May 9—ANDOVER — One hundred years ago the town experienced some of its largest growth because of a redevelopment project that resulted in what is now known as Shawsheen Village.
The town's population grew by about 20% that decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"It was one of the largest development projects in Andover's history," said Angela McBrien, collections manager for the Andover Center for History and Culture.
Prior to the pandemic, the center had prepared a year-long celebration of the area, formerly known as Fry Village, with an exhibit, tours and events. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the center shifted to offering an online exhibit and walking tours of Shawsheen Village, which have been very popular, McBrien said.
The village area originally was settled because the Shawsheen River provided power for multiple mills in Andover, dating back to the Revolutionary War when a gunpowder mill was built. Then Smith & Dove Manufacturing built a flaxseed mill in the mid-1800s during the Industrial Revolution.
In 1906, businessman William Wood started buying property in Andover's Fry Village with the intention of moving his company's headquarters from Boston to Andover.
Wood was the son of a Portuguese immigrant who started working at age 11 as an office boy in a mill.
As a teenager, he changed his last name to Wood, to sound more Anglo-Saxon and avoid the bias and xenophobia immigrants faced. He also felt he could gain more opportunities with his Anglo-Saxon name, according to Andover records.
In his 30s, Wood moved to Lawerence to work for the American Woolen Company, rising up to management and marrying the owner's daughter. He would become president of the company and had grand ideas of how he would structure its headquarters and a mill.
"The purpose of the village was to bring the headquarters from Boston to Shawsheen, so (Wood) had to compete with the Boston feel because that's where his employees were moving from," McBrien said.
The old Post Office building that sits at the corner of Poor Street and Route 28 was built specifically to bring the city look into town, McBrien said. He also built the Balmoral Spa, a town garage, a dance hall and other amenities in Shawsheen to keep employees engaged, she said.
Additionally, he built the train station that allowed mill-workers transportation from Lawrence into Andover because, unlike other mills at the time, Wood didn't want his workers living near top management, McBrien said.
Wood constructed many of the homes in the village for his middle and upper management. He even moved 30 historic homes to ensure he could build the village he wanted while keeping the historic homes, McBrien said.
"If you walk around Shawsheen they (the houses) are all pretty much the same," McBrien said.
While the American Woolen Company headquarters moved again in the late 1920s after Wood stepped down as president of the company, Shawsheen Village remains.
Explore the history
For more information about walking tours and to view the online exhibit visit andoverhistoryandculture.org/shawsheen-title.