Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2008 Preservation Award Winners
The Elder James Blake House • Boston (Dorchester)
 
The Elder James Blake House  Boston (Dorchester)

Rehabilitation & Restoration

The 1661 Elder James Blake House is the oldest surviving house in Boston and among the oldest in the Commonwealth. Located in Dorchester’s Edward Everett Square, the Blake House has been owned by the Dorchester Historical Society (DHS) since the late 19th century. In the 1890s the DHS moved the house about 400 yards from its original location in order to save it from demolition and then restored the Blake House according to a 19th-century ideal of the 17th century. In planning the current restoration, the DHS made the interesting choice to restore the house to match its appearance after the late 19th-century renovation. In doing so the house documents some of the earliest historic preservation work in America. DHS restored and stabilized the exterior of the Blake House, preserving its rare and very early timber-frame construction. The home’s leaded glass windows were restored, and the long-missing shutters were carefully recreated. The DHS also commissioned a dendrochronological study (tree-ring dating) of original timbers in the house to establish the Blake House’s construction date.

Throughout the project the DHS invited the community and local school children to watch and at times participate in the renovation project. One of the most exciting opportunitites at the Blake House was offered by City Archaeologist and house steward Ellen Berkland who led a community archaeology project on the site. DHS is being recognized for its detailed restoration, innovative approach, and community engagement.

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