Property Gain Marks Second Half of Andover Historical Society’s 40 Years

Land, freight shed, school house

By Cheryl Swenson

The second half of the Andover Historical Society’s 40 years began with the addition of three new properties.  

In 2003, the Historical Society accepted a gift of a tract of land on Route 11 from Dalbello Sports Company near what is now the Millennium Moving Company.  Two months later, the Historical Society officially accepted the property of the Tucker Mountain School House donated by Madeline Baker.  

In the fall, the B&M railroad shed was donated by RP Johnson and Sons and the Amos Johnson family.  These buildings added extensively to the Historical Society’s assets but increased the workload for maintenance and care.

The Historical Society undertook the Barn Survey Project, with support from the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, to catalog all of Andover’s historic barns.  To quote Charlie Darling, “Left to themselves, old barns eventually fall down.  And when an old barn vanishes, an important part of our New Hampshire heritage and our Andover history vanishes with it.”

In 2004, the Andover Library Trustees placed their set of 13 historic Bachelder scrapbooks on indefinite loan to the Historical Society.  The Freight Shed was used to store and exhibit larger and more cumbersome historical artifacts. A hand-cranked phone between the Emons store and railroad station was installed, to the delight of kids of all ages!

In 2005, the Schoolhouse was placed on the Register of Historic Places.  The Oral History Project moved forward, as did the Barn Survey. The grand opening of the Rail Trail, a 1.7 mile trail at that time, from Potter Place station to Blackwater Park in Andover brought an increasing number of visitors.  Over 500 visitors signed the guestbook that year.
The highlight in 2006 was the production of “Our Town” in co-operation with the Sunapee-Kearsarge Intercommunity Theater. It was a sold-out success that helped with on-going repairs to the properties. 

Ken Reid and Bob Hamilton set up Emons Store as an old general store museum.  The Gift Shop moved to the Store from the Railroad Station, and a group of volunteers worked on extending the length of the railroad tracks to provide for longer pumper-car rides during the Society’s annual Old Time Fair..

In 2008, several informative historical DVDs and videos were produced. A “Welcome to Andover” video was created, with the first segment about the Andover Historical Society.  A DVD was created from old movies to show ice harvesting on Highland Lake.  

A series of video programs was created featuring 50 readings from Elder Moody’s Hat and Other Stories of Andover: A Compilation of Newspaper Articles about Andover, New Hampshire by Ralph Chaffee.  The stories were read by Andover residents and taped in and around Emons Store.

On June 13, 2009, the long-awaited freight car, arrived after two years in storage, and was placed beside the Freight Shed awaiting a face lift. A video was made of the freight car’s move to Potter Place and shown on Channel 8.

In 2010, Donna Baker-Hartwell, with the expertise of Ethney McMahon, created a DVD reenactment of a day at Tucker Mountain School.  A Secret Garden was created by Ken Reid and Bob Hamilton in the cellar hole of the old Potter place, with benches for relaxing, meditating, and enjoying the beauty of the garden.

In September 2011, the Historical Society organized an Antiques Roadshow-like event held at the Andover Fire Station with Dan Olmstead as the appraiser.  Over 60 people came with antiques to be assessed and to observe the evaluations and to hear the humorous comments from Dan.

In 2012, the freight car was stripped with sand blasting. A map of the Potter Place historical area was created by Deborah Emeny.  The Historical Society participated in the 175th anniversary of Colby-Sawyer College in New London, as most people who went to Colby arrived by train.  There was a photographic display of Potter Place through the years, and they also sold memorabilia. 

Over the next several years, all while paying attention to the constant needs of the museum buildings, picnic tables were placed across the tracks, a new colorful brochure was printed, and old oral histories were transferred to CDs.

A significant event in 2016 was the retirement of Pat Cutter, after serving 12 years overall  as the Society’s president.  She had become a member of the Historical Society in 1987 when she and her husband moved to town.  She was a driving force from the very beginning.

In 2017, a Facebook page was set up and the website updated.  The Society received several boxes of old records and archives from the Andover Town Office that were discovered in the basement of the Town Hall.  In addition to other wonderful items, the museum now had over 5,900 acquisitions!

The Historical Society encouraged the participation of Andover students by creating a contest called “I am part of history, too” in the spring of 2018. The kids presented their work about what Andover means to them.   An historical room/pop-up museum took place on the Fourth of July at the Hub.  The Historical Society was frequently present at local events with Andover Historical Society information and books to sell.

In 2018, Society member John Hodgson’s book, “Richard Potter:  America’s First Black Celebrity,” was released.  An interpretive sign was placed near the Potter grave site that gave a brief history of Richard Potter. In October “A Retrospective,” an all-new art exhibition featuring selected works of Andover sculptor Winslow Eaves and painter Annaleida van’t Hoff, was held, and over 300 people attended.

In 2019, the Museum buildings were open 7.5 hours for 18 weekends a year, drawing over 600 visitors. The Historical Society created another pop-up exhibit at the Hub on the Fourth of July which drew over 100 visitors.

The arrival of COVID-19 in 2020 did not slow things down. Meetings took place via Zoom, museum exhibits were changed to window exhibits, and a virtual tour of the Schoolhouse went online. Work on the fundraising calendar went ahead, featuring photos of Andover’s earliest homes. They held outdoor sales in the Freight Shed and the auction went onine. The never-ending repair list to maintain antique buildings and equipment is not cheap, even with volunteers giving their time and talents.

The Historical Society worked to secure donor support and grants to allow them to continue big projects, each costing over $10,000, for repair of the Caboose roof, continued work on the semaphore, and repair of the Freight Shed roof.  Following CDC guidelines, the museum buildings were opened, and over 170 visitors signed in.

In 2021, the Historical Society hired archivist consultant Daniel Peters to assist with construction details for a new archive area and to help with obtaining estimates.  He also looked at different ways to fundraise as well as file for available grants.

The museum buildings opened using CDC guidelines.  The Schoolhouse had a visit from Zac Rivard and his oxen. Saturday sales in the Freight House continued as well as another online auction and a flea market. 

So far in 2022, the Historical Society has joined the Black Heritage Trail, and plans are underway to have a marker honoring Richard Potter and a window exhibit about him at the August Old Time Fair.  A special exhibit has been installed inside the store about the Weare Drake Tuttle family of East Andover.  Many items are on loan from their descendants.  

The Society has received partial payment of a LCHIP grant to rehab the slate roof of the railroad station. Research and plans are underway in cooperation with the Andover Lion’s Club to create a structure to house the Concord Coach.

A lot of work has been happening at the museums over these 40 years, not to mention the time and energy spent organizing and executing the annual Old Time Fair, staffing the museum buildings, and creating interesting programs to share with Andover residents. Many dedicated hours go into making Potter Place railroad station and its buildings very special.  They can always use your help!

You can support the Andover Historical Society in a number of ways: by becoming a member, by donating money or your skills to assist projects, or by attending events on Andover history.  I encourage you to take the time to visit, stroll through the gardens in Potter’s cellar hole, have a picnic on the grounds, climb up into the Caboose, and enjoy the displays and photographs of Andover’s past within the buildings.  You won’t be disappointed. 

The museum is open every weekend from May through October, Saturdays from 10 AM to 3 PM, and Sundays from 12:30 to 3 PM. Come visit the Andover Historical Society during their annual Old Time Fair on Sunday, August 7, from 9 AM to 2 PM. You will be glad you did!