Nathaniel Backus House // c.1702

Welcome to Franklin, Connecticut, which frankly (pun intended) I had never heard of before driving through it not long ago! The town is located in New London County and was originally a part of Norwich, Connecticut and was called West Farms village. The town incorporated in 1786, creating its own town at that time, and the citizens decided to name their new town after Benjamin Franklin. I wonder if there are more place names in the United States after Benjamin Franklin or George Washington…

This is one of the oldest houses in the sleepy town of Franklin, and it was built around 1702 by Nathaniel Backus, about the same time he was married to his wife, Elizabeth. The Georgian Cape house features a large gambrel roof and a small gabled dormer. The house is representative of many of the earliest homes which once existed in this landscape in the early 18th century. The home appears to have been vacant for some time, and in 2022, was auctioned off. Its future is unclear at this time sadly.

Grindell Gardner House // 1772

In 1772, Grindell Gardner built this Georgian gambrel-roofed house on land which was part of a large tract formerly owned by his
grandfather, Abel Gardner, whose own home sits a stone’s throw away. The charming Cape house is of an unusual type, having the gambrel on the front side only which slopes to a sort of saltbox at the rear, which originally contained the summer kitchen and a water closet. The house was altered in the 1890s with the addition of dormer windows and the removal of the original large central chimney, which was removed prior to the new dormers. By the 1960s, the house had only been owned by four families.


Hyde-Richardson House // c.1728

The Hyde-Richardson House is one of roughly twenty remaining pre-Revolutionary War homes in Newton. The home was built for Timothy Hyde (1689-1756) after he inherited the property including 36 acres and a house from his father John Hyde. Timothy had two wives: Rebecca Davis who he married in 1718 and died in 1724 (seemingly in childbirth); and his second wife Sarah Whitmore, whom he married in 1727. The home was likely built soon after his second marriage. It is possible that parts of the original home on the site were reused for this structure. He served as Surveyor of Highways and Constable and in 1710 was drafted to serve with the militia in the successful siege of Port Royal in Canada. In 1761, Jeremiah Richardson bought the property and married his wife Dorcas Hall that same year. Richardson was a deacon and like Timothy, served as Surveyor of Highways. The property remained a farm until the 1930s when the automobile and suburban expansion reached the Oak Hill section of Newton. The farmland was ultimately was subdivided to create the surrounding neighborhood in the mid 20th century.

Hodge-Weeks House // c.1790

One of the oldest extant houses in Dorset, Vermont, this gorgeous Federal Cape house adds so much charm to the village. The house is possibly the homestead of James Abel Hodge (1756-1826) who settled in Dorset from Connecticut after serving in the Revolutionary War. Hodge settled in the town when it was but wilderness, opening up a store in the village and helping the infant township grow into a thriving marble manufactory. This house was later owned by stonecutter I. W. Dunton and after, by “Grandma” Annette Weeks (1841-1925). Like many Cape houses, it probably evolved, adding wings to the right and left as the family inside grew.

Warren Dunton House // c.1890

Much of Dorset Village was built in the early-to-mid 19th century, but there are some excellent examples of Colonial Revival and Craftsman homes and buildings. This Colonial Revival house was built c.1890 seemingly by Warren Robbins Dunton (1839-1902), who served as a Captain in the American Civil War. Captain Dunton seemingly built his home after moving the older house on the site back on the lot, building this house at the street. Great house, look at those chunky shutters that actually match the window openings!

Daniel Davis Homestead // 1739

In 1739, recently married Daniel Davis (1713-1799) and Mehitable Lothrop Davis (1717-1764) inherited land in Barnstable Village from Mehitable’s father Thomas as their wedding present. The young couple broke ground on a new family home that year. Daniel Davis fought in the American Revolution and was was a selectman, assessor, town clerk, and treasurer for Barnstable and represented it at the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Council. Davis also held the position of Guardian of the Mashpee Indians, a position begun in 1746 when Massachusetts appointed white guardians to manage each Indian reservation in the province, the Mashpees protested. Daniel Davis died in the home in 1799. The house retains much of its original design from the multi-pane double-hung windows to the large, central chimney.

Merritt House // c.1725

In 1725, Samuel Merritt, a fisherman, inherited some of his father’s land in Marblehead and built this house. After Samuel Merritt died in 1743, his second wife Mary, her daughters Mary and Elizabeth and her son-in-law James Dennis, lived in the house. They added the one-story lean-to, giving the house a saltbox roof in 1762. This house, and many others in Marblehead are the reason why human-scaled historic neighborhoods built before the automobile, are some of the best places to explore. Historic preservation equals tourism, which results in tax revenue and property values, stabilizing neighborhoods and cities from the ebbs and flows of the economy. Gotta love it!

Pearson-Bessom House // c.1720

In 1720, James Pearson acquired a house lot on Windmill Hill in Marblehead, and he soon after built a house in the bustling harbor town. He lived in the house until 1734, when it was sold to a Giles Irwin. After Mr. Irwin’s death, it was conveyed to John Patton and John Bailey, both mariners, who likely split up the home inside. From this, fireplaces were punched into the central chimney inside, totaling 10 fireplaces in the home! John Bailey also worked as the Captain of Fort Sewall during the War of 1812. His wife Mary, served as temporary commander of Ft. Sewell after his death until a successor was appointed. The house eventually came under the ownership of siblings Carrie Florence Bessom (1867-1944) and her brother Frank Lewis Bessom (1870-1952). Florence operated an antiques store in town and Frank worked as a welfare commissioner. The home is a great example of a Georgian, Colonial-era home with a gambrel roof and even has the two (what I believe to be) separate coal doors in the raised stone foundation when the home was occupied by two families.

Henry Sherburne House // c.1770

This house in the Hill District of Portsmouth, NH was built sometime between 1766 and 1770; however a sign posted on the house indicates an earlier date of 1725. Regardless, the house is one of the best-preserved Georgian homes in the city. The colonial-era home was apparently built for a Henry Sherburne, who was a member of some of New Hampshire’s leading families. By the 1900s, the property was the only in the city with a surviving scrolled pediment doorway from the period. Like other colonial homes in the old North End of Portsmouth, it was barely saved by the bulldozers and urban renewal when it was moved in 1972 to its present site.

Jabez Fitch House // 1725

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is one of the most charming towns in New England to explore by foot, largely due to its walkable network of streets and tight blocks filled with preserved Revolution-era homes. Like many other cities all over the region (and nation), Portsmouth was hit by Urban Renewal, a planning tool used nationwide to provide Federal funds to address “urban blight” and revitalize downtown cores after decades of suburbanization and loss of tax revenue. An urban renewal district for Portsmouth was its North End neighborhood, which similar to Boston’s, was home to a vibrant Italian-American population.

In 1964, federal funds were allocated to the North End project area in Portsmouth, for urban renewal. Prior to redevelopment, the North End was a mix of residential and commercial buildings, with many older houses converted into storefronts with apartments above. In the mid-1960s, the area was considered overcrowded, run down, and a fire hazard. As a result, the Portsmouth Housing Authority proposed the destruction of approximately 200 buildings, a school, and a church and redevelopment for commercial, industrial, and public use, rather than for residences. The project would displace approximately 300 families as a result. In 1968, Portsmouth Preservation Inc., a preservation organization was formed to attempt to save some of the historic building stock in the area slated for redevelopment. After bitter fighting and preservation advocacy, just fourteen houses were saved and mostly moved to an area known today as “The Hill”. This building is one of them. It was constructed around 1725 for Rev. Jabez Fitch, the new minister of the North Church in town. Fitch graduated from Harvard College in 1694 first settling in Ipswich, MA, before becoming minister of the North Church in 1724, a position he held until his death in 1746. The house was one of the few in the urban renewal area to not have been moved.