Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Massachusetts


Mass Coffin House

Coffin House, 16 High Road Newbury, Essex County, Mass (42.79977, -70.862808)

(a) South-west ell Felling Dates: Winter 1676/7, Winter 1677/8

(b) North-east cross-wing Felling Date: Winter 1712/13

(a) Posts (1/2) 1676(8C); Tiebeam 1676(21C); Principal rafters 1676(11C, 12C), 1677(9C). (b) Post 1712 (15C); Principal rafters 1712(16C), Black Ash principal rafter 1712(C); Black Ash collar 1713(C). Site Master 1560-1712 CHN (t = 6.35 BOSTON01; 6.25 PHD-2; 6.08 ALC3)

The earliest part of the Coffin House was built in 1678 on land owned by Tristram Coffin, Jr., though how he acquired the land is not recorded. The property remained in Coffin family ownership until it came to SPNEA in 1929 and was for a time divided in ownership among several members of the Coffin family (Spring 1929, 6-7). The traditional date of c. 1654 was assigned by Joshua Coffin, author of the 1845 history of Newbury, who resided in the house (Coffin 1845, 391).

The Coffin House, long cited as the earliest example of the principal rafter/common purlin roof, may no longer hold that distinction, now that the construction date has been pushed forward by twenty years. However, even in 1675, the roof is one of the earliest extant expressions of this innovative framing system.

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Chronologies for Dating Historic Structures in Eastern Massachusetts Phase II", Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory unpublished report 2002/6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 the Historic New England webpage for the Coffin  House here.




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Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory

Michael Worthington
Jane Seiter, Ph.D

25 E. Montgomery St.
Baltimore, MD 21230