120 Main Street

This house stands at the front of a deep 4 acre cleared lot on Durham’ s Main Street. It is immediately adjacent to the Merriam Manufacturing company’s complex of factory

  • Record ID: 62
  • Address: 120 Main Street
  • Current Owner: Adams, Allen E.
  • Name of Building: The Samuel Fenn Parsons House
  • Historic Name: Samuel Fenn Parsons House
  • Download PDF of Original Record

Notable Features

Overhangs on first and second stories
Mortared foundation of pecked sandstone

Historical or Architectural Importance

The Samuel Fenn Parsons House is a 2 1/2 story, three bay, colonial structure with overhangs on its first and second stories. It stands on a mortared foundation of pecked sandstone. Its entry contains a turn of the century panel and glass door. All of the original windows have been replaced by 2-over-2 sash. Two 1 story, shed-roofed additions have been added to the east side of the building. A large 2 1/2 story addition stands at the north end. The house contains three chimneys and four fireplaces. In 1708, Joseph Gaylord purchased 7 1/2 acres from Hezekiah Talcott. In 1714, he sold the property with a house for b 110 to Abraham Jelit of Farmington. The property changed hands every two years retween 1714 and 1730, when it was purchased by Samuel Fenn, and there is evidence that even at this early date it was used for commercial purposes — for a 1721 deed mentions a “house, barn, and shop” on the premises. Tradition suggests that Samuel Fenn built the present structure in the 1740’s and the sign on the structure states that it was built by Samuel Fenn Parsons in 1745. There is no evidence, however, to support these assertions, indeed, the attribution to Samuel Fenn Parsons is patently incorrect, since he was a child in 1745. Both documentary and structural evidence point to a much earlier date — as early as 1708-1714. In 1771, Samuel Fenn gave the house to his grandson, Samuel Fenn Parsons, one of Durham’s early shoemakers. He sold it June of 1822 to Isaac Newton of Lenox, Massachusetts. He sold it one month later to John White, a Durham shoemaker, who in 1831 sold half the structure to his younger brother Seymour. The Whites lived and made shoes in the house, but not very profitably, for the property was continously encumbered by mortgages, most of them extended by other shoemakers. The Whites finally failed in 1837 and turned the property over to their creditors. Seymour, being the more seriously indebted, lost his share entirely and died shortly thereafter. John managed to retain his portion, sharing ownership with Asher Robinson. He died in 1847 and his share passed to his widow Sally (1788-1862) and his daughter Betsey, wife of wagonmaker Henry Canfield (1792-1863). In 1866 the house was purchased by the Merriam Manufacturing Company and was used as worker housing. The house remained in the company’s hands–or in those of its chief proprietors, the Francises–until 1963, when it was sold to George D. Weipert. He sold it to Allen E. Adams in 1974.
Architecturally this three-bay structure is distinctive, the only house of its type still standing in Durham. If the documentary and structural evidence can be trusted,
this is one of the oldest structures in the town. It is remarkable for having survived with so few major alterations. Historically it is significant not only for its
great age, but also for its long association (from the 1700s on) with Durham’s industrial growth, first with the shoe industry and later with metal fabricating.