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Exploring Architecture
Post Medieval English / Early Colonial Style - Northern Version, 1600-1740
Wells-Thorn House - Southern Ell

The Street, Deerfield, MA
Built between 1717 and 1720

Explore the interactive image and read about the house. Linked words will pop up glossary definitions. A non-flash, printable version of this feature is also available.

Run your cursor over the picture of the Wells-Thorn house to discover more about what makes this home Post Medieval English.


The Wells-Thorn House
The Wells-Thorn House is a big building that has been around for a very long time. It was built in many sections and in many styles over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. The first section, now the southern ell, was built as a freestanding home sometime between 1717 and 1720.

Every house has bits and pieces that place it within a time, a place and an architectural style. This building was constructed in the Post Medieval English Style, a type of early American architecture tied to modest contemporary English cottages. What makes this structure Post Medieval English?

Most Post Medieval English homes were designed as safe havens, places to seek refuge from the frightening cold of New England winters and to eat, sleep, and do the chores necessary for people to survive. They were small, boxy houses only one and one-half stories high and one room deep. They had very steeply pitched roofs and their façades were simple and functional. While some had an overhang, others, like the Wells-Thorne House, did not. On the inside, homes were configured using the simple hall and parlor plan that featured a massive center chimney and a fireplace in each room. The upper floor, commonly called the garret, was unheated. It may have been used for sleeping, but mostly for storage.

Most Post Medieval English homes had asymmetrical façades. Imagine a straight line running down the center of this building's exterior. Does each half have the same number of windows and doors? Look carefully. Don't forget the tiny windows that let light into the garret. Are they evenly spaced? In other words, is one side of the façade a mirror image of the other? If not, it is asymmetrical.

History
Ebenezer Wells built the Southern ell of the Wells-Thorn house sometime between 1717, when an earlier structure burned down, and 1720. Ebenezer and his wife, Abigail Barnard Wells, lived in this home with their two slaves --Lucy and Cesar. They had no children. From 1744 to 1749 this ell may have been used as both living space and a tavern, which Wells had a license for. Today it stands as one of the last remaining early 18th century homes in Deerfield. In 1963 Historic Deerfield, Inc. restored the entire home.

Floor Plan
Illustration of typical floorplan. In Post Medieval English homes, the interior was laid out according to a symmetrical hall and parlor plan. This plan featured a center chimney with rooms of equal size on either side. In front of the chimney was an inner entryway called a porch and a stairway leading up to the garret.


Interior

Photo of parlor   Photo of kitchen.

To the right of the chimney was the parlor.

Photo courtesy of Historic Deerfield, Inc., photography by Amanda Merullo

 

To the left was the hall: room for cooking, eating, and working (and sleeping if the family was big enough or the nights cold enough).

Photo courtesy of Historic Deerfield, Inc., photography by Penny Leveritt

 

Glossary of Architectural Terms | Architectural Resources

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