Category Archive: Education

DHPT Reschedules Its Annual Meeting on Zoom!

Monday, November 8, 2021 at 6 p.m.

Due to last week’s nor’easter, the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust (DHPT) has rescheduled its annual meeting beginning at 6 p.m. (EST) with a short business meeting.

Featured Presentation 

by Diane Gilbert

The Life and Times of Akin Ancestor Richard Albert Canfield (1855-1914)

A Retrospective of a Man’s Life Captured through the Headlines

Richard Albert Canfield

This event will be presented on Zoom and all are cordially invited to attend. (You are being given new Zoom meeting links.)

You can register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Or, as an alternative, 

On November 8 at 6 p.m., just sign on to your Zoom account and enter the following: 

Meeting ID:881 2849 6052

About this Event

Following a short business meeting, Diane Gilbert will be giving an illustrated presentation about the life and times of Akin ancestor Richard Albert Canfield (1855-1914).

A Retrospective of a Man’s Life Captured in Headlines.

What is Canfield’s connection to the 1762 Elihu Akin House?

In keeping with the Akin House theme as “the little house with a big story to tell,” there may be no bigger story wrapped around one man’s life than that of Richard Albert Canfield, the great grandson of the house’s namesake, Elihu Akin (1720-1794).

As a boy, Canfield would travel to the old homestead at 762 Dartmouth Street to visit his grandmother, Hannah Howland Akin (1797-1889).

As the story goes, at age 13, “An attempt to get work in Providence failing, Richard paid a visit to his grandmother at her farm in South Dartmouth and with that as a base set out for New Bedford each day to make the round of stores to see if they could use a boy. Returning each night to the old farmhouse with the story that he couldn’t get work, he was gently upbraided by Grandmother Akin. Why didn’t he just settle down and help her on the farm? Or ship on a whaling cruise? Young Dick laughed at the idea of farm work. … He borrowed money from his grandmother, who predicted that he would never amount to anything, and went to Boston… in August of 1869 he was an assistant in the shipping department of the famous Jordan, Marsh & Co. store on Washington Street.  His salary was two dollars a week.”   
Source: CANFIELD, biography by Alexander Gardiner,1930, pp. 35-37

Canfield’s Quaker grandmother would have been alive to see her grandson make his fortune but may well have disapproved of how he made it.

James McNeill Whistler’s painting of Richard Albert Canfield, oil, 1902-03. Whistler referred to his portrait of Canfield as “His Reverence.”

Please contact Diane Gilbert at 508-965-7265 or via email at [email protected] with any questions or help with getting on Zoom. 

Please join us on Monday evening. Sit back and relax, enjoy a cocktail and some snacks, and travel back in time to Canfield’s world. 

We hope you can make it! 

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DHPT Announces Annual Meeting on Zoom

Starts on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, at 5 p.m.

The Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust (DHPT), stewards of the 1762 Elihu Akin House, announces its annual meeting to be held this Wednesday, October 27, 2021, at 5 p. m.

Featured Presentation

by Diane Gilbert

The Life and Times of Akin Ancestor Richard Albert Canfield (1855-1914)

A Retrospective of a Man’s Life Captured through the Headlines

This event will be presented on Zoom and all are cordially invited to attend.

You can register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Or, as an alternative, 

On October 27 at 5 p.m., just sign on to your Zoom account and enter the following: 

Meeting ID:832 7600 5567

About this Event:

Starting at 5 p.m. with a short business meeting, the event will be followed by an illustrated presentation about the life and times of Richard Albert Canfield (1855-1914). 

What does Canfield have to do with the 1762 Elihu Akin House? He just happens to be the great grandson of the Akin House namesake, Elihu Akin (1720-1794). As a boy, he would travel from New Bedford to 762 Dartmouth Street to visit his grandmother, Hannah Howland Akin (1797-1889), at the old homestead.

A son of New Bedford and Dartmouth, Canfield made his mark and reputation during the Gilded Age of New York City. An inveterate gambler and shrewd businessman, he managed to avoid the law which was determined to shut down his gambling houses. Canfield’s social milieu included saints and sinners, lawbreakers, and lawmen, and of course the rich and famous. A devoted family man who kept his family in Providence, he commanded respect while despised and feared by many. His life is a testimony to an unparalleled self-confidence and other attributes that made him rich. The best we can figure, he didn’t give a damn about his detractors nor his enemies. 

Canfield was also a man of erudition and impeccable taste. He found legitimacy as an art collector of some repute, having amassed the largest collection of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) paintings by an American, second only to Charles Freer who told Canfield about Whistler in 1899. By 1901, Canfield cultivated his own relationship with Lowell-born Whistler which perhaps earned him the respectability he craved. Up until Whistler’s death in 1903, Canfield traveled in Whistler’s circles, in London and Paris. 

The Akin House is now officially open but to a limited number of visitors as Covid19 continues among us. Therefore, the DHPT board has decided to again offer our annual meeting on Zoom. 

Thank you for your understanding and patience. 

Please contact Diane Gilbert at 508-965-7265 or via email at [email protected] with any questions or help with getting on Zoom. 

So sit back and relax, enjoy a cocktail and some snacks, and travel with me to Canfield’s world. 

We hope you can make it! 

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DHPT and Akin House News

It has been quite some time since you’ve heard from DHPT. With the reopening of Massachusetts, you are probably wondering when we will be welcoming visitors to the Akin House.

Garden planted with herbs that were used in the 18th century and situated in close proximity to the back door of the Akin House, with entrance to the kitchen interior. Can you identify these herbs?

The Akin House remains closed to visitors.

It had been our expectation that we would be open to visitors by the summer of 2021. As of July, sadly this is not the case.

As many of you know, the Akin House is a town-owned property which has been leased by DHPT for a number of years; first to save, preserve, and restore it; then, to use it as a cultural heritage center and education facility: for house tours, living history programming, to feature as a witness site to the Revolution, and to celebrate of the Akin family and their contributions to Dartmouth––all done by volunteers for the public benefit.

Since 2008, DHPT has operated as stewards for the property and assumed all responsibilities on behalf of the town to maintain this important cultural resource under the auspices of five-year leases in effect May 2008 and May 2013. Our lease expired in May 2018. At that time, the Select Board instituted new standards and provisions for leases of town-owned properties.

We have been maintaining the property as “tenants-at-will” up until recently when the DHPT board determined that without a renewed lease, we couldn’t continue to operate functionally on the property and ensure the safety of the public.

After being informed by Town counsel that certain provisions in the lease were non-negotiable, DHPT sent a letter to the Dartmouth Select Board on July 15, 2021 with an appeal to continue lease negotiations stating the argument that “one-size-doesn’t-fit all” for leases for town-owned properties. So far, the Town Administrator stated that, in effect, happy to talk to you but we’re not budging.

Excerpt of DHPT’s Letter to the Select Board

“Absent an active lease with the Town, the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust board had no choice but to close the building and property to visitors. The property is being managed and maintained by DHPT through our donated operations funds for lawn and landscape care, to pay for electricity, and for the wireless alarm system. The building’s interior is also being cleaned and maintained and must be kept at a certain temperature to minimize dampness which adversely affects an old house. Why do this volunteer work without a lease? We believe it’s our moral obligation to care for this property––to address and solve any problems that can occur. This historically significant pre-Revolutionary War building must be sustained and our Town’s significant investment must be protected. …

“Our principal concern is the insistence by Town counsel that the Town require unnecessary and expensive insurance for reasons of uniformity and require that we keep the property plowed in wintertime, even though the property is not open to the public in the winter. We have been informed that these items are non-negotiable, and that we may not meet with the relevant town boards to discuss these issues. We believe that, as a long-standing partner with the Select Board working on this project, we are entitled to an audience with the board to be heard on these matters.

“In every single way, DHPT has operated as the stewards of the Akin House since our first lease was executed with the Town in May 2008 and renewed in May 2013. Our lease expired in May 2018 and since then we have made good faith efforts to work with the Town to renew the lease.  

“What are the ramifications for DHPT and the Akin property? DHPT cannot apply for grants for programming or more restoration work. Fundraising is difficult when our main reason for being– the Akin House–is closed to the public and we are unable to offer living history programming.  We’ve had to inform our members and supporters that without a renewed lease with the Town, we cannot take the risk of hosting visitors on site. 

“What are the ramifications for the Town? The Akin House has a Preservation Restriction in perpetuity. As already stated, this property has limited use except as a house museum and as a cultural heritage center and education facility. If not DHPT’s stewardship of this property, then which organization would be willing to take over?

“With so much invested in this property–in public funds through CPA, private donations, and memberships, and with countless volunteer hours expended since 2008–is this really where we want to end up?”

Where Will We End Up?

This property has benefited from public funds and therefore the public has a right to know what’s going on with the Akin House and our lease. Both sides may have legitimate points of view, but not all town-owned properties are alike. To reach an impasse regarding insurance policies, what the town pays and what DHPT buys, and snow plowing our parking area when closed to visitors, only hurts this community. Yes, we and you are entitled to an audience with the Select Board, our duly elected representatives, to be heard on these matters. So we’ll keep trying!

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Akin House Re-Opening Delayed




Due to Covid19 shutdowns in Massachusetts, we have been precluded from holding any events at the Akin House so far this year. We are complying with the requirements and guidance from Governor Charlie Baker and the Dartmouth Board of Health. At this time, it is uncertain when the “reopening” of historic sites will be allowed. The Governor has appointed an advisory board to examine the feasibility, timetable, and the development of protocols for re-opening historic sites and other tourism venues.

Members of the preservation community and groups who manage historic sites and events do not anticipate any kind of re-opening to large gatherings for the next couple of months. When this was discussed among us, a colleague expressed the test for re-opening, urging us to ask ourselves three simple questions: “Can you?” “Should you?” “Will they come?”


Necessarily, to protect everyone’s safety, we have cancelled our flagship living history event, planned for June 14, 2020, “Never Idle Hands-Living in Early America.” Community gatherings much like we’ve been expecting will be prohibited for some time, yet to be determined. House tours, special exhibitions, demonstrations and lectures are also postponed. 


Meanwhile, we will determine the feasibility of hosting small scale events and programs at the Akin House late Summer or early Fall. This will depend on Governor Baker’s plans for reopening historic sites (tourism sites) and the approval from Dartmouth’s Board of Health.

We will keep you informed as the situation develops. Please check this site and Facebook. Look for news through email as well.

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Revolution 250 Is Coming!

The Akin House is a  “Witness Site”

to Dartmouth’s History

and the American Revolution

DHPT is a contributing sponsor of  Revolution 250 (organized by the Massachusetts Historical Society [MHS]). If you visit the Rev 250 site periodically, you will learn about all upcoming events (the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party re-enactments). With thanks to  Revolution 250’s coordinator, Jonathan Lane, DHPT has forged a beneficial partnership.

Excerpt from the website:  “The Revolution is coming! Over the coming ten years, Revolution 250 will explore the history of the American Revolution and the ways that this story still resonates in society today. Culminating in 2026, 250 years since the American colonies declared independence from the British Empire, we will pull together residents, visitors, planners, educators, artists, students, the business community, and politicians to recognize the importance of our culture and values.”––Source Revolution 250 website.

Seventeen-sixty-nine is a pivotal year due to the boycotting of British goods. Indeed, the movement was started by women!  Moreover, one might suggest that America’s industrial revolution started at the time when women were weaving cloth and manufacturing other goods. The Harvard Class of 1770 wore homespun in support of the boycott.

DHPT’s event at the Akin House scheduled for June 14, 2020, “Never Idle Hands–Living in Early America,” will feature homespun, hand-made textiles, and other goods so prominent during that period.

The Akin House is a “witness site” and will hold events leading up to 2026, the 250th anniversary of 1776.  We are planning living history re-enactments, lectures and other interpretive events to commemorate the Akins’ contributions and that of others during the events leading up to and including the Revolution in Dartmouth.  DHPT will be keeping you informed as these events firm up. Refer to this site. Stay informed on Facebook and MailChimp emails.




Inarguably, the history of the Revolution also belongs to Dartmouth. While we can’t take credit for being in close proximity to “the shot heard around the world,” the Akin House, “a little house with a big story to tell,” is taking its rightful place in the annals of events which occurred in southeastern Massachusetts and its environs which fought for LIBERTY from the CROWN.
Let’s start with the role the Akins played for the “Common Cause.” Jonathan Lane shares a letter from Benjamin Akin to Samuel Adams following a solicitation to the colonies as to a vote for Independence:


Dartmouth July 29th 1774
Dear Sir / The Barer hereof, has Brought with him Dartmouth Resolves and we have at Last made Choice of a Committee of Correspondence, –– hope Now we shall be able to have the Early & best Intelligences from all Quarters, should be glad you would send me your opinion in Wrighting what the result of the Town of Boston in respecting the Late New Acts of Parlement, which are to take place the first day of August Next and all other Towns in this province, so far as you have Collected; it appears to me Very Necessary for Every Town in the Government to Know one anothers Mind, in the affair & act on one plan; I trust we shall not have one man in Dartmouth, will Take any office under the New Regulation of Parlament, it Appears to me, if there is any force in the Late acts of Parlament, they have sett us a float, that is have thrown us omit a state of Nature: we Now have a fair opportunity of Choosing what form of government we think proper; and, Contract with any Nation we pleas; for a King to Rule over us–as the Parlament has been pleas’d to Vacate part of our Charter, if they had a Right to take away part, they must have a Right to take the whole: and when Ever affairs come to be settled; it Would be Best for us to form a New Charter for ourselves, that will be Most agreeable to us; and Now Sir, I desire that you will be so kind, as to Inform me into Every thing that is Necessary for the supporting of the Common Cause, and send by the Barer Mr William Tallman, who is one of Our Committee of Correspondence you Compliance, will greatly oblige your frd & Humble Servt. to Coud––
Benjn Akin
To Mr. Samll Adams
in Boston

The above letter leaves no confusion about Dartmouth’s allegiance.

(The Town of Barnstable was the only community at that time to vote against Independence from the Crown.)

Our Benjamin Akin

As a member of the Committee of Correspondence, Benjamin Akin, son of Capt. John Akin (1663-1746), was a brother to Elihu Akin (1720-1794).

The Akin family members were

Dartmouth leaders in the Revolution

Since Benjamin Akin features in this Blog, here’s his bio:
Benjamin Akin was born on May 18, 1715 at Dartmouth, Bristol County, MA and he died there on April 10, 1802.  According to “Sketches of Old Dartmouth” by Henry Worth, Benjamin was called “Esquire” on the Committee of 21 during the Revolutionary War. He was the Town Clerk at one time and served on the Committee of Safety. He lived near Russells Mills. He first married EUNICE TABER, daughter of JACOB TABER and SARAH WEST on September 13, 1739. She was born July 10, 1711 and died June 04, 1762 in Dartmouth, Bristol Co., MA. He next married LYDIA ALMY WING, daughter of JOB and LYDIA ALMY and widow of JOHN WING, JR. of Dartmouth. She died June 04, 1767. He married (3) WIDOW BARKER after 1767. Benjamin sired 10 children with his first wife and 4 more with his second. No children were born with his third marriage.
—Source: Akin Family Saga and Akin Family Tree by Robert Larry Akin

Other Noteworthy Events

“Dartmouth took part in the first naval event for the colonies, when in early May 1775, they recaptured several vessels that had been taken by HMS Falcon under Captain Linzee (MHS has his sword!). I believe one of the ships was a schooner named Bedford.
“Dartmouth also built one of the first (of 5) purpose built war ships for the Massachusetts Naval Militia. She was named the Rising Republic, and while her career may not have been exalted as one might wish, apparently having some problems with her design, she did play a role as a transport and as a prison ship in Boston harbor.” Source: Jonathan Lane, Rev 250.

Jonathan Lane as well as our own research will continue to inform us about activities specific to Dartmouth which will be shared here in the future.

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DHPT Announces Annual Meeting on October 3, 2019

Please Join Us for our Annual Meeting

Thursday, October 3, 2019

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Location: 1762 Akin House

762 Dartmouth Street, Dartmouth, MA

Limited parking spaces on the property, parking on the street
or at the nearby Cushman School. ADA-accessible.

If it’s October, it’s time for our Annual Meeting. Again this year, we will be holding our meeting at the Akin House. “The Little House with a Big Story to Tell” will not disappoint.

Please join us!

If you’re a member and donor of DHPT, we already know you care about local history and historic houses. If you are fascinated with 18th and 19th century decorating styles, even in a modest farmhouse like ours, you are in for a treat. If you like the science behind the materials, this presentation will interest you as well.

For our October Annual Meeting, it is only fitting that we share the results of extensive research and conservation work, including scientific analysis, of Akin’s south parlor.

We are pleased and proud to announce that our featured speakers will be Studio TKM’s Lorraine Bigrigg and Deborah LaCamera, senior partners and conservators of fine art and historic works on paper.

Below, Deborah and Lorraine hard at work.

How Did We Get Here?

When a historic house reveals itself in ways not anticipated, it’s yet another reminder of the gift that keeps on giving at our Akin House. So was the case when, in August 2017, the plaster and lath were removed from the the walls of the south parlor to reveal three layers of paper that adhered directly to the original wide wood plank interior and exterior walls––two historic wallpapers with an intermediate layer of newsprint.


Many of you know the story of these rare wall coverings from our Blogs on this site. For months, we had grappled to determine the best way to address this room from a preservation and conservation standpoint. These had been “under wraps” since the mid-19th century, we believe, when Greek Revival style interior features was adopted by the Akin family inhabitants of that time.

This “project within a project” of interior preservation and restoration at the Akin House required some specialized expertise. We hired two firms to help us develop a conservation plan for this room. First, Robert Mussey Associates, Inc. whose principal and senior conservator, Christopher Shelton, conducted an examination of the room, took samples of paint layers and ceiling finishes, soon thereafter stabilized the ceiling, and made recommendations about next steps in a detailed report which also included results of his scientific analysis. We had many questions and Chris patiently answered all of them.

Claiming not to be an expert in historic wallpapers, Chris contacted Studio TKM Associates, Inc. to join the project which conducted its own assessment of this room.  Studio TKM’s Lorraine Bigrigg and Deborah LaCamera joined the team. In a spirit of true partnership, assessments and findings were shared, with Lorraine and Deborah taking over where Chris left off.  DHPT was so pleased and fortunate that we had such expertise in our midst.

This important project was funded by a generous grant of $13,000 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation‘s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors.

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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.

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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.

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


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!

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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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