Falmouth Field Guide

21 Market Street

One of the most intact merchant house/stores in Falmouth, 21 Market Street is two stories tall with a full cellar under the building. The ground floor walls are primarily stone; a wood frame structure at the back has been renovated with Portland cement. The second floor is wood frame, covered by a single hipped roof, likely a replacement for three hipped roofs, corresponding with the front-to-back spatial division of the plan.

The typical merchant house/store loggia is articulated by six columns, three of which have slightly differing neoclassical designs, suggesting that only one is original. The symmetrical, five-bay wide façade of well-executed masonry includes two doors flanked by windows at the building corners and in the center.

The right entry door leads to two rooms, one behind the other, in the right two bays of the house, with access to a cellar bulkhead in the wood frame portion at the back of the building. The rest of the ground level is one large room, occupying the three leftmost bays of the house and extending the full depth. A floor hatch with an early keyhole opens into the cellar. There is no direct access to the upper level from this room; a door on the left side leads into an alley, from which one can enter the rear wood frame portion of the building, which contains the stair to the second floor.

The plan of the upper level has seen many changes over time. Doors were placed and rooms have been subdivided even before the stair was moved to its present location. As the uses of the building have changed throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the plan has altered to meet new needs.

The reworked stairs lead to small reception area that opens into a central passage dividing the plan in half. Three well-lit and well-ventilated chambers flank either side of this central passage. While the upstairs was likely open to the roof originally, matchboard ceilings from around 1900 – 1910 are visible in the passage and lobby. The other spaces have plywood ceilings dating from around 1980, which is also when jalousie windows replaced all the windows on the right (north) façade upstairs, as well as most of the rear (west) façade.

Both ends of the passage have arched openings with double architraves, over piers with recessed panels. Molding details on these archways, along with chair rail molding and heavy classical bases and double architraves on some windows on this floor, suggest a construction date of around 1810 – 1830.

The reception area at the top of the stairs, the passage itself, and the front room feature smooth, planed, and beaded sheathing. Planed and beaded studs, braces, and door and window frames visible on the insides of the chambers. The chambers, however, feature large, three-part windows, usually found in the most formal interior spaces.