Falmouth Field Guide

8 Trelawny Street

Elizabeth Somerville, probably a slave undergoing emancipation or a free woman of color, purchased this unimproved 50 foot x 120 foot lot in 1836 from Samuel Barrett Moulton Barrett for 60 pounds. Little is known about Somerville, except that on the deed, she is noted as being from Trelawny, suggesting that she lived outside of Falmouth prior to purchasing her property.1 She probably erected the oldest, two-room portion of this house soon thereafter. In its earliest form, it was very similar to a number of other houses of its type in town. The original structure consisted of a front and a rear room of nearly identical dimensions, separated by a partition wall with a doorway. The front room is now used as a sitting room and bedroom, and the rear a sitting and waiting room. The framing of this original structure is entirely joined, with transverse plates tenoned into longitudinal plates, and rafter feet that bird-mouth out over outer wall plates. This two-room structure is still covered by its original hipped roof, still covered with lath and shingles now covered on the exterior by corrugated metal roofing.

Behind the main house stands a nog-walled kitchen building, suggesting that Somerville preferred to cook in the kitchen rather than in the yard. Few dedicated kitchen structures survive in Falmouth, partly due to changing culinary habits and neglect of unused buildings and partly to the nineteenth-century local preference to cook in the yard. The current owner remodeled this building into a beauty salon. A chimney or smoke hole divides the front cook room space in this building from a small rear space, which is now used as a privy and accessed through its own board door to the outside. The cook room is accessed by a door facing the front of the property.

Sometime after the construction of the house by Elizabeth Somerville in 1836, a later owner altered the front elevation by changing the front window into a double door, presumably transforming the front room into a shop. The open porch wrapped around from this eastern side of the house to the front, and features chamfered 4” posts, slotted with sloped sills below a lattice. The front doors have also been altered and now feature 3 foot wide double doors with two-panel leafs hung on butt hinges, flanked by movable louvers. In keeping with the traditional Jamaican manner, these doors are supported on a frame with beaded inner edges, and the louvers move on straight-sided rails without glazing.

In the early twentieth century, the house was expanded to the rear (north) along the full width of the rear façade, and covered by a shed roof. Occupied by a new kitchen and dining room, the framing is exposed to the interior, and features reused studs and beaded sheathing. Both the kitchen and dining room have their own exterior doors to the rear yard, and interior doors to the original rear room. While 8 Trelawny is of modest size, it reveals evidence of a rich architectural past, which might have included some of the commercial livelihood that it exhibits today.

1 Samuel Barrett Moulton Barrett to John Harris, 29 May 1812, Deeds, Island Record Office, volume 638, folio 72