On Monday, October 29th at 7:00 pm, the Newton Free Library will be hosting Joe Hunter’s documentary “The Durant-Kenrick Homestead: A House with Many Stories” in the Druker Auditorium. The house, located at 286 Waverly Avenue in Newton, is an historical gem.
In 1732 Edward Durant II bought 91 acres of land in Newton. The land had once been the location of the village of the Praying Indians of Nonantum. Here Durant built a large, salt-box type home in the Georgian style in 1732. One of its unique features was its hand-painted stenciled floors.
The home, today known as the Durant-Kenrick Homestead, has seen a great deal of local, state and national history. Its second owner, Edward Durant III, was elected as Chairman of the Committee of Correspondence in 1774. He was also a delegate to the Provincial Congress where, according to the King’s Handbook of Newton, he “delighted in twisting the British lion’s tail with speeches and resolutions.” Two of his sons, Thomas and Allen, were both Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington and a third son, Edward, was a regimental surgeon.
After Edward died in 1782, the home was sold to John Kenrick, a noted horticulturalist. In 1790 Kenrick founded the first large nursery in New England here, starting with pear trees that were raised from the stones (seeds or pits). His son William became a partner in 1833. Among William’s sources for the nursery were imports from the London Horticultural Society. He wrote the nursery’s first catalog and later authored “The New American Orchardist” and “The American Silk-Grower’s Guide.” Plants and trees from the Kenrick nursery were shipped throughout America.
John Kenrick, besides being the well known horticulturalist noted above, was also a committed abolitionist. In this area he was a man before his time. In 1817 he published the “Horrors of Slavery,” with it’s preface dated “Newton.” He was President of the New-England Anti-Slavery Society.
Between 1872 and 1903 parcels of land were sold off in various land transactions. By the time Arthur S. Dewing bought the home in 1923, the remaining land was approximately 2 acres. Dewing was a descendant of the original Durant owners. He restored the property. The home was included in the National Register in 1976. The Durant Homestead was established in 1985. The property was acquired by the City of Newton in 2011.
This is less than a thumb nail sketch of the history of the house and its people. Take a look at the links below for more detailed information.
Article and Blog Links
The Durant-Kenrick House and Property “A Brief Landscape History“ by Lucinda A. Brockway
“18th-Century home to be restored by Historic Newton” by Susan Danseyar. Newton Tab, 13 April 2010.
Boston 1775: “Dig at the Durant-Kenrick Homestead” By J. L. Bell, 11 November 2011
“Digging Up History: Archeologists Explore 18th-Century Life through Finds at Newton Site” by Taryn Plumb. Boston Globe, 27 November 2011.
Boston 1775: “Howe Explores the Durant-Kenrick House in Newton” by J. L. Bell, 7 April 2012
Stenciling from the floor of the Durant-Kenrick House Lives On: “Edward Durant Floorcloths”
Durant-Kenrick Homestead: Community Preservation Project – City of Newton
Resources Not on the Internet
King’s Handbook of Newton, Massachusetts by M. F. Sweetser. Boston, MA: Moses King Corporation, 1889. pp. 106-110. N 974.44N S97H
“Capt. Durant House in National Register.” Newton Tribune. 9 June 1976. p. 20
Newton, Massachusetts, 1679-1779: A Biographical Directory. Compiled by Priscilla R. Ritter and Thelma Fleishman. Boston, MA: The New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1982. N 929.2 1982
Landmark Study for the Durant-Kenrick Homestead. Compiled by Rachel Gakenheimer. May 7, 1997. 10pp plus maps and illustrations. Includes genealogy. N 917.444 N48DU (Compact Shelving).