Bandstands came to us from Europe, primarily England and Germany, and they were associated with the Victorian era’s brass band movement. Andover missed a beat, as most bandstands were built before ours and are larger and more ornate. Our bandstand, although pleasant, lacks the splash of Victorian era bandstands.
According to Eleanor Motley Richardson (“Andover A Century of Change 1995-1996,” Andover Historical Society, 1995), the Andover Brass Band existed from 1878 to 1941 and played Sunday afternoons from the bandstand’s beginnings until the brass band disbanded for its members to serve in World War II. Prior to the war, during the Great Depression, little money was spent on improving anything, including the bandstand. With the bandstand’s lack of use during the war, not a penny was spent on it.
By the time my friends and I were climbing all over it in the late 1940s and early 1950s it was in despicable condition. The stairs were gone, the fieldstone supporting the stairs had been sledgehammered away by vandals, paint was peeling, and it smelled like mold and urine where the band once played. But, putting the breeze in our faces to keep the smell behind us, we’d sit on the stone rim surrounding the band platform and talk about whether Ted Williams was better than Joe DiMaggio or whether Superman was stronger than Captain Marvel. The bandstand seemed ancient and even the vandalism seemed old.
The bandstand remained run down for several more years. Things got worse in the 1960s and 70s. In those days, Whittier Street continued through to Bartlett Street [editor’s note: Bill Dalton has made a case that this is the proper spelling for the street] and the kind of people who vandalized the bandstand parked their cars nearby and got together to drink, buy drugs, horse around, and be loud and obnoxious. It culminated when one of them was dragged to death beneath a car.