1790 Farmhouse Finds New Life

Ashfield, MA



Incorporate 21st-century energy efficiency and accessibility within a historic footprint, while retaining the character and integrity of this early settlement home and site. 

Located at the end of a road on seven rolling acres of what was once an 84-acre farm, this 18th century farmhouse had been empty for several years. The original 20x32’ cape had two post-and-beam additions, both of which reused old timbers from even earlier structures.  Tucked below a three-story, side-hill barn, the simple east-west alignment of the home promised excellent passive solar gain, but the house was a sieve. 

Taking the house down to its bones revealed the historic central fireplace and beehive oven, and original flooring under layers of old linoleum.  Curved ceilings in the dining/kitchen area were preserved, while removing an interior wall and chimney.  A kitchen pantry, which steps out on the north side, became a new entrance, to keep cars and parking out of the sunny and private south yard.  The woodshed and outhouse were converted to a first-floor master bedroom and bath, providing single level living for aging in place.  The steeply curving stairway with 5” treads was retained for historic purposes, but a new stairway provides easier access to second floor guest room and office, and created a convenient pocket for a powder room below.


Balancing historic rehabilitation with improved passive solar gain, meticulous air sealing, and conservation technology, the home is sunny, snug and private.  A 5 kW photovoltaic panel installed along the south side of the barn provides a net gain in electricity, and the on-demand hot water heater minimizes use of fossil fuel.


Electrician | Poissant Electric, Ashfield MA
Energy Certification | Center for EcoTechnology, Florence MA
Excavation & Concrete | Harris & Gray, Ashfield MA
HVAC & Plumbing | George Propane, Goshen MA
Recycling & Waste Management | Austin's, Whately, MA; EcoBuilding, Springfield MA

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