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two beehive ovens

This weekend I was riveted by Anne ‘Pete’ Baker’s book, Collecting Houses: 17th-century Houses — 20th-century Adventure, recommended to me by aunt Amy, who knows Pete slightly. It’s a chronicle of how Pete taught herself to evaluate and restore the oldest houses of Southeastern New England, especially the detective work of discerning and dating the earlier cores to houses built up over generations. Last week, one of our experts pointed out a couple of things that seemed to suggest an older core in the Allin house, than the now traditional date of 1783 for the construction of the main Georgian house. The most obvious clue is the kitchen fireplace: it has not one, but two intact beehive baking ovens, which is apparently unusual. One opens directly into the back of the main firebox (common in older houses); the other is at the right, with its woodbox below it, behind a fine old two-panel door. Here is young Simon, for scale, and only slightly sooty, in front of the fireplace:

Seems the oven & box at the right were added, perhaps (and here I’m speculating) when the whole central chimney system was enlarged, perhaps when the house was expanded from an earlier core (a Georgian two-story half-house?) to its present full plan. Next orders of business: pull the Allin family deeds and wills, to see if stages of the growth of this house can be documented there; and look more closely inside the house (cellar and attic) to see if we can see evidence of the growth of the frame from a smaller footprint. The chimney system itself needs to be more fully investigated from inside to see if successive phases of construction can be discerned. Simon is the right size, physically, but not quite old and steady enough yet to be tasked with that. Remember what happened when Tom Kitten went up the chimney and was almost baked into a pudding by the rats?

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