Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Massachusetts


Abbot House

Fairbanks House, 511 East Street, DEDHAM, Norfolk County, Massachusetts (Latitude 42.646563, Longitude -71.152219)

(a) Primary phase Felling dates: Winter 1637/8 and Winter 1640/41

Roof boards Felling dates: Winter 1652/3 and Winter 1654/5

(a) Summer beam 1637(13C); Joist 1640(15C); Wall boarding on stairs 1638(9), 1640(11) ; Sill beam 1618(H/S); Mantle beam (0/1); Chimney girt (0/1); Post (0/1); Studs (0/2); stave (0/1); Clap boards (0/2); Ex situ board (0/1). Site Master 1487-1640 FHD-1 (t = 6.6 ALC4; 5.79 BOSTON01; 5.61 ALC3)(b) Boards (4/5) 1652(C), 1654(21C, 28C2). Site Master 1546-1654 FHD-2 (t = 4.28 DWH; 4.23 ALC10; 3.55 ALC4)

Jonathan Fairbanks was granted twelve acres of land in Dedham on March 23, 1637, on the same date that he was accepted as a townsman. By 1641, he had built a two-and-one-half story, central chimney plan house with hall on the west side of the chimney, parlour on the east, and two chambers above, of which only the parlour chamber was heated. The main roof is of five bays with principal rafters, butt purlins, common rafters, and thin plank windbraces which unusually rise up to the principals. The wall framing is interesting in that it is unjettied and utilises trenched bracing and full height studs through two storeys.

The Fairbanks House, long recognised for its early construction date, archaic features, and unrestored condition, retains cedar clapboards on the upper portion of the north wall preserved by the addition of a rear lean-to at an early date. Whether the clapboards date from the completion of the house is uncertain, but it is interesting to note that in 1640, the selectmen provided that Jonathan Fairbanks "may have one cedar tree set out unto him to dispose of where he will: In consideration of some special service he hath done for the towne."

Thin oak boards, six to eight inches in width and nailed to the rafters several inches apart, are unlike the typical roof sheathing boards found in most seventeenth century houses. The fact that they are fourteen years later in date than the timbers in the main body of the house suggests that they may represent an early alteration to the roofing of the house. Cummings speculates that they could have been intended to receive thatch or shingles (Cummings 1979, 141).

Early on, the parlour and parlour chamber were extended by one bay to the east. Before 1764 an ell with gambrel roof was built on the west side. A few years later, according to tradition, a separate building was attached to the east side of the house, which had or was given a gambrel roof.

The Fairbanks House is owned and preserved by the Fairbanks Family in America, Inc, they can be found here.

Miles, D H, Worthington, M J, and Grady, A A, 2002 "Development of Standard Tree-Ring Chronologies for Dating Historic Structures in Eastern Massachusetts Phase II", Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory unpublished report 2002/6




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Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory

Michael Worthington
Jane Seiter, Ph.D

25 E. Montgomery St.
Baltimore, MD 21230