A Livingston House with a Hudson River View
Tracing the Nearly 185 Year History of a Federal Style Home in Athens, New York
By Carol Robinson
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Apfel House in 2009 with New Greek Columns

Apfel House 2009
New Greek Columns
Garden added by Apfel Family to Livingston House

Garden Addition 2006
Balusters created by Richard Apfel

Handcrafted Balusters
Oak Floor with inlaid Cherry installed 1935 and re-finished 2003

Oak-Cherry Floor
1935 Renovation
Refinished 2003
Hyer Family's 1935 Two Story Addition in 2005

Hyer's 1935 Addition
Common Bond
Brick Pattern

amentities, the interior was in great disrepair. A fire prior to 1930 destroyed part of the center hall staircase as well as the floor surrounding the unit, making upstairs access unsafe. Renters, for the most part, lived on the first floor, although Emily resided in a small dirt-floor basement room which formerly served as the kitchen.

Ownership - James Hyer

When James Hyer purchased the property in 1935, the young man’s intent was to find a home which would provide ample living space for his growing family and meet the needs of his law practice. James Hyer was as notable an Athens community member as Judge Nichols. Hyer not only served on the board of the Athens National Bank but was appointed to the New York State Alcoholic Beverage Commission. For a period of time, Mr. Hyer acted as the Exalted Ruler of the Elks, president of the Greene County Bar Association, and a speaker for the Athens High School's commencement ceremonies. In contrast to the owners before Charles Becker, the Hyers represented the increasing twentieth century upper middleclass trend to rely less on live-in servants or even hired help. Mrs. Hyer, for the most part, assumed responsibility for household chores, although she hired a weekly laundress. Space previously set aside in the basement for servants could be used to meet family needs. During a well-publicized two phase renovation in 1935, the Hyers added a new first floor kitchen wing, three full size bathrooms, an upstairs bedroom, centralized heating, plumbing, and electricity. About fifteen years later, Hyer completed the modification with the conversion of the basement into a law office suite 22 .

Ownership - Janet and Richard Apfel

After the death of his parents, Mark Hyer continued to live at 12 South Water Street until 2003 when he sold the house to Janet and Richard Apfel. Over the past six years, Janet and Richard made numerous property improvements including the replacement of deteriorated portico beams and balusters with replicas of original columns and balusters, creation of a backyard garden, and refinishing of upstairs and downstairs floors.

Overview Architectural Styles which Influenced Anthony Livingston House Design and Updates

Esperanza and Athens, the names which community founders chose for localities, villages, and towns, evoke images of the kinds of dreams which early founders had for the developing region 23 . Hope illuminates the future, giving promise to uncertainty and moving people, communities, and nations towards greatness, while the Greek city-state of Athens served as a prototype for America’s founding principles of virtue, liberty, and democracy 24 . Just as the nation’s capital turned to the Greek and Roman world to find an architectural style worthy for the new republic, a number of Athens’ wealthiest men, including Eugene Van Loon, Isaac Northrup, and Anthony Livingston, chose the straight-line classical simplicity of the Federal style to define their homes.

Historians attribute the turn of the nineteenth century development of Federal architecture to a high regard for the purer art forms of the past as well as the eighteenth century's "increasingly critical, scientific, and analytical view of human history" 25 . Architecture became a potential "instrument of social reform, a tool to instruct and reshape men’s minds and


Conversation with Emily Brunner: August 26, 2009
22.Discussions with Mark Hyer on April 18, 2005 and April 22, 2005.
As Jessica H. Foy writes in American Home Life 1880 – 1930, the average middleclass woman in 1940 did more house work than her mother due to the decline in the number of domestic servants, reduction in the availability of commercial services, and the higher standards of sanitation. (Foy, Jessica H., Thomas J. Schlereth. American Home Life: 1880 – 1930. (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1992:214).
23.Esperanza is the Spanish word for hope.
24.J. Van Vechten Vedder indicates that there has been “quite some controversy” over why the town was called Athens. Although the name reflects the Greek city-state, she feels that this connection has not been satisfactorily explained (27).

Athens Sesquicentennial Celebration 1955

Athens Celebration
Athens Sesquicentennial Celebration Map

Athens Celebration
Walking Tour Map
Hyer House as featured in the Athens Sesquicentennial Celebration

Athens Celebration
Walking Tour
Livingston House
Eugene Van Loon House Athens, New York

Van Loon House
Federal Style
Isaac Northrup House, Athens, New York

Northup House
Federal Style

Anthony Livingston Federal Style House between 1875 and 1900

Livingston House
Federal Style