Medfield has six sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
7 Frairy Street, opposite Meetinghouse Pond – 1651
The original Dwight-Derby House on Frairy Street, opposite Meetinghouse (Baker’s) Pond, was built in 1651 by Timothy Dwight. It is one of the ten oldest existing wood frame houses in America. In 1996 the house faced the wrecking ball, and the town of Medfield bought it to preserve an historic treasure that could serve as a community resource. Thanks to hard work by a dedicated group of Medfield volunteers, and grants from the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the house has been stabilized and partially restored.
First Baptist Church
Corner of Main and South Streets – 1838
The First Baptist Church, 438 Main Street — Medfield’s first Baptist congregation was formed in 1752, and the first meetinghouse was erected 20 years later on West Main Street, near the present Route 27 intersection. In 1822 it was enlarged, but in 1838 that meetinghouse was sold. The church bought land at the corner of South and Main Streets (a.k.a. Route 109), site of the present church structure. The new, larger, more centrally-located Greek Revival-style Meeting House was dedicated on October 3rd of that same year. The speedy building contractor was Jonathan Gleason.
George Inness Art Studio
406R Main Street
George Inness (1825-94), was one of America’s foremost artists of his time. He lived in Medfield from about 1860 to 1864. Inness’ studio is at 406R Main Street, which is now privately owned. Inness is best known for his landscape paintings, many of which are exhibited in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and many other leading museums.
Meeting House, now First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church
26 North Street – 1789
The 1789 Meeting House, now the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, is the third town meeting house building on that site. The first, a building constructed of logs with a thatched roof, was built in 1660, and the second, a clapboard building with a shingled roof was built in 1706. The five Medfield Historical Society programs are usually held here. There was no heat in any of these buildings until 1826.
345 Main Street – 1711
Located at 345 Main Street (Route 109) in Medfield, its architecture is one of the earliest surviving examples of post-medieval English (Elizabethan) architecture as well as being the only free-standing structure of its kind in the United States. Its most unusual and salient feature is its exceptionally steep pitched roof which is the highest on record in Massachusetts. This distinction is noted by its name, the Peak House.
The house also has the earliest known example of an innovative roof form, consisting entirely of principal rafters without purlins (a horizontal beam along the length of a roof, resting on a main rafter and supporting the common rafters or boards). According to Historic New England, this practice appeared in the development of 17th century communities inland from the Massachusetts coast.
In 1924, with consultation by William Sumner Appleton from SPNEA (currently Historic New England) the Peak House was thoroughly restored without altering its basic framework.
The Peak House, under the care of the Peak House Heritage Center—a nonprofit organization—since January 2019, is closed to visitors until further notice.
Vine Lake Cemetery
625 Main Street – 1651
Established in 1651, Vine Lake Cemetery is the town’s only public cemetery, aside from a small private lot at Medfield State Hospital. What began as a small 4-acre burying ground has evolved in a modern 30-acre cemetery. Today it is the town’s only outdoor museum. Four seamless gravescapes are celebrated here: the colonial burying ground, the rural cemetery, the garden cemetery and the landscaped lawn cemetery. The oldest marked grave is that of Lydia (Albee) Lovell, dating from her 1661 death. Only two of the town’s thirteen founders, James Allen and Samuel Bullen, are interred with marked graves.
Visiting the cemetery? Make your cemetery visit easier and more informative by downloading the Vine Lake Cemetery app from your app store onto your mobile phone or tablet to locate gravesites, explore memories, and take walking tours. Interested in searching Vine Lake Cemetery burial records? Click here to get started.
Vine Lake Preservation Trust, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 2009 to preserve, enhance, interpret and celebrate historic Vine Lake Cemetery. The Trust funds preservation projects, conducts walking tours, organizes educational programs, sponsors special events and directs volunteer initiatives.
More information on each of these historic places is available at the Medfield Historical Society and Museum at 6 Pleasant Street. The Museum is open Saturdays from 10 am to noon.