Before paved roads and automobiles eased the pain of travel, towns maintained "public houses" for the comfort of its travelers. These travelers included ordinary folk out for business or pleasure, officers of the Colonial government, military companies, and various vagrants and peddlers. Innkeepers, often some of the town's principle citizens, had to be licensed to sell wine and strong liquor. Inns were very much a part of Andover's social and political life even through the 1800s.

The Abbot Tavern, a structure still in existence today, was located on Elm Street, a thoroughfare from Haverhill that had been laid out in 1647. Believed to have been built in 1680, the tavern served as a stagecoach stop and rest point for state troops. Its "claim to fame" came with a stopover from George Washington on Nov. 15, 1789, as he conducted a tour of the eastern United States shortly after his inauguration. Owner Isaac Abbot became Andover's first postmaster in 1795, conducting business from the tavern itself.

Another of Andover's first main roads was Salem Street, winding its way from the south through what was to become the Phillips Academy campus. Continuing down today's School Street it ended at the most important structure in town - South Church. This stretch boasted three significant inns: Blunt Tavern, at the intersection of Salem Street and Highland Road; the Mansion House, formerly located in the open field across from the Bell Tower; and the Phillips/Andover Inn, down the campus' Chapel Avenue.

It is believed that Blunt Tavern was built around 1760 by Isaac Blunt and was one of the first structures on Academy Hill. Used briefly as a Phillips Academy dorm, it was torn down in 1930 to make way for the campus dining hall. The Mansion House was built in 1782 as the home for Samuel Phillips Jr., founder of Phillips Academy. Although it had hosted many famous visitors during the Phillips' days, the academy took over this home in 1813, running it formally as an inn. The building burned to the ground in 1889.

To make up for the absence of the Mansion House, the last proprietor, Charles Carter, established an inn at the then-vacant Stowe House, initially calling it The Mansion House, then The Phillips Inn. An addition was added in 1893. During the modernization of the campus in the 1920s, this building was moved to Bartlet Street and a modern inn built, continuing as The Phillips Inn. It was re-named The Andover Inn in 1940 with the arrival of a new management company.

Essex Turnpike - today's Route 28/Main Street - was laid out through Andover in the early 1800s. The two significant taverns and inns here were the Locke Tavern, still standing at 111 Main St., and The Elm House, once located where downtown's Musgrove Building now stands.

James Locke built the Locke Tavern in 1825. Locke had served as proprietor at the Mansion House (1817-1825) and was mentioned in Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem, "The School Boy." Locke was a Free Mason and St. Matthew's Lodge was established here in 1823. A meeting to establish Abbot Academy was also held here in 1828. Finally, Andover's railroad system, the Andover & Wilmington Railroad, was formed here in 1832.

Elm House was originally known as Ye Ames Tavern (1790-1813). Following that, it was known as Foster's Tavern, Mayo's Tavern and, in 1850, the Eagle Hotel. The Elm House was the most successful, established by Sam Beane in 1860, but was demolished in 1894 to make way for the Musgrove Building.

"Andover Stories" is a weekly column about interesting local people and events, told in anticipation of the Andover Historical Society's 100 anniversary in 2011.

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