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Nockum Hill Protection Kicks Off

The Barrington Preservation Society wants to protect the historic area from housing developments similar to the condos proposed for that spot.

A push to protect the Nockum Hill area of Barrington from development by making it into some sort of historic site is on.

The Barrington Preservation Society pinpointed the area as the birthplace of the First Baptist Church in Massachusetts late Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 3, with a presentation at the John Myles monolith that recognizes the founding of the church in 1663 on land that was then Sowams tribal territory, now part of Barrington.

“We don’t know exactly where we’re talking about,” said Nat Taylor, a historian from Barrington who has studied extensively the history of the area.

“But we think it’s over there,” he said, pointing to the location of the Dane Farm off of George Street. “Or across the street” -- the site of the proposed condominium development, The Residences at the Preserve, Taylor said.

The condo project is going before the State Housing Appeals Board; it was denied by the Barrington Planning Board in late August.

It is that type of housing that the preservation society and the Barrington Land Conservation Trust want to keep out of the Nockum Hill area.

Wednesday’s visit to the site was a bit like “talking to the congregation.” No one from the Town Council or Town Hall stopped by the 4 pm “tour” at the rock although each councilor was invited, said Burton Edwards, a historian with the preservation society who coordinated the event.

Approximately two dozen preservation society members and a guest or two listened to several speakers describe the history and environmental significance of the area, including Taylor, the Rev. Charles Hartman -- 47th pastor of the First Baptist Church in Swansea, and Charlotte Sornberger of the Land Trust.

Sornberger is well known for her longtime effort to protect the endangered Diamondback terrapins that live in and around Hundred Acre Cove and the adjacent wildlife refuge west of the proposed development.

“They lay their eggs all around here,” Sornberger said of the 179 female terrapins that were identified this year. “I am delighted to see more interest here. I’ll take help in any way to protect this area.”

Edwards said the stop-by at the “John Myles monument” was primarily to “create more awareness” of the historic and environmental significance of the area.

The preservation society has suggested several ways to protect the area, including making it a National Historic Landmark Site, a state or federal park, or a “National Register Neighborhood.”

The latter might be the most feasible -- perhaps within a year, Edwards said. That option surfaced on Wednesday before the visit to Nockum Hill.

As a next step, said Edwards, the preservation society would like to hold a “stakeholders workshop” with town representatives to discuss protection of the site.

The granite monolith is all that is left to recognize the church’s meeting house, which actually only lasted for about five years before King Philips’ War, said Taylor. The meeting house was then relocated to Tyler Point in Barrington.

Gary Morse October 05, 2012 at 10:29 AM
The town council should be helping on this. But they are driving a "build out Barrington" agenda no matter the environmental cost to Barrington. Kate Weymouth's own recent public statement that she wants more rentals built out throughout town makes clear that the same town council members who voted for a symbolic plastic bag ban care little for real environment matters.

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