A nation's buildings are a record of the character and aspirations of its people. In a rich blend of social and architectural history, Abbott Lowell Cummings reconstructs, through text and pictures, the framed houses of Massachusetts Bay that reflect the straightforward honesty of our earliest northern settlers and their profound love of craftsmanship.
A substantial number of the nation's seventeenth-century houses have been preserved in Massachusetts, and Cummings provides illustrations for a majority of them. He describes the dwellings in detail, and includes architectural drawings that were especially commissioned for this book. He demonstrates that the builders were far more sophisticated than previously imagined and that, while maintaining their English timber-building traditions, they were astonishingly adaptable to their new environment.
Beyond the houses themselves, Cummings discusses evolutions in pioneer life. The most simple kinds of changes in architecture, Cummings shows, indicated singular changes in family living. Such additions as kitchens and parlors, or the moving of the master bedroom to a second floor, suggest shifts in the private and social lives of families.
The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay is a splendid story of innovations— of restless, migratory people and their architectural and social responses to the heavily forested New World. It is the first chapter in the long saga of America's preoccupation with technology as it affected the early American home.
After more than 25 years of research into the houses and the associated documentary material Abbott Cummings has produced a book which deserves the description ‘definitive study’ …English scholars will be well served when someone produces a book of this quality concerned with traditional buildings in the old world rather than the new.
Abbott L. Cummings’ book is an in-depth history of the framed house almost as if it were a work of art that was losing meaning as the ‘era of technical reproducibility’ approached… From [his] meticulous technical treatment one learns the unique nature of these pioneer homes… The book concludes by underscoring, from the stylistic viewpoint, a sort of common character in the architecture of Massachusetts Bay which endures until the present. The framed house was not just the link between the Old and New World, it also was the mythical commencement of the American constructional tradition.
This will probably be the definitive book on 17th-century American architecture. Richly illustrated, highly detailed, it…will reward careful study by those interested in the subject.
A major contribution to American architectural history…[with] solidly researched, eloquently presented text… The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay will be the standard reference for architects, architectural historians and preservationists for many years to come.
[A] meticulous, wonderfully illustrated book… [Cummings] has made a grand book. It fills the lap, enchants the eye, and illuminates all Massachusetts Bay.
- 280 pages
- Belknap Press
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