WASHINGTON — Americans celebrate Paul Revere's famed ride, but
Barrett's Farm rarely rates a mention.
It's a Revolutionary War landmark in
Concord, Mass., but has been mostly overlooked.
A few years ago, the walls of Barrett's
Farm were crumbling. Vines came through the attic windows and
under the third-floor floorboards. But today the farmhouse is
getting a historic makeover — and Congress could be lending a
The farm belonged to Col. James Barrett, a
leader of the Middlesex Militia. It was used to store colonial
militia weapons and was searched by the British during the
fighting at Concord's Old North Bridge on April 19, 1775.
A major objective of the British march to
Concord was to find any military supplies stored at Barrett's
"Everyone around the country knows the
story of Paul Revere's ride," said Anna Winter, executive
director of Save Our Heritage, the historic preservation group
heading up the restoration. "The reason he took that ride was
because of this very farm."
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is leading
the push for a bill to bring the farmhouse under the care of the
National Park Service so it can become part of Minute Man National
Historical Park in Concord and Lexington. Kennedy considers the
farm a national historic treasure, a key site in the start of the
"As the munitions store that prompted
the British march on Concord and Paul Revere's ride in 1775,
Barrett's Farm is among our most historic sites and it should be
protected for generations to come," Kennedy said in a
When British forces marched from Boston to
Concord on April 19, 1775, they were seeking to uncover a major
stockpile of weapons and other military supplies they suspected
colonial forces had hidden on Barrett's farm.
"The farm itself, the property, was a
key objective of the British march on Concord," said Jim
Cunningham, project manager for the restoration.
Barrett was in charge of munitions and
other supplies for an army of 15,000, said Cunningham.
Barrett's Farm is roughly a mile and a half
away from Old North Bridge. About half the British troops were
left to protect the bridge while the other half searched the
Barrett's property, Cunningham said.
The search proved futile. The militia had
notice of the British plan, and moved or hid the weapons.
Some muskets were hidden in freshly plowed
fields. The British were particularly interested in finding four
brass cannons that had been stolen from Boston. Cunningham said
the brass cannons were the "weapons of mass destruction"
of their day, prized for their maneuverability and firepower.
Some of the cannons were buried at the edge
of the fields behind the farm.
Before the British left the farm, they had
Barrett's wife serve them breakfast.
During the search, Barrett commanded the
colonial forces who confronted the British back at the Old North
"He's the guy who gave the orders to
wait until fired upon," said Cunningham. "He was the
The bridge is where Americans for the first
time killed British soldiers. A nearby statue commemorates Ralph
Waldo Emerson's "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," the
poetic tribute to militiamen. Though the fighting was merely a
skirmish, it was a turning point in the rebellion.
The farmhouse was in tough shape when Save
Our Heritage acquired it in 2005 for more than $2 million,
Cunningham said. The Barretts had sold it to another family in
1905 and the farm was occupied until 2005, Cunningham said.
The restoration will take about three more
years and cost about $1.5 million, Cunningham estimated.
Funding has come from a variety of sources.
The farmhouse includes a muster room that
basically served as Barrett's office where he would meet with
other military leaders and recruit militia members.
Save Our Heritage is striving to be as
historically accurate as possible in restoring the property, even
using colonial-era construction techniques, Cunningham said.
The farm is listed in the National Register
of Historic Places and is certified as a nationally significant
site, Kennedy noted.
The Senate bill would pave the way for the
National Park Service to purchase Barrett's Farm, which spans
about five acres, Kennedy said.
Winter and other backers of the project are
optimistic about the bill's prospects in Congress.
"It's an absolutely feel-good piece of
legislation," Winter said.
Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., whose district
includes Barret's Farm, plans to file a House bill similar to the
Senate version authored by Kennedy, an aide said.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is working
with Kennedy to build support for the measure in Congress, said
the farm can be a valuable learning tool.
"Preserving Colonel Barrett's farm
will help future generations learn more about a critical moment in
our nation's history, the start of the American Revolution,"
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