Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Dating the Oldest House in Londonderry, New Hampshire

The Rev. William Morrison House on Gilcrest Road, 2007

The house donated by Robert and Anne Perry to the Londonderry Historical Society in 2006 has long been considered the oldest house in Londonderry.  But exactly how old is it?  On Tuesday October 22nd I was invited to the historical society's museum complex at 140 Pillsbury Road and to watch as tests were performed on timbers from the Perry House to determine the approximate age of this house.  It is estimated to have been built around 1725, making it almost 300 years old.

This house was popularly known as "The Rev. William Morrison" house, because it was said that Londonderry's second minister lived there in the 1700s.  This house was located on Gilcrest Road, and was disassembled and moved to storage trailers at the Pillsbury Road location while the historical society raises the funds to restore the home.  In 2017 the society hired Arron Sturgis of  Preservation Timber Framing to assess the building and make plans for its reconstruction.

The Londonderry Historical Society hired William Flint, the former Historic Deerfield staff member, to perform dendrochronology studies on the oldest timbers of this house.  Since the house had been added to over the decades, it was quite a process to choose the best beams possible for this test. Arron Sturgis and his team spent the morning sorting beams pulled out from storage.  This was accomplished with the help of machinery donated by Reliable Equipment of Londonderry.

The dendrochronology studies will test the core samples from the timbers.  A full report will specify the species of tree (mostly white oak), the years it grew and the year it was felled.  This will help to date the house more accurately.

When reconstructed, this 40' x 30' two story house will function as a multi-use facility with museum displays, research and meeting areas for the community, and storage space for the historical society.  About 95 percent of the original frame of the house has been preserved and carefully stored away.  There are also many pieces of architectural trim and boards preserved for use in the reconstruction.   It will become part of the museum complex, behind the Morrison House museum, and including the Parmenter barn, the Clark blacksmith shop, and the Litchfield carriage shed.

Carefully moving the beams out of storage

Some of the beams stacked up for analysis

Sturgis and Flint assessing the beams for testing

Bill Flint takes a core sample from one of the beams

Extracting the core sample

This core sample shows the ring growth of the timber

The sample above came from this beam in the house

Anne Chiampa of the LHS shows me the house plans

A previous blog post about this house:

The Londonderry Historical Society website:   http://www.londonderryhistory.org/ 
     The webpage for the Rev. Morrison House: http://www.londonderryhistory.org/rwmh/

Preservation Timber Framing:   https://www.preservationtimberframing.com/

Reliable Equipment:  https://www.reliableequipment.net/

An earlier blog post on the Rev. William Morrison House (2009):

Thanks to Ann Chiampa of the Londonderry Historical Society for assistance with this blog post.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Dating the Oldest House in Londonderry, New Hampshire", Nutfield Genealogy, posted November 5, 2019, ( https://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2019/11/dating-oldest-house-in-londonderry-new.html: accessed [access date]).


  1. Have other homes been tested to see how old they might be?

    1. Yes, just last year Bill Flint was hired by the Londonderry Historical Society to test another house that was thought to be older than the Rev. Morrison House, but it turned out to be from the early 1800s.