Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Massachusetts


Cooper-Frost-Austin House, 21 Linnaean Street, Cambridge, Middlesex Co, Massachusetts (42.36679, -71.106019)

(a) Primary phase Felling Dates: Winter 1675/6, Winter 1680/81, and Spring 1681

Purlin 1675(C); Summer beam 1680(22C); Mantle beam 1680(17¼C); Joist 1671(8); Tiebeams (0/2). Site Master 1527-1680 CFA (t = 6.87 ALC2; 6.27 ITH; 5.81 BOSTON01)

The Cooper-Frost-Austin House is first mentioned in documents in 1689. "The Register Book of the Lands and Houses in the ‘New Towne’" states that by November 29, 1689, Samuel Cooper had built & settled in Cambridge. Samuel Cooper built the house on land that his father, Dea. John Cooper had owned since 1657.

The original structure was a single room and chimney bay in width, two and one half stories in height with an integral lean-to. The construction date of the Cooper-Frost-Austin House of 1681-1682, identified in the present tree-ring study, now makes this lean-to coeval with the integral lean-to at the Whipple-Matthews House in Hamilton, built 1680-1683. The latter has frequently been cited as the earliest surviving integral lean-to (Cummings 1979, 115). In both cases, the rear tie beams are cantilevered over the rear plate in order to give more head-room in the lean-to attic. The Whipple-Matthews House, however, employs a system of framing in which single long timbers form the rear rafter of the front range and the lean-to, a system that would become the standard method of framing integral lean-tos. The system used in Cooper’s house is now the unique example of its type (Isham 1928, Fig 19, 25). At the Cooper-Frost-Austin House the rafter of the main body of the house is morticed into a purlin in the position of a tilted false plate that is set into a notch on the upper face of the end of the tie beam. A separate lean-to rafter is then tenoned into the end of the tie beam and secured with a wooden pin (Cummings 1979, 87).

The west rooms and lean-to behind them were added soon after Samuel Cooper’s son, Walter inherited the house 1718, perhaps at the time his marriage in 1722. The one-story porch was added in the early eighteenth century. SPNEA acquired the house in 1912. Joseph Everett Chandler, noted restoration architect, supervised structural repairs and the removal of later finish materials in the hall.

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

Link to Historic New England's World Wide Web pages for this building here.

Commissioner: Historic New England Webpage Cooper-Frost-Austin House.




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Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory

Michael Worthington
Jane Seiter, Ph.D

25 E. Montgomery St.
Baltimore, MD 21230