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The Re-Discovery of the James House

In 1931, after two hundred twenty-six years and seven generations, the James family sold the property. The new owners farmed on a smaller scale for a few years, and finally not at all. By 1972 the house was vacant, as it has remained ever since.

Known to local historians as "probably a very old house", there was little evidence available to support claims that it is a truly First Period structure. Nevertheless, realizing the historic value of the property, and the pressing need to stop further deterioration, concerned citizens formed the James House Association in 1994 for the purpose of acquiring and saving the structure. With generous donations from area citizens and businesses, sufficient funds were raised to acquire the house and one acre of land in 1995. Additional adjacent land has been acquired in 2001, gifted by the Town of Hampton.

As soon as the property was acquired, preservation work began. Our master craftsmen and preservation consultants uncovered many features which provide evidence of original construction during the First Period. Click on the numbered points below to see up close examples of significant First Period features.

principal rafters and common purlins
Fully braced frame
Hewn frame of white oak and chestnut
One room deep frame backed by a second frame Longitudinal chestnut summer beams
Dry-laid stone foundation, stone chimney base and puncheon stairs Vertical feather edge sheathing
1. Fully braced frame with three bay façade on the second floor and five bays on the first floor
2. One room deep frame backed by a second frame gives the appearance of two room deep structure.
3. Longitudinal chestnut summer beams with chamfered edges and lambs tongue stops.
4. Dry-laid stone foundation, stone chimney base and puncheon stairs to cellar under ½ of house.
5. Vertical feather edge sheathing on interior walls with planed pine ceiling and beaded battens.
6. Hewn frame of white oak and chestnut with exposed chamfered posts, girts and plates.
7. Roofing members consisting of principal rafters and common purlins.

Our historians and genealogists have accumulated a vast amount of information about the James family, their house and farm, and the use of the adjoining farmland and marshland over the past 300 years. The results of our research, as well as the house itself, is shared with the schools in our education programs.

Professional archaeologists from Strawbery Banke and Sargent Museum, archaeologists Sheila Charles and Neil DePaoli, and "junior archaeologists" from local schools, have uncovered many 18th and 19th century artifacts. These will contribute to our knowledge of the James family and early New England farm life. Archaeologists are consulted before the grounds are disturbed by any exterior construction or preservation work.

In 2004, Dan Lynch of Soil Sight, LLC was hired to perform a subsurface survey of the three acre homestead. The survey results provide a picture of where buildings stood in the past and where orchards and gardens were located. Lucinda Brockway of Past Designs was hired to perform an above ground survey. Both surveys will be used to form an historical landscape design.

The early deeds, tax records, and construction techniques all seemed to support the claim that the James house was constructed during the First Period. None was conclusive by itself. The science of dendrochronology has provided our assurance. Using growth ring data from the Boston Regional Master Dating Chronology, which extends from 1513 to 1997, as applied to borings from oak beams and timbers in the James House, a professional dendrochronologist has confirmed the James House construction date to be 1723.

 
 

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