August 11, 2022

Springswines

The Tour And Travel Enthusiasts

Andover Stories: Elm Square: The Heartbeat of Andover | Opinion

3 min read
Andover Stories: Elm Square: The Heartbeat of Andover | Opinion

Elm Square sits at the intersection of Main and Elm streets. Its confluence of pedestrians and myriad modes of transportation has been at the heart of Andover’s daily life since the town’s earliest days. As the town has grown and evolved, so too has Elm Square.

Andover, like many quintessential New England towns, boasted taverns and inns that served the need of locals to gather together. Travelers, too, frequented those establishments for rest and sustenance after a long day’s journey on horseback or by carriage.

One of the earliest downtown roadhouses, the Ye Ames Tavern, is believed to have been built in the late 1700s. It stood on the main road between North and South Parishes years before a toll road running from New Hampshire to the Middlesex County line was laid out by the Essex Turnpike Corporation. The tavern sat directly behind where the Musgrove Building sits today — roughly where the Andover Spa and residential apartments are now located.

The Ye Ames progressed through a series of owners in the 1800s. In 1815, it became Foster’s Tavern under new owner William Foster. The family ran the business until 1825, then selling to Aaron Davis Mayo who hung his shingle heralding Mayo’s Tavern. His run was a short, unprofitable one. By 1830 the deed was held by an auction house. Within five years, the tavern sold twice more before falling back into the hands of the Foster family. They refurbished the structure, added amenities and founded the Eagle Hotel.

The hotel finally came into its own financially under Sam Bean who acquired the Eagle in 1860. Beam added a third story and a livery service for guests to board their horses. The livery also kept horses and carriages available for hire. For decades, the hostelry thrived. Along with his success, “Uncle” Sam Bean became a well-known figure around town.

The Eagle changed hands several times in the late 1800s before being dismantled in 1895. A year later, John Flint erected the Musgrove Building where the Eagle had stood.

The loss of the Eagle Hotel took from Andover an aura common to many old New England towns. Its village green extended from the front of the hotel to the highway, long a welcoming beacon to travelers, was gone. So, too, was a popular local gathering spot.

George Christie reminisced about the Elm House in a historical perspective he presented to the Andover Natural History Society in February, 1924, “I remember distinctly the Fourth morning of 1892. I was a border at the Elm House. I was awakened by the report of a cannon. Somewhat dazed, I remembered it was July Fourth and that the Grand Army men were firing a salute.”

Elm Square, along with Andover Center, has changed with the passage of time. Yet much remains familiar — the Romanesque-style Musgrove Building continues to anchor the corner of Elm Street and Main and is now home to Nazarian’s and the Elm Street Oyster Company. Palmer’s Restaurant and the Andover Spa structures have evolved and remain popular. The Punchard — Barnard House on High Street, erected in 1848, today an Enterprise Bank branch, remains perched high above Main and Central. Below it sits the Elm Green Veteran’s Memorial built in 1920 honoring veterans of World War I. Rededicated in the mid-1990s, the green now recognizes all Andover veterans. Over the past several years, the memorial has been revitalized sporting new walkways, landscaping and a 40-foot flag pole. The green looks directly across Main Street at Memorial Hall Library, dedicated in 1971 to the veterans of the Civil War.

For better than 300-years and counting, Elm Square has been a vibrant part of central downtown and everyday life in Andover.