February 2010

Our Commonwealth
The Robbins-Hutchinson House: Yielding New Stories, Suggesting New Possibilities
At first glance, the small cottage across from Sleepy Hollow Cemetery looks rather modest and unassuming. But once you start to learn a little about the history of the Caesar Robbins House, it draws you in. New research about this historic house, which was recently up for sale and threatened by the possibility of demolition, has uncovered a fascinating story of slavery and freedom, from the "shot heard 'round the world" to the Emancipation Proclamation. Today the town of Concord is one of the most famously "historic" places in Massachusetts and the country. Visitors can learn about the history of the Revolutionary War at Minute Man National Historical Park and see the authors' houses and landscapes of the small town that became a center for literary talent and philosophical ideas in the mid- nineteenth century. In such a wellknown place, one might think that "history" is over. The work of local preservationists and public historians to document and protect the Caesar Robbins House is a reminder of how preservation work can yield new stories and suggest new possibilities for understanding our past.

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PM "Mini Grant" Awarded to Royall House, Medford
Circuit Rider Michele Barker has noted in her post on the James Weldon Johnson House, Massachusetts has a long and not always well-recognized African-American heritage. For this February E-Newsletter, PM has chosen to highlight the rich trail of African-American sites in the Commonwealth like the Isaac Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford. Read more.

Caesar Robbins built this small house at the edge of the Great Meadows not long after the battles of Lexington and Concord. He had fought in the Revolutionary War, and earlier in his life he had been enslaved. He was a free man of African descent who lived during the time that Massachusetts first debated, and then eventually, by court decision in 1783, prohibited slavery. His first wife Phillis was enslaved by the Bliss-Emerson family, as was his daughter. Readmore. (http://preservationmass.org/2010/02/yieldingnew-stories-suggesting-new-possibilities/)

Hanging by a Thread:The Retreat of James Weldon Johnson
At the westernmost edge of my Circuit Riding territory, Berkshire County has a long, though not always wellrecognized African-American heritage. In the 18th century, Elizabeth "Mum Bett" Freeman of Sheffield successfully sued for her freedom in a landmark case that declared slavery unconstitutional in Massachusetts. In the 19th century, more Berkshire County soldiers enlisted in the 54th Regiment (commemorated by the 1989 film "Glory") than from any other part of the state. Samuel Harrison, chaplain to the 54th, settled in Pittsfield.

Update: Samuel Harrison House, Pittsfield
Listed on Preservation Massachusetts' 2005 Most Endangered Historic Resources, the Samuel Harrison House in Pittsfield is a great success story. The small, mid-19th century, Greek Revival house with a stone foundation is significant because of its associations to the Rev. Samuel Harrison and the American Abolitionist Movement. Read more.

Essex National Heritage Area Partnership Grant
Deadline: Sunday, February 28, 2010 - 11:59PM

Some of the buildings associated with these figures are gone; the DuBois Homestead holds only a monument to the house that once stood there. Others, like the Harrison House in Pittsfield, are being preserved. And one-the Great Barrington summer writing retreat of James Weldon Johnson--is hanging by a thread. Read more. (http://preservationmass.org/2010/02/hanging-by-a-threadtheretreat-of-james-weldon-johnson/)

The Essex National Heritage Commission is currently accepting on-line proposals from municipalities and qualified nonprofit organizations for the 2010 Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program.Read more.

Save the Date: Paul E. Tsongas Profiles in Preservation Awards - May 5, 2010

Salem Athanaeum Celebrates 200 Years in 2010!
The Salem Athenæum, a preeminent cultural institution, marks its 200th year in 2010. With its collection of historic and contemporary books and quality programming comprised of lectures, courses, and concerts, the Athenæum will celebrate its members and collections and their influence on Salem and the world. Read more.

2010 marks Preservation Massachusetts' 25th Anniversary as the statewide non-profit promoting the preservation of our Commonwealth. In celebrating this milestone event, we wish to acknowledge those individuals who have made a difference in the landscape of historic preservation in Massachusetts . PM wanted to find a way to share the stories, successes (and losses) that made the Massachusetts preservation community what it is today. Read more.

Cape Wide Historic Preservation Workshop
Where: Harwich Community Center, Harwich, MA When: March 25, 2010 11am-3pm

Workshop on historic buildings and green design.Read more.

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