The site of the former Peter Brown house is now located on an approximately one-quarter acre lot, formerly a portion of Brown's much larger farm. The house lot included a cellar hole and traces of building foundations, as well as an abandoned well. Throughout portions of the lot were scatterings of rusted and burnt objects and building materials, the latter reminders of the mid-twentieth century fire that destroyed the house. Although no longer containing a standing structure, the site is associated with some of Cragsmoor’s best known residents,  representing important phases of Cragsmoor’s historical development. As such, it should be considered one of Cragsmoor’s most significant landmarks, The site’s significance was recognized in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) nomination form for the Cragsmoor Historic District, which designated the “former Peter Brown farmhouse site” as a “contributing” property within the District (Hansen 1996: Section 7, page 31).

After purchasing some 60 acres here in 1849, 
Peter Brown moved to Cragsmoor from his former home in Passaic, New Jersey.
He lived here with his wife, Ann, and farmed the land until his death in 1884. Documentary research indicates that Brown's children resided here for only a part of the time that Brown owned the property. Summer rentors also resided here at times beginning in the 1860s.

Peter Brown was a colorful "character," reportedly a "hard drinker," and with a "pugnacious" disposition. In time he bacame the subject of a series of portraits by the noted american genre painter, Edward Lamson Henry. Since the apparent backdrops of many of these works were the living spaces inhabited by Brown and his wife, not only do we gain a clear picture of Brown's physical appearance during the later years of his life but also a sense of the farmhouse's rustic interior and the objects contained within it.

                                                                                                                      E .L. Henry - "Peter Brown" (1886)                           E.L. Henry - "The Obstinate Razor" (1882)

In 1887, subsequent to Peter Brown's death, his wife Ann sold the property. The Brown house was subsequently occupied primarily as a summer residence. Nevertheless, it continued to be associated with persons important in the history of Cragsmoor. Eliza Hartshorn, who purchased the property from Ann Brown, was instrumental in the development of the Cragsmoor community, and through friendships and family connections played a major role in attracting artists to Cragsmoor. Several of them, including Frederick Dellenbaugh and Charles C. Curran apparently resided in the Brown house, renting it from Eliza Hartshorn. The house subsequently had several owners until 1914, when it was purchased by artist Frederick V. Baker, who used it as a studio and summer residence until its destruction by fire in 1951.

The photograph at the top of this page, dating to the 1880s shows the Peter Brown house at that time. Documentary research and the results of our archaeological investigations have enabled us to undertake a tentative reconstruction of the construction sequence of the house. The main section of the house was apparently constructed in the 1820s or 1830s, but stood on a different site at that time. After Peter Brown's purchase of his farm in 1849, he apparently moved the house from its former location to a new foundation constructed on the present site. Subsequently, he constructed a summer kitchen to the rear of the main portion of the house that was subsequently incorporated into the present structure. At a later time, probably ca. 1860s - 1870s, he constructed a "lean-to" addition which connected the main portion of the house to the former summer kitchen. After Ann Brown sold the house, further renovations to the Peter Brown house were undertaken.

During the archaeological investigations we exposed portions of the foundations of the three portions of the Peter Brown house. The main portion was supported on a dry-laid stone foundation extending more than 50 inches below the present surface. The rear portion of the house, representing the former "summer kitchen" was supported on a shallower stone foundation, extending approximately two feet below the present surface, while the connecting "lean-to" portion was supported by a single row of large stones.

                                                                                         Part of Foundation - Main Portion of Peter Brown House                                                                Part of Foundation - Rear
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                (Summer Kitchen) Portion of House

The archaeological investigations also resulted in the recovery of a number of artifacts associated with the occupation of the Peter Brown house. Artifacts recovered exterior to the rear, "summer kitchen" portion were apparently deposited during the period of Peter Brown's ownership of the house. These included a number of ceramic sherds manufactured during the early-nineteenth century. We also recovered from this area an 1837 "Habitant" token, issued by the Bank of Montreal. Since there is no known connection between Peter Brown's family and Canada, it is possible that this token was brought to the site by one of Peter Brown's summer tenants.

We also excavated numerous artifacts from within the foundation of the "summer kitchen" portion of the structure. The artifacts were apparently within this portion of the house at the time of the 1951 fire, and most were likely associated with the occupation of the house by its last owner, artist Frederick V. Baker. These include a number of ceramic fragments that comprised a major portion of a Chinese blue and white porcelain brush pot, probably manufactured in the nineteenth century. This brush pot was apparently used by Baker during his work, and suggests that he may have used this rear portion of the house as a studio.


                                                                                              1837 "Habitant" Token - Peter Brown Site                                            Porcelain Brush Pot - Peter Brown Site

The documentary research and archaeological investigation of the Peter P. Brown House Site have revealed a history that is uniquely Cragsmoor’s. The site, like the community within which it is located, shares aspects of the surrounding Shawangunk Region’s history but at the same time diverges from it quite markedly. This is especially evident in Cragsmoor’s long tradition as an arts colony and the site’s association with this tradition. In the case of the latter, the site was found to be associated with several nineteenth/early twentieth-century Cragsmoor artists and their wealthy friends and patrons. However, documentary research and many of the site’s archaeological artifacts provide evidence of an every-day, less privileged existence and of a life of agriculturally-based labor.

An illustrated monograph based on Cragsmoor Consultant's report has been published by the Cragsmoor Conservancy. It is entitled The Peter P. Brown House Site, Cragsmoor, New York, Historical and Archaeological Findings. In addition to many additional interesting details about Peter Brown and the archaeological findings, the monograph also contains newly discovered information on the history of Cragsmoor and its arts colony.  It can be purchased through the Cragsmoor Conservancy's website by clicking HERE All proceeds from its sale go to the Cragsmoor Conservancy.

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