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?

Sherman’s Inn – Beverly Yacht Club // 1784

One of the oldest homes in Sippican/Wharf Village in Marion, Mass., this beautiful Cape house with gambrel roof dates to 1784 from deed research. The house was constructed by two owners, Barnabas Luce, innholder, and Stephen Cunningham, a mariner, seemingly as an inn for sailors who would dock their ships in the harbor just behind the property. It was later acquired by Edward Sherman (1790-1867), a shipwright and carpenter who built schooners at the wharfs in town. In 1868, his son Edward Franklin Sherman (1821-1907), also a ship carpenter, sold the waterfront property after his father’s death to Andrew A. Harwood, an admiral in the United States Navy, Commodore of the Washington Navy Yard, and through his mother, Elizabeth Franklin Bache, a great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin! The property remained in the Harwood family until, 1955, when the property was sold to the Beverly Yacht Club. The yacht club was originally named after the town of Beverly, north of Boston, when members broke from the Eastern Yacht Club of Marblehead which was more prestigious. For the first 23 years, the club had no fixed location, but eventually settled in Bourne, and merged with the local Sippican Yacht Club. The Great Hurricane of 1938 destroyed their clubhouse and they were “homeless” for years until moving into this 1784 home, later expanding it to meet growing needs.

John Carter House // c.1765

The simplicity and proportions of old Georgian houses are just so pleasing to me. This c.1765 home was built before the United States of America was even a country, a fact that always boggles my mind when doing research on buildings. These four walls have survived numerous wars, pandemics, families, and storms, and will continue to do so for (hopefully) hundreds of more years in the future. This Canterbury house was built for John Carter (1708-1776) and his family, which included a wife and over 10 children in all. The house retains its double-width doors, 12-over-12 windows, central chimney (though likely reduced in size), and stone foundation.

Jordan Schoolhouse // c.1735

Waterford was once part of New London, but it separated in 1801 as the area desired its own town government which took agricultural interests more seriously. In the 19th century, much of the town’s economy was centered around agriculture, with many residents running sheep farms. During the 20th century, sheep farms were replaced by dairy farms. Between 1920 and 1960, there were about 100 dairy farms in Waterford. After WWII, suburbanization occurred and many wealthy residents of nearby New London moved to Waterford for more space. The oldest surviving public building in Waterford, Connecticut is this Colonial-era schoolhouse which was likely built in the 1730s. The Jordan Schoolhouse was built as a rural schoolhouse as farmers wanted their children to be taught writing, reading, arithmetic, and religion, even if they followed their parent’s footsteps in farming. The gambrel-roofed Georgian building was used as a school until the mid-19th century and it was converted to a private home for Asa and Eliza Gallup and their family. The schoolhouse was eventually moved to its current site on Jordan Green in 1972 and is operated as a museum space for the Waterford Historical Society.

Old Newington Parsonage // c.1725

The Old Parsonage in Newington, NH, is a rare survivor from the 1700s in the tiny town. It is one of few extant “saltbox” houses to be found in the New Hampshire seacoast. Like most houses of this type, the parsonage has a lean-to that was added a few years after the house was built. Like the nearby meeting house, the parsonage has long been inextricably connected to the public life and the identity of Newington. Unlike the much-altered meeting house, the parsonage retains the appearance of the 1700s and has been extremely well-preserved, giving a glimpse into 18th century life in Newington. The parsonage is estimated to have been constructed in 1725 when Richard Pomeroy, the first Sexton of the church, sold the property here for 19 pounds, with no mention of a dwelling. It was acquired by a John Knight (1685-1765). After his death, the dwelling was sold to the Town of Newington and restored to be used as a parsonage.

Jones Tavern // 1732

Settlement of South Acton (by colonialists) was begun in 1701 when the Jones and Knight families purchased 600 acres of a private land grant. Over the next 26 years, members of the two families established and operated mills near the Fort Pond Brook, which provided running water for operations. Samuel Jones built a home here in 1732, which as originally built, was a simple, four room central entry Georgian home with gable roof, typical of many eastern Massachusetts homes at the time. In 1750, Jones opened a tavern and general store in his house, enlarging it with a two story addition now visible on the left side. Samuel’s son Aaron Jones, a Harvard graduate and soldier who fought at the Battle of Concord nearby, took over the tavern from his father. In 1818, Aaron more than doubled the size of his establishment when he built a large, 5-bay extension and rear kitchen ell directly behind the existing structure. In addition to enlarging his property, Aaron also had it “modernized”, inserting sash windows (replacing the casement windows) throughout and adding fashionable Federal style door and window surrounds. The additions gave the building two major entries, as well as secondary access to the communal taproom. The property was then willed to his son Elnathan Jones, who operated the establishment until 1845 as both a tavern and hotel. The building remained in the Jones family until it was sold in 1946, and divided inside into multi-family use. The house was sold for salvage in 1964 after years of neglect, but was saved by Iron Work Farm, Inc., a non-profit who maintain the property to this day.

Rev. Sampson Spaulding House // 1737

Sampson Spaulding (1711-1796) studied at Harvard University to become a minister. At the age of just 23, he was called to be the first minister at the new First Congregational Church in 1736. To entice the young minister to the rural new town of Tewksbury, this Georgian mansion was constructed, probably with help from his new congregation. He married Mehetable Hunt, a local woman, and they had six children. Rev. Spaulding was
stricken with paralysis in 1791 in the middle of a church service, and he died five years later. He became one of the first burials in the new cemetery in town, now known as the Tewksbury Cemetery. The gambrel-roofed Georgian mansion stands today as one of the oldest homes in Tewksbury.

Hubbell-Lacey Homestead // c.1750

Remaining of the oldest extant homes in Brookfield, this Georgian home has stood for almost 275 years, and looks much like it did when first built! The home was constructed around 1750 for Peter Hubbell, one of the earliest colonial settlers of the Parish of Newbury, renamed Brookfield in 1778, when the town was officially incorporated. The Hubbell Homestead is an excellent vernacular Georgian home with a central chimney and stunning board-and-batten front door with small transom above. Peter Hubbell moved to newly established Iron Works Village along the Still River in the Newbury Parish, likely for business interests. The property sold numerous times until it was sold to Dr. Noah Lacey, a town doctor who later served as a State Representative and as a member of the Connecticut Constitutional Convention in 1818. By the 1930s, the home was owned by an Alice Bennett, and that year, she was said to have had a friend living at the home, a Miss Edna Ferber. In 1930, Edna Ferber wrote her novel “American Beauty” which took place in the fictional town of Oakes Field, which has too many resemblances to Brookfield to be coincidental. Hopefully the rumors are true about her writing this book (which is a great read even today) in this home!

Merwin-Hill House // c.1779

This Georgian home in Brookfield, CT was built around 1779 for Isaac Merwin (1742-1810), his wife, and their thirteen children. The symmetrical two-story saltbox home showcases that high-style residences were built in even remote towns all over New England, especially after the Revolution. After Isaac’s death in 1810, the property went to his son Erastus who resided there until his death in 1869. The home changed hands a couple more times until the 20th century when it was occupied by Mabel Wood Hill of New York, as her country retreat. Ms. Hill, who gave the country house the name “Wood Hill Farm”, was a Brooklyn-born composer, who wrote music scores for Leopold Stokowski, who apparently visited this home often. Mabel also was a founder of the Brooklyn Music School, the New York Music School Settlement, and the Hudson River Music School. Her Irish-Scottish ancestry helped her become an authority in the bagpipe, which she also taught.

Coggeshall Farm // c.1750

Located on the Poppasquash Peninsula, in my favorite Rhode Island town of Bristol, the Coggeshall Farmhouse showcases the historic rural farming character of the town, which saw much development by the 19th century. In 1723, Samuel Viall (1667-1749 purchased farmland from Nathaniel Byfield, who had acquired most of the north part of Poppasquash as one of the original “founders” of Bristol (though the Wampanoag people had been already living here for centuries). Viall or a descendent likely had this small Georgian farmhouse built on the land, along with outbuildings to farm the beautiful land here. In the early nineteenth-century Wilbour and Eliza Coggeshall were tenant farmers at the farm. The Coggeshall’s son, Chandler Coggeshall, later became a politician and helped to found the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1888, which became known as the University of Rhode Island. The farm eventually was acquired by industrialist Samuel P. Colt, nephew of firearms manufacturer Samuel Colt, who created a massive estate on the land. In 1965 the State of Rhode Island purchased the Colt Estate for use as a state park, and the Bristol Historical Society petitioned the state for permission to preserve the old Coggeshall farm house on the property as a museum. Coggeshall Farm Museum was established in 1973 to educate modern Americans about eighteenth century New England farm life.