Phineas Thurston House (The Home Farm)
Municipality: Barnet, VT
Location: W side of TH12 ca 3/4 mile from Waterford/Barnet townline
Site Type: House
Vt Survey No: 0301-19
UTMs: (Zone 18)
National Register Nomination Information:
The Phineas Thurston House is a well-preserved Cape Cod farmhouse. The house is a typical story and a half Cape Cod with a connecting ell that includes a summer kitchen and two arched, open bay, carriage openings at the end. Among its distinctive elements are the Cape Cod form, original paneled central doorway and transom, and many original interior features such as paneling, wainscoting, doors, trim, and floors. The house, which faces east across a lawn toward Barnet Town Highway #12, is located in a rural area on one acre and it is surrounded on all four sides by a nearby dairy farm. The environs have remained agricultural throughout the history of the property. The only buildings within a quarter of a mile are dairy barns and silos; thus the integrity of its setting remains intact. The property also retains its integrity of design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
An ell is attached to the north (side) wall. It is recessed from the front wall plane of the house. The ell becomes a barn with a two-bay carriage shed at the northernmost end. The portion of the ell nearest the house is a summer kitchen with a door on the east facade between two windows. Beyond this on the east are a single window and a door, and the carriage shed. The ell is one story tall with a high attic covered by a metal roof. The back side of the main house and ell line up with each other. The back of the main block consists of (south to north): a door, two 1/1 kitchen windows, and two more house windows. The ell has from south to north a 2/2 window and door in the summer kitchen, small square window, two doors, and two small square windows in the barn. The north gable of the barn has two large windows. The north gable end of the main block of the house has two windows on the second floor (one small, one large) and a small window in the gable peak.
There are two gabled dormers, one on the back of the house and another above the back side of the summer kitchen. A single brick chimney projects through the center of the ridge on the main block of the house. This is modern and consists of concrete block inside the house.
The exterior construction materials are weatherboard and wood trim, a granite foundation, a cedar shingle roof on the house, and a metal roof on the barn ell. The clapboards on the front of the summer kitchen are graduated top to bottom from small to larger and feathered at the butts. These and some on the north gable of the house and front of the barn appear to be original and are nailed by. Most of the hand-wrought nails. Most of the rest of the clapboards are modern replacement double pine clapboards on both house and barn. The gables do not project and the original molding is intact where the ell attic was added. Some original clapboards also appear on the north side of the house, now inside the attic, and are almost unweathered. Apparently the ell was added soon after the house was built, although maybe not to its full 54' length.
The house and ell (carriage barn) structure is post and beam. This can be observed in the kitchen ceiling, which has 8" x 8" joists and 8" x 10" summer beams. Framing in the attic includes a large ridge beam. The framing in the ell (carriage barn) is of pegged 12" x 12" timbers with corner braces. There is no ridgepole in the ell (carriage barn) and each set of rafters is pegged together at the top.
There are currently no porches although a photograph taken about 1880 shows one in front of the summer kitchen. The windows, for the most part, are nine over six sash with 9" x 7" panes. The two in the front of the summer kitchen appear to be original; the others are all replacements. Large granite blocks provide stepping stones for entrances to both the house and summer kitchen. Concrete and slate entries serve the back doors to the house and summer kitchen and a dirt ramp leads up to the back door to the barn. The eaves of the house are boxed in with a strip of molding below. There is a five light transom over the front door. The arches over the carriage shed bays consist of wooden segments of different widths with a wooden keystone over each. The windows on the north side of the house have lintels with sloping sides, which appear to be original. Those on the south side of the house are replacement window lintels and frames. The frames on the north side still have vertical molding strips, which have disappeared or been replaced elsewhere on the building. All window frames on the north and front of the house have a bead.
The front door is 39-1/2" wide with six panels. It has a Suffolk latch and the original hinges. A similar door leads from the ell into the carriage shed but without the original hardware. The other exterior doors are not original.
All rooms have wide board floors of softwood except the kitchen and storage room, which have hardwood strip flooring.
The front hallway has a wainscot and chair rail in one corner and hand-planed boards in another. The rest of its walls, which have doors leading to other rooms, are plaster. The plaster walls were stenciled in 1975.
The living room has 9" baseboards, a 24" wainscot, and chair rail all around. The floor has a trap door, which was used for lowering milk cans into the basement to make cheese. There are seven doors in this room; six have Norfolk latches, most of them original to the house. Seven doorways are beaded and six of the doors are of four panels. One of the doors is to a dish cupboard with grooved shelves for display of dishes at the back. The door is a replacement from an old door and has a brass thumb latch. The walls and ceilings are of plaster. There are replacement beaded rails for hanging things on four sides of the room. Moldings around the doors and windows replace those whose presence were detected by paint marks and whose shapes were indicated by a surviving fragment.
The storage room contains nothing original. The small bedroom has grooves where pantry shelves once stood, and beaded baseboards and two door frames (one door now covered over with plaster). The bathroom also has beaded baseboards and a door frame.
The paneled room is the most elegant. It has a fireplace mantel, a paneled fireplace wall, three doors with H-L hinges, a cornice all around, and on three sides a 26" single board wainscot and chair rails. The original moldings surround each door and the three windows. The baseboard is 6" high. An unusual feature is the floor boards, which are scored and nailed to look like 4 1/2" strips although most boards are actually about 9" wide.
The small room off the paneled room was the borning room and is notable for wide floor boards and high baseboards. It has a small closet and a replacement chair rail.
The kitchen has been much altered. After a fire in 1978, the beams in the ceiling were exposed. The joists are roughly on three foot centers with the butts set in the summer beam on the east. The two panel door to the pantry is original and has a Suffolk latch. The wood stove is early 20th century. The door frames contain (replacement) molding, which were indicated by paint marks, and original beading. The two 1/1 windows are modern, as are the wall cupboards and sink.
The front stairway has a quarter turn and leads upstairs from the front hallway. Upstairs are three bedrooms. Door frames, doors, and baseboards indicate that the upstairs was probably finished off at a later date although the wide boards in the floors seem to date from the time of construction of the house. On the south side is a large bedroom, which has two windows and a large closet. North of the hallway is another bedroom with the kneewall three feet high. This room has a closet with a built-in cupboard and rails with cast iron hooks. In the back corner is a small bedroom lit by a dormer and a former outside window, which is now covered by the summer kitchen attic (to which access is given by a door).
The basement covers all the area beneath the house itself. It is of large granite slabs on the outside and inside a wall of brick one course thick with an air space between. Below grade, all is field stone, now mortared. The floor is mostly dirt. The framing reveals the size of the original chimney. Butts of the summer beams are supported by a brick and a wood post where the chimney once held them. Many of the floor joists have been replaced or duplicated so the framing pattern is irregular.
The large attic has 6" x 6" rafters and a similar ridgepole. There are also attics on either side of the kneewalls.
The ell begins with the summer kitchen. There are remnants of a brick oven under a plain mantel. The room is designed for cross ventilation with three windows and two doors. Original chair rails and wainscot are on all four sides. The doors lead north to two old rooms. That on the front is now a workshop and has original door frames and chair rails intact. The back room is now a stable and appears to have no original features.
An old 39" wide door leads from the front room to the carriage shed, which is three steps lower. The two bays of the shed, of unequal width, are used for garages. Above the first floor is a long attic divided in two by a wooden wall and a stairway. The attic is lighted by a dormer and two large windows at the northern gable.
The Phineas Thurston House, one of the older houses in what is known as the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont (Caledonia, Orleans, and Essex Counties), is significant as being a good and well-preserved example of a Cape Cod farmhouse. It is in the town of Barnet, first settled in 1770 but little developed until after the Revolution. The Thurston House represents nearly two centuries of farm life in that part of Vermont, and was a center of farm life from 1788 to 1971. The Thurston House remains relatively intact. Significant features are its Cape Cod form, the paneled central doorway and transom, the early attached ell containing a summer kitchen and two open carriage bay arches at the end, and many original interior details. The chief changes have been the loss of the central chimney and fireplaces and the addition of modern plumbing, heating, and wiring.
A survey done in 1976 showed Cape Cods to be the predominant building type of older houses in the town of Barnet. The Thurston House is a good and well-preserved example of a Cape Cod house, and is one of the most intact examples of its type in the area. The house has the typical Cape Cod form, being 1-1/2 stories high and five bays wide, with a gable roof and a central entrance. It is also significant for its early attached ell, which includes two arched, open, carriage bays at the far end. The wood trim framing the arches have wooden keystones.
Inside most of the original woodwork and much of the door hardware have survived. Missing hardware and some chair rails have been salvaged from other buildings of the same period. No new woodwork has been added unless its presence was indicated by paint marks, nail holes, or surviving fragments. Former residents saw little reason to discard or alter much over the nearly two centuries of the house's existence. It remains largely intact as built despite a fire in 1978 which damaged some of the upstairs.
In October 1787, Phineas Thurston purchased four hundred acres in Barnet and adjacent Waterford. That same year, a sawmill began operations at the foot of the hill. Thurston's origins are unknown. In 1788, he paid his taxes with wheat apparently grown on the site. Presumably the house was constructed about that time. Many of the interior details are identical with those in the nearby Goodwillie House, built in 1791.
Phineas Thurston farmed the place for the remainder of his life and left it to his daughter and her husband, who sold it to Amos Kinney (sometimes Kinne) soon after the turn of the century. He and his son, Loren, farmed it for most of the nineteenth century until 1884. It is often referred to as the "Home Farm." After Loren Kinney's death in 1884, it passed through a number of hands, mostly farmers from Quebec. Gradually the land was sold off to other owners.
The last farmer was Ray Moulton, who died in 1971. He managed to make a living off the land, now reduced to a single acre, by raising hogs, heifers, 800 chickens and by making snowshoes and repairing chain saws. His only changes to the place were to make chicken coops out of the barn and to bring a horse shed from a logging job in Lyndonville to use for hogs.
James and Susan White, the present owners, have tried to do as careful and accurate a restoration as possible. This work is virtually complete except for the possible reconstruction of a central chimney and fireplaces.
Map of Caledonia County, Vermont, from Actual Surveys Under the Direction of H. F. Walling. New York: 1858.
County Atlas of Caledonia, Vermont, from Actual Surveys by and Under the Direction of F. W. Beers. New York: 1875.
Wells, Frederick Palmer. History of Barnet, Vermont. Burlington, Vt. Free Press Printing Co., 1923.
Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. Survey of Barnet, Vermont, Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey. Montpelier, Vt.: 1980.
DATE ENTERED: October 30, 1989.
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