy framing members are mortised. The purlin system is extraordinary, at least to a Pennsylvanian; the purlins are single timbers, running the length of the house, and rest on a full system of sway bracing at each interior post. The system is reminiscent of the "New World Dutch Barns" as described by Fitchen, and it is true that Fitchen lists two such barns in the Mohawk Valley in Herkimer County which is just east of Oneida, perhaps thirty miles away. The only interesting comparison with the Floyd House lies in the use of wide vertical members to support interior lath and plaster partitions, as studs. Here 2" x 10"s are used compared to the 2" x 5" s used to hold the lath and plaster of the west wall ( and ceiling ) of the east wing at Mastic.

The exterior finish and millwork, narrow clapboards and small scale cornice members, appear to be in the local tradition. It seems quite possible that the turned columns of the front porch could be contemporary with the construction of the house, but there is no comparable structure at Mastic. The analogy between the two houses, then, lies in the whole rather than its parts; beyond the Floyd idiosyncrasies of the dining room window and separate kitchen, the plan, scale, material, and character of the Westernville House are a clear expression of the objectives of the designer of the "Third Increment" in Mastic. Whatever his other characteristics may have been, architecturally he was a stubborn man. General William Floyd felt at home in Westernville.

Archeology at the General William Floyd House

 


General William Floyd House Signer of the Declaration of Independence
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