This Massachusetts House Is The Oldest One In North America

Fairbanks House. (Photo by Magicpiano/Wikipedia)

Did you know the oldest timber frame house in North America is right here in Massachusetts? The Fairbanks House, located in Dedham, was built in the mid-Seventeenth century by early colonial settlers Johnathan and Grace Fairbanks and their six children. 

The historic structure housed eight generations of Fairbanks for nearly 270 years before being converted into a museum on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Fairbanks House "is one of the most important historic houses now standing in the northeastern part of the United States," said Abbott Lowell Cummings, a former Professor of American Decorative Arts at Yale University. 

"Its value to the area and to the nation as a whole lies not so much in its claim to being the oldest house in New England but in its architectural significance… It may be said quite simply that no other house of the mid-17th century in New England has survived in such unbelievable unspoiled condition. It is extraordinary that so early a structure should preserve such a high percentage of original features. It is a veritable storehouse of information concerning the small handful of houses which survive from this early period."

Rear view of house, 1940. (Photo by Stanley Mixton/Library of Congress)

Jonathan and Grace Fairbanks (Fairebanks) and their children settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633. The family spent their early years in Watertown before becoming founding members of Dedham in 1636, when they were granted 12 acres of land. It was at this point that Jonathan hired a master carpenter and master mason to construct a home for his family.

Recent dendrochronological testing of the summer beam in the main hall shows that the beam was cut in 1637. Other smaller support beams in the house have been dated to 1641. Since construction methods of the time did not require aged wood, it has been determined that the main part of the house was built between 1637 and 1641 - with at least a small portion liveable within the first year.

The Museum is currently closed for the season but will reopen on May 2, 2018. More information can be found at

Kitchen west wall, 1940. (Photo by Stanley Mixon/Library of Congress)

Second-floor workroom, 1940. (Photo by Stanley Mixon/Library of Congress)



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