Sunday 26 October 2014

The House that Peter Tufts Built

I was tutoring my friend's son last night.  He was reading an excerpt about the Pilgrims and the Puritans.  It turns out that the Pilgrims, who sailed to America in 1620, wanted to separate from the Church of England.  The Puritans, who sailed to America in 1630, wanted to remain part of the Church of England, albeit with some changes.

Peter Tufts, whom I mentioned in my last blog, is believed to have come to America from England in 1632, possibly aboard the Griffin.  Given the date, I wonder if he was one of the Puritans.  He settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts, outside of Boston.  A multi-talented man, one of his jobs was to run a penny ferry on the Charles River.

Perhaps his biggest claim to fame, however, was the house he built in Medford, Massachusetts around 1677.  Now a museum, it is believed to be the oldest brick house in America.  Originally,the colonial home was known as the Cradock House, after one of the founding members of the Massachusetts Bay Company.  However, it was later discovered that Cradock only owned the land and had never even visited the area.  Later, Peter Tufts purchased the land from Richard Russell and built the house.  He hired brick mason William Bucknam from England to do the work.

The house, built in the American colonial design, is known as the "fort" or "garrison house" due to its thick walls and portholes.  I remember visiting the site when I was a little girl.  Our tour guide explained to us that, given that the house was built during the American Revolution, the designers were of a wartime mentality.  The portholes could be used to poke a rifle through.  The thick walls, of course, would serve as a good resistance to enemy fire.

Captain Peter Tufts sold the house to his son, Peter Jr., in 1680, who resided there for many years.  In 1728, the eastern side of the house was sold to Edward Oakes.  In 1887, the house was scheduled for demolition.  However, Samuel Lawrence saved it from such a fate by purchasing it as a wedding gift for his daughter.  At that time the house was remodelled in the Colonial Revival style.

In 1892, when the city of Medford, Massachusetts was incorporated, an image of the house was placed on its seal.  In 1932, the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities bought the house to open it as a museum.  Almost 50 years later, it was purchased by the Medford Historical Society.

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