The Nathan Tufts Park, known locally as Powder House, is a place rich in colonial history. The Massachuset Indians were drawn to the area for the abundance of alewife in the nearby Mystic River, and the natural stone outcroppings that defined the landscape provided an abundance of materials for tools as well as a clear vantage point for surveying the area.
By the early 1700’s the Two Penny Brook Quarry was established on the land to make use of the blue-brown bedrock known today as Somerville Slate or Cambridge Mudstone. A French refugee by the name of Jean Maillet bought the quarry in 1704 and erected a windmill, which was unique to the area in that it was built of stone and operated with only the top part moving to catch the wind, instead of the entire body.
The province of Massachusetts purchased the stone mill in 1747 and began using it as a gunpowder storage facility. During the 1775-76 siege of Boston the Powder House was a critical Continental Army munitions depot, or ‘powder magazine’. Peter Tufts, a farmer, purchased this land in 1818, and the Tufts family bequeathed it to the City of Somerville in 1892 to be turned into a public park.
The Field House was constructed in 1935 using stones from the demolished Highland Railroad Station as a testimony to F. D. Roosevelt’s efforts to create jobs during the Great Depression. The building is available today for public use by petition.
The Powder House mill remains the oldest stone building in Massachusetts, and is depicted in the City of Somerville’s official seal.
DAILY TRIVIA: Local legend is that a virtuous young woman once took refuge in the mill to hide from a man with dishonorable intentions, and that when he came for her, became tangled in the mill’s machinery and died.