Old Time Fair Returns to Potter Place on August 7

Celebrations include 40th Anniversary and Richard Potter

Women of Andover pose in Victorian costumes at the opening of the Potter Place Railroad
Station on Sunday, October 9, 1983.  Pictured here are (from left to right) Bernice Powers,
Sandy Graves, Julie Mayo, Kendel Currier, Patty Hines, Barbara Upton, Jackie Hazel, and Eldora Heath. Caption: Lindsey Schust. Photo and research: Luan Clark, AHS curator

After a two-year break during the pandemic, the Andover Historical Society’s “Old Time Fair” returns to Potter Place on Sunday, August 7.  Festivities include live music, craft vendors, demonstrations, food, pumper car rides, museum tours, and a miniature train ride for kids. 

This year’s fair celebrates the life and career of the famous magician and ventriloquist Richard Potter, who settled in Andover in 1815.  To celebrate this historic event, there will be a special presentation from 10:30 to 11:30 AM with speakers from the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire (BHTNH), followed by the unveiling of the official BHTNH historic marker for Richard Potter. The whole Fair runs from 9 AM to 2 PM next to the Old Potter Place train station at 105 Depot Street in Andover.

In 1983, Elinor and Charles Taylor (pictured here) gave the newly formed Andover Historical Society a home base of operations.  The couple generously donated the old Potter Place Railroad Station and the land beside it, which used to be the homestead of Richard Potter (1815-1835).  The Andover Historical Society hosted a gala event on October 9, 1983 to honor the Taylors and celebrate a new chapter in Andover’s history.  Over 450 people attended.  The event was partially funded by the New Hampshire Charitable Fund and the New Hampshire Council of the Humanities. Caption Lindsey Schust. Photo: Garry Rayno, The Argus Champion, Newport New Hampshire, October 12, 1983.

40th Anniversary of the Andover Historical Society

“Is there a future for our past?” Howard Sargent, one of the early members of the Andover Historical Society, asked this question back in 1982 at their first general meeting.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Andover Historical Society, and to answer his question: Yes!  

Cheryl Swenson’s article in the July issue of the Beacon talks about the fascinating series of events leading up to the creation of the Andover Historical Society in 1982, and she recounts many of the milestones reached over the following 40 years. 

We hope that down the road there will be articles on the Old Time Fair 2022, since it marks another milestone, the installation of the official Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire historic marker for Richard Potter.  Andover will now be a part of the network of BHTNH historic markers and the second in the Lakes Region, after Warner, to join the trail.  People visiting New Hampshire will now have another reason to visit the Andover Historical Society and the historic area of Potter Place.

The Magical Legacy of Richard Potter

If you grew up in Andover (or Potter Place) like I did, then you may have come across the Andover Historical Society during your time at Andover Elementary/Middle School.  I remember visiting the old Potter Place Train Station with my class in fourth grade.  

We looked down the old railroad track and listened as the AHS volunteers described the olden days.  We heard the amazing story of Richard Potter, the famous magician who performed across the entire country.  We walked over to Richard and Sally Potters’ headstones and learned that the magician and his wife were buried there. I remember wondering, “Who was this magic man?”

In 2018, the magician’s story came to light again when Andover scholar John Hodgson published his book “Richard Potter: America’s First Black Celebrity.”  Hodgson first heard about Potter in the 1970s while visiting his wife’s family.  He was so fascinated with the story that he spent 25 years researching the mystery of Potter’s life and career.  With the publication of his book, Potter’s name began to circulate and draw people’s attention to Potter Place.

Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire

1983 Gala festivities included a concert by the Hopkinton Band and a performance by magician Robert Olson, whose performance was based on Richard Potter’s magic shows. Many local children (pictured here) enjoyed the show including Seth Currier, who will be running the sound board this year on August 7. Pictured here is Robert Olson and Seth Currier. Caption: Lindsey Schust

This year, on behalf of the Andover Historical Society, John Hodgson applied to the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire to create an official historic marker for Richard Potter. 
The BHTNH is a non-profit organization based in Portsmouth which works to promote awareness and appreciation of African American history and culture in New Hampshire
to build more inclusive communities today.  

The BHTNH hosts education and public programs across the state, including their guided tours, the Elinor Williams Hooker Tea Talks, the Sankofa Scholars program, and the Black New England Conference.  They also create memorials at significant locations within the state, such as the one coming to the Andover Historical Society to honor Richard Potter.

Old Time Fair 2022 schedule

The Old Time Fair activities will run from 9 AM to 2 PM on Sunday, August 7.  The local community has turned out in force with an outpouring of volunteerism and financial donations toward this event and marker.  Donors include Harbor Bank, Ledyard Bank, Merzi Excavation, Huckleberry Propane and Oil, and Spring Ledge Farm.  

The Andover Community Church will be providing food for sale throughout the day.  The Richard Potter marker ceremony will occur from 10:30 to 11:30 AM. Members of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire and John Hodgson will speak, along with a few other distinguished guests.  

The ceremony will showcase Louise Grasmere (jazz vocalist) along with the Timbre Drums Ensemble (African Drumming).  Following the ceremony, Lindsey Schust and the Ragged Mountain Band will play music between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM.  Admission is free.

The fairground is located on Depot Street in Andover.  Hope to see you on Sunday, August 7, in Potter Place!  For more information, visit AndoverHistory.org.