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Enjoying, and preserving, our history

Forbes House Museum Displays Dorchester Lincoln Banner: A campaign banner for President Lincoln's 1860 campaign will be part of Sunday's Lincoln Day offerings.Forbes House Museum Displays Dorchester Lincoln Banner: A campaign banner for President Lincoln's 1860 campaign will be part of Sunday's Lincoln Day offerings.This is a good time to be a fan or student of American history. One of the joys of living in a place like Dorchester is that our nation’s history is literally all around us. From Lower Mills to Edward Everett Square, there are everyday reminders of the long and still-evolving story of this town-turned-neighborhood and the nation it helped to create.

This week’s Reporter holds a few reminders of this: The Pierce House on Oakton Avenue near Adams Corner is one of the last surviving examples of early colonial architecture left in the city. The home’s current owner— Historic New England— has done a great job in recent years carefully restoring the building, which was built in 1683. An upcoming program on weatherproofing older homes offers a good chance to get a look inside the Pierce House, as we report this week. If you can’t make it this weekend, there will be other chances to view it in the upcoming year, thanks to Historic New England.

Those who want to get a good overview of our town’s history should avail themselves of an opportunity to hear from Earl Taylor, the current president of the venerable Dorchester Historical Society. Mr. Taylor has been instrumental in recent years in reviving the Society’s mission of preserving local buildings and artifacts. The Society holds frequent lectures and open houses at its Dorchester properties, including the Clap and Blake houses near Edward Everett Square.

On Thursday, Taylor will be featured in a special lunchtime talk at Boston’s Old South Meeting House as part of a neighborhood series planned by Historic Boston Incorporated and the Boston Landmarks Commission. It’s a good opportunity for those who work in downtown Boston to get a dose of Dorchester culture and history on their lunch break. Taylor’s talk starts at 12:15 at the Old South Meeting House at 310 Washington Street near Downtown Crossing. There is a $6 fee for anyone who is not a member of the OSMH.

The ongoing observance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War has sparked a new round of interest in that seminal American conflict. The Forbes House Museum on Milton Hill — just over the river— is a frequent site of Civil War-related encampments and lectures. This Sunday, the Forbes House (215 Adams St.) will hold its annual Lincoln Day celebration from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event will include re-enactors from North and South and tours of its replica Lincoln log cabin. Hot chocolate will be served in the tradition begun by Mary Bowditch Forbes in 1924. A requested donation for Lincoln Day is $5 per family.

Finally, this evening, Carney Hospital and Laboure College will host a special program on the 54th Massachusetts, the African-American regiment that was organized in Boston to fight for the Union in the Civil War. The men of the 54th are perhaps the most well known of the 200,000-plus African-American soldiers who joined the Union cause. The free program starts with refreshments at 5:30 p.m. at Carney’s Riseman Auditorium, 2100 Dorchester Avenue.

It’s great to read up on local history at our local libraries and online. But nothing beats getting out there and sharing this enthusiasm with like-minded folks. The Dorchester Historical Society, the Forbes House, Historic New England, and other like groups keep the lamp lit for us and for future generations to learn and explore. We thank them for their example and stewardship. Please consider supporting these organizations with your participation and donations.

– Bill Forry

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