A Craftsman's Home in Rosendale | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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A Craftsman's Home in Rosendale 

Vis Old House

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Jerry Vis in his home workshop. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Jerry Vis in his home workshop.
A Daughter in the Bar Business
Daughter Giovanna "Jenny" Vis, together with husband Paul Maloney, owns the Stockade Tavern, an atmospheric watering hole in uptown Kingston known for craft versions of yesteryear's cocktails.

Before opening the bar about three-and-a-half years ago, Jenny worked for her father designing houses. She used those skills to create Stockade's mostly Federal-style interior. Jerry and brother Ben built the booths, floor, and wall paneling. To dress up the 19th-century tin ceiling, they installed 10-inch crown molding that drops down to house indirect ambient lighting.

"Making the Stockade look the way it does really was a family effort," says Vis. "My wife and I love to go there early in the evening. We didn't used to hang out in bars, I can assure you, but when it's in your family..." says Vis.

"We stay at my parents' house about a month every summer, taking care of my grandfather," says Jenny. "It's a wonderful house. This Christmas, we're planning on sleeping over."

Son Tristan Planted the Permaculture Garden
Younger son Tristan, a permaculture expert who's relocating soon to Patagonia, currently lives at home. "Oh, there's plenty of room for all of us," laughs Vis, a calm and pleasant man.

Tristan added a pond, fed with rainwater collected from the roof, which trickles down in swales—sort of like ditches—to water the vegetables and companion plantings. Vis is proud of the family's permaculture commitment. "We just let Tristan experiment, practice what he had learned, and now we grow all this food, and never use a rototiller, insecticide, or fertilizer," he explains.

Vis Counterfeited the Hasbrouck House Fireplace Mantle
Vis graduated from the Parsons School of Design and later earned an MFA in painting and sculpture at Rutgers University in 1970. He and his wife bought an 1820s house in Rockland County. At the time, Vis was teaching art at a college in New Jersey. Renovating their house, Vis unearthed interesting period details, teaching himself as he went along. He proved so gifted that soon he found people willing to pay him for quality historic-home renovations and restorations. Jobs came by word-of-mouth.

Thus began a love affair with old houses that has grown, over 38 years, into Cottage Industries, a diversified architectural design firm he owns and operates together with his older son, Ben. One of their most challenging projects to date was to replicate a 1750 fireplace mantle and paneled room taken from the Hasbrouck House in High Falls and sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it's on display in the American Wing.

About two years ago, the Hasbrouck House's new owner, a businessman of ample means, hired Cottage Industries to create an exact replica. "We met with the curator of the American Wing and had all the access we needed," says Vis.

It was just the kind of rigorously purist job Vis relishes. Over the years, he's accumulated a library of 1,500 books on subjects pertaining to period architecture and woodworking. Vis also collects antique tools.

Living room with painting by Jerry Vis over the fireplace. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Living room with painting by Jerry Vis over the fireplace.
Hudson Valley Hauntings
Vis once worked on a 19th-century ruin on the Hudson River. The place was in terrible shape. The closer it got to being livable, the more strange things began to happen. There was an aroma of soup cooking in the kitchen—before the new one was built. There were oddly intense smells of a burning cigar and fresh lilacs. The electrician quit after his tools were scattered about mysteriously.

Vis had a vivid dream. Two sisters were arguing. There was a boy. A candle got knocked over. There was a fire. One of the sisters died. The boy came to Vis in the dream and they had a conversation. Vis reassured him the accident was not his fault.

Then the strange events stopped. "So I believe in house ghosts now. They don't bother me," says Vis. "We're not very religious, but we do celebrate Christmas. My wife's cooking a goose, and food on the table made from vegetables we grew."

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