In 1925 the Brown-Pearl House was acquired by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and dismantled. The living area was reconstructed as an exhibit hall – an example of colonial architecture and early domestic life. It was taken down and stored 10 or 11 years ago when the museum began construction of the new Art of the Americas Wing.
On Nov. 20th, 2010, the new wing was opened to the public and the Brown–Pearl Hall is again on display as a gallery in the lowest level of the new wing.
A little bit of history as excerpted from Norton Lee Bretz’ “Family Tree of John Pearl” (with additional comments in italics):
“John’s son Richard (the youngest of John Pearl’s sons) purchased the house, barn, and land from Cornelius Brown in 1737. (Our ancestor, Timothy Pearl, had left Boxford and moved to what is now Hampton, CT roughly 30 years earlier.) Mention was made in the deed of 175 acres of this land previously purchased by Richard. Mr. Brown was allowed to live in the house until May 20 of that year. It was on a narrow winding road near West Boxford. Near the time of its purchase, Richard built a grist mill in the rear of the house, the first in the parish. Major additions were put on the house in 1725 and in 1843 when an abandoned parish church was patched onto the building. In 1925, the house was bought by the MFA. It had been abandoned as a dwelling for some years and was rapidly deteriorating. The structure was made of massive hewn, red oak beams, 12 by 14 inches, hand-fit at the supports. The fireplace was over seven feet wide with a lintel made of oak. The architecture was typical of the seventeenth century and one of the best remaining examples of colonial craftsmanship. The living room, which the family knew as the foreroom, is what is now on display at the museum. The original room was 19×19 feet and has an 8 foot ceiling.”
We also have this information from the “History of the Pearl Family” by Marian Arlene Pearl:
“John and his wife Elizabeth Pearl undoubtedly spent the remainder of their life on the Pearl Homestead at Boxford as the youngest son, Richard, was said to have been brought there in a bread trough when an infant. This house stood on a 200 (acre) tract of land laid out originally to John Sandys in 1667. The acreage passed into the hands of Joseph Dowding a Boston merchant who sold it Sept. 10, 1703 to Cornelius Brown of Reading for seventy pounds. Mr. Brown built the house of solid hewn oak timber and it stood true and plumb throughout the years. Alice Heath Fairbank Dow in her Pearl history of Richard’s line states that ‘one of the timbers measures 18 inches and between the inside and outside finish are bricks, larger than modern bricks, solidly laid in mortar and there are two or three wooden latches with the latch string in the house and the one on the south door is very large’ There were no highways when this home was erected and it faced south fronting a field., The road when eventually constructed was laid out at the rear of the house. The Browns lived there many years, the wife Susannah died in 1734 at age 74. The Pearl family occupied one side of it, and during this period it was known as the Brown-Pearl house.”
The house was built around 1704 and in this room the home’s occupants cooked, ate and slept, illustrating New England domestic life in the first years of the 1700’s. Furnishings in the room as now displayed in the Museum are from other early homes and illustrate the multipurpose nature of a 17th and early 18th century hall.
– Dorothy Vander Meulen, Pearl Family Historian (with additional material and comments by Allen Vander Meulen III)