Chelmsford Historical Society
The Barrett-Byam Homestead

In 1663, Thomas Barrett and his son, Thomas come to Chelmsford from Braintree, Massachusetts, buying a house and fifty-two acres of land from James Parker, an earlier arrival in this area.    The land was good.   Situated of the southern slope of Robin's Hill, it provided farmland, woodland and pasture.  According to Waters' "History of Chelmsford"  this house at one time was turned around to face south, and was originally a "saltbox" with long sloping roof.

fireovenA.jpg Built around a great central chimney, the house boasts of a fireplace in every room.  The ceilings are low for the purpose of conserving heat.  The original fireplace structure was probably taken down to the top of its foundation around 1800 to "modernize" the heating system by building Rumford fireplaces in each room.  Count Rumford, a Tory who had fled to England, developed this efficient style and everyone was "Rumfordizing" their fireplaces during this period!    The fireplace in the Keeping Room was the place where the cooking was done.  It may be seen today with its iron crane supporting heavy iron kettles hung on "S" hooks over the fire, iron "spiders" and boiling racks, heavy tin roasting oven, reflector oven, and flip toaster.  The Historical Society's collection of earthenware, woodenware and tin is also displayed in this room.   To the left of the fireplace, is the "beehive oven" where much of the baking was done.  It would originally have been located inside a larger walk-in fireplace and far more dangerous for women in their long skirts to use.

In the early days of the old house, there was a "borning room" opening off one end of the Keeping Room where the continuous heat from the big fireplace kept the room fairly comfortable in times of illness or the birth of babies.  This room was opened up and made a part of the Keeping Room by the last owners of the property.

The house was substantially put together with beams fastened securely by wooden pegs or trunnels (tree nails).  Gunstocks posts are still visible. Evidence of the long sloping room of the "saltbox" is seen in the attic where plaster marks show against the chimney.   

Click here to take a tour of the old homestead.

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