Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Massachusetts


Tuttle House

Tuttle House, 103 High Street, Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts (42.686706, -70.845884)

(also known as the Merchant Choate House and Austin Lord House)

(a) Primary phase (southern end) Felling Date: Winter 1670/71

(a) Chimney girt 1670(13C); Summer beam 1670(13C); Joists 1638, 1640(13), 1643; Rear girt (0/1); Posts 0/2). Site Master 1495-1670 ITH (t = 6.81 ALC2; 6.27 CFA; 5.4 BOSTON01)

(b) Northern extension Felling Date: Winter 1671/2 and 1672

((b) Rear wall brace 1671(C); Posts (3/4) 1672(?C); Wallplate (0/1); Reused wallplate (0/1). Site Master 1584-1672 ith02 (t = 6.52 BOSTON01; 4.63 ALC2; 4.63 CHN)

(c) Repair to northern extension Felling Date: After 1761

(c) LH end girt 1761. Site Master 1694-1761 ith01 (t = 5.69 BOSTON02; 4.49 BOSTON01; 3.36 HH)

Previous dendrochronological dating of the Tuttle House places construction of the left-hand room and chimney bay in 1672-1673 (Krusic 2001). The right-hand room, examined as part of the current project, was constructed in 1671. Physical evidence indicates that two single cell one-and-one-half-story cottages, one minus a chimney bay, were put together to form a central chimney house plan possibly as late as 1705. The structures were later raised to a full two stories. A lean-to and rear lateral extensions were added likely during the eighteenth century.

The retention of two rare early story-and-one-half building frames, and the carefully-documented restoration undertaken by the present owners in which many early features were left exposed, makes this house a unique document of early building practices. The presence of braces trenched to receive studs in the left-hand frame, a feature now found only in the this house and the Fairbanks House (1638-1641), revises our thinking about the continued use of trenched braces. Such braces were previously thought to be an archaic feature surviving only from the earliest years of English settlement. Physical evidence indicates that originally the right-hand frame has a principal rafter/ common purlin roof, which is one of the earliest known examples of the use this new framing system.

A new girt, tree-ring dated to 1761, was installed on the left end of the house, perhaps at the time that the house was raised to a full two stories. Because the existing frame could not be spread, the girt was morticed into the rear post, but attached by a dovetail joint to the front post.

The title history of the property, identified by Thomas Franklin Waters and others, cannot be easily correlated with the construction evidence. A closer reading of the documents will be necessary in order to decipher the history of the structure (if indeed it can be documented), to determine whether either portion of the early house sits on its original foundation, and to identify where the dwelling house of William Merchant, built before 1668, ostensibly on this property and present in 1694, might have been located.

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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Contact Information

Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory

Michael Worthington
Jane Seiter, Ph.D

25 E. Montgomery St.
Baltimore, MD 21230