Author Archive: DHPT

Making Full Use of the Akin Property, A Work in Progress

We are proud of the accomplishments to transform the 1762 Akin House from an abandoned and dilapidated building (many believing not worth saving) into a 21st century

heritage cultural center.

A gateway property linking New Bedford to Padanaram Harbor, visitors are transported to old Dartmouth’s past on many levels––architectural, societal, cultural, archaeological, and economical perspectives––told through the lives of the Akin family.

“The little house with a  big story to tell.”

Architectural historian of this region, the late Anne W. “Pete” Baker, coined the phrase in 2004. Fifteen years later, even Pete would be amazed at how prescient she was. As the work progressed under the stewardship of DHPT, the house has revealed unimaginable surprises that no one at the time anticipated.

The stories are made tangible by the house itself and by interpretive living history programming, such as the event we held on June 23,  which many attended and is featured in a recent Blog.

While the 18th century Akins owned about 18-20 acres of land during their time, today’s property is only about a 3/4 acre. In the midst of a very busy intersection of modern houses, the Akin property highlights our local history, a rare sight in most of Dartmouth these days.

Time never stands still although it can be captured in a moment or through an event that inspires a look back to history. Yet a historic house lacks a sense of place without the knowledge of its inhabitants and without a relationship with the land surrounding it. That’s context.

So this year we have turned our attention to the landscape.

The land on which the house sits has been in need of attention for decades. The lawn fronting the Dartmouth Street location, more 20th century than 18th century, has served us well.  The house is set back against attractive greenery and trees, providing shade during summer months. (Near future: we will be designing a new sign and move it to another location.)

Thanks to our donors, we were financially positioned
to address the exterior landscape.
We needed to do more with the land
to maximize the property’s relevance and usefulness.

Many have seen some changes since May. Gone is the overgrowth, brush, non-native plants and vines, and unwanted saplings which invaded the property––a useless jungle preventing us from taking full advantage of this gorgeous property. Due to heavy downpours, the work has taken longer than expected but it is finally coming together.

The plans for all this open space.

A lawn.  Yes, more lawn. Not 18th century but the best approach to lay the ground work for future use as a heritage landscape. The benefits of this will be to prevent the return of invasives and unwanted vegetation. This will require regular maintenance of mowing to keep the land under control. We have identified our special holly tree as a landmark of demarkation.  The grassy areas near the driveway and to the right of the holly tree will offer more green space for events. Our plans also include a heritage garden and an 18th century orchard to the left of the holly tree, much like what the Akins would have had but on a smaller scale.

Requiring some design work, the stones found on the property will be used as landscape features and stepping stones to add interest and historic character. A few will be repurposed as benches.

What’s below ground is just as important as what’s above.

The Akin property has been all about revelation and discovery. To this day, we continue to uncover  significant archaeological artifacts.

During the archaeology field work conducted in the summer of 2009, evidence of a barn and a well came to light. Over ten years of unmitigated growth and change, these finds went back underground.

 

Hidden in plain sight for years, a well with a distinctive well cap and a path leading to the house was excavated. So far the date of the well taken out of commission remains unknown to us but with research, more will be revealed.

The barn’s structural foundation reappeared along with an adjacent section of another foundation.

These areas of interest will remain exposed for further archaeological study and dating. If anyone is curious, the privy has yet to be found. Theories abound.

As stated above, we are grateful to our generous donors who answered the call during our last appeal. Contributions enabled us to address the exterior landscape as stated in our goals for 2019. We funded the landscaping work shown here, up to seeding the land for grass, which is scheduled for the week of July 15.
We respectfully ask for additional contributions to support the new design, operational and maintenance expenses at the Akin property to leverage the progress we’ve made so far.
You helped us achieve our mission that the Akin property become a study house and a cultural heritage center.  Now, we have reached the stage where investment in the property is of utmost importance to carry our mission forward.

To that end, DHPT is introducing a Mid-Summer fundraiser in the form of a Challenge Grant.

Won’t you help us raise $4,000 by August 31? Two anonymous donors will match your donation, dollar for dollar, up to $2,000.

Won’t you donate today? All donations are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by applicable laws. 

Thank You!

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Revisiting our June 23 Summer Event

We had a very successful event at the Akin House on June 23 called “Never Idle Hands-Living in Early America.”

We welcomed many visitors throughout this perfect day of

sunshine, community and conviviality.

This is the beginning of a tradition for a day-long event every year to kick off the start of Summer. We hosted talented and enthusiastic period demonstrators and re-enactors, gave tours of the Akin House, and talked local history. We exhibited historic artifacts, from our site and from the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s collection. We featured samplers and 18th century books.

Wall maps of Dartmouth caught the attention of many looking for context, then and now, comparing the visibly modern landscape to the areas and neighborhoods defined in the early maps.

This array of images captures the activities of the day, from 18th century cookery to wool spinning to blacksmithing. Glassblowing in the more modern style was reminiscent of the colonial days when glass was hand-crafted. The fine art of crafting muskets was on full display, made using the same traditions from the days of the Revolutionary War. Woodworking such as making house shingles, wooden dishes and bowls enhanced the spirit of our theme, “never idle hands.”

Today, we call this art and artisanry, back then, this activity was called a necessity to make a life in early America.

Music brought a period feel to the day’s festive atmosphere.

A bit of archaeological finds

How many of you living in Massachusetts and throughout New England have found historic artifacts on your properties, surface finds and below ground? We took this opportunity to display our partial collection of objects found on site and in the cellar of the Akin House. We are pleased to have such a diverse collection for visitors to enjoy.

Looking forward to next year…….

Our heartfelt appreciation goes to all of the participants of our Summer event who made this such a success. We look forward to planning next year’s gathering which has already started. We thank everyone who took time out of their Sunday to join us in going back in time for a few hours. Our goal was to provide a leisurely 18th century experience in the midst of a busy 21st century Dartmouth neighborhood. We hope we met that goal.

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“A Revolutionary Trio”, the Last Muster Project Come to Life

Introduction

Over five years ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Pam and Rob Cooper to show them around when they visited Dartmouth to find some footage about the Akin ancestors. At the time, the Akin House was in serious disrepair with restoration a work-in-progress. We visited the Akin Cemetery, parts of Elm Street and the shores of Padanaram Harbor which was known in the “days of Akin” as Akins Landing. We paid our respects to the Apponagansett Meeting House and its cemetery on Russell’s Mills Road. The Akins were known to be Quakers and there is a John Akin buried there.

[image below right from the Library of Congress]

Soon after, I met Maureen Taylor.

The Last Muster Project and A Revolutionary Trio have been long awaited.

The rest, as they say, is history!

A Revolutionary Trio produced by Verissima Productions

in collaboration with Maureen Taylor.

Visit Verissima Productions website here.

On May 5, 2019, at the Dartmouth Grange, 1133 Russell’s Mills Village in Dartmouth, (please refer to The Last Muster Project Blog), Maureen Taylor will not only discuss the research that produced her two volumes of The Last Muster (with a third a work in progress), she will bring to life the stories of three heroes of the Revolutionary War featured in The Last Muster Project

Visit Maureen Taylor’s website about A Revolutionary Trio

These are rare, special, and invaluable. Fortunately for all of us, you can view these  now or at your convenience.

A great deal of outreach, research, travel, and interviews went into the development and production of these short films. These speak volumes about their lives which otherwise would have been lost to history but for the work of Maureen Taylor in collaboration with Pam and Rob Cooper of Verissima Productions.

The Akin Family ancestors are near and dear to the DHPT as this family has served to bring our 1762 Akin House to life.  From the time they travelled from Aberdeen, Scotland in the mid-1600s, to reach Newport/Portsmouth, RI, and to settle Dartmouth, MA, the Akins contributed immeasurably to the founding of this country.  

Their travels don’t end here in Dartmouth.

Molly Ferris Akin of Pawling, New York is featured in A Revolutionary Trio.

Try to connect the dots among the Last Muster Project, A Revolutionary Trio, and the Akin ancestors

When viewing the video about Molly Ferris Akin,

try to identify some common themes. 

How does Molly Ferris Akin fit into the Akin ancestry? How does she fit into the Revolution? 

Some of the Akins relocated to Dutchess County, Quaker Hill, Pawling, New York.

Let’s look at some genealogy from Ancestry.Com, provided by Akin descendant, Robert “Larry” Akin to learn more about Molly and her relationship to the Akin family.

We should start at the beginning of the Akin family which goes back to at least 17th century Scotland. Get ready for some head spinning when you read that there were many David Akins and just as many John Akins. The Akin family married a lot and had many, many children. Births, marriages and deaths were a way of life and these people just carried on. There were just as many daughters as sons but the focus here is on the male line.

Let’s start with David Akin from Scotland.

David Akin was born about 1640 in Aberdeen, Scotland. He died between 1669 and 1671 in Portsmouth/Newport, RI.

David’s son John Akin was born in Portsmouth, RI about 1663. He died in Dartmouth in 1746.

One of his sons, David Akin, was born in Dartmouth in 1689. He relocated to Quaker Hill, Dutchess County, New York about 1776 and died in 1779 in Quaker Hill.

Son John Akin (1719-1779) and David Akin’s half-brother Elihu Akin (1720-1794 were born in Dartmouth at much about the same time.  

[Elihu Akin lived all of his life in Dartmouth and ended up spending his final days at our Elihu Akin house. This website features predominantly Elihu’s branch of the Akin Family.]

Getting back to New York. Both father David Akin and son John Akin died in 1779 in Quaker Hill.

It is with John Akin’s son, also named John Akin (1753-1810), when we see the Akin family branching out of Dartmouth permanently.

This John Akin marries Mary Molly Ferris (1759-1851). She lives to a ripe old age of 92, surviving her husband John by some 41 years.

 

 

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The Last Muster Project: Save the Date

Announcing a Presentation

by Maureen Taylor

Save the Date and Join Us!

When:  Sunday, May 5, 2019 at 2:30 p.m.

Where:  The Dartmouth Grange,

1133 Russell’s Mills Road, Dartmouth, Massachusetts (Historic Russell’s Mills Village)

Learn more about Maureen here.

Maureen has integrated her knowledge, experience and passion about early photography to her Last Muster Project, many years in the making. This has particular and poignant relevance to old Dartmouth.  Whether you’re a local history buff, deeply into your own ancestry, fascinated by early photography, or you simply enjoy solving mysteries, you should not miss this presentation.

We pursue integration in our daily lives.  It’s unavoidable. We like connecting the dots. We gain satisfaction from learning how it all fits together. This has been Maureen’s life’s work.

Maureen is now working on Volume 3.

You can help Maureen with her project much like others have in producing Volumes 1 & 2. There are more daguerreotypes or other forms of early photography in private collections that portray survivors of the Revolutionary War. Check your attics, check those shoeboxes under your bed, in your trunks, those treasure troves of family photographs you haven’t thought of in years. Contact Maureen.  She’ll be happy to hear from you.

 

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DHPT Receives a Grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation

In Search of Incorporating Special Protections in the Sitting Room: Apply for a Grant!

In July, 2018, the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded a $13,000 grant from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors to the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust, Inc. for use in a sitting room /small parlor at the Akin House.  Funds were released on September 26, 2018.

What has been accomplished so far

This important conservation and preservation effort has already begun. Chris Shelton, Principal of Robert Mussey Associates, Inc. in partnership with Lorraine Bigrigg, Principal of Studio TKM Associates are in the process of executing a detailed conservation plan.

This grant will be used exclusively to carefully preserve & protect the sitting room & surrounding trim finishes which contain extant & unusual 18th C. features. The most remarkable are original & rare wallpaper adhered to the 18th C. oak & pine wall substrate. According to wall covering experts, believed to be imported from England.

1. The Sitting Room Floor

Our contractor, Thomas J. Figueiredo, addressed all the floors including the sitting room and foyer. The wood species believed be a yellow pine used for floors in the late 19th century was in good condition. These were sanded and finished with a poly oil-base intended to withstand foot traffic. The minor repair at the threshold was made using a sample of the same wood species found in the house.

2. a The Sitting Room Ceiling

The ceiling required attention and became the second stage of preservation work in the sitting room. Chris Shelton initially examined the ceiling and tested for its composition. According to Chris’s report, “It is comprised of layers of chalk and no binder. This is traditional lime-wash or white-wash where a wet coating of slaked lime is applied and allowed to dry and revert to calcium carbonate. It forms a low-sheen finish common in architectural settings where surfaces are not heavily worn. There are at least 12 applications visible in the sample testes. … Micro chemical testing for the presence of lead in the sample was negative.”

2.b The Solution

The treatment called for addressing the instability of the surfaces and removing most of the layers in danger of loosening and falling to the floor. (Samples of this material have been saved for future display.) The ceiling was cleaned and white-washed anew reminiscent of this 18th century practice. One bay on the ceiling was cleaned but left intact along with the adjacent plate, located on the west side of the room.

3. Wallpaper Conservation

After a preliminary meeting with Studio TKM Associates, the onsite conservation treatment is scheduled to begin by late November / early December.

The conditions found according to the proposal’s description is as follows:

“Two distinct layers of wallpaper adhered directly to wide plank interior and exterior walls have been recently revealed [August 2017] following the removal of wall paneling [2005] and the plaster & lath covering. The wallpaper remains in fragmented sections and a printed text interlayer is visible where the uppermost wallpaper is missing.  The fragmentary sections of wallpaper appear damaged from prolonged exposure to moisture, rom the application an subsequent removal of covering layers and from extensive damage from silverfish feeding on the cellulose and starch of wallpaper.”

Briefly, the work includes an in-studio analysis and conservation treatments (of samples removed from the site) and on-site conservation treatments to stabilize and protect the wall covering using protocols and practices generally applied for delicate wallpapers in a museum environment.

Analysis and documentation will follow with a comprehensive research, age and conditions reports for education purposes and to share with the public.

If Walls Could Talk: A Review of Existing Conditions

The Significance of the Sitting Room to the Visiting Public: Unique, Rare, Special to our Community

Stay tuned for progress reports about this interior conservation project.

What do we hope to achieve?

Simply put, the result of our upcoming conservation efforts in this one special room will be a protected exhibit space within the 1762 Akin House, one of Dartmouth’s more significant historic resources. The surprising discovery of extant & delicate decorative finishes on top of original whitewash inspired DHPT to alter its restoration strategy for this room. “The little house with a big story to tell” informed a special conservation approach to treat this room differently from the rest of the house where traffic & 21st C. wear & tear can be safeguarded. In addition to the general public, this room will attract preservationists & the academic community.

Integral to DHPT’s overall strategy to maximize the educational experience of the site, the Akin House will serve as a living history classroom telling particular stories of the mid-18th to early 19th C.­––most important, its place during Dartmouth’s Revolutionary War era when namesake Elihu Akin (1720-1794) switched alliances from the Crown to the cause of the Sons of Liberty. The sitting room and the formal parlor are examples of the style and tastes of the late 18th C., before and after British rule. In September 1778, Akin, a wealthy merchant inhabiting the Colonies, presumably lost everything when his property was destroyed by Loyalists and the British. In November 1778, he moved to this homestead which he purchased in 1769 and lived with his wife and family until his death. Elihu Akin may well have brought a sensibility of his former wealthy lifestyle to the homestead. His descendants inhabited or leased the house until 2003.

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A Short History of the Akins, Quakers and Slavery in Old Dartmouth

The image above is an artifact found in the Akin House during its restoration. This 18th century two-tined fork is an iconic example of domestic life within the confines of this modest farmhouse, perhaps warmed by a fire blazing on a cold winter’s night.  One can just imagine an Akin family member spearing a piece of roasted meat with that fork, discussing the events of the day, surrounded by family.

 

 

What were the topics of conversation during meal-times? The birth of a child? The death of a loved one? A marriage? Farming activities? The Akin family enterprises on the harbor? Taxes imposed by the Crown? Local politics? Dartmouth Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends? Not much different than today’s kitchen table banter––from the significant, stressful to the ordinary.

It’s impossible to discuss the domestic side of the Akin family without mentioning their status as entrepreneurs, maritime traders, and presumably loyal British subjects.  At the time the Akin House was built in 1762 by Job Mosher (b. 1737-d. before 1804) for his new wife, Amie Akin Mosher (1738-1804), the nearby village on the coastline was anything but dull.

[Amie Mosher was the daughter of James Akin (1706-1804) and Amie Fish Akin (1705-1746) and Elihu Akin’s (1720-1794) niece.  James and Elihu Akin were business partners, keeping it in the family.]

Let’s put into context the evolving societal norms and the political upheaval of the times by examining life in mid-18th century Dartmouth up to the early 1800s through the lens of the Akin family, Quakers and slave-owners. It is not known to what extent they owned slaves but the old records indicate they did.

The Fugitive’s Gibraltar, Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts by Kathryn Grover, [2001; LC 00-048878; ISBN 1-55849-271-2], stands out as one of the most significant treatises of New Bedford history. Cover to cover, it is a page-turner.  Once read all the way through, it becomes an invaluable reference. While the Akins do not feature prominently in her book, the reference to the Dartmouth Akins as slave-holders among other colonists such as the Russells and the Howlands is well-documented.

Kathryn Grover writes in Chapter 2, entitled Origins:

“… In that year [1754], 174 nonwhite persons lived in Dartmouth, Westport, and New Bedford. By 1800 the number of people of color in these towns was 405, an increase of 132 percent that brought their share of the population to 4.3 percent. These towns contained good farmland, but the growth in the economy was almost entirely due to maritime trade and whaling.  The  increase in the population of color is surely related to that maritime economy.”

Unquestionably, the Akins figure into this history given their vast holdings and prominence in what is now known as Padanaram Harbor, then referred to as Akins’ Wharf or Akins’ Landing, a measure of their influence and prominent role in the maritime economy.

Ms. Grover goes on, “[William] Wall identified the man of color in Birth of the Whaling Industry as having, like Venture Smith, come from Guinea, and he suggested a series of names typical among New England slaves and black servants––Pero, Quash, Pompey.  Whether Wall knew it or not, Joseph Russell in fact owned slaves named Quash and Pero at the time; they were probably among the thirty-seven males of color living in Dartmouth in 1765. Russell, born in Dartmouth, was accepted into the Dartmouth Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends in April 1766, though he may have ‘followed the Meeting’––attended its services and observed its customs of dress and address––before being formally admitted as a member. Six years after his acceptance, however, the meeting disciplined him and Isaac Howland II, also a slave owner, for ‘running goods,’ presumably military, intoxicating, or illegally acquired ones.  Isaac Howland had run afoul of the meeting often in the past. In 1764 the meeting sent members to visit him both for marrying a non-Quaker and for being ‘in the practice of the slave trade,’ and it found the paper he submitted ‘signifying the sorrow’ for both offenses insufficiently apologetic until September 1765. Three months later the meeting permitted Howland to move to Rhode Island, where he learned spermaceti manufacture, and he then returned to New Bedford.  Only a month after he and Russell were reported for running goods, the meeting declared both, with Rebecca Slocum, ‘offenders…by their keeping their Negroes in bondage when they are fit for freedom after they have been repeatedly admonished to comply with ye order of friends.’  By January 1774 Russell still refused to accede to the meeting’s wishes, but by September the visiting committee finally persuaded him to free his two ‘negro men,’ Quash and Pero.  In April of the same year Isaac Howland freed his slave Pero.  Howland has long been reputed to have been the last person in Dartmouth to free a slave when he manumitted Primus in January 1777, but John Akin still owned an Indian named Hazzard, whom he freed the next month. …[footnote 13]”
“13. On the transactions of the Dartmouth Monthly Meeting with respect to Friends who owned slaves, see DMM, 7 mo 1772; 1, 4, 9, and 11 mo 1774, and 1 and 2 mo 1777, the last of which is a record of manumission of John Akin’s Indian slave Hazzard.”

John Akin (1745-1801) was Elihu Akin’s son (1720-1794) by his first wife Ruth Perry Akin (1729-1790).  In her book, Ms. Grover does not mention by name the other Akins as slave-holders and whether or not the Akins apart from John were Quakers in good standing. Therefore, it is not known if they had already acceded to the meeting’s wishes to free their slaves by that time.

The fact that Ms. Grover references John Akin briefly in the above excerpt and in the accompanying citation from her notes of Chapter 2, Origins implies or corroborates that the Akins were no different from the other colonists who were slave-holders for a time. During those times, Quaker religious beliefs by the many enlightened persuaded some of their less ardent “members” to free their slaves in the Dartmouth community well before the rest of America.

The British Invasion

About 19 months after John Akin freed Hazzard, all hell would break loose for the Akins.

The Akins, who had switched loyalties from the Crown to embrace the American cause for independence––arguably driven by the economics of entrepreneurship and free trade principles––wasted little time eradicating Loyalists by running them out of their little harbor side community.

In September of 1778, soon after attacking Bedford Village [later known as New Bedford], the British were led to Akins’ Wharf  [now Padanaram] by these Tories in what was surely an act revenge by Tupper & company.

Quite a bit is known about the role of the Akins and other founders during the War of Independence when the Akin men joined the Sons of Liberty. The History of New Bedford and Its Vicinity (1602-1892) by Leonard Bolles Ellis, published in 1892, is an invaluable resource.

We set aside the Revolution for the moment, to reflect on the role of the Akins and the conflicts arising from slave ownership contemporaneous to the period when our 1762 Akin House was built and during the ill-fated British invasion.

Revolution 250

In the near future, this website will contain narratives about the Akins and the Revolution as we approach the 250th Anniversary in 2026. The Akin House is a “witness house” to the activities leading up to and including 1776.  DHPT, as a sponsor, plans to host events to celebrate this important milestone in our nation’s history.

For now, visit the Massachusetts Historical Society’s website highlighting living history events, Revolution 250.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Preservation Philosophy for the Akin House Comes Together with the Phase III Project Work

The above image of the formal parlor provides an example of the application of four historic treatments explained below.

The original pine wall boards installed perhaps just a few years after the house was built to add some Georgian formality to the room were reinstalled to surround the simple mantel over the fireplace and hearth, both Greek Revival.  Electrified brass double light sconces recently hand-forged in a colonial design serve as ornamentation and sources of light. To the left, a doorway to the foyer in the Federal style. The corner beam is new construction and painted in whitewash.

Let’s take a moment to step back from the nitty gritty details of the work in progress at the Akin House to examine preservation philosophy and how well we are doing.

Each preservation project has its own unique characteristics given its historic significance of time, place and context(s), cultural value to community, architectural period(s), original elements, later features, repairs and changes over the life of the building.

Ultimately, the goal is to assure the longevity of our historic assets from a point in our times at which it was found or acquired to be saved. The Akin House, as noted in these pages, was one house that was viewed by many as not worth saving. That was then, some 15 years ago.  This is now. Let’s revisit preservation philosophy and approach to our house in particular.

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and our Treatment of the Akin House

We referenced the Secretary’s Standards in a blog in November 2017 (see archives). To review, essentially there are four treatment approaches:
Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction.

Preservation places a high premium on the retention of all historic fabric through conservation, maintenance and repair. It reflects continuum over time, through successive occupancies, and the respectful changes and alterations that are made.

Rehabilitation emphasizes the retention and repair of historic materials, but more latitude is provided for replacement because it is assumed the property is more deteriorated prior to work. (Both Preservation and Rehabilitation standards focus attention on the preservation of those materials, features, finishes, spaces, and spatial relationships that, together, give a property its historic character.)

Restoration, focuses on the retention of materials from the most significant time in a property’s history, while permitting the removal of materials from other periods.

Reconstruction establishes limited opportunities to re-create a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object in all new materials.

To be practical about it, what lies beneath the visible fabric will often dictate approach. Many times it’s just rot and more devastation. So many who contemplate such projects ask themselves, is it time to cut our losses and walk away especially as funds appear to be elusive. Other times, as in our case, unexpected but remarkable features from many periods–– pre-Georgian, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival––emerge, and drive us onward.

How does one make the right decisions in choosing and applying one (or more) of these four treatments?  This “little house with a big story to tell” informed our approach. It proved impossible to simply choose one of these treatments or a specific period in its life. The Akin House is simply not that kind of house.

We didn’t have enough sufficiently viable or extant original materials to conserve the whole house in its entirety applying Preservation methods alone or by choosing a specific period to preserve, Restoration, so as to reveal that one period, such as the pre-Georgian style when first built.

This may offend some purists, but our philosophy required pragmatism. Indeed, we incorporated all treatments, selectively applying each where appropriate to ensure that this house survived for a few more centuries. In its future, maintenance will be key.

Unquestionably, the Akin House’s historic significance to the Town of Dartmouth, other considerations factored into our approach.

Physical condition: If not for a few who saw the potential to save this house, most would have pronounced it ready for the wrecking ball. Photographs of 2003 testify to that case.

Proposed use: As a “study house” and education facility for living history programming, the Akin House has been transformed from a private residence to a public space. This transition is less “new use” and more adaptive to telling the story of its inhabitants. After all, it started out its life as a domicile built by British citizens under the rule of the Crown. What came next is the stuff of turmoil, rebellion and insurrection––the Revolutionary War.

Mandated code requirements: Decisions were made for safety and to accommodate the needs of modern visitors without compromising much of the house’s historic integrity. For a thriving community facility, the house needed to be electrified. (A small example of the old knob and tube electrical wiring remains for display purposes.) We installed a split unit to provide heat and AC for the comfort of visitors during occasions when the house’s inner climate can be oppressive or bone chilling. The functional cooking hearth in the keeping room has been rebuilt according to modern safety codes for 18th century cookery demonstrations. A new deck was built at the rear entrance to provide universal access through an automated lift. A walkway has been constructed for visitors leading from a couple of restricted parking spaces to the deck.

The above image of the rear entryway to the Akin House represents the final stages of the exterior work. An ADA-compliant lift will be installed for wheelchair access to the house which may also be used by visitors with walkers and canes.

 

 

 

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Progress Report of the Akin House Restoration Project

The enemy to saving historic houses are its conditions of wear and tear, or worse, serious damage or deterioration––obstacles that can discourage many from embarking on a preservation (ad)venture. Not so with DHPT.

A Review of Second Quarter Accomplishments

This report provides a summary of the Akin House project for the Second Quarter 2018. Our Preservation Philosophy is in evidence––part preservation, part rehabilitation, and part restoration––come to life––all conducted with guidance by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. 

Download (PDF, 5.99MB)

[Phase III began in August 2017. Prior blogs found in our archives offered detailed updates of our work in progress complete with a photo commentary of various stages and aspects of the work.]

It’s important to see where we started to appreciate how far we’ve come.

Since our second quarter report, the work has continued. We are pleased to report that we will complete Phase III by early September.

Look for a report of the final stages of work in a September blog. Thereafter, we will be scheduling house tours.

 

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The Earle-Swift House at 60 Mishaum Point is at Risk for Demolition

The Earle-Swift House, Mishaum Point, South Dartmouth, MA
[also known as the “Arrowhead House”]

The owners of a 2.68 acre parcel have applied for a demolition permit to tear down this historically significant house built in the late 1720s using a gambrel house style which was typically seen in Plymouth County.  It was relocated to its current site at Mishaum Point about 1927.

The Dartmouth Historical Commission, of which I am a member, held a public hearing on Monday, June 25.  The owner presented her concerns and plans for the site. Following a presentation and discussion with the owner, the Commission voted to declare the house “PREFERABLY PRESERVED” a technical term from our demolition delay bylaw to impose a 6-month demolition delay. This is considered a time-out to work with the owners to come up with alternatives that could save the house and accommodate their plan for the property which we hope could result in a win-win.

We thank the owners for expressing an interest and willingness to work with the Commission and preservation experts during this delay period.

This endangered historic house has received a great deal of reporting from the press since the demolition delay was imposed on June 26, 2018.

In an editorial in the New Bedford-Standard Times on Sunday, July 15, 2018, it is clear that this house has captured the interest of the SouthCoast community.

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Earle-Swift House: History In Brief

Old Dartmouth History of the Early Eighteenth Century: A Tale of Founding Settlers and One Important House

Ralph Earle who died in 1718 owned farmland purchased from Captain Benjamin Wing. Earle devised his farm to his only son, Barnabas Earle, who built the gambrel style house between 1723 – 1735. The farm and house later known as “Arrowhead House” was passed on to Earle’s nephews, John & Benjamin Slocum.

The Early Twentieth Century Journey of this Important House

It was moved from its original location at the head of Apponagansett Bay (about 250 Russell’s Mills Road) by Mrs. Robert W. Swift, mother of Humphrey H. Swift and his wife Pam, in 1927.

Mrs. Swift had it taken apart, board by board, and reassembled on her property at Mishaum Point. It was placed on a granite outcrop forming a natural hearth for the two fireplaces in the living room, marrying the natural landscape to this historic house as though these distinctive cultural assets were meant to be together for eternity.

Historians noted that layers of old wallpaper and newspaper were removed to expose the old feather-edged pine paneling which she (Mrs.Swift) then rubbed with bees’ wax.

[Sources: Henry Worth historical narratives prior to 1909 plus other accounts from the 20th century]

Photograph by Fred Palmer, ca. 1904, on Russell’s Mills Road site; published in Henry Worth’s “Houses of Old Dartmouth”, 1909, ODHS.

Why is this House so Historically Significant to the Town of Dartmouth?

Unquestionably integral to Dartmouth’s Early History and its Founders

Its Rare House Style:  This style was widely used in Plymouth and and in very few cases adopted in old Dartmouth. Except for later replicas, those few 18th century original gambrels in Dartmouth are long gone!

One of the oldest extant houses, of any style, in very good condition.

Built shortly after the King Philip’s War (1675), its original location [250 Russell’s Mills Road] was just a stone’s throw from Russell’s Garrison.

Historic houses that are relocated generally do not retain their original architectural elements. This house is different!

Its relocation to Mishaum Point about 1927 breathed new life into this early 18th century house.

It was methodically reassembled by what must have been expert craftsmen giving this house strength, structure, stability and support.

This house includes early 20th century craftsmanship with rare and preserved architectural elements and features from the early 18th century.

Unless someone happens to have explored the depths of Dartmouth’s early history or knows about ancient cemeteries in that area, many simply drive by, totally unaware of this location’s significance, nearby 250 Russell’s Mills Road. Only the very attuned and sensitive should feel the presence of ghosts. 

The Historical Commission and preservation advocates tour the house and grounds on June 16, 2018. A wing and a few other notable enhancements include dormers.

The Stunning Interior of Original Features

 

Doors, Doors, and More Doors

This door found connecting the second floor wing to the original main house. This raised panel door and latch in beautiful condition just as the others in the main house.

A look at the bits and pieces adding to historical significance. Details and patina matter!

More about Dartmouth’s Demolition Review ByLaw

Visit the Historical Commission’s webpage for more information about the Town’s Demolition Review Bylaw:

https://www.town.dartmouth.ma.us/historical-commission

In making its assessment about whether or not a house is historically significant even before it holds a public hearing, the Commission relies on the Inventory of Historic Houses and other structures. For buildings, this is known as a Form B.

The Massachusetts Historical Commission maintains a database on the historic inventories throughout the Commonwealth, commonly known as MACRIS.

For those of you who love to get into the details, the Form B Inventory on this house can be viewed here:

Download (PDF, 7.18MB)

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(Note that on the cover page the construction date should be ca. 1725, not ca. 1760.)

 

A very special thanks to Linda DesRoches, preservation professional and Dartmouth early house expert who’s done her share of historic house preservation. Thanks to the local press for reporting on this house.

Please contact members of the Historical Commission with your comments. See above.

Or, contact Diane Gilbert through this website, or at [email protected] or (508) 965-7265.

 

 

 

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Preservation & Restoration Progress at the Akin House, Part 2.

“A Chamfer: A sloping or angular cut to round off the corner or edge of a board or timber.” (Edward P. Friedland)

The above image is a profile of a chamfered joist, one of two joists that are original to the Akin House construction, left extant in the great room/cooking hearth room. This technique was employed in the 17th century with many examples, some plain or decorated, featured in The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725 by Abbott Lowell Cummings, 1979. [ISBN 0-674-31680-0]

Our antique house has been dated to about 1762 as evidenced by our research, but not far-fetched to assume that house building techniques going back to earlier times might well have been used into the 18th century. One might speculate that carpenter Job Mosher could have learned this technique from old timers or “mentors” of his day. Or perhaps, Job Mosher recycled these joists from another even older house. The reuse of materials was commonplace.

The building date of a house on its site doesn’t necessarily imply that earlier construction styles and techniques weren’t used. Well advised to keep in mind that the “devil is in the details.” In this case and many other cases as we try to understand and learn from extant old houses, these details and motivations are buried with the folks who really know.

Now for the Good News

There are only two such original joists in situ along with a few remaining original beams, corner posts, collar ties/rafters. Compared with demolition by neglect, a mixture of old with new far more desirable. We coined this “pragmatic preservation.”  Better than nothing?  You bet!

Back to the Joists Sitting Happily among New Construction

 

Notice the scraped bottom edge of the joist. Since these timbers were imperfect or uneven, a certain amount of trimming was required to install the plaster & lath ceiling, long since removed due to severe water and other damage in the room.

Modern Whitewash as a Means to Differentiate the Old

and the New

The newly installed oak timbers to replace the damaged ones were painted with whitewash in April, 2018. This effectively shows the original construction work against the new. We opted for whitewash because its use was prevalent in early houses and no one will mistake this finish as historic. Some evidence of early whitewashing can be seen on these original joists.

The Akin House as a “Study House”

In a Building History of Northern New England (2001, ISBN-13: 978-1-584-65-099-7) which applies to all New England houses, James L. Garvin writes on page 10.

“The principal framing members of seventeenth-century houses––the posts, girts, and summer beams––were usually planed (or more roughly smoothed with an adze) after hewing. They were frequently decorated with molded chamfers on their exposed corners or arrises.  These members were intended to be exposed to view.

“After 1700, with few exceptions, the framing members in dwellings were intended to be covered, either by wall or ceiling plaster or by casings of planed one-inch boards. It is almost always a mistake to strip away such a covering and expose any part of the skeleton of an eighteenth- or nineteenth century house in the belief that the builder intended this.”

Tradition supports Garvin’s view. Why have we chosen to leave the ceilings and corner posts exposed? There were no viable plaster & lath ceilings or original ceiling panels left to show, never mind preserve or restore. By 2008, the walls not much better.

Akin House as Study House

Our long-term goal was always to present the Akin House as a “Study House”, its severely damaged existing conditions supported a study house strategy. The new post-and-beam reconstruction co-exisiting with the original underscores a skeletal approach to show the forensics in certain interior locations of the house––yes, the house as historic artifact illustrative of the ways to save and preserve a historic asset.

An education for visitors if ever there was one, and for house stewards, preservationists and historians, interpretive opportunities galore.

The Little House with a Big Story to Tell!

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