The "Old Chelmsford" Garrison House

In 1691-1692, the town of Chelmsford encompassed not only the Chelmsford of today, but all of what is now Westford and Lowell as well.  British soldiers were garrisoned at 19 locations in Chelmsford, partly to protect the colonists from the Indians, and partly to insure that the colonists remained loyal to the king.  One of the garrisons was the building now known as the "Old Chelmsford" Garrison House.  This lovely old building is a museum piece, a rare example of where and how the common family lived in colonial days.

Architecturally, the building is a real gem, boasting a chamfered summer beam almost 17 inches wide, gun-stock posts, 33 inch wide panelling, hand-split lath, an original fieldstone fireplace, and a great central chimney constructed entirely of fieldstone set on a 12 foot square base.

The house was used as a family dwelling until the 1950s.  Amazingly, over a span of almost 300 years the house was owned by only three families prior to the title passing to the Garrison House Association in 1959.  It was modified surprisingly little over the years, although some modifications were made: Casement windows were replaced with sliding sash; clapboards were replaced by wooden shingles; and in the 1920s a modern kitchen was installed which is still part of the exhibit.

The exact date of construction is probably impossible to determine.  We do know that Thomas Adams obtained the land as a grant from the town of Chelmsford and in 1683, 5 years before his death, he conveyed the land to his son Peletiah.  In 1702, Peletiah deeded the land and house to his sons, Thomas and Peletiah, and the two families shared the house for a number of years. The "saltbox" addition in the rear dates from this period.

Benjamin Heywood of Billerica acquired the property in 1728.  His descendents sold it to John and Sara McCormick in 1922.  The "Old Chelmsford" Garrison House association was formed in 1959 to restore and preserve the house and received it as a gift from W. C. Lahue, Inc. who purchased the house that year from Mrs. McCormick.

Currently, we are in the process of repairing the house. Among other things, the wooden shingles are being removed and replaced with clapboards.   This will help to restore the building to resemble its original appearance.


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