If you’ve ever found yourself daydreaming about old houses and wondering, “What’s the oldest one in the whole country?” Well, so had we – and we’ll do you one better: this is the oldest timber-framed house on the *continent.* The best part? It’s open to the public!
The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts
The Fairbanks House is the oldest know wood structure in North America. It was built between 1637 and 1641.
How do we know? Dendrochronology, tree ring dating, was used to prove that the tree from which the house was constructed was cut down in 1637. Testing was conducted on the ‘summer beam,’ which provides main structural support for half of the house – that means it would have been one of the first parts of the house to be erected. Another smaller sample was dated to 1641.
The Fairbanks family came to America from Yorkshire, England and hired a master carpenter and master mason to build their home for them. There’s really no better argument for hiring skilled laborers! Quality craftsmanship = longevity.
Eight generations of the Fairbanks family lived in the house. Various additions over the years include the addition of two full wings and a workshop.
It’s easy to note years of plenty, seen in the addition of wallpaper, paint, and larger windows. The years of scarcity, when the money had all but disappeared, began around 1800. No significant alterations were made after that period.
Want to see inside?
The Fairbanks House Museum is open seasonly, from May to October. (Modern conveniences like heat, running water, and electricity were never added!)
If you can’t get over to MA anytime soon, or just want to peruse the interiors from the warmth and comfort of *your* house, that’s possible. The museum is now offering an interactive, 3-D Virtual tour. For a $10 admission, you have access to explore for 48 hours. Click on furniture and details to find out more – in other words, you can totally geek out and no one will rush you!
Have you been to the Fairbanks House? Was it insanely cool? Let us know @circahouses. We’re on a mission to tour every cool old house in the country…and non-houses. All beautiful old buildings matter to us, really. Plus, they could always become houses! I digress. Here are a few highlights: