James Blake House

Boston, Massachusetts | C.1661

Photo Credit: Boston Preservation Alliance

It’s a driver’s worst nightmare. You’re moving along just fine and you get stuck in a jam. You try to get a better view of what’s ahead when you see it – an entire house in the middle of the street being pulled on a sled by oxen and horses. Luckily it’s 1896 and you’re likely the only person in Boston with a car. But while it might seem slightly crazy, that’s how the oldest house in Boston got to its current location in Boston’s Richardson Park.

The James Blake House was built in 1661 by – you guessed it – James Blake. The well to-do Blake served as a Deacon at the First Church, as well as a constable, town selectman and deputy to the General Court.

The structure mostly stayed in the Blake family but was eventually sold to the city of Boston who were going to demolish it to make way for municipal improvements. That is, until the Dorchester Historical Society stepped in to preserve the home as a relic of Colonial America, which is how they broached the concept of moving the house.

Often when a house is moved, it is taken apart and put back together like a puzzle. But the James Blake House only had about 500 feet to get to its new location. So after careful planning by the Historical Society, they decided to move in winter when the ground would be frozen, and perhaps to add to the winter aesthetic, it was pulled on a massive sled by oxen or horses. Overall, it cost the Society a total of $295 in 1896 money, or around $10k today.

The James Blake House was recently written up in the book, “Boston’s Oldest Buildings and Where to Find Them” which won a Preservation Prize. Today, the house operates as a museum with a dedicated caretaker who lives there, a tradition dating back to 1910. You can find it still at the corner of Pond and Cottage Streets in Boston – unless, of course, it packs up and moves again.

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