Burnham House // c.1682

Samuel Burnham bought an older house on this site, and added to it, creating a larger residence for his family (a common occurrence in early Colonial times). One thing he did keep was a 30-foot well within the building to supply the family drinking water. Interior wells were not common, but very useful on the New England “frontier” where attacks from Native American tribes were more frequent. In the event of an attack in town, a family could close their interior shutters, and wait them out with drinking water from their internal well.

God, I love old New England homes! Could you live in one that is older than the United States?

Valentine Hill House // c.1649

Valentine Hill emigrated to Boston in 1636 from England with his brother and began a successful career as a merchant and trader. In 1638 Valentine was made a member of the Artillery Company, In 1640 he took the Freeman’s Oath, and in that same year ordained as a Deacon in the Boston Church. In 1641 he was elected a Selectman serving until 1647. In 1643 Valentine received a grant of land at the falls of the Oyster River in what is now Durham, N.H. In 1649, Valentine and an associate got permission to build a saw mill on the river. Additional grants of land included 500 acres for farming. Due to issues with his businesses in Boston, he moved up to present-day Durham to manage his mills and property there. On the property, he employed “seven Scots”, who were indentured servants captured by British forces in the Battle of Dunbar, and among other industries, lumber was milled for use in the shipbuilding industry in surrounding towns. In 1649 Valentine Hill built the original homestead, a single-story house with a basement. In 1699, Nathaniel Hill, son and heir of Valentine, made a two-story addition to the house, giving the home the appearance we see today. After successive owners, the next major period of the property was early in the 1900’s, when James Frost took over the estate, completing the transformation of the grounds and turned into a Colonial Revival summer estate with extensive formal gardens, arbors and an elaborate stone wall. The property remained in the family until the 1980s, but suffered from some neglect. The house was purchased in 1997 and restored to her former glory and is now known as the Three Chimneys Inn. Interestingly, if this home can be dated with dendrochronology (aging the home based on the age of the cut timber), this home would be at least a decade older than the present oldest home in New Hampshire!

Ryder Homestead // c.1675

The oldest home in Marion, this c.1675 Cape house apparently has interior structural elements dating the home to the earliest colonized days of Sippican Village. The tiny home was built for a member of the Ryder family around 1675, according to the Sippican Historical Society. It was recorded and noted as standing by the 1690s. The home is an example of a three-quarter cape, meaning there are two bays on one side of the front door and one on the other side. During colonial times, for economic reasons, a newly married couple could build a half-cape house with a door, two windows to one side of the door and a single fireplace heating multiple rooms. It was expected that they would expand the house to either a three-quarter house by adding a single window on the other side of the door or doubling the size of the home adding two other bays, all rooms heated by the central chimney.

Faulkner Homestead // 1707

One of three pre-1725 houses in South Acton, the Faulkner Homestead is the best preserved First Period house in the area and displays elements from its First Period construction date of 1707 and from the later Georgian period. The home was built for Ephraim Jones, who was one of the first millers starting what was to become the Faulkner mills located near the old homestead. The home was known as a Garrison House, built as a refuge for the settlers in times of Indian raids, but there is no record that it was ever used for that purpose. In the 1730s, the home was rented by Ammi R. Faulkner (1692-1756), who purchased it years after he moved in. The Faulkner Homestead remained in the Faulkner Family for over 300 years, when it sold our of the family in the 1940s.

Joseph Reynolds House // 1698

This three-story wood-frame house is one of the oldest buildings in Bristol and the oldest known three-story building in Rhode Island. The home was built by Joseph Reynolds (1679-1759), a patriarch in the Reynolds Family, who later built the Reynolds-DeWolf House I featured previously. The house is five bays wide and three deep with the roof extending lower to the rear, giving the house a classic New England saltbox appearance. Joseph built this house, and also operated a tannery and gristmill on his land. The home is nationally significant as during the ownership of the house by his son Joseph II, Marquis de Lafayette occupied the north parlor chamber. Lafayette was a general in the Continental Army and was responsible for the defense of Bristol and Warren from September 7 to 23, 1778 during failed military operations to drive the British from occupied Newport. The home was added onto and altered in 1790 to give it the current design, with Federal detailing. The home remained in the Reynolds Family until 1930.

John Balch House // c.1679

One of the oldest extant homes in the country is this home in Beverly, Massachusetts constructed around 1679, one hundred years prior to our country’s founding. John Balch was born in Bridgewater, England in 1579! He and his first wife, Margaret, were part of a group sent to New England by the Dorchester Company to establish a fishing industry. The Dorchester Company first landed in Weymouth in 1623, then moved north to Gloucester in 1624, but the settlement there was not successful. When the company was recalled to England, the Balches, and a small group known as “The Old Planters” stayed in Massachusetts and moved south to Naumkeg, now Salem, in 1626. At this point, modern day Beverly was a part of Salem. John Balch first gained title to the land here through the “Thousand Acre Grant” in 1635 and apparently was living on this property by 1636. His house was small – built a story and a half high – one large hall on the main floor plus a loft upstairs. He chose a site on a hill that looked down on the nearby Bass River, where he had easy access to salt marsh and to his pasture land and orchards. By the 1670s, the home needed to be enlarged and was to the current configuration, later additions were added as housing demands changed. The Balch Family owned the house in to the early 20th century and the home was acquired by William Sumner Appleton, founder of Historic New England (who arguably did more for historic preservation in New England than anyone). He hired Norman Isham, a popular preservation architect, to evaluate the house. After finding original rafters in the attic, he recommended that the back lean-to be ripped off and the southern half of the house be dismantled (see historic photo before restoration). In 1932, the property was gifted to the local historical society, now Historic Beverly who maintain the house to this day.

Rev. John Hale House // 1694

This stunning house was built in 1694, possibly with structural members from an earlier parsonage, by Beverly’s first minister, Rev. John Hale (1636–1700). Hale is now best remembered for playing a significant part in the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692. Hale’s theory was that demons impersonated the accused and appeared in their forms to the afflicted. He probably most likely changed his views about those executed for “being witches” due to the fact that his own wife (the second one) was accused as being a witch, though never prosecuted. Hale served as the minister of the First Parish Church of Beverly (last post) until his death. This home, just a short walk to his church, was the finest in town at the time. The house featured numerous additions and alterations over its time including the gambrel section added in 1745. The Hale House remained in the family for 12 generations, and was eventually gifted to the local historical society, now known as Historic Beverly in 1935. It now operates as a house museum.

Whipple House // c.1680

Hamilton, Massachusetts was first settled in 1638 and was originally a section of Ipswich known as “The Hamlet”. The first recorded land grant in the Hamlet was Matthew Whipple’s farm, dated 1638. On this land, the old stagecoach road (now Bay Road) connecting Newburyport to Boston was laid out through his and his brother’s land in 1641. A descendant of William (also named William) built this home along the stagecoach road in around 1680, likely operating it as a tavern for weary travelers. In 1712, Matthew Whipple IV and his brothers John and James petitioned the Town of Ipswich for the right to establish a church in the Hamlet, and succeeded. By 1800, the home was occupied by the Brown Family, with Capt. Daniel Brown occupying the home as a postmaster and tavern-keeper. Over the years, the home was “modernized” giving it Georgian double-hung windows, replacing the historic diamond pane casement windows. The home was eventually restored to its 17th century appearance and sold for an estimated $2 Million.

Hubbard-Brown House // c.1670

One of the oldest extant homes in Essex County Massachusetts is this stunning First Period home in Hamilton. Reverend William Hubbard (1621-1704), arrived to New England in 1635 at the age of 13, soon after graduating among the first class from Harvard College in 1642. As an adult, he was one of the earliest ministers in the town of Ipswich, was given a grant of land which included some 1,500 acres in what is now the town of Hamilton (later incorporated in 1793). Like nearly all early settlers, Hubbard built a small house and used much of the surround land for farming. Before his death, Rev. Hubbard willed the estate to his eldest son John, who soon after sold much of the property to John Brown. The Brown family grew into the home for two centuries, constructing additions, as housing needs changed over time. The home sold out of the Brown Family in 1920 when it was purchased by a George Fitz, who began restoration of the 250+ year old home.

Ingersoll’s Ordinary // 1670

Nathaniel Ingersoll (1632-1718) was born in Salem to Richard and Ann Ingersoll, who arrived to Salem in 1629 from Bedfordshire England. Ingersoll and his family ran an “ordinary” – the 17th century term for a local tavern – which was the social center of the community of Salem Village, then an agricultural village of Salem Town. The estate even had a watch tower for citizens to watch for Native American attacks from the forest.

During the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, those accused of witchcraft were brought to the Ordinary before their initial hearings and held in an upstairs room. Originally, the hearings themselves – with accusers throwing themselves on the ground in front of the judges, screaming, and claiming to see the “specters” of the accused torturing them – were to be held in the barroom as county court sessions were. Due to the large crowds that wanted to watch the spectacle, the hearings were moved down the road to the meetinghouse (see past post), but afterwards the judges and spectators returned to the tavern for lunch and drinks. John Indian, Reverend Samuel Parris’ slave and husband of Tituba, the first accused and killed of witchcraft, worked the bar sometimes for Ingersoll, and he would show off scars on his arm to out-of-towners who passed through, bragging that he got them when he was attacked by witches. The barroom at Ingersoll’s is also where one of the accusers admitted that they were accusing and sending innocent people to their deaths for nothing but “sport.”

When Nathaniel Ingersoll died in 1718, the estate was sold and operated as a tavern through the 1700s and into the 1800s under different owners. Due to its proximity to the militia training field, it was frequented by the men who later marched from Danvers to confront the British soldiers on the day of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The home eventually became the parsonage of the First Church of Danvers and remained as such until about 1970, when the home was acquired as a private home.