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In the Classroom > Course Overview > Unit Overview
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Lesson 13: Deerfield Visit: Reading a House/Place:
Ebenezer Hinsdale Williams House

Lesson Central Question:

In This Lesson:

How does a community reveal itself to outsiders?
How do changes in the economy impact the material culture of a family?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas

Lesson Length

1 class period (85 minutes)

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Background Essay

To indicate their status and refinement, respectable citizenry selected or built fine homes and material goods. These markers of gentility assured them a higher place on the social ladder and the power that accompanied it. This lesson examines the Ebenezer Hinsdale Williams house, built circa 1750 and remodeled beginning in 1816. The house originally resembled the Sheldon-Hawks house across the street, which has remained largely unimproved from its construction, circa 1740.

Teacher Background Essay: The Home of Ebenezer Williams

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand:

  • Architectural styles indicated the adherence to current taste practiced by those who were upwardly mobile.
  • Markers of refinement changed over time.

Students will be able to:

  • Make the connections between the changing ideals of "decencies" of life, new modes of behavior, and consumption, which together resulted in what is known as the middle class.
  • Use information gained from this and other periods to develop a continuum showing the growth of the Deerfield community.
  • "Read" a building and understand architectural terminology.
  • Make a family chart for their Deerfield family.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Read Teacher Background Essay: The Home of Ebenezer Williams

Further Background Reading
McGowan, Susan and Amelia Miller. Family and Landscape. Deerfield, Massachusetts: Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, 1996.

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Primary and Secondary Sources:

Unless otherwise noted, all can be found on the American Centuries website.

  1. Williams House
  2. Sheldon-Hawks House
  3. Drawing paper (not on website)

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Activity Materials in Context
  • Using the website, ask students to focus and draw the floor plan, doorways, paint color, and roofline of the Williams House.
  • Compare the exterior of the Williams House and the Sheldon-Hawks House to note how the remodeling of the Williams House changed its appearance from an earlier style.
  • Identify those aspects of the home that, in 1816, indicated refinement. Go to the web and locate additional houses of that period for comparison.

Place the character in your family in a house that reflects refinement during the 1770- 1830 period. Using the American Centuries website, review examples of a house design for this period. Then design a house using the computer paint program, filling the interior with period pieces that you print out from the web, draw, or find pictures in periodicals. Don't forget the textiles. Write a brief narrative to give sufficient background on each selection as you take us on a tour through the house. We will gather these houses together to form a village at the end of the unit.


Williams House

Sheldon-Hawks House

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