The Jacob Peabody house (c 1685)

Jacob Peabody house
Jacob Peabody house, Topsfield MA

Records indicate that the house was built by Jacob Peabody (1) between 1685 when he reached the age of 21 and no later than 1689 when he died. The listing with the National Register of Historic Places estimates circa 1700, with structural indication of 17th Century construction. The 1985 MACRIS inventory with the Massachusetts Historical Commission written by Ann Grady gives a construction date of 1680 – 1700.

The massive frame, deeply jowled corner posts and tall summer beams are also found in Topsfield’s 1683 Parson Capen House and the Zaccheus Gould House, a unique feature of local architecture. The First Period Buildings of Eastern Massachusetts resource sheet states, “On the basis of nearly identical molded post-heads in two Topsfield houses, we can assign both the ca. 1670 Zaccheus Gould House and the Stephen Foster House to one unknown carpenter.”

Previous foundation of the Jacob Peabody house in Topsfield
Previous foundation of the Jacob Peabody house in Topsfield

Until the end of the 20th Century, this small house sat on a stone foundation that is well-preserved in the front of the present extended building. A substantial stone shelf in the rear may have been used for keeping dairy products cool. After the house was moved to its current location a few yards to the right, the present owners turned the old foundation into a wildflower garden.

Although the old foundation has the dimensions of the preserved structure, cut-off purlins at the right end of the attic indicate that the house was once extended. A small addition on the right was removed when the current owners moved the house a few feet to make it part of their larger house on a modern concrete foundation.

The Jacob Peabody - Stephen Foster house in 1685 (MACRIS listing)
The Jacob Peabody – Stephen Foster house in 1685 (MACRIS listing)

Listing on the National Register of Historic Places

The house is listed in the National Register as the Stephen Foster house after an 18th Century owner who married the sister of Jacob Peabody III. Ann Grady wrote the documentation for this house when it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980:

“The house is unusual in that it retains on the exterior the First Period single cell massing usually obscured by later additions. The retention of a branch on the rear plate to serve as a brace is an unusual example of vernacular carpentry practice. While related to the occasional use by First Period carpenters of ships’ knees to strengthen the frame, the branch brace represents the inventive solution of a single carpenter. A straight-run staircase has replaced the original chimney in the chimney bay at the right hand end. On the second floor, the summer tie beam is embellished with 1 3/4” flat chamfers and a stylized variant of the chamfered taper stop.

Roof framing visible in the attic is comprised of principal rafters bridle jointed at the ridge, four large purlins per slope and a purlin at the ridge. The purlins, 5 l/2″-6″ wide and 3″ deep, are hewn, like the major framing members. The roof over the chimney bay was rebuilt probably at the time that the central chimney was removed in the late 19th century. The cut off ends of the purlins which spanned the chimney bay remained trenched behind the rafters over the chimney beam.

The collar beam over the chimney tie was lapped and was a foot lower than the tenoned collar beams which remain in the two left hand-most sets of rafters. In the left end wall, the studs are lapped behind the collar beam. Although traditionally dated c. 1700, the house has a completely oak frame of substantial dimensions. These characteristics of the frame might suggest either an earlier construction date or retardataire methods.”

Matching faces on the undersides of the wide second floor floorboards are scribed with Roman numerals, sometimes partially hidden by the supporting floor joists.

Deed transfers

Deed of Jacob Peabody II transfer to Jacob Foster in 1717
Deed of Jacob Peabody II transfer to Jacob Foster in 1717

In 1717 Jacob Peabody II transferred some of the property to Jacob Foster, who married Rebecca Peabody (1). Their Son Stephen married Rebecca Peabody (2).

Jacob Peabody III "et all" transferred property to his sister Rebecca's husband Stephen Foster in 1752. (image from Salem Deeds).
Jacob Peabody III “et all” transferred property to his sister Rebecca’s husband Stephen Foster in 1752. (image from Salem Deeds).

Genealogy from WikiTree and Descendants of Francis Peabody:

Lieutenant Francis Francis Peabody formerly Pabodie Born about 19 Feb 1614 in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England. Husband of Mary (Foster) Peabody married 1650 (to 19 Feb 1698) Father of Jacob Peabody IDied about 19 Feb 1698. By his will, dated Jan. 20, 1695, he gives his son Isaac Peabody his mills and mill-yard on Howlett Brook, and the dwelling house by the mill.

Jacob Peabody 1, Born 28 Jul 1664 in Topsfield, Son of Francis (Pabodie). Died 24 Nov. 14, 1689. He married on Jan. 12, 1686, Abigail, daughter of Edmund and Mary (Browning) Towne, born Aug. 6, 1664. He died Nov. 24, 1689. His brother Isaac was joined with the widow in the administration of the estate. She maintained the children and paid their portions in due time. She married second, Jan. 14, 1696, Thomas Perley.

Jacob Peabody II, Born November 9, 1689 in Topsfield, was the son of Jacob Peabody I and Abigail (Towne) Perley. Husband of Rebecca (Baker) Peabody, married April 30, 1711 in Topsfield. Father of Jacob Peabody III and Rebecca Peabody, who married Stephen Foster. Jacob Peabody II died July 24, 1740 in Topsfield.

Dr. Jacob Peabody III, Born about February 18, 1712 in Topsfield. Son of Jacob Peabody II and Rebecca (Baker) Peabody. Husband of Susanna (Rogers) Peabody married about Feb. 18, 1734 in Massachusetts. Father of Nathaniel Peabody Died 1758 in Leominster, Worcester Massachusetts. It was apparently this Jacob Peabody III and others transferred the house to Stephen Foster, who had married Rebecca Peabody, daughter of Jacob Peabody II.

Rebecca Peabody (2) (Jacob, Jacob, Mary (Foster) Peabody, Reginald Foster) married Stephen Foster of Ipswich on Apr 21, 1737. Rebecca Peabody, born 3 Feb. 1714/5, died 23 Mar 23, 1790. (Topsfield Vital Records).

Deacon Stephen Foster, born February 3, 1715, in Topsfield. died January 7, 1781 at about 71 years of age. (Caleb, Abraham, Reginald), born Ipswich, Mass., Apr. 24, 1710; married Apr. 21. 1736/7, Rebecca Peabody, daughter of Deacon Jacob and Rebecca (Barker) Peabody. He died January 15, 1781. There is no settlement of his estate on record.

The Will of Francis Peabody (aka Pabody, Pebody)

On March 7, 1671, the town voted that it was “willing that Lieut. Peabody shall set up a saw mill provided it does not do damage to any of the townsmen in their meadows.” The saw mill was built in 1672 on Howlett Brook at this location. (Read more)

Francis Pabody died in 1697/98. In his last will and testimony, he gave his mill and a dwelling house on the south side of Howlett Brook to his son Isaac. He gave the home of his son Jacob, deceased, to his grandson Jacob II, who was born only a few days before his father’s death in 1689. This suggests that the Jacob Peabody house was constructed by Jacob Peabody (1) between 1685 when he reached the age of 21 and no later than 1689 when he died.

  • Item: I do give to my son Isaac Pebody all the land y’ I do now live upon which I bought] of Mr. Simons & my will is y’ my son Isaac shall have all y’ said Land which lyeth on [ye] south side of ye brook.
  • Item: I do give to my Grand child Jacob Pebody y* son of my son Jacob Pebody deceased, y* house which his father dwelt in together with all y* upland on y* North side of y* aforesaid brook, as also all y* meadow on y* same side of y* brook & y* bridge & so upward.
This is one of two old foundations on the east side of Old Right Rd. just above the Topsfield town line. The dimensions match the foundation of the Jacob Peabody / Stephen Foster house, and could have been its original locatio
This is one of two old foundations on the east side of Old Right Rd. just above the Topsfield town line. The dimensions match the foundation of the Jacob Peabody / Stephen Foster house, and could have been its original locatio

Original Location

In the Historical Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society, Volume 8, written in 1902 John H. Towne wrote that the early home of Stephen Foster had been taken down, a new one built in 1748, and that the old foundation still existed. An old cellar north of the Ipswich town line matches this description.

“Franklin Magraw, North St.: This two-story house was built for Stephen Foster in 1748 and was owned by Nathaniel Foster in 1798. In 1877, a part of the old house was taken down and the remaining part was remodeled by John H. Potter, who came into possession of the property by way of exchange with John Smith, the owner for the house on Central street which he had just built. About five hundred feet in a northwesterly direction from the Magraw house is the cellar of the old Stephen Foster house. It is about one hundred and fifty feet over the Ipswich boundary line and is still a very deep cellar. The house was probably taken down not long after the new house was built.”

C. Lawrence bond repeated Town’s history in Houses and Buildings of Topsfield, Massachusetts,” (published 1989), and continued with the history of subsequent owners.

“109 NORTH STREET:

  • Potter sold to Franklin Magraw in 1901, Bk.l660, pg.438.
  • Magraw sold to Gerrish in 1902, and he to Mary Tarbox, Bk.1692, pg.226.
  • Tarbox sold to Fred Deering in 1906.
  • Fred Deering put the property in joint ownership with his wife, Della, who was the daughter of Francis Frame, and sister to the two Tilton wives, whose farms adjoined on Boston Street. Fred’s daughter, Lila, married James Wildes.
  • In 1944 the Deerings conveyed the property to Louis Greenwood, dog trainer, who has occupied the house for forty years and maintained dog kennels there.

The 1910 Topsfield map shows F. W. Deering as the owner of this home. and Franklin MacGraw owning a house on North St. near Ipswich Road across from Mill Pond.

Sources:

Photos from Inside the Jacob Foster house

Summer beam in the 1680 Jacob Peabody house.
Summer beam in the 1680 Jacob Peabody house.
unusual beam is exposed in the Jacob Peabody hous
unusual beam is exposed in the Jacob Peabody hous
Attic framing in the Jacob Peabody house
Attic framing in the Jacob Peabody house
Brick nogging over a beam in the Jacob Peabody house.
Brick nogging over a beam in the Jacob Peabody house.

French-Andrews house, 86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA, c. 1718

86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA

Description from Topsfield Historical Commission, 1986 MACRIS inventory:

“The c. 1718 frame, characteristic of late First Period treatment in its minimal decoration, nevertheless embodies certain features which link to earlier buildings in the Topsfield area, and even to the earliest buildings in Massachusetts. The massiveness of the frame and the use of beams which are deeper than they are wide relate the structure to the Parson Capen house of 1683. The deeply jowled corner posts are found also in the Stephen Foster house and the Zaccheus Gould house of c. 1700, suggesting a persistent local style of post treatment. The framing of door posts for interior doors into chimney girts and tie beams is a structural technique found in the earliest houses in Massachusetts including the Fairbanks house and directly derived from English practices. Normally superseded by other methods of framing doors in later houses, the use of such door posts in the French Andrews House is a rare and conservative expression of direct transfer framing practices.

“The house is also significant for the survival of original finish in situ. The fireplace trim in the left-hand room and particularly the wide board feather-edged sheathing in the right-hand chamber are noteworthy and up-to-date examples of late First Period finish. On the basis of these features and the minimal chamfering of the frame, Cummings felt that the house was built after Joseph Andrews of Boxford acquired the property in 1718, although earlier there was a single cell house on the site owned in 1693 by John French Sr.

“The structure was restored in 1919 under the direction of George Francis Dow to its present First Period appearance. Diamond-paned, leaded glass casement windows were installed and the chimney rebuilt from the attic floor with a decorative exterior pilaster modeled after the one on the Parson Barnard House in North Andover. First Period features are found in all four front rooms and the lobby. During the 1919 restoration later finishes were removed and the framing exposed. Remaining original finish was carefully preserved and new finishes matching the old ones were installed in many areas. The frame is a particularly massive one, the summer beams and tie beams being c. 8 inches wide and 12 inches deep. In both upstairs and downstairs rooms, front, rear and end beams show peg holes for the studs which flanked the original windows. The original windows at the center of each wall were approximately 28 inches wide. Joist spacing in the First floor ceilings is 21 inches on centers, while those of the second floor are spaced 25 inches on centers.

“In the left-hand room, the large kitchen fireplace with rear ovens appears to retain its original trim. Boards with a wide bead at the edge cover the jambs and lintel of the fireplace which is recessed about 8 inches, and is 58 inches high by 107 inches wide. The chimney girt and post are covered with boards also finished with a broad bead in this case almost a quarter round, at the edge. The rest of the framing is exposed. The summer beam has 2 inch wide flat chamfers and taper stops, while the girts are plain. The horizontal feather-edged sheathing which covers the outer walls was presumably installed during the restoration in 1919.

“In the lobby, vertical feather-edged sheathing enclosed the staircase, again presumably restoration finish of 1919. Cummings noted that posts for interior doors are framed into the chimney girts and tie beams, a very conservative construction technique. The door posts are molded along the outer edge. he attic displays a principal rafter, common purlin roof. In the cellar, there are two massive spanning beams each similarly decorated with 2 inch wide flat chamfers but for unexplained reasons running in different directions. There is a large fireplace with ovens in the right-hand cellar. Much of the firebox appears to have been rebuilt during the 1919 work. Because of the slope of the land, the right-hand cellar is at ground level.

“The house is associated with the early preservation movement, having been restored in 1919 under the supervision of George Francis Dow for Thomas Emerson Proctor. Dow, who was restoring the Parson Capen house further down Howlett St. at the same time was associated for many years with the society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Dow made careful observations of the structure during restoration, recording the presence of early red paint or stain on the cover board of the plate hidden under a later cornice and the presence of an original attic window frame, “nailed to the exterior under-boarding through horns at the corners of the frame.” Dow installed a great deal of feather-edged sheathing in the house, both horizontal and vertical which resembles the surviving original finish to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to tell new from old. Most of what appears to be new sheathing, however, has an extra small molding on the feather-edge. Possibly Dow was sophisticated enough to add the extra molding as a label so that the new sheathing could be readily distinguished from the old. “


86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA

Description from Houses and buildings of Topsfield, Massachusetts : an up-date of “The houses and buildings of Topsfield, Massachusetts 1902” by J. H. Towne by Bond, Charles LawrenceTopsfield Historical Society, published in 1989.

#86 HOWLETT STREET🙂 J. H. Towne writes concerning this site: “A one story house built for John French stood upon this site about 1675. In 1718 it was sold to Joseph Andrews and, some time before 1798, it was raised to two stories and the easterly end was added. In the spring of 1693 H0wlett Street was laid out as a town way which passed (between Corp. French, his house, and barn). The barn originally stood in the orchard on the westerly side of the road. Towne does not give any information on the house during the 19th century, but it was still in the Andrews family when he was writing, and in the 1908 valuation it was assessed to Joseph E. Andrews’ heirs. About the time of World War I, it was purchased by Thomas E. Proctor and added to his extensive holdings, which included all of Great Hill on both sides of the Turnpike. After Mr. Proctor’s death, the Trustee for his estate sold the house and four acres of land in 1949 to Chalmer J. Carothers Jr., who had to do considerable work to make it livable. In 1955 John Healey, Jr. acquired title and occupies at this writing. “(1989)


86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA from the MACRIS site
1986 image from Topsfield Historical Commission MACRIS inventory

Description: The French-Andrews House in Topsfield, MA, 1675, French Family Association:

“Here stands the French-Andrews house, a one-story house built for John French stood upon this site about 1675. In 1718 it was sold to Joseph Andrews and some time before 1798 it was raised to two stories and the easterly end was added. In the spring of 1693, Howlett Street was laid out as a town way which passed “between Corpll French his house and barne.” The barn originally stood in the orchard on the westerly side of the road. Here is where Thomas French’s son John lived. He was b. ca. 1637 in Ipswich, MA, and died ca. 1706 in Topsfield. Photos below are dated 1987 before remodeling.

“The French home of Thomas French and later belonging to his son John in Topsfield, MA, was built in 1675, and probably the second to the oldest standing French home in the country. The oldest French house in the U.S. is that of Richard French in Marshfield, MA. John was a tailor and moved to Topsfield, MA, about 1664. The house is located on Howlett St. This first period antique saltbox colonial house built in 1675 has been extensively restored. It is considered the oldest continuously occupied house in the town and is also part of the National Historic Registry. The home is very privately situated on 4 lush, botanical acres. Diamond leaded glass windows, 5 fireplaces, exposed beams and brick, wide pine floors, wide paneled wood walls and a wood roof all provide historical ambience. Each bedroom has its own full bath! A separate wing can be used as an in-law potential or as an extended master suite. The grounds are set up for entertaining and are professionally landscaped. ” House was for sale in 2006. and was again renovated. The House sold again in 2019.”


86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA rear
Rear of the French-Andrews house, 86 Howlett St., Topsfield

Architectural survey by Abbot Lowell Cummings, Architecture in Colonial Massachusetts, September 1974:

“TOPSFIELD: FRENCH-ANDREWS HOUSE (so-called), 86 Hewlett Street c. 1718: John French, Sr., had a dwelling here by 1693, presumably the same conveyed with his farm to John French, Jr., on December 2, 1701, in return for support throughout the balance of the elder French’s life. An agreement among the latter’s heirs on August 25,1707, would suggest that the dwelling deeded in 1701 was still in existence. That structure, however, as described in 1701, seems to have had but a single chamber, whereas the present house is of two-room, central-chimney plan and in terms of style and character of construction was probably not built until Joseph Andrews of Boxford bought the property from John French, Jr., on June 16, 1718. The house was purchased on October 11, 1917, by Thomas Emerson Proctor and restored in 1919 under the direction of George Francis Dow, at which time a modern leanto was added (although nineteenth-century photographs reveal the presence of an earlier leanto and a one-and-a-half-story ell at the west end) and a new chimney top constructed, modeled on that of the Parson Barnard House in North Andover. Privately owned.”

Floor layout of the Andrews House from the HABS survey
Floor layout of the Andrews House from the HABS drawings

Sources and References:

  1. Houses and buildings of Topsfield, Massachusetts : an up-date of “The houses and buildings of Topsfield, Massachusetts 1902” by J. H. Towne by Bond, Charles LawrenceTopsfield Historical Society, published in 1989.
  2. Topsfield Historical Commission, 1986 MACRIS inventory:
  3. Essex County Deeds, vol. 2375, p. 370.
  4. William Sunmer Applcton, “Annual Report of the Corresponding Secretary,” Old-Time New England, scr. no. 21 (July 1920), 21-22.
  5. Abbot Lowell Cummings, Architecture in Colonial Massachusetts, September 1974:Massachusetts and its First Period Houses, Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1979: 187-188.
  6. HABS drawings
  7. Cummings, Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725. (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1979): 153.
  8. The French-Andrews House in Topsfield, MA, 1675, French Family Association
  9. Topsfield houses and lands, history by Sidney Perley (PDF)
  10. Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society

Interior photos

86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA fireplace
86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA brick nogging
86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA
large fireplace at 86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA
86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA beam and fireplace
86 Howlett St., Topsfield MA beam