(Image courtesy Dorchester Historical Society)
A non-descript structure located on the Dorchester Historical Society’s Boston Street property that harkens back to a time when Dorchester was more fields than triple-deckers is one step closer to being restored.
Advocates with the society have been working since 2007 to restore The Clapp Family Barn, believed to have stood on the property since 1850. It was used to store tools and other necessary supplies when the property was dedicated to agricultural and livestock uses.
“The barn had been locked up and untouched since the 1950’s,” explained Paul DeLorey, a member of the historical society’s board. “It is a vital piece of Dorchester history and is the only multi-use barn left in the city of Boston.”
The society hopes the restored house will provide an educational tool for those looking to preserve and understand the neighborhood’s history.
Although the structure itself is important, it’s what’s inside that sparked the interest of the society. Implements that were used before the tractor was standard have been found in the barn, in addition to carpentry tools and other historic objects that paint a picture of farm life in the 19th-century.
A lot of progress has been made restoring the barn and over $200,000 has been invested in the structure to bring it back to its original glory, according to DeLorey.
Rotted beams have been replaced, new doors have been hung, and the roof was repaired, keeping the harsh winters from damaging its interior and the historical tools stored inside of it. The property, however, is not completely weatherproof and desperately needs repairs to its shingles and other parts of its exterior.
A private donor has pledge $5,000 to repair the shingling, but to receive the money the society must raise $5,000 of its own. DeLorey estimated that close to $30,000 needs to raised to completely finish repairs to the barn, something he said the society sees as a priority.
“It’s very important for us to remind people that Dorchester was a vital part of agriculture in the area,” explained DeLorey.
With three large bays, feeding stalls, tack room, and large basement the structure in the past had been used as a carpenter shop among its many other uses.
“We want to turn this into an educational tool,” said DeLorey. “We have four schools in the neighborhood and a lot of these kids have never seen the inside of a barn. They look at Dorchester and all they see are triple-deckers and we want to show them that Dorchester has an agricultural past.”
In addition to providing a tool to teach local youth the history of their neighborhood DeLorey said repairing the barn and preserving it falls in line with the society’s mission.
“They started the Dorchester Historical Society because they wanted to know the history of this area before it became part of Boston and we want to [preserve that,” said DeLorey. “Dorchester was once the country, something not everybody knows.”
Those interested in contributing to the project can find out more on the society’s website.
For a slide show of the barn and the restoration process, click here.