Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

August 2, 2012

Letter: Longing for return to historic facade

Editor, Townsman:

The building on Park Street now owned by the Christ Church since 1972 was once known as the Howell Block (”Thrifty changes: Downtown store gets green facelift,” Townsman Business section, July 26).

The late 19th century building was owned by S.E. Walker and sold to Rhoda A. Howell in 1895. When first constructed the building had three separate store fronts at street level. The windows were large four divided panes of glass to admit as much light as possible and show off the tenant’s merchandise. Buchan & Francis furniture company occupied the upper floors for their showroom, warehouse and upholstering business.

When the Barnard Block on Main Street opened in 1911 Buchan & Francis moved their business to No. 12 and remained there until 1930. The Howell Block has held a number of businesses over the years including, John P. West bakery 1926, Franklin Belcour Barbershop, Ruth Hammond Resort Wear (1948), Andover School of Ballet in the 1960s, realtors and the Andover Gift Shop. The building was sold in 1947 to Vincent Treanor who opened the gift house.

Treanor sold his business to the Anderson family in the early 1960s and that is when the pseudo colonial façade was added. It was a popular trend along Main Street as owners and merchants abandoned original architectural features in an effort to upgrade the look of a tired downtown. Fortunately the trend now is to restore buildings back to their original look. The revival of the Haverhill downtown is an excellent example of what can be done with buildings of the same period as the Howell Block.

I’m afraid I don’t share the enthusiasm forstor the recent Thrift Shop renovations. The new windows will continue to conceal rather than reveal their merchandise. I think a golden opportunity was missed to restore the building façade, most likely for less money, and increase foot traffic into the store. It may look fresh and clean but it is a miss for me.

Jim Batchelder

53 Red Spring Road

Andover Preservation Commission member

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