Inspector Finds Hidden History in Local Antique Home

By John Romano, Newburyport.Com Correspondent
John Romano is a licensed home inspector and owner of Romano Home Inspection Inc. He serves clients in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Southern Maine. Romano He has been inspecting residential homes, condominiums, multi unit homes, log homes, timber frame homes, mobile homes and commercial buildings since 1986. In addition to home inspections, Romano Home inspection also offers consulting services for home and building owners. As a home inspector he has inspected thousands of buildings from 1986 to present with many having historical interest. The buildings sale ranges from less than a quarter million dollars to multimillion dollar properties. John uses his expertise to educate you the client of the condition of what you may be purchasing and maintenance for the systems and components. My knowledge comes from hands on experience from the 1970’s with timber frame buildings, balloon framed buildings and platform framed buildings. John has attended Whittier Technical School for licenses in construction, heating and cooling in addition to countless hours of educational training with (ASHI) American Society of Home Inspectors. John is a long time member of (ASHI) American Society of Home Inspectors and a member of Historic Buildings Association. Besides being licensed in home inspection, he holds licenses in construction, heating, cooling (RRR) and wood destroying insects. John has been trained in carbon monoxide inspections with the Bacharach Company. John has retired from Title 5 septic system inspections and repairs as well as soil evaluations.
Romano Home Inspection
Antique Home North Shore of MA

In New England there are many old homes and multi unit dwellings and in some cases the purchase process can be long and intricate when dealing with an antique home.  Many homes range between 150 years and 300 years old.  I have been inspecting residential and commercial buildings including timber frame homes, timber frame barns, log homes, condominiums, multi unit buildings, manufactured homes, mobile homes and mix use buildings for over 30 years.  Prior to inspecting buildings, in the 1970’s I worked with repairing timber frame structures from replacement of components to just reinforcement as well as building.

In this blog I want to concentrate on home inspections of old homes 300 or so years old, and tell you one of my greatest finds from a historic antique home.

(First) a little bit about old antique homes.  Older and antique homes do tend to go through years of water penetration, moisture penetration, wood destroying insect penetration, decay and degradation to the super structure.  Many old homes were constructed close to the soil grade causing a verity of problems to the (Super structure that include sill plates, floor joists, girders, sub flooring, roof rafters, perlins, roof deck sheathing and ceiling joists)

The foundation walls (typically rubble stone) and sometimes (rubble stone with brick) tend to loosen up from water penetration and displace laterally from hydrostatic pressure, the weight of the building and gravity tend to cause heaving inward and outward (displacement).  The living quarters floors may bounce, sag and walls bow and crack as a result if this.

When you purchase an old home or antique home you can expect some or all of these issues to have taken place and still may be in need of repair and or reinforcement. My job performing a home inspection is inspect the building objectively and not alarm you of the deficiencies in the building but to make sure you aware of the buildings issues and needs. Along with pointing out the issues and needs we discuss good points about the building as well. We will provide you with a written narrative inspection report with photos and diagrams typically within 1 to 3 days depending on how busy we are.

We encourage you to stick with us like glue during the home inspection. This is your time to understand the dwelling inside and out.

(Now to the great find) During the late 1980’s I inspected an antique home that was once a tavern during the turn of the 1700’s.  A tavern is where the public went, to have food and refreshments, get warm and then be on their way.  The building was built on a hill, on a busy street near a hospital.  I was told that this antique had fascinating history as a safe house for the Underground Railroad, but no one knew where the hidden room was.

After I finished the exterior envelop home inspection (grounds, roof and exterior) I preceded to the basement to inspect the super structure.  My clients where sticking to me like glue.  The foundation consisted of large boulders with smaller stone.  The foundation was dry stacked (No mortar in between the stone).  I noticed the foundation had a lot of lateral displacement and loose stone (Bulging Walls).  We had discussed methods of repair and reinforcement.  Remember this building is on a hill and busy street.  Tractor trailers were coming and going to the hospital making some vibration of the land.  Buildings on hills tend to experience high winds creating more vibration. That along with an occasional tremor with the earth, may have caused things to loosen up over the years.

Getting back to the basement I was probing the foundation where I suspected too much movement in the wall and a rock about a foot round fell out.  Well if I could just probe an area of the wall and a stone fell, then the foundation needed repair and reinforcement.  I went to reset the rock in the wall and I could not get in.  Getting a little nervous I cleaned out the soil in the cavity and noticed a key in a lockset.  This was getting interesting.  I turned the key and the foundation wall opened up.  Yes the foundation wall itself opened up.  On the back side of the stone wall, were large thick brackets and hinges holding the stone from collapsing.  I shined my light into this tiny room, and noticed shelving and broken shelving with gallon jugs still filled with masking tape on them.  Some were resting on the floor.  I could barely read the writing on the tape.  It said, Corn 1927, Corn 1929.  This was corn whiskey from probation days.

Can you believe this, the old tavern was possibly boot-legging whiskey, and before that it was a safe house with a hidden room no one could find.  I found it.

I suggested to the owner to notify the Smithsonian in Washing DC and share the find.  I am not sure if they did.  I asked for a jug but was rejected.  This was by far the best find I had ever experienced in my home inspection profession.  Unfortunately this was either before digital cameras or just on the cusp of digital cameras.

62 Middle Street, Newburyport MA – SOLD

By Joe, Joe

62 Middle Street, Newburyport, MA - Aerial Backyard

18th Century Historical Home

62 Middle Street, Newburyport, MA


Luxury Listing

62 Middle Street,
Newburyport MA 01950

Price: $1,499,900.00*
Beds: 4 Bed
Baths: 3Full, 1 Half Bath
Fireplaces: 7
House Size: 4,032 Sq Ft
Lot Size: 6,470 Acres
Year Built: 1750
Style: Antique

*Price at the time of post

The One You Wait For…

Oh the treasures in this rare, Historic Newburyport single-family home.

Sitting regal on the corner of Middle and Fair Streets, the address alone is luxury living positioned only blocks away from the center of downtown Newburyport.

Family-friendly, this home features a private patio, large fenced in yard, basketball court and four off-street parking spaces with the option for a garage.

Now step inside this coveted South End property to experience a sense of freedom through the home’s 18th century finishes.

62 Middle Street , Newburyport MA - Historic Property

“In 1851 this house was owned by John E. Piper. Piper was a hatter and his shop was located at 28 State Street. Between 1872 and 1884, the house was owned by Thonias C. Huse and his heirs. Huse was also a hatter.” – Massachusetts Historical Commission

According to the Massachusetts Historic Commission, 62 Middle Street was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

The MHC’s survey speaks to the home’s architectural significance, noting a renovation to the front entrance of the Georgian-style during the mid-nineteenth century to the Greek Revival we see today.

The survey also gives nod to interior elements including raised field paneling and gunstock posts – of course.

But the most fascinating spot of tea we discovered was the home’s historical significance in terms of how the homeowners of the 18th century potential impacted the development of the Newburyport community!

“Maps of Newburyport in 1851, and 1872 indicate that this building was oriented on the site with the facade facing the point at which Fair and Middle Street meet.”


@UAVLook on behalf of Bentley’s

Experts believe this might indicate the home was built before Middle Street was laid out as it is today, making 62 Middle Street a first period house.

Today the home balances this beautiful history with modern amenities gracefully.

New features include a Chef’s Kitchen with custom cabinets, soap stone countertops, and stainless steel appliances.

The kitchen opens into a large family room, perfect for entertaining with its French doors that lead out to the patio and sporting area.

Other impressive features in this home include cathedral ceilings, seven fireplaces and long-leaf, Heart Pine floors.

Named for being the heartwood of large, first-generation pine trees that were 300-500 years old and standing before the first settlers landed in the 1600s, the dark colored “heart” is known to be decay resistant and more stable than other woods.

This made heart pine a great choice when used for the tall masts of English sailing ships, and why the wood is also referred to as King’s Pine.

Today original Heart Pine is no longer available because pine trees aren’t grown to such maturity, making the pine floors inside 62 Middle Street very rare and valuable.

Schedule a private tour of this luxury Newburyport listing to breathe in the history yourself, or view more Luxury Real Estate listings. 


Robert Bentley of Bentley’s

Greater Newburyport’s #1 Real Estate Agent & Power Player for REAL Estate Talk Boston featured on

Premiere VIP Sponsor for

2A Winter Street, Newburyport, MA

781.858.5115 REAL Estate Talk Boston

Real Estate Fueled by Family

Wanting to raise a family in Newburyport was the top reason Robert Bentley and his wife Laura decided to relocate from Boston 8 years ago.

Newburyport Real Estate Tips

In practicing what we preach, probably the best advice to share with those looking to buy or sell a home is...know your market.

The Newburyport Life

As a realtor, welcoming family after family into the Greater Newburyport community has been a gift throughout the years.

Test Historic Properties

By Joe, Joe

Test Historic Properties

By Joe, Joe

Test Historic Properties

By Joe, Joe

Skip to toolbar