Save Our Heritage

Protecting the Birthplace of the American Revolution,

the cradle of the Environmental Movement,

and the Home of the American Literary Renaissance

Col. Barrett’s house gets facelift

By Kerri Roche - Concord Journal - Wednesday, December 20, 2006

While Colonel James Barrett’s wife cooked breakfast for the enemy’s army on April 19, 1775, the minutemen assembled and marched to the Old North Bridge.

“If Mrs. Barrett hadn’t held [the British] at the house [over breakfast] they could have ambushed the militia,” said Anna Winter, executive director of Save Our Heritage.

As such, Barrett’s Farm represents another pivotal turning point between Paul Revere’s ride and the shot heard ’round the world.

Save Our Heritage is hoping to preserve that important twist of fate in early American history.

Barrett’s Farm remains structurally unchanged since the American Revolution, though the present condition of the house presents both challenges and historical findings, said Winter.

The basic 18th-century construction is still much intact and features original flooring, doors and hardware, fireplaces and stairways.

Since Col. Barrett’s time, only one other family has inhabited the house, but one of the Barrett family members wants to speed the process to pay for the farm’s restoration.  Save Our Heritage plans to acquire almost all of the $1.5 million necessary to renovate Barrett’s Farm and turn the site into a living museum, and the project received a $50,000 challenge grant from a descendent of the Barrett’s family. To receive the funding, however, the money will need to be matched through public donations. Those contributions must be received by Dec. 31, but so far, the organization has received $11,000.

The organization also received a federal grant from Save America’s Treasure for $220,000.

With an anticipated shortfall of $450,000, project organizers are hoping that future private citizen’s support will be matched by federal dollars.

Save Our Heritage gained possession of the house in November 2005. The rehabilitation crew quickly began clearing away the plant overgrowth while working on landscaping and water drainage.

The house has provided many clues to historical architects and enthusiasts.

The position and length of the bed in Col. Barrett’s bed chamber, for example, can be determined by remaining canopy hooks. Unlike other historical homes, the house is comparatively undisturbed, very close to its original state, said Winter.

With the assistance of Rick Detwiller, an architect and preservation planner, the restoration crew has been able to uncover original wood paneling, paint and hiding spots for ammunition.

A large granite slab at a front entry way was used by the Colonel himself, said Detwiller.

When searching for ammunition in the home, the British climbed narrow interior stairs which remain intact. A popular colonial color, “Indian red,” was found under layers of peeling paint and wallpaper in Barrett’s bed chamber.

Fireplaces throughout the house are still blackened with centuries-old creosote.
However, over time and without upkeep, the back wall “is close to completely collapsing,” said Jim Cunningham, project manager.

Until the restoration crew replaces most of the back wall, braces have been installed to hold the back wall upright as it “hangs from the attic,” said Cunningham.

A restoration company, Traditional Framers, is hand-hewing white oak logs to replace the sills and joints in the framework. The “lost art” of hand sawing in an “English scribe style” will respect the tradition and integrity of the home, said Cunningham.
The restoration crew will work throughout the winter, and scaffolding is expected to go up in January.

Cunningham said the total renovation will take almost three years. At the end of all their efforts, Save Our Heritage would like the farmhouse to become a part of the Minuteman National Park . The site has received approval from the senate to be included in the national park, and President Bush must sign off on the inclusion.
“This could be one of the most authentic homes in the area,” said Winter. 

Kerri Roche can be reached at (978) 371-5796 or  
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