11 November 2012
New World, New Housing
The loss of a home by fire or any other means is a horrible and heart wrenching occurrence in any place and during any time but, for Anne Bradstreet and other colonialists settling a new land with a scarcity of tradespeople, and goods to rebuild and refurnish the loss must be unimaginable. American colonial settlers in the early seventeenth century lived in a variety of habitations, anything that could meet a shelter need after coming to the new world was used, and privacy was not high on the list of needs. Setting up housekeeping was a difficult and labor intensive chore, especially when compared to the lives many of the Colonialists led before coming to the New World.
When we think of the forefathers of America they are generally viewed as wealthy men with comfortable homes and lifestyles. For many of the early settlers this was not the case. “Of thirty buildings in Manhattan in 1626, all but one were of bark” (Eggleston). Early settlers lived in whatever could be fashioned into a shelter as they tried to tame this new land; burrows, cabins of mud brick, caves, there are even reports of people making use of hollow trees for shelter. Blacksmiths and iron were both in short supply and unused buildings were burnt for their nails and often houses were built without any iron implements, using wooden pegs or leather. Window glass was also very rare. The more enterprising or luckier settlers were able to obtain oil paper to let some light in, many very early homes did not have windows or in the southern states had shutters to help keep the cold and wind out in the winter.
When the Bradstreet families, Anne’s parents and herself and her husband, first came to colonial America they did not have a home. “The Bradstreets shared a house in Salem for many months with another family and lived in Spartan style. In the winter the two families were confined to the one room… The situation was tense as...