Originally built in 1812, this carefully restored residence is an excellent example of the Federal style, and houses an unparalleled antique collection. The Federal style dominated American architecture from around 1780 to 1820, and the Johnston House possesses many of the decorative features that identify it as a "classic" Federal style building. The elliptical fanlight above the front door is a trait typical to virtually every Federal style home. The very regular and strict symmetrical placement of the windows are a typical characteristic as is their six-over-six pane configuration of each window. Another classic Federal style trait found at the Johnston House are the tooth-like projections located just under the cornice; called dentils or modillions, these projections vary somewhat with each house, but the Johnston House possesses simple, unelaborated blocks. The Johnston House was originally built by John Sudam, a lawyer, a two-term State senator, and a New York State Regent, but the house is best known today as the Fred J. Johnston Museum. Fred Johnston began his career in antiques and restoration in 1936, when as a young architectural draftsman he met Henry F. du Pont, who had just started his own museum, the now-famous Winterthur Museum. Impressed by Johnston's aesthetic sensibilities, du Pont made Johnston one of Winterthur's first consultants. After finishing several period rooms for the Winterthur, Johnston stopped the planned construction of a gas station here in Kingston in 1938, saving what would become the Fred J. Johnston House from destruction. For 60 years, Johnston built-up an antique business specializing in 18th and early 19th century furnishings and decorative arts. Called a "small Winterthur-on-Hudson" the Fred J. Johnston collection contains exemplary pieces of furniture such as chests, secretaries, Hudson Valley chairs, American glassware and pottery, and Staffordshire porcelain and pictorial needlework. In 1993, Johnston deeded his property to Friends of Historic Kingston, ensuring that his home and his collection will continue to be shared with visitors as a museum.
Fred J. Johnston House
Photograph by John E. Reinhardt
Fred J. Johnston House, c. 1885
Photograph courtesy of John F. Mathhews
The Fred J. Johnston House is located in the Stockade Historic District at 63 Main Street near the corner of Wall Street. It is located near the historic Old Dutch Church as well as the Ulster County Courthouse. The building is open to the public. For more information, call 845-339-0720.