Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Historic Buildings: Benjamin Abbot House

The house, which is listed on the National Register, will be open to the public for one day on Saturday October 22, when the Andover Historical Society will give tours as part of its "Bewitched in Andover" series.


By Cindy Bernstein



The Colonial farmhouse located at 9 Andover Street is one of the two oldest homes in Andover. Reportedly built in 1685 by Benjamin Abbot for his bride Sarah Farnun, it has connections with the witchcraft panic of 1692 and abolition, according to historical sources.
Its current owner, Kelly Novak, an engineer with Axcelis Technologies, will be opening up the original six rooms to the public on Saturday, October 22 from 1-4 pm. The tours will be given by the Andover Hisorical Society.
In 1692, Abbot accused his neighbor Martha Allen Carrier as a witch who caused his foot swelling and open sore on his side. According to sources, they had previous disputes over boundaries of their lands. Carrier was tried and hung for witchcraft. She was also accused of bringing smallpox into Andover which killed around 13 people, according to the Andover Historical Society.
The house remained in the Abbot family through ten generations until 1934. Ironically, Novak said, a decendent of Carrier married into the Abbot family.
Since then, it had been owned by Arthur S. Dewing, Lloyd Morain, Phillip Vigeant, Frank and Jean Demers, Patsy and Joel Claydon, Dean and Joan Kemper and currently Novak. She explained that a stack of photos and historical documents came with the house, and that all of the recent owners had an interest in the history of the property and in preserving it.  
In fact, Dewing whose family lived there from 1934-1974, was president of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, she explained.
Before buying 9 Andover Street, Novak owned another historical house in Ipswich. With a profound interest in history, Novak explained she is also a descendent of a hanged witch, Rebecca Greensmith in Connecticut.
In 2002, the TV show History Detectives filmed an episode that challenged the 1685 date of the house. Based on the age of sample wood taken from the house, 'the detectives' claimed the house wasn't built until 1711, after Benjamin Abbot, Sr. and Carrier. But according to Novak, they mistook the eastern part of the house with the western, a later addition. She believes, based on documents, that the oldest part of the house was built around the earlier date.
The original building according to Kelly was a two-room house with the Hall downstairs and the Hall Chamber upstairs. Although there have been modifications, she believes they are definitely First Period architecture. The second two rooms, the Parlor and the Parlor chamber were added around 1711 by Benjamin Abott Jr.
Novak is in the process of furnishing the rooms with period-style furniture, but explained that it is a long process with repairs and renovations. Although there is heat, there is no electricity in the original four rooms.
The "Lean To" bedroom and "Old Kitchen" were built "some time before 1747" and now have electricity. Novak said the rest of the house was added in various times in the 1800's including the section where she resides. She explained much of the work was done after 1840 when James Abott made money off a railroad deal.
Many restorations have been done to the original house including a major Federal syle upgrade and replacement of windows in 1800. She said the siding was later replaced by Dewing when he lived there. The barn which was destroyed by fire in 1971 was replaced with a garage and loft.
Novak said that she has been working with the Andover Historical Society on researching the house and is excited to be opening it up for the tour.
Tours of the house will be available on the half and half-hour beginning at 1 pm. Advanced registration is recommended, and it is free for members and $5 for non-members. For further information, call 978-475-2236 or visit www.andoverhistorical.org/bewitched.

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