In the early days of New England and eastern coastal Canada colonization by Europeans, catching and drying codfish was a popular occupation for food preservation. After being caught by Atlantic fishermen, codfish were cleaned, then dried on large racks (called “fish flakes”) and often within a structure, called a FLAKE HOUSE [or flakehouse, one word]. This flake house was built to protect the fish from the elements during the drying process.
In the New Hampshire coastal area, these flakehouses were known to exist as early as 21 November 1673 when Hugh ALLARD, Grantor to Francis Wanewright, Grantee, mortgage. Housing and flake room on Smuttynose island, Isles of Shoals, and shallop. [Editor’s note: Today Smuttynose Island is considered part of the State of Maine. A shallop is a light sailboat used mainly for coastal fishing.]
In 1720 Herman Moll created a ‘Map of North America’ that he published in London. This map shows a sketch of some flake racks and notes the cod drying process. This method of drying and flake houses were not unique to New Hampshire. They can be also be found in Maine, Massachusetts and also on the coast of Canada and in Europe [especially Scandinavia].