They don’t make ’em like they used to.
The James Blake House is nestled in Richardson Park on Columbia Road – near the Giant Pear – just a quick 400 yards from its original location back in 1661 – which is now a parking lot for National Grid on Mass. Ave. This is the first recorded instance in New England of a historic building being moved to a new location in order to prevent its demolition.
The city acquired the home from George J. and Antonia Quinsler in September of 1895, for $8000. (Image what it would sell for today?) The sale included nearly 11,000 square feet of land, next to other parcels of land the city was acquiring to make way for municipal greenhouses.
Drawing of home from its original location.
Originally the home of James and Elizabeth Blake who were English immigrants, the property was passed down to their family until it was acquired by the city of Boston in 1895. It was then sold to the Dorchester Historical Society in 1896.
Background of the Blakes
James Blake was born in England near Pitminster, in 1624. He emigrated with his family to Dorchester in the 1630s. Deacon James Blake became a constable, town selectman, and deputy to the General Court. James Blake and Elizabeth Clap (the daughter of Deacon Edward Clap and niece of Roger Clap) were married in 1651 and decided to build a house. It was handed down to their children and then their grandchildren. The rest is history.
You can read the history of the owners of this house here if you’re a real history buff.
Many of the early colonial homes of this time were built by builders (or housewrights) from the south and east of England which were mostly brick and plaster buildings. But the Blake House was built like homes of western England, which used heavy timber in their framing methods. According to the Dorchester Historical Society, the Blake House is a two-story, central chimney, gable-roof dwelling of timber-frame construction. It measures 38 by 20 feet.
Architectural Digest did a feature on designer Sarah Cole and her experience helping a caretaker decorate a historic home. You can check it out here including some gorgeous photos!
Currently, the house operates as a museum with a live-in caretaker which is a tradition dating back to 1910.
You can learn more about this home by visiting the Dorchester Historical Society. Consider making a donation to this important neighborhood organization!