Russell Garrison site one step closer to national historic status

Oct 2, 2017

A little-known relic of Dartmouth's early colonial history may soon get recognition on the national historical register.

After a hearing on September 13, the Massachusetts Historical Commission approved the town’s request to list the Russell Garrison on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Judy Lund from the Dartmouth Historical Commission. The paperwork has now been sent to the National Park Service for the final approval, although Lund said she does not expect a decision to come quickly.

“It’s going to be a big hurdle, but it’ll most likely be approved,” Lund said.

The town has been working for three years to gain state approval for the listing, Lund said, noting that a lengthy application process had to be completed and submitted to the state commission for their approval.

The garrison site, located on Fort Street in Padanaram, traces back to the early 17th century, according to historic documentation. It was built by John Russell from the Russell family, and was used to provide shelter for Dartmouth residents during an attack on the town during the King Philips War in 1675.

“It’s where the citizens of Dartmouth gathered to resist the onslaught of Native Americans during the King Philips War,” Lund said of the building.

Although the structure itself is gone, the stone foundation can still be seen from Fort Street, along with a plaque describing the building that once stood there and its historical significance.

If approved, it would join a list of other federally recognized historical structures and sites in town. That list includes the Apponagansett Meeting House on Russells Mills Road, the former Hill School on Middle Street, and the Russells Mills Village, Tucker Farm, and Padanaram Village Historic Districts.

In other Historical Commission news, Lund said the state has denied a Preservation Award to Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust for the rehabilitation and reuse of the Helfand farmhouse on Chase Road, which is now home to DNRT’s new headquarters building.

Each year, the state honors and recognizes several projects in categories including archeology, adaptive reuse, education and outreach, rehabilitation and restoration, among others. Although there is no monetary reward, Lund said the goal of entering the project into the competition was to recognize the work that went into saving and repurposing the farmhouse, which dates back nearly 180 years.

Work also continues to install new signs and clean up the Dartmouth Town Pound site. In June, Town Meeting voters approved $10,200 to restore the stone structure on Russells Mills Road which is the site of the town's only remaining animal pound. The property has since been transferred to the Parks Department, and tree work is scheduled.