Excavations beneath and immediately around the Samuel Taylor house before the 2011 renovation began made it possible to carefully examine the building and learn something of its history. Had archaeologists and volunteers not conducted this investigation, a significant amount of data would have been lost. Many artifacts were recovered with their archaeological context preserved.
People had lived on this site several thousands of years before Samuel built his house. Native people used the area collecting resources from Black Flats Marsh and Chase Garden Creek or hunting animals that had come to drink from the springs feeding the creek. Richard Taylor may have farmed this area of the farm, possibly using it as pasture for his animals.
In the late eighteenth century Samuel returned from service during the Revolutionary War, married Lucretia and built a new house. Local lore has it that the house that stood on the knoll had burned. One reused sill in the house does have evidence of fire possibly lending credence to the story but there is no archaeological or historical evidence to back it up. Regardless, there is substantial evidence that Samuel did reuse materials from the old family house to build his smaller house.
It is not known why Samuel did that. But being "rich in virtue but poor in coin" after the war, he may have had no choice. By the late 18th century Europeans had effectively denuded Cape Cod; note the lack of trees in the picture of the house to the right. Anyone who wanted to build a new home at that time had three options: import materials at a great cost from off-cape, reuse lumber from old houses, or construct their house using a combination of the two. Samuel appears to have preferred the third option.
His house, the original half cape, is a two-rooms-deep style house. The doorway opens into a small entryway leading to the parlor. The small room would keep drafts, rain, and snow from entering directly into the parlor. The purpose of the small room off the entryway is unknown. A central fireplace separates the parlor from the kitchen. The kitchen is flanked by a pantry in the rear east corner of the house and two other small rooms. Beneath the small rooms is a Cape Cod cellar. On the second floor are two sleeping chambers. In a connected farmhouse, this would be the "big house."
In the late 18th century, the parlor could have been used less as a formal room but more as a combination bedroom and storage room but that may or may not be true of the Taylor-Bray farmhouse. The kitchen would be the principal women's work area of the house. The other smaller rooms could be used for a variety of purposes.
The barn was built c1820. It is an English style barn commonly built in New England before about 1830.
Taylor descendents continued to live in the house and the building evolved. Based on the artifacts found beneath the floor, the center ell, the "little house", was probably built in the mid 19th century. It had a 2.5m wide by 1.5m deep hearth concealed by 20th century construction. This hearth rested on a foundation measuring 2.5m by 3m and 50cm thick, a very substantial base for such a small hearth. When the ell was originally built as a secondary kitchen, the hearth may have been much larger, closer in size to the Kitchen hearth. At some point, possibly when the North Ell was added later in the nineteenth century, the Center Ell hearth was demolished and rebuilt as the smaller hearth shown to the left. Why a smaller hearth? It may have been more efficient if used for heat rather than cooking when a stove was used.
When the farm passed to George and Willey Bray, they continued to maintain and modify the house. They appear to have begun by cleaning house and rebuilding the North Ell(right) which may have been in poor condition. At the same time, it seems they built the terrace located to the immediate north. It is possible that this area was prone to flooding and the Bray brothers sought to make it drier.
The Terrace was originally even with the ground surface to the north but soil and household refuse was added to build it up. If the Brays purchased the entire Taylor estate with the house, they probably went through the house to see what they would keep and what they would not. This may have been the germ of the antique business that they became known for. They either built or added to a preexisting midden before rebuilding the ell that covered it.
In 1947, Robert and Katheryn Williams purchased the farm. At that point the house had not been actively maintained since George Bray's death in 1941. The Williams installed indoor plumbing and electricity for the first time and generally brought the house to mid 20th century standards. In doing so, the probably saved the house for future generations.
That process of change and maintenance continues to this day and the 2011 renovations can be seen adding to the history of the house. Were Richard and Ruth or Samuel and Lucretia Taylor or the Brays able to see today's renovations, they would understand it as part of the natural process necessary to keep a house alive and adapting to changing conditions.