The Spaulding-Johnson House
30 Fruit Street, Pawtucket RI
You can "tour" the Spaulding Johnson house on-line here.
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Upstairs on the landing, the children would play when the weather was inclement. The floor here shows the careful way Joseph Spaulding laid the boards. Beginning at the west end of the house he laid 20 foot floor boards, all ending in an even row. He then began at the East side of the house and brought the flooring to meet the opposing boards. There is a line running down the middle. I think; what games did the children play on these planks?
Since the front parlor was used for special occasions, it is also the most ornate. The original tongue and groove pine floor abuts a built in china cabinet. Weddings, baptisms, funerals and formal family gatherings took place in the room. The floor secreted away conversations of happiness and woe.
Original wood is not only found in the floor and frame, but in the compactly built stairway, which is known as a 3x3x3 stairway because of the way it twists and turns. It has stair treads which are cut of Tiger Maple, usually reserved for fine furniture. Each tread is cut at an angle so that as you walk either up or down you automatically make a perfect "S" curve.
Three families grew in the house. Their lives were created here, and their memories are left. The floor, the stairs and the beams all stand weathered from the wonders they have witnessed.
Once, in disbelief, I asked a professor to tell me just how they went about moving houses (a common practice in the 1800’s). He explained it, saying how back then, labor was cheap and the lumber and glass was expensive. Now, the material is cheap and the labor expensive, so it’s easier to just rebuild than move. You can see it standing in the Spaulding-Johnson house. Will our houses still stand in 200 years? Will our floors wait for future feet to walk on them?
When one has an affinity for historical houses, there is usually a certain item that lights up their eyes. I have a friend who gets giddy over silver collections. My husband looks for interesting interior designs. I love the stories hidden in the wood. Like a child holding on to a sentient teddy bear, I anthropomorphize the product and picture the lives it has patiently sat through
The Preservation Society of Pawtucket owns the Spaulding-Johnson house at 30 Fruit Street. Built in 1828, all but one room still has its original floors. The planks are wide and scarred. Built on a hill, it has a summer kitchen with a garden view on the lower floor.
In this room, Mary Spaulding (who lived there from 1828 to 1835) would bath the children in front of the fire place. Here she would can her jams, do laundry and make candles. The wood has lived through it all. That marvelous floor once had tin bathtubs on it and splashing children. That image, or one of Mary carefully crafting blackberry preserves is something spectacular.
A tiny room off the kitchen (essentially the size of a modern bath room) has been used for a large number of reasons. 12 children were born here. This room was used not only for births, but as a bedroom for the servant, an area for the sick, and sometimes simply a day-room. To think that all this activity bustled in a room that now would feel cramped with more than 2 chairs. The floor has been there throughout it all, witnessing the changes that this area has undergone.
A brief introduction ...
You'll stay in a mill worker house, you'll tour the mill that bore the Industrial Revolution in America ... you'll never be the same!
The previous article was written for The Pawtucket Times and published July 5, 2015.
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