The Fairbanks House: oldest wood-frame house in North America
I’ve covered some really old houses here on House Crazy – but none as old as this one (at least not in North America!)
The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts was built between 1637 and 1641 it was kept in the same family until it became a museum in the early 20th century.
Now THAT is preservation!
The oldest part of the house slumps down from the chimney as though heaving a great sigh under the weight of the many centuries it has witnessed.
The central chimney must be really well made (or well-maintained), because in a lot of old houses I look at, the chimney is the point of slump which drags the rest of the house down toward that central point.
But this is not just any old house. This is the oldest known surviving timber-frame house in North America!
Here’s a historic photo, probably taken in the late 1800’s:
By the 1940’s the big tree out front was gone…
The home was built by Puritan settlers Jonathan Fairebanke and his wife Grace. It was passed down from this original family for 8 generations.
The age of the house (some 360+ years) has been verified by dendrochronology testing.
The central portion of the home – with the steeply pitched roof – was the original structure. It was added onto over the centuries as the family grew.
The gambrel roofed portions of the building are newer (late 18th or early 19th century), but still relatively old.
Here’s another view of the original portion of the home…
The decision was made not to attempt to restore the house to its appearance at any one period of time, so the Fairbanks House today provides detailed evidence of the many different time periods of its construction and use.
– from: http://www.fairbankshouse.org
The age and condition of the house is really quite breathtaking. The images of it – both recent and historic – are mesmerizing.
Today the Fairbanks house is preserved as a historic house museum by the Fairbanks Family in America, a non-profit organization founded by descendents of the original family. This association has been in existence for over 100 years. The last Fairbanks family member to reside in this house was Rebecca Fairbanks (1827-1908). She moved out in 1904.
The following interior pictures were taken in May of 1940:
The first image is the 1st floor parlor in the 18th century addition…
The photos below were taken in the original center potion of the house…
The oak structural beam pictured above was pinpointed by dendrochronology testing to have been felled in the winter of 1637/38! The ‘house nerd’ in me finds that fact insanely thrilling.
The Fairbanks House is open for public tours between May and October. For us house crazy people, this just might be the ultimate bucket list destination.
I simply LOVE this house – slumpy roof and all!