20 Duke Street
Susie Ranney with Edward Chappell and Emilie Johnson
The house at 20 Duke Street is a residence unlike any other in Falmouth. It does not take the merchant house/store form of masonry ground floor with wood framed upper story found throughout the town. 20 Duke Street is a high-style Georgian townhouse, closer in architectural articulation and room usage to fashionable London and Dublin houses of 1800 than to its Falmouth neighbors.
James Hardyman, an esquire to the port, purchased the lot from Edward Barrett, on April 2, 1797 and he likely built this house in the short two years between that purchase and the purchase of an insurance policy on the property in May 15, 1799. The policy details the buildings around the house; sadly, the description of the house—insured for an enormous 1500 pounds—has gone missing., but it describes “A range of Offices timber and shingled situate at the extremity of the same lot” and “Another range of Offices timber and shingled situate between the above House and Offices and at right angles with both” valued at five hundred pounds.1 The evidence for that range of offices can still be seen as partition scars in the perimeter property wall.
James Hardyman died in Ireland in 1802. In his will, he designated John Burke to care for the house in Falmouth until it could be sold for a sufficient price. He also stated that if his kinsman, Andrew Hardiman, should go into the mercantile line of business, he should have rights to live in the Falmouth house for three years, rent-free, provided he did not sustain a loss2. Sadly, Hardyman’s probate inventory does not list any of the furnishings in the house.3
On Duke Street, between King and Queen Streets, the house and property walls are constructed of yellow brick laid in Flemish bond. The property was a large lot with the main house on Duke Street and 10-15 ancillary rooms in two outbuilding rows on the north and west walls. Presumably housing the stables and carriage-house, this area opened to King Street via an 11’ wide, round-arched carriage passage. A large house, though not the largest in town, with a footprint of 38 feet wide by 46 ½ feet deep; the only original exterior door is located on the north façade, accessible through the courtyard. A mid-nineteenth century addition of a door on the southern façade provided street access into what might have functioned as a business office.
20 Duke Street features some of the richest architectural detailing in Falmouth. A neoclassical, mahogany stair complemented the classical detailing in the architraves and cornices throughout the house; double doors provided entry into the house, where a hallway opened into the large, formal reception room that occupied two-thirds of the ground floor. A second, more elaborately decorated entertaining area claimed the same area on the second floor. The second floor featured more sumptuous decoration than the ground floor, with painted faux paneling, contrasting paint colors (not apparent in the lower passage and best rooms as of yet), and a tray ceiling in the grand salon.
The builder indicated his plans for room usage through decoration and roof structure. The upper floor has two different roof systems masked as identical, parallel, hipped roofs on the exterior. However, the roof over the southwest and middle rooms is comprised of minimal rafters covered by larger boards and painted masonry and plaster. A common rafter roof sheltered the east rooms, but the rafters were coupled with joists to create a board ceiling in the southeast room. The upper reception room, the most refined room in the house, had a tray ceiling with beaded sheathing over its sumptuously embellished wall surfaces.