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Dole-Little House (c. 1715)

An early eighteenth-century survival

Dole-Little House was built c. 1715 with materials salvaged from an earlier structure. Its first owner was Richard Dole, a cattleman, who built a two-room, central-chimney house with a small kitchen shed at the rear. This shed has since been replaced with a larger lean-to. Decorative carpentry and finishes include chamfered edges, molded sheathing (especially in the hall and parlor), and possibly original stair balusters.

Acquired by Florence Evans Bushee in 1954, the house was subject to an extensive restoration. Workers discovered that new mortise and tenon joints and various other changes were made to many of the salvaged framing members to allow them to conform to the plan of the “new” house. During restoration, the lean-to was rebuilt with new timbers, and sash windows from the front of the house were reinstalled in the lean-to. Decorative paneling was removed and reinstalled in the National Museum of History and Technology in Washington, D.C

Plan Your Visit

Location

289 High Road
Newbury, Mass. 01951

Days & Hours

Saturday, June 1
Saturday, July 20
Saturday, August 17
Saturday, September 21

Tours on the hour
11 AM – 2 PM

Admission

$10 adults
$9 seniors
$5 students and children

Free to Historic New England members and Newbury residents.

Accessibility

Tour involves standing, walking, and stairs. Visitors with limited mobility may be able to enjoy a first floor tour of the house. Folding chairs are provided for visitors who would like to use them while on tour. The site is not equipped with ramps, elevators, or lifts. There is no public restroom and the house is not air-conditioned. Service animals are welcome. We are happy to work with you to make your visit an enjoyable one and we encourage visitors with questions or requests to call ahead.

Directions

Dole-Little House is on Route 1A just before the Parker River Bridge.

Parking

There is a small lot in front of the house, and street parking is permitted for short periods of time.

Contact Information

Exterior

Dole-Little House is located on the banks of the Parker River, near the site of the earliest Newbury settlement.

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  • Exterior

    Dole-Little House is located on the banks of the Parker River, near the site of the earliest Newbury settlement.

  • Hall

    The fireplace in the hall measures nearly twelve feet wide. The paneling around it is reconstructed based on boards found throughout the house.

  • Parlor

    The parlor fireplace is smaller than the hall fireplace, measuring only six feet. Hall fireplaces were often larger and more decorative.

  • Rear Lean-to and Garage

    The lean-to and garage attached to Dole-Little House were added in the twentieth century to allow for modern convenience.

Indigenous and Enslaved People and Richard Dole 

The land on which Dole-Little House sits was home to indigenous people for thousands of years. At the time of contact with European colonists, the Native people living in the area were the Pawtucket, a collection of semi-autonomous family groups who all spoke a dialect of the Algonquian language and shared extremely close kinship ties with the Pennacook tribe of southern New Hampshire. The Pawtucket-Pennacook people had settlements or villages throughout the area we now call Massachusetts’ North Shore. They migrated seasonally and used the land according to the resources available which included foraging, planting crops, fishing, and hunting. Both the nearby Merrimack and the Quascacunquen (now called the Parker) Rivers would have afforded the indigenous people with valuable access to sustenance, fertile land, and salt marsh hay.

After first contact with Europeans, indigenous populations in New England were ravaged by diseases and greatly diminished in number. White colonists began arriving in large numbers in the seventeenth-century and colonized the area, disrupting the lives of the indigenous people through conflict, disease, and displacement. By the early eighteenth century, most of the Pawtucket-Pennacook family groups who called this land home were forced to relocate, joining larger and stronger tribes in Canada and further south in Massachusetts. Today, members of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki people are direct descendants of those refugees.

In 1635, the first English colonists sailed up the Quascacunquen River and established their new town of Newbury on its shores. They claimed the land and built their town center around the Lower Green. White men were given property according to wealth and status and the small community flourished. Decades after colonists forcibly occupied the land, the European colonists retroactively “purchased” large plots through dubious land deeds with the descendants of indigenous peoples. A deed signed in 1701 for 10,000 acres in Newbury included selectman Richard Dole, Jr.. The payment was £10 to Samuel English, grandson of Masconomet, known as the Sagamore of Agawam. According to the deed, English was the heir of Masconomet and he “fully & freely release & relinquish my whole right & title” to the entire township of Newbury.

One of the English colonists who owned property on the Lower Green was Richard Dole, who came to New England as an apprentice in 1639 and became a freeman in Newbury in 1654. He increased his wealth and status by purchasing property throughout the North Shore region including the land that Dole-Little House was later constructed on circa 1715. Richard Dole’s will, written in 1698, included five enslaved people whom he gifted to his heirs. Their names were recorded as Tom, Mingo, Lucy, Grace, and Betty.

There was an attempted slave revolt on the North Shore in 1690 which involved a Black man called James who was enslaved by Richard Dole. On the site of the Dole-Little House, in late May of 1690, James escaped from the household of Richard Dole in pursuit of his freedom. James brought with him all of his clothing and a gun with powder and bullets. James was captured after trying to run away and, when questioned, revealed that he was going to join two white men named Isaac Morrill and George Major with whom he was planning to organize all the enslaved African and Indigenous people in the region to revolt and free themselves from the English. While history did not record the legal outcome of this attempted revolt, it does show that the site on which Dole-Little House sits was a significant site of enslavement in Newbury.

2-nineteenthcenturyexterior_-_364_x_253Family Home

Built around 1715 with materials salvaged from an earlier structure, Dole-Little House was a two-room house of a center-chimney hall/parlor plan. It was built on land and with wealth accumulated by the first Richard Dole (1622-1705) through real estate transactions and the labor of enslaved people. The 1715 date coincides with William Dole gaining a lease to run the ferry to cross the Parker River, but it may have been constructed a few years later for William’s son Richard. He was born December 31, 1689, and married Sarah Emery in 1719, with whom he had ten children.

The house was built on a two-room, central-chimney plan with a small kitchen shed at the rear. This shed has since been replaced with a larger lean-to. Decorative carpentry and finish include chamfered edges, molded sheathing (especially in the great hall and parlor), and possibly original stair balusters.

The house and property were then passed down through six generations of the Dole family. In 1878, Nathaniel Dole sold the property to Francis Little.  The next known sale was in 1948 to Eleanor Dole Fillmore.

Restoration

Dole-Little House was acquired by Florence Evans Bushee in 1951. Bushee was a Newbury resident who owned property near the Lower Green and had a preservationist mind-set. Along with Dole-Little, she purchased and protected several important seventeenth-century houses in Essex County as well as donating hundreds of acres of land to conservation local organizations.

Bushee hired Roy W. Baker, a restoration contractor, to work on Dole-Little House. He restored the building in 1955 to reflect the then-presumed original period of 1670s. Later research dates the house more accurately to the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Baker discovered that new mortise and tenon joints and various other changes had been added to many of the salvaged framing members to allow them to conform to the plan of the house. During restoration efforts, the lean-to was removed and reconstructed with new timbers, and a small-paned sash from the front of the house was reinstalled in the lean-to. The paneling from one chamber was removed and reinstalled as an exhibition room at the National Museum of History and Technology in Washington, D.C. A copied version was reinstalled in the chamber. The stair balusters, removed by Baker in 1955, are now on display in the house.

The property is architecturally and historically significant in large part for its restoration story. When restored in the 1950s, the philosophy was to restore to the “original” date at the expense of historical accretions and clues to the past. These preservation philosophies have drastically changed over the intervening decades, in part because of stories like that of Dole-Little House. Now all eras of occupation and ownership are considered essential to the fabric and history of a house and careful documentation is a top priority in preservation.

Exterior view of Dole-Little House, Newbury, Mass.Becoming a Museum

Dole-Little House was given to Historic New England in 1975 upon the death of Mrs. Bushee. It is open to the public on select days each year. The tour focuses on mid-twentieth century restoration techniques.

Property FAQs

Find out about restrooms, photography policy, and more.

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  • Are there restrooms at Dole-Little House?

    Visitors are welcome to use the restrooms at Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm, located approximately three miles up the road.

  • When can I visit the Dole-Little House grounds?

    The museum grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk.

  • 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 help preserve the region’s heritage. Call 617-994-5910 or join online.

  • How can I get inside Dole-Little House?

    Dole-Little House is open twice per year, usually on the first Saturday in June and October. A tenant lives in the house, so private tours are possible, but only with advance notice.

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

    All visitors to he the house receive a guided tour.

  • Why are the windows so small?

    Dole-Little House had double-hung windows before its extensive renovation in the 1950s. The windows were replaced by restoration contractor Roy Baker, who replicated what he believed to be the original size and placement of the leaded glass casement windows.

  • Is the Little in Dole-Little the same family as the Littles of Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm?

    The first Little family member to own Dole-Little House was Francis Little in 1878. Though he is a descendant of first settler George Little, and so are the Littles of Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, they are not directly related as far as we know.

  • Is it true that part of the house is in a museum in Washington, D.C.?

    The decorative paneling from one of the chambers at Dole-Little House was removed and brought to the National Museum of History and Technology in Washington, D.C., now the National Museum of American History.

  • I think I saw a new building in another part of the country that looked very much like this one. Is that possible?

    Several companies have reproduced the floor plan and appearance of Dole-Little House, and sell plans to contractors who can reproduce it, with key modifications for modern living. Reproductions of Dole-Little have been built as far away as California.

  • Do you provide admission discounts for EBT cardholders?

    EBT cardholders from all fifty states can show their card for $2 admission to house tours for up to four guests per card.

Related to this Property

Visit nearby Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury.

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Visit nearby Coffin House in Newbury.

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Become a member and tour for free.

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