For many years, the story of the Tea Lots has been told around town. You haven’t heard the story? Well, talk to anyone who’s been around for a while. The story has been passed around for more than 70 years.
The tale that’s been told was that the Tea Lots were part of a promotion by A & P, and customers who purchased the required amount of tea were give a certificate for a piece of land in Andover. Many residents recall the tea promotion and several mentioned that the vender would come around in a wagon selling tea and other necessities. Others were not sure of the company selling the tea, but all recall that the land given away was across from South School.
The story rose up again in the early 1980s as the town negotiated with a developer to trade the Tea Lots that it acquired some time ago for nonpayment of taxes. Peggy Keck, upon returning from England, heard that a builder was planning a subdivision on Pole Hill. This land, which itself has a long history and has been the subject of many tales, warranted saving from development. The proposal was made to trade this land for the Tea Lots. The town, along with Andover Village Improvement Society, had a parcel containing 93 acres, which ran to the Shawsheen River.
Visitors and staff at the Andover Historical Society saw a map of the Tea Lots. In fact, Carrie Midura of the society’s staff organized an inventory of the archives after seeing the map. About 15 volunteers gathered at the Historical Society to pull together maps and plans that had accumulated over the years. At the end of the day, two maps were located. On the back of each was written in pencil “Tea Lots”.” One map, more accurately titled “Plan of Andover Park dated Sept. 1, 1906,” was located. The land was bounded by Ballardvale Road to the south and Woburn Street to the west. The second plan titled River Park on the Shawsheen was dated 1929.
Many have some memory of a promotion offering land if you bought a product. In Middleton, it is said that land around Emerson Pond was given away as a promotion for Oak Nut cereal. Each lot was 1 square foot. This swampy land had no market value and eventually was traded to Danvers around 1920.
Quaker Oats, meanwhile, offered 1 square inch of land in the Yukon in each box of its Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat. In 1955, the company printed more than 21,000,000 deeds. This promotion sponsored Sgt. Preston and his trusty dog, King, as the program moved from radio to television.
The land outlined in the Andover plan today consists of approximately 27 acres covered by three streets appropriately named Bayberry, Tea Berry and Blackberry lanes. There are now 37 homes on the land that, if it had remained as indicated on the 1906 plan, would have meant 399 sites on seven streets. Each site was approximately 25 feet by 100 feet. Either Andover land was much cheaper in the old days or you had to buy a heck of a lot of tea. Was there another purpose to the plan?
What happened to the owners of the Tea Lots? That and other questions will be answered in part two of the Tea Lots later this month.