Category Archive: News

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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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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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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