Rhinebeck couple end four decades of devotion to the Quitman House

The rich presence of history in Rhinebeck is almost palpable in a modest Adams-style historic house on Route 9 north of the Route 9G intersection.

Built in 1798 as the parsonage for the Stone Church next door, the Quitman House was recognized by the town of Rhinebeck, which owns the property, as a local landmark in 1986. Today, the Quitman House is known as the Quitman Resource Center for Preservation (“QRC”), and it houses hundreds of years of documentation and artifacts. The center also advocates for the rehabilitation, preservation, and/or restoration of historic Rhinebeck resources by providing workshops, information, and resources.

Although a five-member board oversees QRC, it was the devotion and commitment of Marilyn and John Hatch that literally kept the doors open over the last 40 years. The couple, who lived in the cozy downstairs apartment at the landmark house, just moved to Maine to be close to their son and family. As she recently conducted one of her last tours of the exhibits, Marilyn said, “I think what I enjoyed most, even more than the restoration of the building, is learning the history of the family.” She easily related interesting details while pointing out costumes, furniture, and memorabilia.

There was a time, however, when the Quitman House came close to closing. It had fallen on hard times in the 1930s and was a rental property facing demolition in 1974, when it was saved by a Rhinebeck Historical Society committee of six who leased the site, determined to restore its historic significance. After that, Marilyn recalled, “John and I and the other volunteers had done wiring and plastering and put a new roof on … then, the trustees of the Stone Church decided they wanted us to vacate. In 1985, we went to court, and the judge not only declared that we had a valid lease, but he also said that the house was to be given to the Town of Rhinebeck for historic purposes.”

One of Marilyn’s many grant proposals resulted in the repainting of the house’s exterior in 2011 with $10,000 from the local Thompson Trust. “Historic preservation has just taken off, and people recognize the importance of restoring our historic buildings,” Marilyn explained.

There are many people in Rhinebeck who also recognize the dedication of the Hatches.

Beverly Kane of the Museum of Rhinebeck said, “I know Marilyn and John have been the driving force in making the Quitman House a wonderful and important piece of our local history. It simply would not be there if it wasn’t for their years of hard work and devotion.”

At a 2011 event to honor Marilyn, Michael Frazier of the Rhinebeck Historical Society and the Consortium spoke of her project that resulted in hundreds of structures being placed on the National Register. “Marilyn Hatch contributed enormously to Rhinebeck’s deep appreciation of its history. Together with John, she worked tirelessly over decades to uncover, understand, and share our heritage. She will be sorely missed by all of us who enjoy learning about Rhinebeck’s history.”

Current QRC Board President Conrad Fingado added, “It’s been an interesting experience for me, and I’m looking forward to continuing the work. We’ll be looking for new members, since Marilyn’s leaving will create quite a vacuum.”

As the couple packed for their move to Maine, Marilyn said, “On this long, wonderful journey, John and I have had the pleasure of working with and getting to know many great volunteers, and we could not have accomplished what we did without them. Continued support of these projects makes Rhinebeck a community grounded in our very special history.”

Those interested can assist in funding through memberships and QRC fundraising events. Upcoming is an ice cream social on July 12, and later in the fall, a 19th century-themed Harvest Dinner at the Elmendorph Inn in Red Hook on Oct. 18.

The Resource Room at the site is a small library open to the public, and the QRC periodically offers hands-on workshops in archaeology, photo restoration, or stone wall reconstruction. A comprehensive database of resources is also accessible on the Consortium of Rhinebeck History website (www.rhinebeckhistory.org).

Quitman House Resource Center for Preservation
7015 Route 9, Rhinebeck,
Open June 14 through September, 1-4 pm Saturdays, or by appointment (wheelchair accessible, limited to the first floor)
(845) 871-1798 info@quitmanpreservation.org www.quitmanpreservation.org

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