Saving The Tilden House
How local preservationists are trying to protect a historic Canton treasure.
There's a mission in progress right here in Canton to save one of the oldest homes still standing in the United States. The David Tilden House located at 93 Pleasant Street.
The back of the home was built in the early 18th century, around 1709. In 1725, its owner and namesake David Tilden constructed the main portion of the home.
Tilden bought the home and nearly 34 acres of land on which it was built directly from Native Americans of the Ponkapoag nation. Theophilus Lyon, a grandson of David Tilden and a Revolutionary War soldier who witnessed the birth of America, inherited the property.
"It's amazing," Pat Johnson, a curator at the Canton Historical Society, said. "This house is so historic that when Tilden died, he was still a British citizen because the U.S. didn't exist. It was still a part of England. To have something in this country that old, it's antiquity."
Johnson explained that the original back portion of the home that Tilden bought from the Ponkapoag was used to prepare food.
Literally, right there in the backyard, Johnson said, "There was danger, disease, wolves…you had to build a fire in the ground, kill the food, drag it back."
But the home is now in disrepair.
Today, proceeds generated from book sales at the Historical Society go toward an estimated $250,000 needed to make restorations to the historic homestead. But the goal has yet to be reached.
According to the non-profit Friends of the Little Red House, which is also working to raise funding for repairs, the Tilden House is one of less than 300 Massachusetts homes still left from this period in history.
The non-profit calls the home a "rare survivor" in America's history.
Little Red House President George T. Comeau, a Canton attorney and curator at the Canton Historical Society, was awarded a Massachusetts Preservation Award for his efforts to secure the National Register status for the Canton Viaduct. He has also been working to get the homestead listed on the Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources list, which can open doors for preserving the site.
"This site provides clear evidence of who we were as a young fledgling nation and is a distinctive part of Canton and our rich past," according to Friends of the Little Red House, in a public appeal for help in saving the property.
According to the Canton public records, the building has been neglected for at least a decade and demolition has been threatened. The oldest portions of the building are in dire need of structural support.
Local preservationists are trying to prevent the building from being destroyed and so far threats to demolish have been stayed. But without help, the Friends of the Little Red House said, "This historic building could be in the twilight of its existence."
If that were to happen, Johnson said, "We'd be loosing our roots, our history. It would be a great loss."