Built in 1681, the Col. James Hartshorne House is the oldest public building in Wakefield, Mass., and is thought to be the town’s oldest surviving home in its original location.
Located on the shores of Lake Quannapowitt, it has served as a private residence, a tavern and a tenement house. In 1929, a fire destroyed all the surrounding industrial buildings on the property, but the homestead miraculously survived.
Later that year, the town of Wakefield voted to purchase the house during a special town meeting.
The first floor of house is rented out for weddings, events, showers, reunions and other small gatherings. The funds from the events help maintain and preserve the house, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 as part of the Church-Lafayette Historic District.
A little about its namesake: James Hartshorne, a shoemaker, bought the house in 1803 and lived there until his death in 1870. He was active in the First Parish Church, and served as Town Treasurer for 15 years, and was a selectman.
James and his first wife, Abigail, had seven children. After her death from tuberculosis in 1816, he married Mary Poole in 1819 and had six additional children. Only eight of the 13 children lived to adulthood.
Mary lived in the house until her death in 1884.