Falmouth Field Guide

18 Pitt Street

The house at 18 Pitt Street is one of the few examples of a three-room board house that survives in Falmouth from the early nineteenth century. Situated right at the street’s edge and raised over three feet off of the ground on a cut limestone foundation, the building presents an imposing façade that belies its rather modest scale. It seems likely that street presence was important to the builder, considering that the front façade is the only portion of the building supported by a solid foundation and is the only symmetrical face of the structure, with a double door flanked by six-over-six sash windows. At the northwest corner, original wide board sheathing—mitered to fit tightly together—is visible under a layer of twentieth-century wood shingles. Recently, a concrete and tile stair replaced the rotted twentieth-century wooden stair with the same orientation.

The front double doors open into a rectangular room, one bay deep. Originally, this room stretched across the entire front (west side) of the house; however, a twentieth-century frame partition just south of the double door now divides the room in two. This originally long and narrow room was lit by the two aforementioned windows in the front wall and an additional window in the north wall which overlooks the north side yard. A door was cut in this wall directly adjacent to the window in the twentieth century. At the other end of the room, the south side wall contains a door which opens into the south side yard where cooking and other work activities took place. The back (east) wall of the room is pierced by two doors that provide access to the two rear chambers of the house. Unlike the other three walls in the room, the framing system of this wall is not exposed. Instead, the wall is sheathed in boards, presenting a formal surface to guests when they enter the house. This front room performed a variety of functions, serving as both the main living area as well as the formal entertaining space. Direct access to the kitchen yard suggests that the room also served as the main dining space in the house.

The two rear rooms differ from each other in size and finish. The north room is the larger and more formal of the two. The presence of a three-part window in the north wall, a six-over-six sash flanked by louvered openings, suggests this room was used for entertaining. Three part windows were a common feature of the two story merchant house/store buildings on Market Street, built and occupied by some of the wealthiest residents of Falmouth. The south room faces the work yard and probably was used as a sleeping chamber. The two rear rooms are separated by a first period wall containing an original door. Flanking the partition on the back wall of the house is a pair of doors that provide exterior access to each of the two back rooms. The size of a residence in Falmouth is not an immediate indicator of its builder’s wealth or social standing. Even the large, two-story merchant house/stores limited living space to a single level. Another board house, though smaller, less imposing, and lacking architectural references to local and contemporary symbols of wealth and gentility, was built on a lot owned by John Harris, noted as a “gentleman of Trelawny.”1 The masonry foundation, symmetrical façade, large front room, and three-part window in this building indisputably prove the unknown builder’s familiarity with elite houses in town.

18 Pitt Street is one of the few small, early nineteenth-century board house in Falmouth with a surviving range of service buildings. This five-celled service complex was built in several different periods and is a mix of concrete, frame, and nog construction. At the time of initial construction around 1820, these spaces would have housed cooking and washing facilities and possibly quarters for enslaved workers.

1 Samuel Barrett Moulton Barrett to John Harris, Deeds, Island Record Office volume 638 folio 160