Rev. Robert F. Crary oil painting, 1910.

The Madam Brett Homestead
Located at 50 VanNydeck Avenue, at the corner of Teller Avenue, and one block off Main Street, in Beacon, New York. (845) 831-6533.

Roger and Catheryna Rombout Brett, built the homestead about 1709, on property inherited from her father, Francis Rombout. She received his one-third of the original 85,000-acre Rombout Patent. The original document is on display at the homestead. Widowed at an early age, Madam Brett remained in the wilderness to raise three sons and run several successful business ventures. The home was inhabited by seven generations of the Brett family and significant interior furnishings reflect several periods.

Catheryna Rombout Brett (1687-1764)

Catheryna Rombout Brett, successfully defended her boundaries at law. She chose as her surveyor, the best man in the profession, and established her lines beyond the possibility of loss. She managed her estate personally, transacting business in her own hand, and with the highest men in the Province of New York. Under British Common Law, Catheryna was wise not to remarry.  As a widow, she could legally carry on business. If she had remarried, all her wealth would have been under the control of her new husband.  As the only woman with twenty-one men, Catheryna organized the first producers' co-operative, and entered it on equal terms with the other men. She brought up her sons well and lived at the homestead with her son Francis, until her death. She was a generous patron of her church and is buried under the pulpit of the First Reformed Church of Fishkill.


“Her home in Beacon will stand as a memorial of a great pioneer, who made the most of a great opportunity, and of whom her county will always be proud.”
- Henry Noble MacCracken, former Vassar College President, local historian and author, 1957.


The Remarkable Homestead....

From the outside, the Madam Brett Homestead is often misleading.  First-time visitors, during a tour of the inside remark, “that the house really is so much bigger than they first thought and so well kept.”  The tour allows visitors into all seventeen rooms and to experience the period furnishings actually used by this extraordinary family during nearly 250 years of life in the Hudson River Valley.

Photo by Denise D. VanBuren

The property's nearly six acres remaining from Madam Brett's original inheritance of over 28,000 acres, feature a garden, woodlands, and a meandering brook. The homestead's notable features include hand-hewn scalloped cedar shingles, sloped dormers, Dutch doors, and a native stone foundation. Original furnishings include a significant collection of China-Trade Porcelain and many fine pieces of 18th and 19th century furniture. The colonial-era kitchen is a favorite part of many visitors' tours inside, as is strolling outside through the garden. Also noteworthy are the wide-board floors, hand-hewn beams, and the large hearth of the kitchen fireplace.


Photograph by On Location Studios,
Poughkeepsie, NY

Three Centuries of Hospitality

The homestead offers the visitor of today, a unique opportunity to experience the charm of yesterday, through a tour of the servants quarters, through to the formal drawing room. The homestead and its collection remind us of the seven generations who lived within these rooms, raising large families and playing an important role in the affairs of their community. One generation served in the New York State Assembly and another in the United States Congress.  One descendant founded a local church, and another married the grandson of Robert Fulton.  Here, Hudson River Valley history comes to life.

Photograph by On Location Studios, Poughkeepsie, NY

Drawing Room

In a 1999 letter written by James M. Johnson Colonel, U.S. Retired, he states that “Beatrice Fredriksen wrote in The Role of Dutchess County During the American Revolution (pg. 40) that the Brett-Teller house `was famed for its hospitality. General Washington, Marquis De La Fayette, and Baron Von Steuben were often guests of the Major'.”  Militia supplies were stored in the basement for troops, and soldiers sometimes slept in rows on the floor upstairs in the “Long Room."  The homestead reflects their influence on American life.




Photograph by On Location Studios, Poughkeepsie, NY

The Federal-style Dining Room

In 1800, great-granddaughter Alice Schenck Teller, purchased the homestead from her widowed mother.  The deed described the homestead as “the old farm and old farm mansion."  Alice and husband Isaac, remodeled the house. After Isaac's death, the homestead was named “Teller's Villa” and the family promoted it in New York as a boarding house for those wealthy enough to stay in the country to escape the cholera epidemic. In the summer of 1833, John Pintard, the father of the New York Historical Society, stayed at the homestead and wrote detailed letters of his stay to his daughter in New Orleans.


Photograph by On Location Studios, Poughkeepsie, NY

The Colonial-style Bedroom

The Madam Brett Homestead collection includes a religious sermon book whose inside cover includes her script, “Catheryna Brett, Her book. When you have Read it unto the End. pray send it home I Did it Lend.” Reverend Robert VanKleeck married Margaret Teller, of the fifth generation of Brett descendants to inherit the Homestead. All four children of their children, became or married reverends. Their daughter Agnes VanKleeck, married Reverend Robert Fulton Crary, whose daughter Cornelia was the last of the Brett descendants to live in the homestead. She died just months after signing the deed to the homestead over to the Melzingah Chapter, NSDAR.


Illustration by Melzingah Chapter, DAR member #244, Elsie Horton McDaniel

Melzingah Chapter House

The Madam Brett Homestead passed through the generations of daughters ending with the Daughters of the American Revolution. Members of Melzingah Chapter, DAR,  who volunteer as docents, also conduct their chapter's monthly meetings in the formal drawing room, where long after the death of Madam Brett, her grandson-in-law, Major Schenck, entertained generals during the American Revolution. In 1954, when plans to raze the home and construct a supermarket on the site were unveiled, members of Melzingah Chapter, DAR,  with the support of the local community, rescued the historic Madam Brett Homestead. For nearly fifty years now, the Melzingah Chapter, DAR,  has owned and preserved the oldest building in Dutchess County.  Since 1976, the Madam Brett Homestead has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Until the 2003 grand opening of the museum of modern sculpture, Dia: Beacon, the homestead was Beacon's only museum.

Madam Brett Homestead
50 Van Nydeck Avenue
Beacon, NY 12508-3326

(845) 831-6533

Open houses are held for the public from 1-4 PM (allow 45 minutes for a tour)
on the “Second Saturday” of the month, April through December.
Admission fees: $5/ adult, $2/ student

For scheduling information, please call the Homestead at 845-831-6533. A recorded message will provide the name and phone number of the person to contact regarding these tours.




Directions:
Following the east side of the Hudson River on NY Rt. 9 D north to Beacon - Proceed past “Welcome to Beacon” sign 1.8 miles to bust of General Washington. Turn right onto Teller Avenue proceed three blocks. Turn right onto VanNydeck Avenue. Parking at Homestead on right.

Traveling west on Interstate 84 - Exit 11 Beacon. Turn left south on NY Rt. 9 D. Travel 1.9 miles to the bust of General Washington. Turn left onto Teller Avenue. Proceed past three blocks. Turn right onto VanNydeck Avenue. Parking at Homestead on right.

Traveling on the NY State Thruway (I-87) - Exit 17 Newburgh. Follow ramps to I-84 east. Cross the Hudson River on the Newburgh/Beacon Bridge. Exit 11 Beacon. Turn right onto NY Rt. 9 D. Travel 1.9 miles to the bust of General Washington. Turn left onto Teller Avenue. Proceed past three blocks. Turn right onto VanNydeck Avenue. Parking at Homestead on right.

From NY Rt. 52, Fishkill - Proceed west to Beacon 6 miles to Beacon traffic light at Main Street (name changes to Teller Avenue). Proceed straight, immediate left turn onto VanNydeck Avenue. Parking at Homestead on right.

From US Rt. 9 Wappingers Falls - at intersection with NY Rt. 9 D south. Proceed to Beacon intersection with I-84. Travel 1.9 miles to the bust of General Washington. Turn left onto Teller Avenue. Proceed past three blocks. Turn right onto VanNydeck Avenue. Parking at Homestead on right.



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