This Old House Comes to Concord

Master carpenter Norm Abram visits the historic Barrett's Farm.

There are a lot of old homes in Concord, but one in particular had caught the eye of master carpenter Norm Abram for years.
The star of the long-running PBS series This Old House, along with his crew, stopped at Barrett's Farm yesterday to weigh in on the restoration effort that has been going on at the site since 2004.
While he wasn't taking up hammer and saw on this particular day, Abram shot four segments at the house for an episode in the upcoming season, which begins on Oct. 6. The season will focus on the restoration effort at the Nathaniel Page House in Bedford — a circa 1720 home that was once owned by a member of the Bedford Militia who would have reported for duty under Col. James Barrett, owner of the homestead in Concord.
Over the course of the day, the This Old House crew filmed spots focusing on paint stripping, in-fill painting/restoration, flooring, and finish carpentry.
Abram said he was thrilled to be able to include segments from the Concord home on the program, as much of the work being done at Barrett's Farm is very similar in style and technique. Barrett's Farm was built in 1706, but is being restored to the state it was in in 1768 when it was first updated by the Barrett family.
"I have a lot of interest in historic houses," Abram said from the attic of Barrett's Farm in between takes yesterday. "Preservation is important, especially in a structure like this."
Having driven by the Barrett farmhouse countless times, Abram said he always wondered what the story was behind the homestead, and was excited to be able to tell it, through craft, on his program.
"I'm lucky enough to be the one to get to do the segments for the show," he said.
With restoration efforts going on at the home for the last six years, Abram stressed the importance of historical accuracy in such a project. Using the paint finishing as an example — a craft through which the oldest coat of paint on a surface is uncovered and restored to its original shade — Abram said the home itself tells a story.
"When people get to visit this, they'll actually be looking at the original paint on some of the walls," he said.
The story behind Barrett's Farm is an important one, and one that for many years was more or less hidden among all of the other Revolution-era sites in the area, as it was a private residence through 2005.
Anna West-Winter, executive director of Save Our Heritage, the trust that now oversees the property, said the restoration effort is part of an overall preparation of the property to become part of Minuteman National Park.
"It was ultimately the house that time forgot," West-Winter said. "This house was the actual objective of British troops on April 19 [1775]."
West-Winter told the story of Col. Barrett, who led the Middlesex Militia, and housed munitions, including four British canons, on his property, when the British Regulars arrived at his home, shortly before the skirmish at North Bridge.
With the canons hidden safely under the farm fields, and casks of musket cartridges squirreled away in the attic, the regulars could  not find the weapons they were looking for. What they did find however, was a well trained family who knew to keep their cool when faced with British troops.
West-Winter said Barrett's wife actually invited the soldiers into the home, cooked them breakfast, and showed them the way to a local tavern where they enjoyed spirits. This distraction turned out to be a pivotal move in our national history, as Mrs. Barrett's hospitality prevented those regulars from meeting up with the rest of the troops and possibly ending the uprising that day.
With a long way to go before the home is completely restored to its 1768 appearance, the labor of love will continue by all those involved, for the sake of those who have yet to see it.
"We really feel this is something the whole nation can be deeply proud of," West-Winter said.
For more information on Barrett's Farm and how to donate to Save Our Heritage, click here.


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