| James Blake House, Built about 1650 [actually dendrochronology has since provided a date of probably construction as 1661]
Click image for more information
Report prepared in 1972
[Note: this reproduction of the information in the National Register Nomination Form may have typographical errors, and for technical matters, the reader may want to consult a copy of the original, which is available at the Boston Landmarks Commission or the Dorchester Historical Society]
The James Blake House is situated at the approximate center of Richardson Park and is bounded on the N by Columbia Road, the SW by East Cottage Street and the NE by Pond Street.
The building is a two-story, wood-frame, gable-roof house. It has a rectangular plan (38 feet by 20 feet) facing NE (to Pond Street), five bays wide by one bay deep. There is a central brick chimney projecting through the slate roof at the ridge (the slate having replaced wood shingles sometime after 1941). The eave and raking trim consist of a frieze and wood gutters. All elevations are covered with wood shingles. The windows are lead-set, diamond-pane casements with moulded trim and slipsills. The main NE elevation has a single central door with moulded trim above the railed platform. The rear SW elevation has a single door set left of center. The building stands on a stone-block foundation.
Sometime prior to 1747 a one-story, shed roof wing was added to what is now the SE elevation. Later (but prior to 1772) a similar wing was added to the NW elevation. The house also had two dormers on the NW elevation that were removed sometime after 1750.
Both the first and second floor interior plans consist of a single large room set to either side of the central chimney and a small room situated beyond its SW face. The central hall contains an enclosed wood stair butting against the NE face of the chimney and running from cellar to attic. The first floor is of modern hardwood while the second floor is of random width wood-plank. The doors vary throughout, some being paneled, some being of board and batten construction. The walls are finished with painted plaster except for the fireplace walls covered with painted vertical wood wainscoting. The ceiling of the first floor has exposed joists, that of the second floor is finished with plaster. The main framing timbers are exposed throughout the house and are finished with fine chamfering. The NW attic gable contains a large remnant of what is believed to be original 17th century plaster.
In 1895 the house was moved approximately one-quarter mile east to its present location. The 1895 restoration removed the two wings, replaced the then existing sash windows with the present casements and clapboarding with wood shingles.
The James Blake House is a fine example of 17th Century domestic architecture. Its traditional construction date of 1650 is supported by a study of the framing and joining. This date suggests that it is one of the few surviving houses in New England to have been built by immigrant carpenters. The exceptionally heavy timbers in the frame indicate that its builder was from the west of England.
The first occupant of the house was James Blake who married in 1651 Elizabeth Clap, daughter of Deacon Edward Clap and niece of Roger Clap. It has been suggested that this house was built in anticipation of this marriage. James Blake, active in public affairs, was among others a selectman, deputy to the General Court, and chosen Deacon of the Church. His descendants continued to live in the dwelling until 1825. After this time a variety of owners occupied the house until 1895 when the City of Boston acquired the property. At first the City planned to demolish the building but when the Dorchester Historical Society offered to move and preserve the house it was given to them along with the right to relocate it at Richardson Park. This was one of the earliest instances of a house being moved solely for the purpose of historic preservation.
Orcutt, William D. Good Old Dorchester (3rd ed.) (The Plimpton Press, 1916)
Stark, James H. The History of the Old Blake House (Boston, 1907)
Blake, Samuel. Blake Family: A Genealogical History of William Blake of Dorchester and His Descendants. (Boston, 1857)
The Records of the City of Boston (1895), stored at the Boston Public Library.
Here are some images from the Atheneum archive related to this topic. Click on any of these images to open a slideshow of all 24 images.
Do you know something about this topic? Do you have
other pictures or items or knowledge to share? What
about a personal story? Are you a collector? Do you
have questions? Contact us
Created: May 30, 2005 Modified: January 15, 2013