This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of "Groton's Anonymous Mistress." This 300-year-old house is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.

Part 37

By Carl Flowers

One last interior feature to ponder is the Rumford fireplace in the Mistress's south ell. The challenge is to determine how a fireplace or firebox 29 inches high, 24 inches across, and eight inches deep was a better fireplace. The theory was a smaller fire box with a smoke shelf would emit less smoke, reduce down drafts, and radiate more heat. The issue is the significantly smaller hearth the fire actually sits on. Part of the fire had to extended into the room so there would be less protection against flying sparks. Maybe fire screens were developed to compliment the new style fireplace to keep sparks from flying out onto the floor. The issue with a screen is the fact I've never seen andirons eight inches or less to support the burning wood. Maybe this is the reason the Rumford fireplace on the second floor of the south ell was plastered over. Maybe the Rumford fireplace wasn't as good as it was purported.

When looking at the front of the Mistress from the outside, you see only seven windows. The majority of surviving eighteenth century houses have nine windows. Maybe the Mistress is a bit older than other surviving eighteenth century houses. With the Mistress, four of the windows are on the second floor and three are on the first floor. This doesn't include the windows in the north and south ell.

Aside from some of the Mistress's unique features, she was referred to as a mansion house in 1722. This was because she was big by comparison to many other early houses. The Mistress is two stories high having six rooms, an attic and a cellar. Many Groton houses built in the early and mid-eighteenth century probably had a similar appearance to the old Raddin house that once stood on Raddin Road, frequently referred to as half houses. A half house was one story and more than likely had a loft and a cellar.

One last feature of the Mistress that's a mystery are the cellar walls. According to people who know their colonial architecture, the fieldstone cellar walls should be only a few inches above ground. The Mistress's ground sill should be sitting on those walls. Instead, the ground sill is sitting on five courses of brick making the Mistress stand a little more than 10 inches above ground.

My aunt and uncle aren't responsible for this. So, the Fitzpatricks are a possibility. They might have had the house raised so that runaway slaves could easily exit the house if slave catchers came knocking at the door. The Mistress was a station for runaway slaves during the Fitzpatrick occupancy. The single granite step to the front door seems to support this. The step is drill split rather than wedge split. Granite split before 1830 would most likely be wedge split. Granite split after 1830 would have been drill split.

Then, there's John Woods. He did a lot of renovations and may have had the Mistress raised when he added the south ell to the Mistress. If this were the case, the granite step to the front door would have been wedge split and not drill split. Many pieces of granite found in the cellar wall of the south ell were wedge split, but those pieces could have been brought to the Mistress from a building somewhere else in town.

Never the less, it's a safe bet the south ell was built before 1830, making the Fitzpatricks responsible for the Mistress being higher above ground than she should be.