Essential Architecture- New England

Parson Joseph Capen house

architect

 

location

Topsfield, MA

date

1683 (restored 1913)

style

First Period

construction

wood- a faithful counterpart of the English 17th century manor house except for clapboards in place of half timbers.

type

House
 
  a: front, photo J. Howe.
 
  b: front and right flank, photo J. Howe.
 
  c: view prior to 13 restoration, from John W. Freese, Historic Houses and Spots in Cambridge and Nearby Towns (Boston, 1897).
 
  d: plan, from Fiske Kimball, Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and of the Early Republic (New York, 22), fig. 8, after Donald Millar.
 
  e: parlor, photo from Fiske Kimball, Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and of the Early Republic (New York, 22), fig. 13.
 
  f: stairhall, photo from Fiske Kimball, Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and of the Early Republic (New York, 22), fig. 14.
 
The Parson Capen House (circa 1683) is a First Period house located at 1 Howlett Street, Topsfield, Massachusetts. It was acquired by the Topsfield Historical Society in 1913, restored under the direction of George Francis Dow, and is now open daily in summers.

The house dates from 1683 when the Reverend Joseph Capen was granted 13 acres of land opposite the Common and built the house. He lived there until his death some 44 years later. Its workmanship appears to be of craftsmen trained in England as the house is a faithful counterpart of the English 17th century manor house except for clapboards in place of half timbers. Its framework consists of heavy oak timbers mortised and tenoned and held in place by wooden pins. The second story overhangs far out in the front, and the third story projects at each end. Each overhang is supported by wooden brackets. Carved pendants decorate the overhang corners of the building.

The lower floor consists of a parlor and smaller hall (kitchen). Walls are wainscoted in a fashion typical of the period, and the hall is dominated by its fireplace, more than 8 feet wide with rounded back corners and a large flue. The floor has wide boards, sanded smooth, and the staircase has its original newel and turned oaken balusters.

Furnishings are from the 17th century and include a food hutch, which antiquarians have called unique in America, and a baluster-back arm chair inscribed "P. Capen 1708," believed to have been part of the wedding furniture of Priscilla Capen, the parson's daughter.

The grounds also include the rebuilt Joseph Gould Barn dating to 1710, reconstructed from 1995-1997 with a floor plan of 28 feet by 41 feet. The barn contains a number of Topsfield historical artifacts including an early American flag and a political banner from 1856.

Much of this description was derived from text by the National Park Service, which is in the public domain since produced by an agency of the US Federal Government.

Society of Architectural Historians

Special thanks to the Society of Architectural Historians
for some of the images on this page (copyright SAH).
www.essential-architecture.com