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Battle Road Open House 2010

Daniel Chester French Minute Man Statue in Concord

Daniel Chester French Minute Man Statue in Concord

Battle Road Open House 2010  On Saturday, September 18, 2010 the Minute Man National Park held a day-long open house.  Battle Road Open House and Historic Trades Day provided a rare opportunity to visit almost a dozen Colonial-era houses, most of which are typically not open to the public.  It also was a perfect day for kids with re-enactors demonstrating crafts and trades including blacksmithing, carving, rope making and more.  And it was my chance to be a tourist in my own backyard.

This was the second Battle Road Open House day. Let’s hope they’ll make it an annual event.

The open house day was an old house enthusiast’s dream –  a chance to see and compare so many houses of the same period. 

Since I grew up in Concord during the years that the Park Service was acquiring much of the land and houses that make up the park I had some misgivings too.  It wasn’t easy for home and business owners to have no say in the matter when the park  was acquiring properties.  But now, when open land is so often threatened by development, its’s wonderful to see the fields that line the Battle Road preserved.  If we could just do something about the overhead wires – and the airport!

But I gulped when I realized that the parking area near Meriam’s Corner was the site of the former Willow Pond Kitchen.  I worked at the Willow Pond for years – a time when the owner, Peter Sowkow, was battling with the NPS to keep the Kitchen open.  It was a sad day when the restaurant closed. 

One of the Park Rangers at the Meriam House showed me a vintage photo of the Willow Pond Kitchen that they keep in the office.  It predates the time when I discovered the Willow Pond but so little changed there over the years it looked very familiar.  The image is included in the slide show below.

I managed to see all but the two houses that are open regularly during the year, the Hartwell Tavern and the Wayside.  Here’s the rest of the Battle Road Open House tour:

Jacob Whittemore Housein Lexington  was built in the early 1700s and extensively renovated in the 1780s.  On April 19, 1775 seven members of the Whittemore family fled the house as the battle drew near.

Captain William Smith House in Lincoln   Captain Smith was commanding officer of the Lincoln Minute Men.  He was also Abigail Adams’ brother and “Abigail Adams” greeted us at the door.  The house was built in 1692 but restored by the Park Service to its appearance at the time of the Revolution.

Noah Brooks Tavern was built in 1798 on land that had been in the Brooks family since 1656. Though it postdates the Battle the NPS has kept the house because it is one of several owned by the Brooks family who owned adjacent farms.  This spot became know as Brooks Village. The tavern was a popular gathering spot and remained in business until the 1850s.  For part of the day Scottish Highland Cattle grazed in the fields outside the house.

Joshua Brooks House next door was also built just after the Revolution in 1779.  The family ran a slaughterhouse and tannery across the street. At the time of the Revolution Joshua and his family lived in an earlier house on this site. Their son Joshua was a Minute Man.

The Job Brooks House across the street dates from 1740.  Job Brooks was a farmer and a currier at the Brooks Tannery. Today the National Park Service uses the house to store the Park’s archival collections. There was an amazing sampling of artifacts found around the Park on exhibit in the house on Saturday.

Samuel Brooks House  Parts of this house date to the 1690s.  For 300 years, until the NPS purchased the house in 1963, all of the owners of the house were related in some way to the Brooks family.  Outside the house, in the field out back. a Concord blacksmith demonstrated his craft.

Battle Road Slide Show

Meriam House in Concord  Meriam’s Corner was an important site on April 19, 1775.  Here the Colonists lay in wait for the British soldiers and shots were fired. Two British soldiers died. The Meriam house, built in 1705, sits back from the road – a classic New England setting.  It is one of the houses that is open on occasion during the year.

Barrett’s Farm  On the other side of Concord, some two miles from the Old North Bridge, is the house of Colonel James Barrett.  The British searched Barret’s house on April 19th but the artillery and ammunition they hoped to find had already been moved.  The Barretts lived in the house for its first 200 years and then the McGrath family lived here for the next 100. 

Today the Colonel Barrett house  is in the midst of an extensive restoration after Save Our Heritage acquired it. Legislation has extended the Park Service’s boundaries to include the area around the farm. The open house day provided a fascinating look at a restoration in process.

Buttrick House   It was Major John Buttrick who gave the first order to fire on the British. His house is close to the Old North Bridge.  The two minute men killed at the bridge were brought to the house.   

The Buttrick House was my last stop on the Battle Road Open House tour.  It was closing time and the ladies were putting away the 18th century style dresses they had on display. 

I took the trail down to the Old North Bridge and walked to the Old Manse.  The house is maintained by the Trustees of the Reservation and I managed to catch the last tour.  Afterwards, our guide encouraged us to pick some Concord grapes from the old vine aside the house – a marvelous end to a busy day.

More House Museum Monday Posts

Emerson House

General Artemas Ward House

Count Rumford House


 The Battle Road Open House in Minute Man National Historic Park included houses in Lincoln, Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.

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