The Senate House State Historic Site
This historic limestone house is where the Senate of the State of New York first formally met in 1777. It was originally built by Dutch immigrant Wessel Ten Broeck in 1676 and features furniture and other items that represent how Dutch immigrants lived in the 18th century. An adjacent building was constructed in 1927 to accommodate the growing museum collection. This building houses the paintings, drawings other works of John Vanderlyn (1775-1852), the artist who painted the "Landing of Columbus" on the ceiling of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The house was placed on that National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The site also features the Loughran House, which was built in 1873.
Backstory and Context
The Senate House was built in 1676 by German-born Wessel Ten Broeck as a simple one room Dutch home. The original foundation can still be seen in the middle section of the home. Later, an addition was made to the home, including a second room and a detached kitchen, which was common for the time. Eventually, another room was added and used as a store before serving as a Senate chamber in the 1770s. The Ten Broeck family remained in the house after Wessel's death in 1747. In the 1740s, Sarah Ten Broeck and her husband Abraham Van Gaasbeek were occupying the home with their two children. Their daughter Rachel died in 1775, followed by Sarah in 1776. Because his son Peter was fighting the in the Revolutionary War, Abraham was the only individual left in the house.
In 1777, the State Government of New York was created. In April of that year, the State Constitution was ratified in Kingston, and two months later, George Clinton was sworn-in as the first governor. At first, joint sessions of the new government were held at the court house. When it came time for the two chambers to meet separately, the Assembly huddled at Bogardus Tavern, while the Senate met at Abraham Van Gaasbeek's home. This arrangement benefited Abraham, who was a merchant and had no way of getting his dry goods shipped from New York City to Kingston because of the British occupying the City, therefore, the rent charged to the Senate was his main source of income. The first meeting took place on September 9, 1777, with 17 of the 24 senators in attendance. Some of the first matters addressed included raising money for the militia and setting rules for the new government.
The Senate's time meeting at the Van Gaasbeek was brief. In October, the British advanced and took over Forts Clinton and Montgomery nearby. Upon learning of this, the Senate opted to leave Kingston and soon thereafter the British landed in Kingston the city. It is not known how the badly the Senate House was affected by the fires, but it is likely that reconstruction began in the spring of 1778. The brick used on the rear of the Senate House is from the late 18th or early 19th century, and so is the woodwork inside. After the Van Gaasbeek family left the house, it was briefly used as a school for girls, but afterwards it went back to being a private residence. Owners expanded the simple Dutch home by adding a wooden addition and porches.
In 1887, a descendant of Wessel Ten Broeck sold the house to New York State. The State made their own changes, such as removing the wooden additions and recreating an 18th century kitchen. The Senate House today reflects four centuries of reconstructive work. In 1927, a two-story museum was built next to the Senate House, housing historic documents and the collection of John Vanderlyn. Vanderlyn, a Kingston native, was a well-respected artist who painted the "The Landing of Columbus," which was placed in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. In addition to Vanderlyn's paintings, the Senate House also holds his sketchbooks and papers. The Loughran House is also apart of the Senate House State Historic Site. The Italianate house, built between 1872 and 1873, was home to Dr. Robert Loughran, a prominent doctor and philanthropist in the Hudson Valley. The house was acquired by the New York State Historic Trust in 1968. The Senate House remains in the hands of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
History of the Senate House, Friends of the Senate House. Accessed August 15th 2020. https://www.senatehousekingston.org/history-senate-house/.
John Vanderlyn Biography, Friends of the Senate House. Accessed August 17th 2020. https://www.senatehousekingston.org/john-vanderlyn-biography/.
Senate House State Historic Site, National Park Service. Accessed August 17th 2020. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/kingston/k2.htm.
The Loughran House, Friends of the Senate House. Accessed August 17th 2020. https://www.senatehousekingston.org/the-loughran-house/.
Bielinski, Stefan. Wessel Ten Broeck, New York State Museum. February 25th 2002. Accessed August 17th 2020. https://exhibitions.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/bios/t/wtbroeck83.html.
Friends of the Senate House
New York Heritage Digital Collections
Friends of the Senate House
Smithsonian American Art Museum