|In 1755, as Massachusetts chafed under the rule of King George III and George Washington lost his first bid for public office, newlyweds Noah Parsons Jr. and Phebe Bartlett built a house on Old South Street in Northampton. Over the years, this house witnessed the birth of Noah and Phebe’s 12 children and remained in the Parsons family until 1916.|
|Phebe had gained considerable notoriety in 1737, when her Christian conversion at age 4 was described by the renowned preacher Jonathan Edwards in his book. The Parsons family itself was a prominent and respected part of the business community. Great grandparents Joseph and Mary Parsons were two of the original founders of Northampton in 1654. Mary Parsons, a controversial figure who was long suspected of being a witch, was put on trial for witchcraft in 1674 and eventually acquitted in Boston.|
A Hand-Made Museum
This is a hand-made house with a rich
history. The timbers, hewn from oak and pine trees with a broadaxe,
display Roman numeral ‘marriage marks’ carved by the original builders
to guide their assembly. Wide board wainscoting and flooring, stripped
of paint, reveal the distinctive rippled surface of hand-planed wood.
Original ‘riven’ lathe, split from oak with a froe, can be seen inside
the closets. The antique pintle hinges and Suffolk ‘Bean’ latches on the
doors were hand-forged by a blacksmith from wrought iron. The bricks in
the hearth and central chimney reveal the ‘tally marks’ and fingerprints
of the workers who handled them. Many of these fingerprints those of
children, from a time before child labor laws were passed. Traces of the
original grey-green mortar, likely taken from the banks of the
Connecticut River, are visible. Several pairs of antique shoes (shown in
the photo, above) were found hidden within the brickwork, a Medieval
European superstition to keep the Devil from descending the chimney at
Early children’s drawings, etched into the wainscoting, became visible after the many layers of paint were removed. Various geometric forms such as circles, daisy wheels, and house shapes were scratched into the woodwork. Some of these likely have a special purpose – a symbol etched on a windowsill would keep evil spirits from entering through a window.
The addition, designed by celebrated timber-frame architect and author Jack A. Sobon, is built from a dismantled 19th century hay barn. Over the years, the timbers have acquired a rich brown patina, along with a few farmboy initials carved into the wood. Flat stones from the barn foundation were used to build the patio, floor planking was re-used as stair treads, and chestnut cattle stanchions provided wood for the stair balustrade.
The Town of Williamsburg
|Williamsburg is an old farming community with a rural, small-town feel, located close to the renowned music and entertainment scene of Northampton. Village Hill became the original center of town in 1771, with over a dozen antique homes nearby. Williamsburg is just a few miles from the multitude of cultural events hosted by the Five Colleges – Smith, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, and the University of Massachusetts. It is a town favored by professors, artists and writers, including two Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. The newly-expanded Meekins Library has become the intellectual hub of a self-contained town center which has an 18th century church, post office, elementary school, grocery store, bank, 2 restaurants, brewery, auto repair shop, blacksmith shop and old-time general store, all within walking distance.|
For further information, contact
John B. Otis
612 East Street, Williamsburg, MA 01096
(413) 268-7106 / Cell: (413) 695-4879
7:00 AM - 9:00 PM Eastern Time
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Photography by Michael Merritt.
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