This page is based on a report of the examination of the Samuel Taylor Farmhouse
at Taylor-Bray Farm prepared by Craig Chartier of the Plymouth Archaeological
Rediscovery Project. Here is the full architectural analysis of the farmhouse(.pdf).
In 2009, preliminary work on the restoration of Samuel Taylor's 18th century house was done. Removing the 20th century additions to the house revealed many surprises. What was uncovered was explained with the help of Dave Wheelock, a noted archaeologist with the unique skill to see architectural ghosts; in this case, the ghosts of Richard Taylor and his 17th century house.
Local lore has it that when Revolutionary War veteran Samuel Taylor returned to Yarmouth and married Lucretia Taylor, Richard Taylor's old house had burned. A plate reused in the extant house shows some charring possibly lending credence to the story but there is no historical or archaeological evidence of a fire. Regardless, Samuel did build a new house and there is ample evidence that he used materials from Richard Taylor's 17th century house in it.
By the late 18th century European settlers had largely deforested Cape Cod leaving little local building material available. Importing lumber for a new house would be prohibitively expensive and while Samuel may not have been dirt poor, he was not well-off and did not have the means to rebuild with all new materials. So he took apart the family homestead to reuse the materials in his new house. In doing so he unwittingly provided us a considerable amount of information about the house that no longer exists.
There are several Gunstock posts reused as structural members in the house. One used as a joist in the parlor floor has a large pocket for a second story clamp indicating that it came from a two story building. Its lower half is whitewashed; the upper half is not. Another gunstock post reused in the kitchen flooring is 10"x10" and pit sawn on one side, possibly indicating it was originally over 20" wide. The remaining sides are carefully hand-hewn with the lower half full chamfer and painted with red milk paint. One floor joist has become known as the "ship timber" (right). This beam bears a rounded gunstock on one end and is relatively thin. The gunstock is painted black with whitewash on the remainder of the timber. It is pit sawn with a complex mortise on the top. There is a top plate with a lug dovetail joint. This beam is 17'5" long with a nice mortise on the top and a hole for the peg. This appears to be a mortise that would fit into the teasel tenon on a gunstock post.
The exterior boards in the pantry are wainscoting with beaded edges and red milk paint (right). They were originally used inside the house, possibly in the parlor or hall. The boards range from 25" to 29" wide. On the exterior of the house, once the shingles and tar paper were removed, several red milk painted boards were revealed. The sheathing boards in the house appear to be water sawn and may date from the seventeenth to eighteenth century.
A top plate in kitchen is a possible plate from the old house with a full chamfer on two sides, one side rough and finer on the other. Another original old beam located in the kitchen is being used as a floor joist for the attic. Along the walls are former floor joists that have been made into wall studs. These are whitewashed on three sides, indicating they were joists for supporting a second story floor over a whitewashed lower room. Several roof boards in the attic are whitewashed and bear ghost images of joists, possibly those in the kitchen.
The floor joists in the parlor are pitch pine with the bark still present (right) and were probably cut for the house at the time it was built. The chimney in the kitchen was built with recycled seventeenth century bricks which could have come from Richard's house.
The beams and posts identified within the walls of the Samuel Taylor house give us a picture of what Richard's house likely was. The house was two stories, probably a typical hall and parlor design with a central fireplace. The lower hall was probably painted red with wainscoting on the walls. The hall would have been the formal room of the house, the one into which guests were received. The parlor was probably whitewashed with chamfered edged beams, fancy but not so nice as the hall. The parlor was a multi-purpose room, used for sleeping at night and for activities during the day. This is hypothesized to have been the layout of the house when it was taken down. An earlier Richard Taylor house may have been much different.