J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Dig at the Durant-Kendrick Homestead

Yesterday’s Boston Globe included a regional story on an archeological dig in Newton, at the Durant-Kendrick Homestead.

I’d never heard of this site. Growing up in Newton, as my friend Jack Riccardi has said, means you learn on school field trips that the Jackson Homestead is the center of U.S. history, perhaps followed by Independence Hall and the White House. But Historic Newton, guardian of the Jackson Homestead, also spearheaded the study of the Durant-Kendrick site.

Of the main house there, the Globe states:
The circa-1730s structure is endowed with centuries of history.

For starters, Edward Durant III - whose father built the house, which originally sat on 97 acres along with several outbuildings and barns - was involved in numerous town committees that responded to national issues when the Colonies were on the verge of the Revolutionary War, according to the research of independent scholar Mary Fuhrer.

The Kenrick family, who took over ownership in 1790, operated the largest plant nursery in New England from the site, according to [Historic Newton director Cynthia S.] Stone. They had around 200 species of pear trees, and varieties of apples, flowers, berries, and ornamental trees. They sold plants to people throughout the country, changing the landscape of the United States, Stone said. . . .

Throughout this process, their biggest discovery was the sunken dairy, with its brick floors and walls. It was likely used in the late 18th or early 19th century for processing milk into butter or cheese, Beranek said, then was filled in during the 1850s with construction rubble and trash.
The project is headed by Christa M. Beranek of the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The artifacts are now being analyzed, and there are plans for a report and an exhibit at Historic Newton.

I find that Edward Durant’s floor stencils from around 1780 have inspired some modern decorating products.

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