Dr. James Young House, Edenville
Compiled by S. Gardner
From the research of current owner
In the historic hamlet of Edenville just off County Route 1 is a stone house that catches the eye of many passers-by. It stands out not just because it is one of the few surviving native stone block structures in the town, but for its unique decorative elements and meticulously reconstructed historic details. This private residence was built by Dr. James P. Young, one of Warwick’s early physicians. It was built around 1816.
A Professional and Civic Leader’s Life
James Young was born on Oct. 19, 1791. He arrived in Warwick from parts unknown, apparently at the invitation of Dr. Joseph Houston. The Houston homestead still stands next door. He built a new stone house on adjacent property and it was there that Dr. Young brought his bride Harriet, Dr. Houston's daughter. There he practiced medicine, studied local geology, and became a prominent member of the surrounding community. His civic and professional roles included: Warwick School Commissioner , elected to the Orange County Medical Society in 1814, Censor and Treasurer of the Society, and instructor of other physicians such as Dr. John L. Foster and Dr. Samuel Holly. He presented two papers to the Orange County Medical Society, titled "Sleep" (1815) and "Scientific Botany" (1833) .
In addition to these activities he was an avid geologist, and one of his projects included mapping the geology of the area with Dr. J. Heron. He would have been acquainted with many of the prominent political figures of his time. He treated Aaron Burr at least twice, as shown in the list of articles in his possession at the time of his death filed at the Orange County Clerk’s office. He was one of the citizens active in renaming the hamlet of Postville as Edenville. His son Dr. Silas Young was also a geologist, and his valuable mineral collection, perhaps partly his father’s work, was sold to the New York State Museum in 1914. Among Dr. James Young's work is one of the first maps of Warwick's geological heritage.
Dr James Young died at the age of 43 on April 29, 1835 and he and his wife are buried nearby in the cemetery in Edenville.
The native stone building stands out partly due to its structural and decorative elements:
"The front (southern) façade is modern for the time, classical and balanced. The offset main doorway and large multi-paned windows are symmetrically arranged across the front. Dr. Young directed that the windows and doorways be capped with red brick providing a colorful contrast to the pale gray stone body."
The house was laid out as a typical physician’s house, with a separate side entrance leading to a public office area and upstairs medical storage and infirmary space. The private quarters were well appointed, as witnessed by the inventory of personal items at Dr. Young’s death.
Restoring a Past Era
When the current owners purchased the house in 1985, much of the home’s historic detail had been destroyed by ‘modernization’.
The formal parlor walls had been re-done in brick face, the china cupboard had been transformed by adjustable shelving, and an entire window had been walled over. The cellar, prone to wetness partly due to construction of an additional road in close proximity to the foundation, was full of rotted wood and unusable. The Rumford (the ‘cadillac’ of fireplace design) fireplaces had been transformed by ‘heatilators’, and one of the mantels completely removed and stored in an outbuilding.
After sixteen years and an enormous amount of time, effort, and financial investment, the house is truly reborn. The owners have painstakingly restored the house’s damaged elements: drains, an automatic pump, and a period brick floor were installed to resurrect the basement kitchen; shadows of former structures such as trim were carefully traced to replace them; china cupboards were rebuilt; a host of period and replica furniture, decorative elements, and personal effects were gathered or recreated, down to the doorbell-pull for the patient’s entrance; details such as old medical tools and texts, and cooking equipment lend authenticity. The cumulative effect is that of walking into the home while the original owners of the early 19th century are temporarily absent on a house call. The grounds themselves have yielded clues of the former inhabitants and their associates, from ‘strange rocks’ in the garden to teeth dropped off the back porch (presumably the result of extraction).
The visitor does not need to merely imagine the doctor and his family, however, for there he stands: The original painting of Dr. James Young done by the well-known portraitist Elias V. Coe greets visitors to the home once more. Recovered from a former owner of the home and carefully restored, the portrait shows Dr. Young with a mineral in one hand and a leech, symbol of his medical profession, in the other. In the background is a waterworks or aqueduct, a mysterious allusion to some project or interest not yet identified. The portrait’s presence strongly invokes echoes of that former time and the family that lived and worked within these walls. Were they to return today, they would feel quite at home.
In addition to Eager, Headley, and Ruttenber:
Bennett, Grace. Letter to Mr. & Mrs. Schaarf. Undated. Collection of current owners.
Historical Sketch of the Medical Society of the County of Orange: Members, Officers and Scientific Papers 1806-1956. OCMS, 1956.
"Inventory of the James & Silas Young Mineral Collection at the New York State Museum" Database report from the NYS Museum database, edited by S. Gardner. March 2001
Judson, Jeanne "Scars of Years Rest Lightly On Old House," date and newspaper unknown. The author usually wrote for the Middletown Daily Express. Clipping from the collection of the current owners.
Koppel, Dale . "RX for Restoration." Classic American Homes, Oct/Nov. 2000, p. 98-101.
Weidmann, C.S. "Dr. Young’s House" The search for Symmetry and balance in life", Warwick Advertiser 2/13/91 p. 4, 20.
Young, J.P. and J. Heron. "Geological and Mineralogical Map of a part of Orange Co. N. York.". June 1st 1831. Copy in private collection.