Andover Historical Society’s Lull House Gets a New Life

By Chris Norris, Trustee Emeritus, Andover Historical Society

The Next Step in Preserving Andover’s History:
A New Life for the Old Lull House

Stairway in the Potter Place Depot that leads up to our Archive storage room on the second floor.

Gordon and Dorothy Lull’s former house on Depot Street in Potter Place
has belonged to the Andover Historical Society for many years
and now plans are in place for its future use. Under its new name, the
Gordon-Lull House (GLH) will become offices and meeting rooms for the
Historical Society. Most importantly, the GLH will sprout a new
addition to serve as an archive for documents, records, photos and
treasures. This ends an impasse that had existed with the Andover
Historical Society trying to decide whether to reclaim the building or
to tear it down and rebuild.

In 2018, a committee was formed and a report and history were prepared
by Susan E. Schnare, DPhil. The Lull’s former house was found to have
been built in 1876 by William and Augusta Gordon, and Augusta and
Dotty were both postmistresses. This establishes the house as an
original and valuable part of the railroad community. With these
findings, the committee determined that the best use for the house was
to meet the Historical Society’s needs for, most critically, a large
climate-controlled space for archival storage, improved space for
curatorial work, spaces for display, a bathroom, a small kitchen, and
a meeting place. Except for the archive, most of these spaces already
exist so most of the changes to the house will be cosmetic and
accessibility related.

Inside the Archives room itself in the Potter Place Depot.

At that point James Heavey, Master Builder, was hired to complete a
thorough structural analysis of the Gordon-Lull House. He determined
that the building is well worth saving, both from a structural and a
financial perspective. Heavey came to us with acclaim from the folks
in Danbury regarding similar work that he completed on the South
Danbury Church. The Society then engaged Heavey to prepare
architectural plans and an estimate.

Since its beginnings in the 1980s, the Andover Historical Society has
completely outgrown what is now a grossly inadequate archival
(storage) space, currently jammed into a 400 square foot attic area on
the second floor of the museum. In addition to being much too small a
space for storage, it is hard to get to, dangerous to carry stuff to,
impossible to work in, and devoid of climate control.

Over the past 40 years the society has acquired over 6000 items of
historic significance, all of which have been recorded and either
exhibited or stored. In order to rotate relics in storage, the society
offers yearly exhibits in the museum, and at the Town Office, as well
as “pop-up displays” in The Hub. It has for years been recording and
collecting oral histories from townspeople. Since 1983, the historical
society has greatly increased its collections and holdings.

Why is it so important to upgrade the archival space? It has been said
that small town museums bring together citizens to tell the story of
their community, to connect them to each other and to their past. It
emotionally grounds them to something larger than themselves. In
short, a well-run museum touches upon a spiritual dimension and echoes
the soul of the community.

Curator Luan Clark, when I interviewed her for this article, shared
with me a little story from Bob Peters that touched her.  Bob’s
grandfather Fred (who lived in a large house next to the tracks just
northwest of the Gordon-Lull House) claimed he never had to buy his
morning paper. It turns out that the Engineer of the morning train
from Boston would read the paper on his trip north and, as the train
steamed by the Peters’ house, he would toss it out for Grandpa Fred.
No one knows how this got started, but it apparently continued for
years without any verbal exchanges.

This simple tale of silent connections is just one of many precious
stories of life here in Andover that needs to be preserved.   It is
the archives that provide that capability.

We have momentum. Now we need to capitalize on that momentum.

The next critical stage is to begin raising the necessary funds. Our
hope is this article will be the first step in presenting a compelling
case for both foundation support and private donations.