Durant-Kenrick House & Grounds

This Georgian farmhouse, built in c. 1734, retains the structure and detail that exemplifies its style—such as wide, high-ceilinged rooms, a floor plan with ample space for entertaining, and elaborately tooled balusters.  In addition, the Durant-Kenrick House contains rare, early 19th-century stenciled floors.  Historic Newton acquired the house in spring 2011.  We plan to open it as a museum that will teach visitors about colonial life, the events leading up to and encompassing the American Revolution, and horticulture as an industry in the nineteenth century.

To support the restoration of the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds, the City of Newton has provided $2.7 million in Community Preservation Funds; an additional $1.5 million was provided by Newton residents, foundations, and corporate sponsors.  Last year Historic Newton was awarded a $100,000 matching “challenge” grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  The match was a one-to-three match, meaning that for every $1,000 raised, the NEH gave $333 for the full amount of $100,000.  Contributions from the grant will be used to endow a new museum educator at the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds and support its programs when the restored homestead opens in 2013. 

The Durant and Kenrick Families

Edward Durant II (1695–1740), a prominent man in colonial-era Newton, built this house as a fitting residence for a country squire.  His son, Edward Durant III (1715–1782), also earned the respect of his neighbors.  He was one of Newton’s largest landowners, eventually amassing almost 150 acres of orchards, pasture, woodlot, and other property.  He was well-educated, a Harvard graduate, at a time when most towns sent at most one man to college per generation.  And through his victual trade and other businesses, he maintained connections to the cosmopolitan life of Boston and beyond to Britain itself.  The people of Newton chose Edward Durant III to serve in a variety of civic posts, as surveyor of highways, assessor, constable, and selectman.  He later became a leader in the events that burgeoned into the American Revolution, and his sons fought at Lexington and Concord.

John Kenrick (1755–1833) purchased the Durant property in 1790, establishing a commercial nursery.  By 1821, the Kenrick nursery offered European and American grapes, peaches, and currants—as well as trees such as horse chestnuts, catalpa, and mountain ash, and bushes such as roses and lilacs.  The Kenricks, John and his son, William (1789-1872), introduced North America to some of the most popular fruit still on the market today—Buerre Bosc and Bon Cretien pears, Noblesse and Early Rareripe peaches, Antwerp raspberries, and Duke of Kent strawberries.  In addition, John Kenrick was an early abolitionist, publishing his book, Horrors of Slavery, in 1817, two decades before the anti-slavery movement inspired many of his fellow New Englanders.  In 1829, William Kenrick was one of the founders of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

 

 Gun flint found during the excavation of the house

   Gun flint found during the excavation of the house

The floor of the "dairy," a storage structure unearthed during work at the Durant-Kenrick House

The floor of the "dairy," a storage structure unearthed during work at the Durant-Kenrick House