Shawsheen Village was created by William Madison Wood between 1919-1924. Mr. Wood was the president of what was then the world’s largest woolen producer, the American Woolen Company. As detailed in the 1978 report submitted to the Massachusetts Historical Commission for the nomination of Shawsheen Village on the National Register of Historical Places, “the primary significance of the Shawsheen Village Historic District to Andover, the State, and the United States is an unparalleled example of a planned community company town created for the exclusive use of upper and middle echelon office workers”.

In “Mills, Mansions and Mergers”, an autobiography on the life of William M. Wood by Edward G. Roddy published in 1982, the author writes of Mr. Wood’s vision and guidance on planning and developing Shawsheen Village as a fully planned self supporting and self sustaining community.  “…Here in the countryside, [William Wood] would build an entire community for his ‘white collar’ employees… they would both live and work there, for Wood intended to make the village the headquarters of the American Woolen Company. Wood also intended that his community serve as a model for other industrialists and social planners whose objectives were the same as his. By relocating his managerial personnel to this idyllic locale, the president assumed they would be happy and content and thus would contribute even more to the success of the firm.”

In addition to the 850,000 square foot Shawsheen Mill and the Executive Administration Building, the original village with its tree-lined streets consisted of approximately 230 Residences, a mill, post office, drug store and spa, elementary school, a dormitory for single female office workers, and a company restaurant (which was also the Village’s social center). In addition, a creamery, a large Merchant’s building, railroad station, 2 community garages (private off-street parking was prohibited throughout the Village), polling stations power plants brush mill and a laundry were constructed in the village. Numerous recreational facilities such as a football field, running track, baseball diamond, swimming pool, tennis courts, a bowling green and an 18 hole championship golf course (now Andover Country Club) were also originally constructed for the exclusive use of the executives and office workers of the American Woolen Company.

As the original Village construction grew closer to completion, a 1923 article in the Andover Townsman wrote “overnight the raw edges have disappeared… now one sees Shawsheen Village with a full appreciation of its impressiveness and beauty… a scientifically and artistically planned village the likes of which exists nowhere else in this country, and perhaps in no other country on the globe.”

Most of these buildings and sites noted above remain today. The architectural details of Shawsheen Village are very well detailed in the 1978 report for the National Register of Historic Places nomination. There are primarily two residential sections within the Village; “Brick Shawsheen” referring to brick 2 ½  stories homes rented originally to the upper Executives, and “White Shawsheen” referring to smaller yet well built white clapboard homes rented originally to mid-level office workers. Separating these two residential sections are retail office and commercial buildings.

All of the original homes and buildings were designed by one of four well known architectural firms; Adden & Parker, Clifford Allbright, Ripley & Le Boutillier, or James E. Allen. Most homes were designed in the Colonial Revival style and reflect distinctive architectural features including ornamental center entrances, decorative cornices, double- hung windows with many panes, and slate roofs The retail, office, and commercial buildings original to the Village were designed primarily in the Georgian Revival style,

The well-being of Shawsheen Village was addressed early on in its creation. The Shawsheen Village Improvement Society was established in 1921 and existed for several years to promote the general welfare of the growing community. Among its responsibilities, the Society approved all articles to be considered at the semi-annual village meetings. Years later in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Friends of Shawsheen Village Association played a vital grass roots role to preserve the charm and antiquity of Shawsheen Village.

Unfortunately, over the years several of the earlier buildings and structures in Shawsheen Village have been lost or badly compromised. Perhaps most notably the demolition in 1989 of the Shawsheen Manor, or the decay of Hussey’s Pond which once served as the Village’s community swimming pool and ice rink (originally Mr. Wood drained it so it could be laid with cement and refilled for this purpose). In addition, there has been new construction or alterations to existing buildings and structures that are incompatible with existing architectural features of the Village that detract from its historical charm. Overall, however, Shawsheen Village has luckily retained a great deal of its historical character.

 

 

©2007 Shawsheen Renaissance Project