Middlefield Road, east side

Facing west, the Ithamar Parsons House is located at a sharp corner on Middlefield Road at the intersection of Maple Avenue. The road to Middlefield was once called Crooked Lane. Slightly elevated, the house is shaded by large maples in a residential neighborhood located west of Durham’s commercial center.

  • Record ID: 149
  • Address: Middlefield Road, east side
  • Current Owner: Willet, Leo and Dorothy
  • Name of Building:
  • Historic Name: Ithamar Parsons House
  • Download PDF of Original Record

Notable Features

The most prominent original feature is the large overhang between the first and second floors, which could possibly be a framed overhang. The elaborate seven-panelled facade door, probably a later addition, is topped by a six-paned overlight. The south elevation displays a similar panelled funeral door. A number of the original twelve-over-twelve sash remain. Other windows exhibit modern two-over-two sash. Two single-story, shed-roofed ells project from the rear elevation. The original chimney has been replaced from the second floor up. Interior features include the original fireplaces, wide floor boards, and encased beams. The large brownstone kitchen fireplace retains its beehive oven, although it has been panelled over. An interesting feature about the large rear fireplace is the initials ISP carved upside down on the right-hand side. The initials could possibly stand for Ithamar S. Parsons or Ithamar and Sarah Parsons. The southwest front parlor features raised panelling and wainscoting. The upstairs southwest room also displays raised panelling on the fireplace wall, and the small fireplace stone lintel features four carved symbols.

Historical or Architectural Importance

One of Durham's most prominent colonial-period buildings is this 2 1/2 story, five-bay, center-chimney structure built in 1733/34 by Ithamar Parsons. Topped by a ridge-to-street, asphalt-shingled gable roof, the clapboarded post-and-beam frame rests on a brownstone foundation. Inscribed in the northwest cornerstone are the dates "1734" and "A.P. 1800." This house was built shortly after Ithamar's marriage to Sarah Curtis. In December of 1733 Ithamar's father, Samuel Parsons, sold his son "half an acre upon which Ithamar's house stands" (DLR 5:119). It was most likely Ithamar (1707-1786) who had carved the date 1734 upside down on the northwest cornerstone. Born in Northampton, Massachusetts, Ithamar moved to Durham with his family at the age of two. Sarah and Ithamar had seven children: Phebe, David, Rhoda, Sarah, Nathan, Ithamar, and Aaron. A member of the Congregational Church, Parsons was a farmer. Upon his death in 1783 Ithamar willed the dwelling house and homelot to his youngest son Aaron (1758-1812). It was Aaron who was responsible for carving the initials "A.P. 1800" near his father's initials on the northwest cornerstone. Married to Lucy Hawley in 1782, Aaron and his wife raised nine children: Curtis, Hannah, Nathan, Marcus, Calvin, Rhoda, Phebe, Amand, and Otis. In 1812 Aaron willed the south half of the dwelling house to his widow Lucy and the north half to his eldest son Curtis. Both Lucy and Curtis sold their portions to Marcus Parsons, Aaron's third eldest son. Marcus (1789-1847), a shoemaker, married Orpha Robinson in 1812. The Parsons family remained in the house until 1853, when the heirs of Marcus and Orpha sold the dwelling house and barn to Thomas W. Lyman. Lyman (1810-1862), whose name is burned into the kitchen wall, was a farmer. The son of George Lyman, Thomas William Lyman was the grandson of Thomas Lyman, IV, who built the large Georgian-style house to the north. The Thomas W. Lyman family resided here until 1889 when the house was sold out of the family. Although some modern conveniences have been added to the Ithamar Parsons House, it retains much of its original appearance. Historically the house is significant for its long association with the Parsons and Lyman families.