The four stone structures that stand at the corners of Crown and John streets, at the heart of Kingston’s Stockade National Historic District, constitute the only intersection in the United States with pre-revolutionary stone buildings on all four corners. If those stones could speak, they could tell countless tales of military conquest, revolutionary fervor and most of all, the costs of war — each of the four buildings was burned when the British took Kingston in 1777. Each building has since been carefully restored.
The Matthewis Persen House stands at the southeast corner of Crown and John streets, a Dutch Colonial house that, like the intersection’s other buildings, has a history that encompasses pre-colonial America. Its earliest structures date roughly from 1661, when the community was still a Dutch colony.The building was burned at least twice, most notably when by British forces in 1777. Having served generations as the home of tavern keepers, doctors and grocers, the Persen House is now operated as Ulster County’s Cultural Heritage Center, where colorful aspects of the county’s teeming history can be found.
Kingston Academy, owned by Gerald Celente and used by the Trends Research Institute for conferences, was built by the “trustees and freeholders” of the City of Kingston in 1774. Latin, mathematics and the arts were taught there, until the British struck. Those same trustees and freeholders raced to restore the building’s function, doing so within five months of the attack. The Academy numbered among its students the artist John Vanderlyn, whose most famous work, “The Landing of Columbus,” hangs in the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington. The Academy, like all the intersection’s buildings, has been constantly renovated and adapted to myriad uses over the decades. Its most recent transformation was as a conference center for The Trends Research Institute.
Like the other buildings at the intersection, the 1750 Franz Roggen House at 42 Crown St, owned by Celente and home to the institute’s offices, was built in the Dutch Colonial style. Unlike the other buildings, it has a history that encompasses a macabre legend. After it was torched by the British, the building’s interior was gutted. Local legend has it that the building became a gallows, its structural beams used for public hangings. In 1800, when the building was finally restored, those “hanging beams” were incorporated in the renovated building. Ever since, the Roggen House has enjoyed a status as one of the city’s most notorious haunted houses.
With walls that are 20 inches thick and sturdy limestone construction, the Matthew Jansen House, owned by Celente, did not yield easily to the British torch in 1777. Nevertheless, after the damage it suffered in the conflagration was repaired, it became the residence of several of Kingston’s most prominent doctors. Kingston’s “House of Doctors” also boasts decorative components from the several historical eras it has survived — pediment door overhangs as well as half a dozen Dutch doors. The care with which it has been restored makes the Jansen House one of the city’s most architecturally distinguished buildings.