MADAM BRETT HOMESTEAD
Homestead Reopen for Tours
Tours every 2nd Saturday May thru December 1:00-4:00 pm
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.
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.
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.
In a 1999 letter written by James M. Johnson he states that “Beatrice Fredriksen wrote in The Role of Dutchess County During the American Revolution that the Brett-Teller house ‘was famed for its hospitality. General Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, and Baron Von Steuben were often guests of the Major [Schenck- who married Madam Brett’s granddaughter Hannah]'.” Militia supplies were stored in the basement for troops, and soldiers sometimes slept in rows on the floor upstairs in the Long Room.
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.
The Madam Brett Homestead collection includes a religious sermon book, and on the inside cover is written, “Catheryna Brett, Her book. When you have Read it unto the End. pray send it home I Did it Lend.” in her own handwriting. Reverend Robert VanKleeck married Margaret Teller, of the fourth generation of Brett descendants to inherit the Homestead. Four of their five children became or married ministers. 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.