The Fairbanks House Is The Oldest Surviving Wood Frame House In North America

 
 
 
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The Fairbanks House was built between 1637 and 1641 in Dedham, Massachusetts and today it stands as the oldest surviving wood frame house in North America. The house was built for a Puritan family who immigrated from Yorkshire, England. Jonathan Fairebanke constructed this farm house for his wife Grace and their six children.

It passed down through eight generations of the family until the early 20th century. During that time, as the family grew, the house was expanded, and it changed many architectural styles.

The oldest part of the present house is the center portion which has a gable-roofed part at the center, and in the past, this part was a lobby-entry. Based on dendrochronology of several timbers in the house, the oldest section of Fairbanks House was finished around 1641.

There are many American houses which are still waiting to be scientifically dated and maybe are older than this one, but for now, the Fairbanks House is regarded universally as the oldest house in New England. The whole exterior of the house is covered with oak and cedar clapboards, and it has windows only on the west and the south side.

Fairbanks House in Dedham. – By Magicpiano – GFDL
It was built by Jonathan Fairbanks, and it stayed in this family for eight generations. – By Swampyank – CC BY 3.0
It was built around 1637, and it’s the oldest surviving wood frame house in North America. – By Swampyank – CC BY 3.0
The bedroom on the first floor
The parlor on the first floor
The kitchen
The workroom on the second floor
The bedroom on the second floor

The west wing of the house was built around 1654, and the east wing was added in the 18th century. After its construction, a chimney was built at its top, and around 1800 expansion of the parlor was made on this side. At the same time, a new wing with two rooms was added to the west side, and behind this side, a toilet was made as the last addition to the house.

The early inhabitants of the house carved hex signs into the mantle in order to protect themselves from witches. Also, shoes have been found in the attic to chase away evil spirits. In 1895, one of the heirs, Rebecca Fairbanks, was in a difficult financial situation, so she sold the house to John Crowley who after the selling allowed her to live there.

Later, Rebecca sold many of the family items including a unique wooden chest which was made by John Houghton in 1658. This item was purchased back by the family in 2003.

Read another story from us: Greensted Church: The world’s oldest surviving wooden church and the oldest timber building in Europe

When Crowley wanted to tear down the house in 1897, it was immediately purchased by Mrs. J. A. Codman and her daughter. In 1904, the newly established Fairbanks Family took the house over, and in 1905 it became a museum. In 1960, it was declared a National Historic Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.