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Parson Capen House facts for kids

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Parson Capen House
U.S. Historic district
Contributing property
Parson Capen House - Topsfield, Massachusetts.JPG
Parson Capen House
Location Topsfield, Massachusetts
Area 1.1 acres (4,500 m2)
Built 1694
Architectural style Postmedieval English
Part of Topsfield Town Common District (ID03001488)
NRHP reference No. 66000139
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966
Designated NHL October 9, 1960
Designated CP June 7, 1976

The Parson Capen House is a historic house in Topsfield, Massachusetts, that was built in 1694. 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 in 1694 as the parsonage for the local Congregational Church. It is located at what is now 1 Howlett Street, next to the Topsfield Common. 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. The family lived there for over forty years. At the time that it was built, it was considered to be the best house in the town.

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


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. The house has a small entrance hallway leading to the staircase. It contains four rooms, each of which contains a fireplace. It has exposed low ceilings with wooden beams.

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.

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