First Period & Early New England Colonial (Approximately 1600-1780)

The following is the first of a series of historical architectural design of New England, appearing on our blog page. Please look for upcoming articles on Georgian (Approximately 1700-1780), Federal (Approximately 1780-1825), Greek Revival (Approximately 1825-1860), Gothic Revival (Approximately 1840-1880), Italianate (Approximately 1840-1885), Second Empire (Approximately 1855-1885), Stick (Approximately 1860-1890), Queen Anne (Approximately 1880-1910), Shingle (Approximately 1880-1900), Colonial Revival (Approximately 1880-1955) and Tudor (Approximately 1890-1940).

Built in 1637-1641, stands the timber frame Fairbanks House (above) in Dedham, Massachusetts. It is the oldest verified standing house in North America. Houses built during this time were not designed by architects and were fashioned after medieval England. Houses were made with whatever material was accessible in the areas in which they were built, wood and stone being common. In consideration of heavy winter snow, roofs were steeply pitched. Windows did not follow a particular pattern. Most homes had two stories. Each floor was essentially one room. It was not uncommon to see lofts or sleep areas several steps above the second story. The interiors were modest and simple with little to no ornamentation. Houses were commonly heated with large center chimneys. As time grew, styles came to vary and some original houses ultimately included additions. Some took on a saltbox-like appearance. Regardless of immediately visible differences, houses were supported by heavy oak frames. Pegs secured interlocking posts and beams. Sticks, twigs, mud and clay insulated against the cold and unpainted clapboards or shingles against severe weather. Massachusetts has the highest number of first period houses, although there are few, and they do not all possess original material.

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Sources Cited: Antique Homes Guide to Styles; Historical New England; About Homes & Home Guides