Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts

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Milica Sterjova
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Located in Dedham, Massachusetts, built in the middle of the 17th Century, Fairbanks house is the oldest standing wood-framed house not only in New England but also in the north-eastern region of the United States. It is one of the most important houses in America’s history and a symbol of the country’s colonial past.

It was built for a Puritan family who immigrated from Yorkshire, England, in 1633. They lived in Boston for about three years before they settled in Dedham as one of the earliest settler families.

Fairbanks house was built between 1637 and 1641. After Jonathan Fairbanks, his wife Grace, and their six children, this building was a home for eight more generations of the Fairbanks family.

Jonathan Fairbanks House, Dedham, MA

 

Fairbanks house, floor plan of the first floor

Based on the scientific method of tree-ring dating known as dendrochronology, it is possible to see that the house was built in several stages. It originally had four rooms – two on the first floor and two on the second.

The central portion was finished at 1641, and was built of oak and cedar. A lean-to was added at the back of the house a few years after the main section’s construction, while the east wing was built around 1641. The west wing, which was built for the family of Jonathan’s son, John, around 1654.

Workroom on the second floor

East wall of the kitchen, first floor

Over the generations, Fairbanks house saw some changes. The central part of the house, with a steep roof, was the original structure. In the late 18th century the steep roof was replaced with the gambrel roof. Around 1800, Fairbanks’ inheritors expanded the parlor to the east and added a small entry to this part of the house. One more wing consisting of two rooms was added to the west part of the house. The most recent addition was a privy behind the west wing in the late 19th Century.

Interior, first floor

In 1879, Nancy Fairbanks, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Jonathan and Grace Fairbanks, died. Since she was without husband or children, she left the house to her unmarried niece Rebecca. Rebecca was the last family member to of lived in the house. After she moved out, The Fairbanks Family association, which was made up of Jonathan and Grace’s descendants, opened the house as a museum.

Fairbanks house, view from west end

Fairbanks house, view from southeast

It is amazing that the Fairbanks house survived so many years in such a good condition. Considering the type of building, its age and construction and the original features that have survived, the Fairbanks house today presents an extraordinary piece of history. It is an authentic, standing collection of many different periods that the house has been through. The Fairbanks museum is still owned and maintained by the Fairbanks Family association and is open for tours.