The French House, or the Asa French House, as it is sometimes called, located at 766 Washington street, Braintree, is one of the oldest houses in Braintree and the oldest property owned by the Braintree Historical Society. The house, built about 1699 by Thomas French (1657/8-1717), the eighth child of English colonists, John and Grace French and was originally part of a large family farm. Thomas French was born in Braintree on March 10, 1657/58 and in about 1695/6 married Elizabeth Belcher (1677-1718) and had ten children. The house then remained in the French family for many generations. Much of what is visible on and inside the main block of the present house dates from the 1800s. The ell is a twentieth-century addition. Little, apart from the central chimney, remains of the original structure. Much of the house was rebuilt in 1820 and the property remained within the French family until the 1960s. The Braintree Town Center grew around this house, which served as the Town’s first post office in 1825.
It was during this time that the house’s most famous occupant, Asa French, (1775-1853), lived here. A civil engineer opened the first Braintree post office here in 1825. He served as the Town’s first Postmaster for the next 17 years, later serving as Town Clerk and Town Treasurer. The classically inspired formal entrance and moldings were probably added by Asa French. The French’s would remain one of the most prominent families in Braintree.
The house sold out of the French family from 1964 to 1976, when it was purchased by a French family cousin, Charlotte Valentine Taylor, who donated it to Thayer Academy, located diagonally across Washington Street. Ultimately, the house was given to the Braintree Historical Society in 1999. Since then the exterior of the building has been extensively renovated, preserving its historic character, with local and state funds provided through the Community Preservation Act. At present, the French House is leased as a private residence.