Attached Farmhouse and Immigrant Experience
When taking a tour of Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, discover a different aspect of the farm’s history inside the attached farmhouse. Jacob and Dorothy Stekionis, immigrants from Lithuania, lived in the house for much of the twentieth century and raised three daughters there. The Stekionises’ story significantly extends the history of Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm into the twentieth century, highlighting the immigrant experience and the point of view of a working family.
Offin Boardman, a Revolutionary-era privateer who owned the farm from 1796 to 1812, built the attached farmhouse around 1800. Connected to the c. 1690 manor house through a breezeway, it was home to generations of servants, family members, and tenant farmers. Jacob Stekionis, a recent immigrant, moved there in 1913 after Edward Francis Little, the farm’s owner, hired him. Jacob returned to Lithuania in 1923 and married Dorothy Januṧević, a woman from a village near where he was raised.
Amidst the threat of war, Jacob returned to Newbury with Dorothy. Following Edward’s death in 1935, the Stekionises took over the farm operations, growing vegetables and selling milk. Although they never owned the farmhouse, Jacob and Dorothy lived there until their deaths in 1984 and 1993, respectively.
Views of the farmhouse are incorporated into the house tours at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, and visitors can also take self-guided tours into the kitchen and living room. The rooms are furnished and decorated as they would have looked in the early 1980s.
After Historic New England acquired the farm, Jacob and Dorothy participated in extensive oral histories. The three Stekionis daughters all live locally and generously shared family photographs and stories with Historic New England staff to present an accurate depiction of life in the farmhouse.
Preserving the attached farmhouse
Historic New England has taken great care to preserve the farmhouse at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm while respecting the historic fabric and evolution of the building, including repairs made by Jacob Stekionis. Paint and plaster analysis, window conservation, wood repairs, and painting helped prepare the building to be seen by the public.
The Stekionis daughters donated the majority of their parents’ furnishings to Historic New England so that they could be used to provide an authentic view of the family’s life on the farm. The furnishings range from an overstuffed set of parlor furniture from the 1930s to a 1960s washing machine in the kitchen.
Our conservation staff cleaned and stabilized dozens of pieces at our conservation lab in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Visitors will see that the pieces are not conserved to appear in pristine condition, but to show the gentle wear and tear of everyday use.