Fairbanks House

October 25, 2007

Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts is one of the oldest extant houses in America. Built only 17 years after the landing at Plymouth, it is also typical, “the modern average middle class home of its time.? The building has been added onto at several times in the past but the original structure was a common double height two room English cottage. It had a hall and parlor on the ground floor, on either side of an axis which contained main entrance, large double fireplace chimney, and access to the upper floor. The hall would be kitchen, work room and family gathering place, while the adjacent parlor served the more outwardly societal functions of receiving room, as well as principal bedroom at night. Upstairs, the two other chambers might both have been bedrooms or possibly bedroom and storage chamber as there was a fireplace in only one of them. As a home for a family of eight, its comforts seem limited from a contemporary point of view, in its own time, however it was equipped with all of the modern necessities. The house used the standard half timbering construction method common in England at the time and was further protected from the more harsh New England elements by a second skin of unpainted clapboard. It was arranged around a central fireplace, which had only become common in vernacular housing during the second half of the 16th century. It would have had at, or shortly after, construction glass windows rather than the oiled paper or the empty openings with wooden shutters which had sufficed in England. Additionally it boasted a cellar/workroom and a nearby privy (sited away from the house for sanitary reasons).

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