Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


November 28, 2013

An artist's view of downtown Andover, circa 1909


Across the street were two, much-smaller shops. A wooden platform approached them. On the right was Miss Sarah Riley’s seamstress shop. There was a little bell over her door that tingled and announced your entry. The shop was inside and outside like something from Charles Dickens’ England. Miss Riley was a tiny woman, like my mother, only older and rather plump with gray hair combed high on her head. I used to love to watch her make buttons for the dresses she made. In those days, buttons were very beautiful and fashioned after the imagination of their maker.

(Note: I checked with Jim Batchelder, who is working on the history of Andover’s downtown. Jim was a protégé of my Aunt Frances, became an artist himself and eventually took over the job my aunt had held as the head of the Andover High School Art Department. Jim said, “This makes perfect sense to me. She always told us, “I want to teach you how to see,” and she could do it with her pen as well as her brush. The little shop she describes was the Fleur-de-Lis. It was where Michael Jays’ store later was. The new brick front was added on in the 1940s, which is where the wood platform would have been.”)

On the left of Miss Riley’s shop was Mr. Brown’s shop. His was the only shoe shop in town, and he sold fine quality shoes. Here the business section ended on that side. The large Swift House, barn and property extended to Chestnut Street and down Chestnut Street to the little Rose Cottage. A very high fence surrounded the estate. I remember so well the strange tan color of the house, barn and fence. At the corner of Chestnut and Main (where the Gulf station now exists), they owned a large open-fenced field where they put their beautiful horses. This was exactly opposite the Richardson House, where we were eventually to live. How my hungry heart longed for one of those beautiful horses, and I used to daydream and think that if only my father had lived that I, too, would have a field of horses.”


Jim Batchelder is one of the individuals featured in the recently released “Legendary Locals of Andover,” written by Bill and Katharine Dalton. Bill’s column appears frequently in the Andover Townsman and his email address is

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