History of the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds

The Building

A nineteenth-century photo of the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds.This Georgian farmhouse, built 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 and opened the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds as a museum in January 2014.   

The Durant and Kenrick Families

A drawing of the young Frances Dewing.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.   

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, Esq. (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.