#8 - Thomas Eaton House, 156 Hampstead St., Methuen, c1720

1720 house has simple beauty

The Thomas Eaton House in Methuen is an example of the New England colonial farmhouse, a style that inspired many reproductions. Located at 156 Hampstead St., it was built about 1720 - because it was built when the United States was still an English colony, the style is called 'colonial'.

This is a quiet, stable house, sited on a slight rise, facing south with a view down the road and across the land. The large center chimney, serving fireplaces in each room, and the wood construction tell us of local conditions, cold winters and abundant forest. The house's simplicity tells us the owners had neither extra cash nor time - its beauty is created entirely by the placement and size of its pieces, mainly the door and windows. But their impact is further enhanced by the clapboard (here covered by oversize siding) and the relationship of the facade, roof, and chimney to one another. The settlers brought this symmetry and sense of proportion when they migrated from England.

Visually, the Thomas Eaton House can be dated at about 1720 because of its small scale. The windows, which sit right under the roof line, have small panes and are small overall, because glass was expensive and difficult to make. There is a story (unproven) that colonists were taxed by the size of their windows: If one were rich enough to afford a lot of glass, one would also pay more taxes. Other interesting details include that the front door has been updated (probably before the American Revolution) and the outbuildings are Victorian.

This house is still surrounded by its original field, but even when a town has grown in around such a house, you can pick it out as you drive up an old street - not just by its square solid shape and centered front door, but by the way it faces the sun and looks down the road, greeting the approaching traveler.

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