At the Town Council meeting on December 18, the dendrochronology study on the Holmes house at 24 Griffin Road was presented by Ann Chiampa.
Dendrochronology is the science or technique of dating events, environmental changes, and artifacts by using the characteristic patterns of annual growth rings in timber and tree trunks.
The Homes house study was performed by Historic Deerfield to determine the age of the home since there was some confusion as to why it was deemed to be the oldest house in Londonderry by some town records.
The council approved the expenditure for the study of the home back in July of 2017. The dendrochronologist visited the house on Oct. 17, and took about 14 core samples.
The dendrochronologist compared a prepped core timber sample with that of several taken from the Holmes House and also by analyzing the timber by microscope to more closely determine the age of the core sample.
It was found that there were two species of trees on the property; oak and pine. The pine timbers were found to have no meaningful results when compared with samples prepped from the dendrochronologist. The oak samples taken, however, were found to have connections to Northern Worcester County in central Massachusetts and also compared to the Connecticut River Valley samples also in Massachusetts. The results of this study were that the five oak samples taken from the Holmes house were dated from 1822 and before. Three of the samples were dated from 1822, one sample from 1819, and the other was 1818. This verifies that the house could not have been built until the spring of 1823.
The town assessment records say that the house is from circa 1722 and the first house built in Londonderry. The new samples taken, however, prove that the house is approximately 100 years newer than the date presented by the town records. The core samples taken from the Holmes house will serve Historic Deerfield with samples known as the “Londonderry Holmes House Site Masters” so that any other houses in the area who wish to have a study of their trees will be compared to the core samples taken of the Holmes house. These samples will be kept in the collection of Historic Deerfield.
It is called the “Holmes house” because the earliest owner of the house (determined through research) was Charles Holmes who given the house via a will. Ultimately this study done by Historic Deerfield proves that the Holmes house is not the oldest house built in Londonderry as originally thought to be and the records will have to be updated to reflect the findings of this study. Unfortunately, this also proves that the house may not be as historical significant as hoped to be by the town council.