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Where should I park when I come for a tour?

There is room for parking on the lawn beside the Boardman House, to the left as you face the house. You can also park along the street in front of the house, or if there is no space there, you can park at the Village Park Shopping center, about 200 yards east of the Boardman House.

Are there restrooms at the Boardman House?

The closest restrooms are in the shops and restaurants of the Village Park Shopping center, about 200 yards east of the Boardman House.

When can I visit the Boardman House grounds?

The museum grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk.

Is the museum handicapped accessible?

A tour of any Historic New England property requires a considerable amount of standing and some walking.  The Boardman House has not been equipped with handicapped accessible ramps, elevators, or chair lifts. Folding chairs can be provided for visitors who would like to use them during a tour. We are glad to offer guests a visual tour of the museum. Visitors with limited mobility may be able to enjoy a first floor tour of the house and grounds. Service animals are always welcome. We encourage visitors with concerns to call ahead. We are happy to work with you to make your visit an enjoyable one.

Can I take photographs at the museum?

Interior and exterior photography for personal use is allowed at Historic New England properties. For the safety and comfort of our visitors and the protection of our collections and house museums, we ask that you be aware of your surroundings and stay with your guide. Video, camera bags, tripods and selfie-sticks are not permitted. Professional/commercial photographers and members of the media should visit the press room for more information.  

How do I become a member of Historic New England and get more involved?

Join Historic New England now and get involved in preserving and celebrating the region's heritage.  To join, call the Membership Office at 617-994-5910 or join online. You can reach the Boardman House staff at 978-768-3632 or by e-mail.

I have heard that this house was once a jail for Scottish prisoners of war.  Is this true?

No, but for many years there was a sign out front which mis-identified this house as the “Scotch-Boardman House.” A house was built here in 1651 as a home for some Scottish men, captured by Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War at the Battle of Dunbar, who were sent to be indentured servants in New England. These men were not prisoners; they worked nearby at the Saugus Iron Works, and when their indentures were up, they were free to make their homes here.  The house built for these Scottish men (known during the seventeenth century as the “Scotch House”) was a different building, but it used to stand on the same property, and that led to the confusion.

Why does the second story stick out over the first story?

The overhang of the second story was probably a combination of traditional Medieval building methods and aesthetic style. In England an overhang (known there as a “jetty”) was often used in crowded towns where it gave the upper stories of a building a larger floor space and more light and air (at the same time preventing light and air from reaching the narrow streets below). In New England, space, light, and air were usually plentiful, so the overhang had very little practical use. However, carpenters who migrated to Massachusetts Bay retained the building techniques they had learned in England, and continued to build with overhangs. Another factor was probably that the Jacobean house form, with gables, overhangs, brackets, and pendants, was the most stylish house of the time, and adding an overhang was simply an aesthetic choice. 

Why are the big structural timbers in the house called “summer beams"?

There are many explanations and speculations about the etymology of the term “summer beam,” which has been used since the fourteenth century and refers to the massive beams that you can see in the center of the ceiling of each room.  The Oxford English Dictionary traces the origin to the Anglo-French word sumer or somer, meaning packhorse, and referring to the function of the beam bearing a heavy load.  Another possible derivation is from the Latin word summa, meaning highest or greatest (as in summa cum laude), and referring to the great size and primary importance of the beam.

Why is there no furniture or objects in the house?

When the Boardman House was purchased by William Sumner Appleton in 1914, the last members of the Boardman family had left, and the house was empty. Upon examination, Appleton realized that the importance of the house was as an architectural survival rather than as an example of how people lived. He resisted the urge to fill the house with reproductions, which was so common during the Colonial Revival, and today Boardman remains a valuable study house, relatively untouched, presenting its important architectural evidence without distractions.

Why is the main room called the hall, when we sometimes think of a hall as a corridor?

The use of the word hall finds its origins in the “great hall” found in castles and manors of the Middle Ages. The great hall was a big, high-ceilinged space in a castle, with a central hearth, where all the varied life and activity of the community took place, including cooking, eating, and even sleeping. The hall in a seventeenth-century house continued this tradition, and was the everyday gathering place for the family. Later, as spaces in a house became more specialized and less multi-functional, the hall lost its importance and gradually became no more than an entryway or passage to another room.

How would you bake something in a beehive oven?

First the cook would either take hot coals from the fireplace hearth and shovel them into the oven, or build a fire directly in the oven itself. When the bricks inside the beehive oven were hot enough, the cook would shovel the hot coals out of the oven, pop the food to be baked inside, and then cover the opening of the oven with a board or panel, often stored in a slot built into the chimneystack beside the opening of the oven. The bread or food would be baked by the ambient heat from the bricks.

Was this house painted brown in 1692?

No, we know it was not because we can still see some of the original unpainted oak clapboards of the house hidden under the lean-to - an important piece of architectural evidence. However, at some later point in its history the Boardman House was painted dark brown, and Historic New England generally tries to preserve buildings as they were when we took ownership. Siding in the seventeenth century may have been treated with a linseed oil base which would naturally darken, and in later periods a creosote-based stain was also often used to preserve natural wood siding. Both of these methods would have created a dark brown color similar to the shade we use today.