| The Barnard Capen House, which stood on Washington opposite Melville Avenue, was probably built prior to 1637 . In 1909 Harvard professor Kenneth Grant Tremayne Webster rescued the house from demolition and moved it to 427 Hillside Street, Milton. This house is one of three surviving 17th century houses built in Dorchester along with the Blake House, now on Columbia Road and the Pierce House on Oakton Avenue.
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In 2006, the property in Milton was sold, and the developer planned to take the house apart to be stored for later sale to another owner who may erect the house elsewhere.
Source: The Youth?s Companion New England Edition, March 11, 1909
Unless the descendants of Barnard Capen, the original owner and occupant, unite to save, that ancient worthy?s former home in the Dorchester district of Boston, one of the oldest house, if not the oldest, in New England, is likely soon to be destroyed. The Nourse house at Danvers, Massachusetts, which was pictured some two years ago on a Companion cover, is supposed to have been built in 1635. The earlier part of the Dorchester structure, the subject of this week?s cover-page illustrations, dates from ?between 1630 and 1638.? Capen died in 1638, and many persons believe his grave, which is still marked and dated, to be ?the oldest recorded in the United States, with possibly one exception in James.?
It was for his wisdom and integrity, it is said, that Barnard Capen was selected as one of the colonists who left England and settled Dorchester in 1630. Capen, however, was then sixty-eight years old, and survived the hardships of the new country but eight years. He built his home near what is now Washington Street, opposite Melville Avenue?a house of two rooms so low-studded that in one of them a tall man can scarcely stand upright, with hewn beams and timbers and clapboards, and with an immense fireplace that carried most of the heat up the chimney. This is the western end of the present structure. The eastern end was erected a hundred years later, when, it is recorded, the builders found in the woodwork a number of Indian arrows, suggestions of the difficulties that attended the founding of an early New England home.
With the exception of one year, the house as always remained in the possession of the Capen family. Surrounding it are some eighty-seven thousand square feet of land, and the present owner of the property purposes to clear the land and cut it up in building-lots. Local historical societies which might have a disposition to preserve the house seem to lack the necessary funds; and it is not yet possible to predict the outcome of an attempt now making to rally the Capens to the rescue of their old homestead. Since the house is important in the history of not only Dorchester but New England, it would be greatly to be regretted should this effort fail.
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Created: August 17, 2003 Modified: February 19, 2007