Photos and Commentary by Rosalind Murphy
The first church in Beverly was built in 1656. It was replaced by a slightly revised version in 1682. By the year if 1727, all the town ammunition had been kept in the powder room of the cellar of the second church. The cellar of the church was the safest and most accessible place to keep the ammunition at this time. In 1767, the town needed more storage room. As a result, the first Powder House in Beverly was built on the south side of the Common. There is no longer a grace of this first Powder House.
In 1808, Nathan Dane built a Powder House on his own land and sold it to the town of Beverly for thirty dollars. Polly Dane, his wife, was paid 10 cents for which she forfeited all claims to the land, which measured about 1700 square feet. The measurements of the land were made by poles, each pole was 16 _ feet. Boundaries ran from a tree to a stone and other common objects found on the land. The house was 8 sided and built on a natural stone foundation. It had a shingled wooden roof that was painted red, and its door and sill were made of wood and covered with tin. During the time period it was built, it was completely isolated; it is now surrounded and almost hidden by houses. The powder house was put into use for the first time on April 16, 1808.
After many years of being out of commission, a committee explored the old Powder House. There was difficulty at first getting inside because the key was lost many years before. Mayor Stofford gave permission for a new key to the house to be made. Surprisingly, all that was found was bugs and spiders. The condition of the house had deteriorated and the ledge on which the house was built had deteriorated and the ledge that the house was built on was cut away on one side, and the front door sloped down across the road.
The Powder House on Prospect Hill is the second oldest municipal building still standing in Beverly after City Hall. It has had slight renovations since, to ensure it continues to stand; unfortunately it is in a state of rapid deterioration. It is important for people to acknowledge significant, historical building such as the Powder House that are somewhat hidden in our modern day society. The Powder House was built by our forefathers and is an important link to the history of Beverly that continues to connect us with our past.
This information came from the archives of the Beverly Historical Society. A committee report submitted by Frances R. Killian was used to gather details and measurements. The committee consisted of Raul P. Pope, Mary Bell and Frances R. Killian.