Parson Capen House

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Parson Capen House
Parson Capen House - Topsfield, Massachusetts.JPG
Parson Capen House
Parson Capen House is located in Massachusetts
Parson Capen House
Parson Capen House is located in the US
Parson Capen House
Location Topsfield, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°38′36″N 70°56′57″W / 42.64333°N 70.94917°W / 42.64333; -70.94917Coordinates: 42°38′36″N 70°56′57″W / 42.64333°N 70.94917°W / 42.64333; -70.94917
Area 1.1 acres (4,500 m2) [1]
Built 1683
Architect Unknown
Architectural style Postmedieval English
NRHP Reference # 66000139
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[2]
Designated NHL October 9, 1960[3]

The Parson Capen House is a historic house in Topsfield, Massachusetts, that was built in the late 17th century. It has drawn attention as an example of early colonial architecture and due to its well-preserved condition compared to other houses built at that time.


The Capen house was built on a 12-acre (49,000 m2) lot[4] in 1683 as the parsonage for the local Congregational Church.[5] It is located at what is now 1 Howlett Street, next to the Topsfield Common.[6] It was first owned by the Reverend Joseph Capen, who had moved to Topsfield from Dorchester. His wife had seen the previous parsonage and was disappointed by its condition.[4] The family lived there for over forty years.[7] At the time that it was built, it was considered to be the best house in the town.[5]

The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.[1][3] It is one of the best preserved homes from its period in New England.[7] The Topsfield Historical Society currently operates it as a historic house museum.[8]


The Capen house was built with English style architecture, and it bears a strong resemblance to many houses in England.

The house features overhangs called jetties at the front and sides, but not the rear, of the building. Although many have assumed that the overhangs were intended as protection from Native Americans, they were primarily decorative and also served to shield people from rain.[5] The house has a small entrance hallway leading to the staircase.[9] It contains four rooms, each of which contains a fireplace. It has exposed low ceilings with wooden beams.[9]

The house has a pilastered chimney, which was unusual at the time the house was built. That type of chimney was primarily used in English Manor style houses. The house also has casement windows, each of which has 30 panes. These windows were seen as a luxury when the house was built. Hanging wood pendills, ornaments that were carved by the carpenter who built the house, were also used as decoration.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Patricia Heintzelman and Charles Snell (1975) National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Parson Capen House, National Park Service and Accompanying seven photos, exterior and interior, from 1967 and 1975
  2. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  3. ^ a b "Parson Capen House". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  4. ^ a b Griffeth 2008, p. 146
  5. ^ a b c d "The First Functional Homes". LIFE. 18 April 1955. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Griffeth 2008, p. 144
  7. ^ a b Griffeth 2008, p. 145
  8. ^ "Parson Capen House". Topsfield Historical Society. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  9. ^ a b Griffeth 2008, p. 147


External links[edit]