Sunday, September 17, 2006

This Old House Is Older Than Yours

Two houses are vying for the title of America's Oldest Wood-Frame Home. The Balch House in Beverly, Mass., is said to have been built by my ancestor John Balch in 1636. The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Mass., was allegedly built for some loser named Jonathan Fairebanke around the same time.

It’s not the Hatfields versus the McCoys. Just a good-natured rivalry between the descendants of two of New England’s earliest settlers.

“This has been a friendly argument for more than 300 years,” [Beverly Historical Society director Stephen] Hall said. “Our records are as good as the ones down in Dedham . . . They don’t know any more definitively than we do.”

Fairbanks House executive director Jan Eakins disagrees. Three years ago, she said, they performed a “dendrochronology” study on the house’s timber that proves the house was actually built in 1641.

Eakins said the Balch House’s caretakers have no proof that the home is the same one John Balch built when he acquired the land in 1636. [Link]
I don't know about this "dendrochronology" stuff (sounds to me like some sort of pagan tree-worship), but I do know that the Balch House (pictured below in a very, very old photograph) looks very, very old to me. On the other hand, the Fairbanks House (pictured here in color) appears to have been hastily erected circa 1957. Case closed.

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