Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

August 29, 2013

After starts and stops, a new era flows in Andover

Andover Stories
Gail RalstonAndover Historical Society

---- — The year was 1887. The Massachusetts Legislature had passed an act “to supply the Town of Andover with water.” All that stood in the way of a town system was ... the Town of Andover itself.

Boston engineering firm Crafts and Forbes had been retained by the Water Committee, a group appointed at Town Meeting the previous March, and it had just released a study examining different available water sources and suggesting methods of water supply.

Discussions on the need for securing a reliable water system had reached a fever pitch, with the reasons most often cited being rapid town growth and the necessity for water to provide fire protection.

The next step was a special Town Meeting on Dec. 12, 1887, at which time voters were asked to accept the decision of the Legislature enabling the town to supply itself with water if it chose. Deciding on the specific method and money appropriations would come later. Prior to the Town Meeting, The Townsman printed a complete copy of the act.

That December, Town Meeting voted to accept the act by a vote of 291-118 — with the measure winning just 18 votes more than the two-thirds majority necessary for passage. Letters to the editor on the subject followed immediately.

One writer – “Citizen” – advised the town to “look before you leap.” The engineers’ report was criticized as giving “a wholly one-sided and rose-colored view, particularly in the financial aspect.”

The destruction of picnic grounds around Haggetts Pond (the No. 1 contender for the water source) was argued, not to mention the building of rights of way through farms and gardens. An increase in taxes was also a concern. Many farmers felt they already had excellent wells and reservoirs and didn’t see the necessity for paying for something that was working just fine.

Another “Citizen” countered the letter, saying a town water system would benefit the community as a whole and enhance real estate property values. A Townsman editorial opined “the town would make very slow progress in any line whose citizens should go against every project that in their opinion they themselves did not need.”

A second special Town Meeting was set for Monday afternoon, Feb. 13, 1888. On the agenda was the report of the Water Committee, election of water commissioners and application to the Legislature to “increase the town’s power to issue bonds.” While light in attendance, the voters nevertheless supported all measures.

At the regular Town Meeting that followed in March, John H. Flint and James P. Butterfield, who both went on to become selectmen, joined Felix G. Haynes in being appointed water commissioners. Their charge was to study and recommend which of the four schemes proposed by the engineers was the best for the town to adopt.

At yet another special Town Meeting on April 12, 1889, the commissioners issued their report and the voters officially selected Haggetts Pond as their source preference. (Only one voter objected.) Meanwhile, the Legislature passed the act to grant Andover the authority to raise the necessary monies.

With many other decisions to be made and the issue still not settled, another editorial appeared: “Andover as a town has been slow and conservative to a fault in those matters of municipal necessity and convenience, which every enlightened and progressive community now affords. But with a population of over 6,000 and the marked tendency to growth and expansion so apparent about the main village, we cannot longer stand still.... It will be well for us to recognize the fact and wisely use our opportunities.”

Another special Town Meeting in June seemed to put the main question to bed. By a vote of 106 to 28, $150,000 was appropriated for the purpose of introducing and establishing the system.

By November 1889, the first of the “Andover Water Works” had been drawn up, and the system of piping valves and hydrants laid out. A pumping station was designed with the modern George F. Blake Pump and a reservoir laid out. In 1890, water flowed and Andover entered a new era.