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Lecture Series: Van Houten House: Paterson’s 18th Century Legacy

The Van Houten House is a city-owned property within Westside Park, a municipal park bordering the north shore of the Passaic River. The 26.6-acre park was established in 1888 from a parcel previously acquired by the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.) from the Dutch-American Van Houten family. This parcel had been part of a working farm from the early 18th century up until its acquisition by the City. It included the Van Houten farmhouse with wings constructed circa 1741 and 1831. The house was preserved as part of Westside Park. In addition to the house, today the park features a variety of recreational facilities (picnic areas, baseball field, tennis courts, playground, hockey court, etc.), as well as memorials and open spaces.

The Van Houten House’s older and smaller east wing is a one-story with attic, two-room plan, side-gabled, stone structure, characteristic of vernacular Dutch-American colonial houses in northern New Jersey and the Hudson Valley. It was built circa 1741. The larger west wing is a two-story brownstone structure with a side-hall plan and an attic story under a gambrel roof. The larger wing was built in 1831 following a fire, but retained some of the form and style of a vernacular Dutch-American colonial farmhouse, although heavily influenced by then current fashions, including Greek Revival ornamentation. The east wing also appears to have been repaired following the fire, quite possibly having its front wall refaced with ashlar to match the west wing. Charred ceiling joists in the east wing’s kitchen would seem to substantiate the impact of the fire. Though sections of the house have been altered, both wings retain integrity of materials, design and workmanship relative to their respective architectural styles and periods, including the ornate G reek Revival doorway on the façade of the 1831 west wing, multiple interior elements including door and fireplace surrounds, and more common Dutch-American elements such as house plan and framing methods. Both the east and west wing are considered architecturally significant on their own merits and offer an interesting contrast in the evolution of Dutch-American vernacular architectural traditions and influences.

The purpose of the project was to provide for 1) a developmental history of the Van Houten House, summarizing prior research and adding new findings from primary research and analysis; 2) evaluate the house’s current condition; 3) provide an architectural and structural evaluation with recommendations for work needed to preserve significant historic fabric; and 4) offer recommendations for the future treatment and use of the house.

Special guest speakers Patrick Harshbarger from Hunter Research, Gianfranco Archimede from the Paterson Historic Preservation Commission, and Joanne Wiley from Friends of Van Houten House will conduct a presentation of the legacy of the historic Van Houten House and its ongoing preservation efforts.

The event will be held at the Dey Mansion in Wayne, located at 199 Totowa Road.

Seating is limited, please RSVP by calling 973-706-6640 or emailing