According to the owner, Bob Rossi, this house is known by several names. At various times it was called the Caleb Hannum House and the Chandler House. But the name that we like the best is Topping Hollow. Caleb Hannum was apparently one of the tax collectors jailed for failure to collect the taxes that later led to the Shays Rebellion, and "Topping Hollow" seems to come from the name of a family (the Toppings) who once owned the house.
Built in the 1760s, it is one of the oldest homes in Belchertown (which was incorporated in 1761). It stands along Bay Road, which grew out of the old Bay Path, running from Boston to Albany, which colonial settlers laid out from old Indian trails. (See this link for more information on Belchertown's history.) As Rossi likes to say while surveying the 4 acres of woods that the house stands on, "Imagine a horse stable in that corner and a waiting station for carriages over there. Travellers would enter the house through the front doors to rest and take a meal in the front parlor while their team of horses, hot and foamy from the journey, would be fed and watered as they cooled down in the shade... And so this place would be the equivalent of a mall today, with many local townsfolk earning their livelihood off the travelers and also enjoying the amenities of such a large and well-stocked house..."
As with all houses built before the invention of modern heating, the building was designed in accordance to the cardinal directions. The house's facade and main windows of the two ground floor parlors and upstairs bedrooms all face South. The birthing room (now dining room) faces East, and the more recent (added in the 20th century) painter's loft has huge windows facing West. At the center of the house is the chimney, which is no longer in use. But originally this was designed to be fired up and kept going all Winter. Rossi calls it the "beehive" of the house; it radiated heat for the whole building and powered the oven in the original kitchen of the house (now our library). Hot coals from this main chimney would be brought to the smaller fireplaces of the two ground-floor parlors and the master bedroom for additional heat.
Rumor has it that someone wrote a UMass master's thesis on the house, but we've been unable to verify that (yes, we asked a UMass librarian).