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Are there restrooms at the Swett-Ilsley House?

Visitors are welcome to use the restrooms at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, located approximately a half mile down the road.

Is the museum handicapped accessible?

A tour of any Historic New England property requires a considerable amount of standing and some walking. Folding chairs can be provided for visitors who would like to use them during a tour. Swett-Ilsley House has not been equipped with handicapped accessible ramps, elevators, or chair lifts. 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 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.  

Do we need to take a tour or can we just look around?

All visitors to the house receive a guided tour.

When can I visit the Swett-Ilsley House grounds?

The museum grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk.

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 Swett-Ilsley House staff at 978-462-2634 or by e-mail. 

When can I take a tour of the Swett-Ilsley House?

The Swett-Ilsley House is open on the first Saturday of every month from June to October from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Why did Historic New England choose the Swett-Ilsley House as its first acquisition in 1911?

Historic New England founder William Sumner Appleton chose the Swett-Ilsley House as the organization’s first preservation project because he was interested in saving the earliest examples of humble residential architecture that were the most vulnerable to drastic remodeling or demolition. Such modest houses were less likely to be rescued by private restoration efforts than grand Georgian or Federal houses.

Why isn’t the house restored and furnished?

The original restoration ran out of money and, later, Appleton’s outlook on preservation vs. restoration changed. The original work, funded by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, peeled away layers of lath and plaster to reveal original timbers, early eighteenth-century paneling, and one of the largest fireplaces in New England.  Restoration stopped when funds were exhausted, before any long-gone original features, like diamond-paned casements, were recreated, resulting in a house with an unrestored eighteenth-century exterior and a partially restored interior reflecting both the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Today the house is one of Historic New England’s study properties, and is purposely left unfurnished to allow architectural historians and preservation craftsmen easy access to the building’s original features.