#38 - Barker Homestead, Woodland St., Methuen, c1830

Barker Homestead an eclectic blending of North and South

The Barkers, one of Methuen's original families, lived at the corner of Haverhill and Woodland Streets; in about 1830, a Barker who had gone to seek his fortune in Tennessee sent home enough money to build a house. So the old farm house was moved, and on its site was built this copy of a southern mansion.

In the South, a wrap-around porch keeps the house cool by shading it from the heat of the sun - and here is the porch with its handsome columns. But in the Merrimack Valley, the sun is welcome, so the porch roof is high and shallow, cutting out only the midsummer heat. Similarly, long windows let in cool breezes in the South, but can be cold and drafty in New England winters. So while first floor windows reach the floor, they are protected by shutters.

And although the details of the house - the entrance, the Doric columns and frieze board above - classify it as Greek Revival, there is much here that cannot be easily labeled. Whoever built this house freely adapted traditional elements - there aren't just a few dormers, but rows of them, and four triangular windows in the gable end. And the railing above the porch, playing on the shape of the steep roof and the dormers, almost becomes gingerbread fretwork.

So here are my questions: Had this builder ever seen a real Southern Mansion? Does that steep roof come from Tidewater Virginia? And what would this wonderful house look like if the Barker in Tennessee had been able to send back a photograph?

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