THE celebration in 1930 of the founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony, three centuries earlier, created a flurry of antiquarian researches and some historical writing as well. Despite, however, the continuing achievements in seventeenth-century studies of such distinguished scholars as Samuel Eliot Morison and such organizations as the Massachusetts Historical Society which published the Winthrop Papers between 1929 and 1947, the real explosion of interest in our first century of settlement did not occur until the decades following the Second World War. Concurrently, the leadership role fell increasingly into the hands of a newer, younger generation of scholars, many of them in the academic world, and they in turn have sparked a widespread general interest in the seventeenth century at the graduate and undergraduate level.

The proliferation of studies and the dynamics of shifting emphases which have dramatically altered traditional nineteenth-century attitudes about seventeenth-century architecture are reflected in the papers presented in this volume. At the same time there are necessary and vital links with earlier traditions in the house biographies prepared by Stephen J. Roper and Edward Zimmer, in each case a summary of much more extensive research projects. Candidates for doctoral degrees in Boston University’s American and New England Studies Program and thoroughly representative of the emerging younger generation of seventeenth-century scholars to which we have referred, these writers rival the impressive efforts of nineteenth-and early twentieth-century antiquarians who sought to verify building dates and delineate the social history of a given structure, and surpass them in that they bring to their subjects the advantage of a thorough and professionally acquired knowledge of New England architectural history. The documents in one sense, as will be seen from a glance at the Appendices which form part of the Editor’s contribution to this volume, are meaningless unless an explicit relationship to the building can be traced in terms of style as revealed through physical evidence. In this respect, a review of earlier scholarship concerning the Royall house in Medford, followed by a reading of Arthur L. Finney’s careful re-evaluation of structural and documentary evidence, will reveal at once how successive generations of students can be seriously misled in the historical interpretation of important buildings—until the record has been set straight.

Verification of the raw data which form the core of so many recent studies devoted to quantitative analysis (which is the subject of the Editor’s essay dealing with the dating of First Period houses in Massachusetts) continues to be central to the advancement of our knowledge of the field. “Colonial archaeology,” on the other hand, unpracticed by an earlier generation, has all the burgeoning force of a wholly new discipline. For the first time in New England’s history we are beginning to come to grips in a direct, systematic way with those aspects of material culture which have not survived or have been subject to radical change. James Deetz in discussing certain of the earliest structures in the Plymouth Colony as revealed through archaeological excavation enlarges our understanding of buildings heretofore glimpsed only imperfectly if at all through glancing references in the documents and provides as well a disciplined outline of current methodology in Colonial archaeology. Geoffrey P. Moran presented to the conference an equally interesting progress report on the results of investigation of seemingly ephemeral and unrecoverable features of Salem’s early waterfront. We shall look forward to a completed study of this subject in the not distant future.

Essays by the late James B. Peabody and Margaret Henderson Floyd are concerned also with a somewhat later period in Colonial history. The Hancock house in Boston has been a leading source of enlightenment and inspiration to the romanticist, to the student of architectural and social history, to the preservationist (for whom it furnishes one of the initial guideposts), and now, as Mrs. Floyd explains, to the architects of the Colonial Revival. In the process, John Hubbard Sturgis, who made the first recorded measured drawings of an historic American building, emerges as an evocative link between Colonial and nineteenth-century New England. In 1863 Arthur Gilman published in the Atlantic Monthly a significant sampling of the original documents associated with the building of the Hancock house which marked, perhaps, the earliest conscious realization for New England that a building, though destroyed, can remain a living force or at least be rendered meaningful to students through extensive documentation. This principle has been clearly demonstrated once again by Mr. Peabody in his study of both the voluminous written records and the slim and somewhat tantalizing visual documentation which survive for the first Trinity Church in Boston.

The various subjects presented in this volume may seem diverse, even unrelated in some respects—skipping from Anglican churches to post-hole houses. The connecting thread, however, is visible and strong: as we move into the final two decades of the twentieth century and recognize the awesome challenge to contemporary historians of that volume of material from the last two centuries which marks our life as an independent nation, it is unarguable, nevertheless, that the subject of Colonial studies has a profoundly important role to play and continues to inspire the most dedicated and increasingly skilled efforts of serious and well-disciplined students.

Abbott Lowell Cummings