Fairbanks House

The Fairbanks House is a historic home built by Jonathan Fairebanke for his wife Grace (Lee Smith) and their family. It is the oldest surviving timber-frame house in North America. The house was occupied and then passed down through eight generations of the family until the early twentieth century. Over the years the original portion was expanded with additions as the needs of the family grew and as fashions of the times dictated. Today the Fairbanks house is owned and operated by the Fairbanks Family in America, a member-based non-profit organization, as a historic house museum.

The house was built in several stages; the center portion of the present house is oldest, with a gable-roofed portion at the center. It was once a lobby-entry, hall-parlor house of two stories with a center chimney bay. The lean-to was added later, contrary to the note on the first floor plan (see image). The oak lintel over its parlor fireplace has been dated by dendrochronology to 1637. Since timber was not seasoned before use in the 17th century, this provides a plausible date for the house's initial construction. Exterior walls were covered with wide oak clapboards at the front, narrower oak on the west gable end, and narrow cedar on the rear. Its front door was originally located to the west side of the chimney-bay, while the rear door is still located at the west end of the north wall. Original front windows included wide banks on each floor and small windows lighting the chimney bay. A well-preserved four-light window survives in the east gable end, but the north and east ends of the house apparently had no windows. A lean-to was later added at the back of the house and, perhaps in 1641, a wing on the east side.

The west wing was added around 1654. The east wing was probably added circa late 1700s, assembled from two earlier buildings elsewhere. A chimney was then built for it; later its roof rafters were raised and reused in a new gambrel roof. The next major change was the expansion of the parlor to the east, under a hip roof, and the addition of the small entry to this expanded space, probably around 1800. A new wing was added to the west side of the house, including two rooms. The last addition to the house, completed by 1881, was a privy added behind the west wing.


16 photos and 1 drawing

Building Activity

  • Nadezhda Nikolova
    Nadezhda Nikolova updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • Nadezhda Nikolova
    Nadezhda Nikolova updated a digital reference and updated
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • alinplotkin
    alinplotkin commented
    about 6 years ago via iPhone