Test results appear to prove that the Balch House of Beverly, Mass.—named, as I mentioned before, for one of my ancestors—is not the oldest wood-frame house in America. Tree-ring samples show that it was probably built in 1678—much later than the Fairbanks House of Dedham, Mass.
Among the Balches, whose ancestors first settled in Beverly in the 1620s, there has been a sense of loss and sadness, mixed with stern defiance. "It is still one of the oldest, probably still in the top 10 or 12, even with these later dates," said Stephen P. Hall, a 12th generation descendant of the Balch House's original occupant, John Balch.
Among the Fairbanks, who first arrived in the colony in 1632, there has been a fair bit of gloating.
"We always knew it," said Lynn Fairbank, a 13th generation descendant of the Fairbanks House's first occupant, Jonathan Fayerbanke. "I have to say that every once in a while, a house crops up and says they're the oldest house, but it never pans out. We're the oldest standing wood-frame house." [Link]