Evolution of the farmhouse

NARROWSBURG, NY — Many Sullivan County farmhouses have survived the passage of time, and their appeal hardly wanes even though time causes them to slump.

Charles Petersheim’s desire is to reincarnate the quintessential farmhouse in a new home, and he has spent the last year and a half planning his work.

On a rainy Friday afternoon, I met Petersheim at Tusten Farms, a two-lot subdivision on roughly 15 acres where he is building two farmhouses, one of which overlooks Halfmoon Lake. Though the rain delayed his crew’s work on the first house, he was in good spirits.

“Farmhouses are about family, tradition and simplicity. I am trying to marry old time living with modern conveniences,” he said.

He wants to show people that “painstaking renovations and iffy mechanicals” don’t have to be part of owning a home in the country. The framing and roof are finished on his first farmhouse, which contains a spacious, open first floor and modern-day essentials like radiant heat, closet space, nine-foot ceilings, three large bedrooms and a collection of 22 windows.

Wide-plank pine floors will eventually be laid down in the 1,900 square-foot house, a wrap-around porch will be built and cedar siding, stained or painted according to the buyer’s preference, will complete the exterior.

Petersheim could have built five houses on the parcel according to Tusten’s zoning law, but he wanted to leave most of the natural habitat untouched along with an old stonewall that spans the length of the driveway.

In August of 2002, Petersheim founded Bluestone Construction and then Catskill Farms, a land planning firm through which he hires his workers. He is conscientious about his role in the layered scheme of building a house.

“My decision to do this causes an impact. There are 40 to 50 workers involved in the construction of one house. When things like the weather cause problems, a lot of people are effected,” he said.

This summer’s frequent rainfall has caused intermittent periods of stagnation, and as Petersheim pointed out, construction is all about momentum. He said it takes four full days for the ground to dry. When the first sunny day comes, he said workers are often overloaded by everything they need to do.

Other trials stem from the limited availability of construction workers in the region.

“One of the challenging things about working up here is that if one person walks out, it is difficult to find a replacement. The nature of construction in western Sullivan County requires me to super micro-manage my projects,” he said.

With the many personalities and needs of his workers, Petersheim commented that building a house must be about them if he is going to reach his goals.

The abundant rain on Friday complicated things when a staircase and a dump truck full of 30 tons of stone arrived within minutes of each other. None of his workers had come to the site on account of the weather, and Petersheim had to make order out of the chaos.

As he walked by the old stonewall in Tusten Farms, directing the dump truck to the second lot, he said, “This is all part of being a dedicated builder.”

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