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3 Spots to Explore in Historical Newton: Featuring The Historic Newton Organization

By Kristen Bosse

In a town so full of pride for its history, it can be a challenge for tourists to choose where to spend their time. There are an abundance of parks and shopping centers, filled with bustling Newton residents and visitors alike. However, if you are interested in exploring the true history of how Newton landmarks came to be, Historic Newton can surely direct you to the best spots. To see a detailed description of Newton's most significant historical landmarks, keep reading below.

Jackson Homestead & Museum

Originally built in 1809, the Jackson Homestead is a historical gem for Newton residents. Although Timothy Jackson was the one to build the house, it was his son William that lived in the home until 1820. His family then lived in the house for many years, until it was finally given to the city of Newton in 1950. The house is perhaps best known as serving as one of the stops in the Underground Railroad. In his lifetime, William Jackson engaged in local and state politics, serving in the General Court (Massachusetts Legislature) and on Newton's Board of Selectman. Jackson, along with his wife Mary Bennett, became abolitionists and put their political standings at risk in order to support the Civil Rights Movement. Being one of the few stops in Massachusetts, his role was essential to making sure runaway slaves were helped on their way further north.

Today, the Homestead is home to the Newton Historical Society. To understand the house's history, an exhibition brings together historic images, original text written by family members, and contemporary expert opinions that tells the story of the past 200 years in the home. In addition, the exhibition, Confronting Our Legacy: Slavery and Anti-Slavery in the North explains not only Jackson's role in the Underground Railroad, but the North's sometimes forgotten involvement with slavery during that time period. The fact that Edward Jackson owned slaves, and then his great-great-great-grandson William Jackson became an abolitionist, mirrors the continuous changing attitude of Northerners when it came to slavery. Other exhibitions featured now include one of Annie Cobb, one of the first female architects, Newton and the Civil War, and an even a children-friendly exhibit featuring the museum's collection of toys!

Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds

Once you are done exploring Newton's role in slavery, head over to the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds to learn about the lives and contributions of three families over three centuries. Edward Durant III, the son of the original owner, became one of Newton's largest landowners, amassing more than 150 acres of farmland and other property. He was an educated man who graduated from Harvard, and continued to stay involved in his Boston life through trade and savvy business strategies. He was also very involved with the political side of things, serving in many civic posts and leading events that contributed to the American Revolution.

John Kenrick also held a very influential role in the town after purchasing the property in 1790. Upon his arrival, he established a commercial nursery full of a variety of fruits trees, shrubs, flowers, etc. John and his son (William) ended up introducing North America to some of the most popular fruit on the market today- for example, Antwerp raspberries, Bosc pears, and Duke of Kent strawberries. Like the Jackson family, John and his son were early abolitionists, with John even publishing a novel named "Horrors of Slavery" in 1817. In the early 20th century, the house was preserved by the Dewings, descendents of the Durants.

Currently, the house has taken on a new role as being one of Newton's favorite stops in their historical tour! Fun games, multimedia and audio programs, hands-on activities, and much more are available for children and adults alike. The topics of equality and horticulture are presented in a fun, interactive way so that visitors are more likely to learn! Visiting the grounds will allow you to take in the remnants of the Kenrick's booming nursery, and permit for a state of tranquility.

Newton's Historic Burying Grounds

The historic burial grounds of Newton are divided into three separate cemeteries: the East Parish Burying Ground (1660), West Parish Burying Ground (1781), and South Burying Ground (1802). A quick look over the gravestones in the cemetery will reveal dozens of names now associated with Newton schools, streets, parks, etc. In this sense, the cemeteries hold a significant historical value and have become a priority for Newton as a long-term preservation project.

The restoration plan was divided into three phases: urgent, immediate, and future. Some of examples of work to date are the removal of dead trees, pruning of healthy trees, and even removing shrub and brush from the grounds. Long term projects, such as the restoration of damaged tombs and building fences will be done at the completion of the project. Needless to say, Historic Newton and the City of Newton Parks and Recreation Department are excited to have the grounds fully preserved and reflect the pride that their city holds for historical figures before them.

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