The Noyes-Parris House
The oldest extant house in Wayland is the Noyes-Parris House named for Peter Noyes who is likely to have built part of the dwelling c. 1690. Noyes’ four daughters ultimately inherited the house when their brother, Peter Noyes, Jr. died in 1698. The four daughters divided their father’s estate. One daughter, Dorothy, became the second wife of the Reverend Samuel Parris of the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials fame, Parris already having been removed from his ministry in Salem. From 1712 until his death in 1720, he lived in that house where he farmed and taught school.
Samuel Parris, son of the Reverend Samuel Parris’ Sixty years later, Rev Parris’s son Samual Parris, sold the property to Edward Johnson and this was the Johnson Farm for over 100 years and the location of the early organizational meetings of the Trinitarian Congregational Church of which Johnson was a deacon.
T’here is sufficient evidence that this modest center-chimneyhouse was two small dwellings that were put together in the early 18th century.
Henry David Thoreau mentioned this house in writings of 1851 and 1854 referring to the Great Chestnut House for its noted chestnut trees at that time that he saw while walking with Ellery Channing (1851) and canoeing on the Sudbury River (1854). In 1851 Thoreau noted: “Soon got into a country new to us, in Wayland opposite to Pelham or Heard Pond, going across…..cedar hills and valley near the river. A well placed farmhouse with great old chestnuts, the largest collection of chestnut trees which I remember to have seen…..” And in 1854 Thoreau wrote: “Above the Pelham Pond Bridge a short distance further we dined and went on. An interesting view and part of the river – quite broad with the Great Chestnut house and a good land just before on the left went half a mile or more above the chestnut house on the west side all in Wayland.”
The American chesnut tree (Castanea dentate), not the common horse chesnut still found here, once covered approximately 25 percent of the forested land from Maine to Georgia and from the Piedmont going west to the Ohio Valley. In the heart of its range, in the central Appalachians, it represented one in four hardwoods. Many grew to be more than 100 feet high. Highly rot resistant, the American chestnut had a variety of uses – from barn beams to railroad ties, fine furniture and musical instruments. Extant examples of its architectural use can be seen in the meeting room of Lincoln Town Hall, which is completely paneled in American chestnut, as well as in the pews of the Arlington Street Church in Boston. But in the early 20th century, an Asian fungal blight wiped out virtually all of the mature trees (and the lumber and nut harvest industry) within forty years, spreading up to 50 miles a year.
Preserving the Noyes-Parris House
By the 20th century, the Noyes-Parris House was part of a large 166-acre parcel eventually known as Greenways, owned by Frank and Virginia Paine Estate that stretched west to the Sudbury River and bordered on Cochituate Road on the east and Old Connecticut Path on the south. After the the Paines died, followed by the last tenant in the NP house, and development threatened the entire parcel, the Sudbury Valley Trustees and the Town of Wayland partnered to develop a plan that preserved most of the land for recreation and conservation and Greenways was converted into an assisted living facility. The privately owned Noyes-Parris House sits on a 2.09-acre parcel at the end of a common driveway (196 Old Connecticut Path visible only from town-owned land north and east of the property boundary.
The Noyes-Parris House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of a thematic nomination of properties that demonstrate specific construction techniques attributed to the First Period of settlement – up to about 1720. A preservation restriction held by the Wayland Historical Society protects not only the facade but some of the unique interior features particularly the paneled fireplace wall in the upper chamber that has never been painted.