Horticulture Students from Minuteman High School Revitalize Gardens at Historic Buttrick Mansion in Concord and are filmed for “This Old House”

High School students and teachers with tools pose for outdoor photo.
Minuteman High School Horticulture students and their teachers working at the Buttrick Mansion Gardens in Concord. From left to right: Minuteman Horticulture Students Gannon Zdanavage (glasses), Nicholas DuLong (hat), Andrew Abbott, Lola Clemente, Charles Lovett, Roger Cook of "This Old House," Minuteman Horticulture Instructor Sarah Ard, Minuteman Horticulture Student Jeffrey Connell and Minuteman Horticulture Instructor Peter Kelleher.

Photo by Sarah Violette

Students in the Horticulture and Landscape Technology program at Minuteman High School in Lexington recently had a unique opportunity to use their technical skills outside the classroom. They helped restore the gardens at the historic Buttrick mansion in Concord, where they were filmed by the Emmy Award- winning PBS television program, “This Old House.” The broadcast featuring the Minuteman students is tentatively scheduled to air in late 2017.

The interests and objectives of the TV program, of Minute Man National Historical Park where the mansion and gardens are located, and of Minuteman High School happened to converge, thereby making the project possible for the students.

“This Old House” actively supports career and technical education students who are preparing for employment in the building trades. Highlighting Minuteman and its Horticulture students underscores that support. Furthermore, in November of 2016, “This Old House” began a new initiative titled Generation Next. Its goal is to “encourage and empower young people to join skilled trades” by teaming with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to provide scholarships to students aiming for careers in areas such as roofing, plumbing and electrical.

“This Old House” linked up with Minuteman several years ago to give students valuable on-site training. For the program’s 25 th anniversary in 2004, four Minuteman students were chosen to be paid apprentices working with the team of experts who regularly appear on “This Old House” to build a home in Carlisle, Mass. Minuteman Superintendent Dr. Edward A. Bouquillon expressed his satisfaction at having the school’s students showcased again on such an acclaimed national TV program. “I'm really pleased to be working with ‘This Old House’ again,” he said, “supporting high-quality career and technical education as a means to individual economic opportunity for many young people. ‘This Old House’ and public television are important aspects of our community and we will continue to work with them in every way possible.”

Ryan Ullrich, Centennial Volunteer Ambassador for Minute Man National Historical Park, described why having Minuteman’s Horticulture students “revitalize” the Buttrick gardens was advantageous for everyone involved. “Because Minuteman is across the road from the Park, it seemed like a great opportunity to create a partnership,” he said. “After researching the school, I found out about past work Minuteman’s Horticulture Department has done with area organizations, so I reached out to Minuteman Horticulture instructors Sarah Ard and Peter Kelleher about working with the Park. Margie Coffin Brown, the Parks Integrated Resource Manager, and I put together a plan for the students to work in the garden. Sarah and Peter liked the idea.” Ms. Ard affirmed the importance of having students performing actual work that puts their ability to the test. “There is no better classroom than the job site,” she said. “It gives the students real-world applications and challenges. It also helps to further promote the importance of horticulture to the public, which a lot of people do not understand. Going to a job site helps to reinforce professionalism, teamwork, and horticulture concepts.” On a Thursday morning in late spring, Minuteman students Jeffrey Connell, Nicholas DuLong, Lola Clemente, Gannon Zdanavage, Sam Scannell, Andrew Abbott and Charles Lovett, accompanied by Ms. Ard and Mr. Kelleher, headed to the Buttrick mansion. No longer a private residence, it is now the North Bridge Visitor Center in Minute Man National Historical Park. Its impressive pedigree dates back generations to colonial times, said Mr. Ullrich.

“The mansion and gardens were constructed on land that was owned by the Buttrick family for 300 years,” he explained. “The Buttricks arrived in Concord shortly after the town was founded in the 1630s, purchased the land from the Native Americans, and eventually became prosperous and respected farmers. Major John Buttrick was in charge of the Concord Minutemen on April 19, 1775, when the British arrived in town to seize the munitions stored by the patriots. At the Old North Bridge, Major Buttricks men were fired upon and he gave the famous order, ‘Fire men, for God's sake, fire!’ This would later be called the ‘shot heard 'round the world’ and the events of that day - the Battle of Lexington and Concord - would be considered the beginning of the American Revolution.”

The mansion was built in 1911 by Stedman Buttrick, Sr, a descendant of Major Buttrick. The area where the Minuteman students were working is called the Terrace Garden. Restoring the beauty of that garden was the Minuteman students’ focus. They cleaned out undergrowth, removed all invasives, divided and replanted daylilies, labeled plants for future maintenance, did erosion control and pruned larger plants. They plan to return to do additional work, said Ms. Ard.

Being filmed by “This Old House” was “very easy and low stress for us,” she said. “We had to do multiple takes of the scenes and three of the students and I were interviewed.” Many of the students said they felt extremely honored to work at such a historic site. Lola Clemente, a junior from Medford, said, “I enjoyed being able to work at a National Park and restore a historical garden. Its really cool that ‘This Old House’ recognized our work and supports our commitment to going into the field of horticulture."

Last updated: January 10, 2018