They don’t build ‘em like they used to Published on January 23, 2014

Nantucket old house interiorWe don’t build them quite the way they used to—but with our 21st century standard of engineering and energy efficiency and other features of modern living, we think we build them better.

Consider the two photos here representing Then and Now. The one on the top is the Jethro Coffin House, the oldest residence on Nantucket Island, built in 1686. Below is a contemporary Hardwick Post & Beam cottage in Martha’s Vineyard. Let’s compare:

What’s the same?

  • Both houses are framed with massive timbers.
  • Hand-cut joinery fastens the timbers together like a puzzle.
  • Sturdy wooden pegs secure the joints.
  • Interior walls can be added or eliminated—they are not needed to hold up the house.
  • Timber frames can be raised in a day— a great event for the family and the craftsmen.
  • Families then and now like to gather around a fire.

living roomWhat’s different?

  • The new timber frame house is well insulated—warm in winter; cool in summer.
  • Our frames accommodate pluming, electric wiring—all the systems of modern living.
  • Because our posts and beams are not covered up, we plane and oil them, and chamfer the edges.
  • Today many people want an open floor plan, a great room, or a cathedral ceiling and loft.
  • For safety, our craftsmen raise the frames with a crane.
  • Our buildings combine energy efficiency technology with old-fashioned craftsmanship and quality.

You can’t go back in time—but would you want to?


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