Raynham Hall was built circa 1738 as a two-story frame house with central brick chimney, gable roof, flush siding of wide boards and a five-bay façade with an entrance in the middle. The house contained four rooms, two on each level, with a garret or attic under the roof. The first floor consisted of a “hall” and “parlor” that flanked a narrow passage with a winding staircase built in front of the chimney. On the second floor were two “chambers” that corresponded to the hall and parlor below. Fireplaces opened into all four rooms from the central chimney.

Around 1740, Samuel Townsend built a lean-to section on the north side, or rear, of the house. The addition, which increased the number of rooms to eight, included a kitchen and storage room on the first level and chambers above. The shed roof of the lean-to section extended the rear slope of the main gable roof, creating the distinctive “saltbox” outline.

line1740Line1738Architectural and documentary evidence suggest that at least one of the first-floor rooms featured wall paneling. The original parlor fireplace wall appears to have had paneling that extended from floor to ceiling as well as a decorative mantel and overmantel. The mantel, overmantel and parts of the paneling are today incorporated into one of the restored colonial period rooms.

No substantial changes were made to the house during the remainder of the eighteenth century. The museum’s collections include a pencil sketch of the house, dating to circa 1800, that shows a one-story porch extending the full breadth of the façade. The porch, which must have been added shortly before 1800, seems to be the only improvement made by the Townsends. The sketch clearly depicts the paneled Dutch door that is in place today and dates back to the mid-18th-century house.

c.1800-sketchIn 1851, Solomon Townsend II, a grandson of Samuel Townsend, purchased the property from his uncle, Dr. Ebenezer Seely. He commissioned his nephew, the architect Edward H. Thorne, to remodel and enlarge the colonial house, which was considered old fashioned by the middle of the 19th century. Thorne created a fashionable Victorian “villa” in the Gothic Revival style. He added a wing with steeply pitched gables, a tower with a porte cochere for carriages to pull under, projecting bay windows and open “piazzas” or porches. The additions doubled the size of the house, resulting in a large, sprawling residence of twenty-two rooms. The porches, projecting bays, multiple gables and window openings of different shapes and sizes gave the villa a picturesque quality that appealed to romantic Victorian tastes.



The extensive remodeling of the original colonial house included French windows on the first floor, a deep front entrance porch with a projecting bay above, new siding of clapboards on the first floor and shingles on the second floor, and a balustrade at the edge of the roof. The central chimney of the circa 1738 house was removed and replaced by an octagonal lantern that provided illumination for an octagonal stained-glass skylight installed in the ceiling of the second-floor hall. From the first-floor hall, the skylight was visible through an elliptical opening with cast-iron railing that connected to the second level.


LineVictorianVillaGothic Revival details on the exterior of the house included steep gables, pointed-arch window openings and Tudor arches at the porte cochere. Inside, the style manifested itself in vaulted ceilings, doorways with Tudor arches, and fireplaces with pointed-arch openings. When Raynham Hall was remodeled in the 1850’s, the Gothic Revival style was