Dorchester Atheneum
Monday, December 18, 2017
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Bird Sawyer House 1637
Bird Sawyer House
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 The Bird Sawyer House was located west of Upham’s Corner on Humphreys Street

Thomas Bird came to Dorchester in 1635 and erected this house shortly thereafter. By 1931 ten generations of his descendants had lived here. The house, which was located at 41 Humphreys Street, was known also as the Bird-Sawyer house.

Thomas Bird arrived from England on the second voyage of the ship Mary and John in 1635. He was a poor man but he did well enough to buy a large tract of land west of Dorchester Brook, between what are now Dudley and East Cottage Streets. Mrs. Mary Bird Hill, grandmother of Charles Winthrop Sawyer, the owner in the late 1920s, told Sawyer that she had seen Thomas Bird's deed to the land dated 1637 with an Indian's thumbprint on it. When Bird died, his estate was valued at 1000 pounds and included "ye olde dwelling house" and "ye new dwelling House." Which of these was the house still standing in the early 20th century is not certain.



The Edward A. Huebener collection of over 100 bricks originally collected by Mr. Huebener exhibits brick paintings of the houses from which the bricks came. The bricks have upon them painted scenes of (mostly) old Dorchester houses and landmarks. To see a list of all the bricks, choose the term Architecture in the list at the left of the screen and choose the first subsection -- the Edward A. Huebener Brick Collection and scroll to the bottom of that page to see icons for all the bricks.


Illustration from HABS/HAER
Bird-Sawyer House
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 This drawing comes from the HABS/HAER collection in the Library of Congress.

Enlarged House
Bird-Sawyer House
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 Additions were necessary to accommodate grandchildren, so the house grew with the family. The original house consisted of two rooms, a bedroom and kitchen and an attic. To this was later added a "lean-to" which was later incorporated into the house. The point of demarcation remained clear as one had to step down a few inches into the lean-to portion from the first floor of the original house. Later the roof was lifted to provide two rooms upstairs with a new attic above. Still later the attic roof was lifted to a higher peak and two more rooms were placed above those in the rear. Four rooms, two above and two below were built in 1804, replacing the second lean-to. The low ceiling, the wrought-iron latches and locks, and the uneven flooring created an atmosphere of early pioneering Puritanism. In the kitchen, the great brick fireplace was the center of attention.

Appearance in 1667
Bird-Sawyer House sketch with addition 1667
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 The HABS/HAER collection has a drawing of the appearance of the house in 1667.

Appearance in early 20th century
Bird-Sawyer House from southeast
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 HABS/HAER photograph in early 20th century.

Appearance in 1776
Bird-Sawyer House sketch as completed 1776
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 Illustration from the HABS/HAER collection showing the appearance of the house in 1776.

Location
Map detail Bird Sawyer House
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 This detail from the 1850 Eaton map of Dorchester shows the location of the house with the owner in 1850: G. Hill.

Location
Map detail Bird Sawyer House
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 The arrow on this detail from the Pelham map of 1777 shows the location of the Bird Sawyer House in relation to Upham's Corner. The lighter-colored rectangle near the bottom center is the Old North Burying Ground at the intersection of Columbia Road and Stoughton Street.

Related Images: showing 8 of 1500 (more results)
Here are some images from the Atheneum archive related to this topic. Click on any of these images to open a slideshow of all 1500 images.
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Created: March 14, 2010   Modified: April 16, 2011