The Mattapoisett Woman’s Club is pleased to have Diane Gilbert of the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust as a speaker at our meeting on Thursday, March 19. Our meetings are held at the Mattapoisett Congregational Church’s Renyard Hall, located at the corner of Church and Mechanic Streets, beginning at 11:00 am. An informal luncheon is provided by our members. The MWC welcomes anyone who wishes to hear our speaker or attend our meetings.
In “The Little House with a Big Story to Tell,” Diane Gilbert, who possesses a clear vision, courage, integrity, and humility, takes a leadership role in assisting the Town of Dartmouth to attain its community preservation goals. In November 2018, Preservation Massachusetts awarded Diane the K. Julie McCarthy Community Spirit Award for her work.
Ms. Gilbert will do a PowerPoint presentation showcasing a restoration project of the Elihu Akin House from the foundation up, a project that is listed on the State Register of Historic Places and deemed eligible for listing on the National Register. The Elihu Akin House, one of the oldest houses in the Town of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, was built in 1762 by housewright Job Mosher and purchased by Elihu Akin in 1769; the Akin House is older than America. The age of the house alone would give the house architectural importance; however, the house also has historical significance. The Akins were one of Dartmouth’s founding families, were instrumental in the development of the town, and the homestead remained in the Akin family for 234 years.
The Akin House was one of a few houses that survived the invasion of the British and the subsequent burning of much of Dartmouth, New Bedford, and Acushnet during the American Revolution. As the direct result of the raid, the Akin family lost everything except the house on Potter’s Hill and surrounding land. Elihu moved his wife and children there.
To quote Diane Gilbert, “Every time an important historic house or structure is lost or demolished, we lose another connection to our history, the people who settled our coastal areas over the centuries and their culture. We have already lost too many architecturally significant buildings and structures, and as a result, the special character shaped by our history has been diminished.” And to put it pragmatically, preservation is a tool for stabilization of property values, economic development, and sustainability.
In 1921, the Akin House became a part of film history as a location for Down to the Sea in Ships. The silent film classic contains rare footage of a whaling voyage filmed on the Wanderer and the Charles W. Morgan, and clearly shows the condition of the Akin house in 1921.