#47 - The Manning House, 37 Porter Rd., Andover, 1760

Gambrel designed roof may have come from England

This is the Manning House, a colonial farmhouse with a gambrel roof. Here is not a simple two-room cottage like that see in the last article (John Ward House), but a spacious home with room for an extended family, and ells for a summer kitchen, a weaving room, or a dairy.

The gambrel roof expands the attic space for storage and drying food. Where did this roof shape come from? Probably Essex, England, where the roof was often used for medieval farmhouses. But why are there so few roofs like this in the Merrimack Valley? Have those which were built been torn down over the years, or was the two part roof just more time consuming to build than a simple gable? Or was it simply a matter of wood? The answer is that while the shorter rafters used to build a gambrel made good use of scarce English lumber, here in the tree rich colonies we could easily cut rafters to any size.

Hezekiah Ballard built this house in 1760 and sold it in 1771 to Thomas Manning, a cordwainer (leather worker). The house has been owned by the Manning family ever since. This year the Andover Historical Commission joined with the Andover Historical Society to present the Mannings a Certificate of Appreciation for the care they have taken to maintain the house as it was built. It is part of our landscape, enjoyed by all of us who travel Porter Road.

On Merrimack Street in Methuen is another gambrel colonial, this one with a historic tale. The story goes that the owner was working in his attic when called to service during the American Revolution. He swung his ax into the rafter and there it stayed until he came home from the war.

Today, in 2008, I live in western NE where house construction was greatly influenced by the Dutch who settled along the Hudson River, and where the gambrel roof here is a natural expression of Dutch framing methods. So I am curious to look again at how the Merrimack Valley gambrel roofs were framed and compare them to what I see here.

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