Nestled among the corporate offices, children’s museum, and supercomputing center that populate the Rensselaer Technology Park is an unexpected yet welcome sight: an authentic early 18th-century Dutch farmhouse and barn.
Originally the homestead of early Dutch settlers (the Philip DeFreest family), the farm was constructed in the mid-1700s a time when barns dominated the landscapes of the Hudson and Mohawk River valleys. The Defreest barn is distinguished by its H-shape frame, a traditional Dutch design engineered to be strong and sturdy.
The farmhouse was restored in the 1980s to house the Tech Park’s administrative offices, and the Dutch barn recently received a similar renovation. The DeFreest Homestead has been a longtime interest of honorary trustee C. Sheldon Roberts ’48, and his late wife, Patricia, who personally supported the renovation in an effort to preserve an irreplaceable part of Hudson Valley history.
Upon entering the barn, visitors are greeted with a crisp, wooden aroma, and awed by the 50-foot timber beams, cut from trees that were growing in the area before the Revolutionary War.
“The first thing that people say when they enter the barn is ‘Wow!” said Michael Wacholder, longtime director of the Rensselaer Technology Park. “It’s like walking into history. The beauty of this renovation is that we were able to preserve much of the original structure and materials.”
The flooring comprises a variety of woods including red oak, beech, and maple. Wacholder noted that nearly 10 years ago, several trees were cut down in the Tech Park to make room for additional development. “It broke my heart to have those trees cut down,” Wacholder said. “Instead of turning the fallen trees into firewood, I had them rough cut turned into timber and stored in the barn until they dried out because I knew they could be reused and serve a future purpose. This is truly a dream fulfilled as we have been able to preserve the historic character of the barn that will allow it to serve a 21st-century function.”
The barn now serves as a multipurpose space that will be available to members of the Rensselaer campus, the Tech Park, and surrounding community for programs, meetings, conferences, and special events.
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