A 300-year-old house and its surrounding farm have been restored and added to Minute Man National Historical Park in Massachusetts, bringing to the park a Revolutionary War landmark.
The Barrett Farm long has been eyed for inclusion in the historical park. Restoration on the Barrett House, which dates to 1705, began eight years ago when Save Our Heritage, a non-profit preservation organization in the Bay State, acquired the farm and its 3.4 acres of land from the McGrath Family.
“It was a collaborative effort right from the start between Save Our Heritage, the town, the park, and the McGraths,” explained Neil Rasmussen, president of Save Our Heritage. “Our shared goal was to have Save Our Heritage restore the Col. James Barrett House and to eventually incorporate it into Minute Man Park so that visitors could experience it as living history. And that time has finally come.”
The Colonel James Barrett Farm is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as one of the most important Revolutionary War landmarks of national significance. Colonel James Barrett, a member of the Provincial Congress, was the senior officer and overall field commander at the North Bridge on the first day of the American Revolution. He was also in charge of all the supplies in the area, enough for an army of 15,000. When 700 British Regulars marched to Concord on April 19, 1775, they were intent on seizing weapons and other military supplies stored throughout the town, including a major stockpile on Colonel Barrett’s property, according to a Park Service release.
The farm and the Barrett family provide a central link to the story of “the shot heard round the world.” The Barrett property has been farmed continuously from Colonial times to the present, and has been owned by only two families over the past 300 years -- the Barretts for 200 of those years, and the McGraths for 100.
Michael McGrath now resides in a house behind the Col. James Barrett house, and his late brother Patrick farmed the surrounding land and ran the McGrath farm stand across the road.
Since 2004, the exterior restoration of Barrett House has seen the stabilization of the back wall, completion of a new wood roof, application of hand-skived pine clapboards, and the installation of handmade replications of the original 1770s doors and faithful reproductions of the original window frames and sash.
Archaeological studies were also conducted, and the land behind the house was cleared to reveal a more open agrarian landscape. Painstaking restoration and preservation of the interior of the house has included stabilizing of original plaster walls, repointing of fireboxes, and the restoration of wood paneling and floors. In addition, careful paint conservation techniques have revealed many original and exceedingly rare colonial paint surfaces.
“Much of our restoration work employed methods and materials used in the 18th century, wherever possible,” said Jim Cunningham, the Barrett Farm project manager.
The wood used to stabilize the post and beam structure was hand-hewn by traditional timber framers, and wrought iron reproduction hardware was fashioned by Concord’s local blacksmith, Carl Close. As a result of this meticulous attention to details, the Park Service says, when visitors enter the house, they are transported to Revolutionary times and can sense a direct, living, tangible link to the beginning of the nation.
This eight-year restoration project was funded by four community preservation grants from the town of Concord, a Save America’s Treasures grant from the Department of the Interior, and numerous private donations. Many town departments and committees have provided critical assistance and dozens of volunteers and organizations, including the Boy Scouts, have donated their time and effort to the project.
“Restoring Barrett Farm was only one part of the preservation effort. Getting it incorporated into Minute Man National Historical Park was the other part, and this involved a three-part process at the federal level spanning several years,” said Anna West Winter, executive director of Save Our Heritage. “In 2005, the late Senator Edward Kennedy and former Representative Marty Meehan lent their energetic support to sponsoring legislation to facilitate a feasibility study of the farm's inclusion in the park. Later, in 2009, thanks to the steadfast leadership of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Minute Man Park’s boundaries were expanded by Congressional legislation to include the Col. James Barrett House and additional surrounding acres.”
Finally, this year Congress appropriated the funds needed for the National Park Service to acquire Barrett House and the surrounding land.
“We’re delighted to finally have the Col. James Barrett House incorporated into Minute Man National Historical Park,” said Superintendent Nancy Nelson. “It’s something we have been looking forward to for a long time. Barrett Farm completes the narrative of the beginning of the American Revolution within the park.”