Dalton house tied to Underground Railroad to see renovation, excavation

Community members along with local and state officials gather last August at the announcement of the awarding of a 180,000 grant to the Dalton Historical Commission to restore the historic Fitch-Hoose House to its original design when it was a part of the Underground Railroad in Massachusetts.

DALTON >> A small building historically connected to the Underground Railroad this spring will see the commencement of a historical renovation and its grounds dug and searched by the University of Massachusetts archeology department.

Local contractors interested in renovating the home, built by cotton manufacturer William H. Bogart in 1846, visited the 6 Gulf Road site last week. The town earlier secured a $180,000 state grant to fund the renovation.

The single-family home, known as the Fitch-Hoose House, long served as a shelter for freed or escaped African-Americans, after Henry Fitch, an African-American and Connecticut native, purchased the structure in 1848.

Charles Hoose later bought the house and property from farmer John Curtis. The Hoose family occupied the house for three generations.

The town and private individuals have also contributed a combined sum of more than $10,000 toward the project.

Members of the town Historical Commission also announced the impending archeological dig. UMass won rights to execute the project in a public bid by offering $10,000.

"Back in those days you used to take old dishes, bottles and stuff like that and bury it in the backyard," Historical Commission member George White said. "We're hoping they find some interesting artifacts."

Any artifacts discovered could eventually adorn the house, which commission members envision as a museum.

"We're hoping it gets put back as much as possible to the original," Historical Commission member Mary-Jane Caliento said. "We have a picture in our heads of what it will look like and intend to make it reality."

Bids on the renovation come due on April 29, and work should being immediately after, with the archeological dig progressing alongside, White said. Historical renovations requiring more careful work, the renovation is expected to continue through next summer.

One of the first orders of business will be lifting the whole structure to build a new foundation, White said. Two layers of siding need to be removed along with replacing minutia down to the wallpaper in favor of period-style decorations.

"When it's done it's really going to be something to see," White said.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.