Boom Town Exhibit
North Andover (1950-1969)
This exhibit revisits a special time in the history of North Andover, a time when growth and change began to form the town we know and love today.
In 1950 North Andover, Massachusetts had a population of a little above 8,000 residents. Over 20% of North Andover’s 26,630 square miles were still devoted to active farming use. The nickname “Turkey Town” was appropriate. The Stevens Mill, Sutton Mills, and Davis and Furber were the large businesses in North Andover. Other commerce was primarily small, family-owned businesses located in the specific neighborhoods of the Old Center, Water Street, Sutton Street, and Main Street. Many North Andover residents in 1950 did not anticipate the growth and changes their small town would experience during the next two decades.
western electric in the early 1950s
In the early 1950s Western Electric built a multi-million dollar industrial plant on Route 125 in North Andover close to the Haverhill border. The many technical and production jobs created by Western Electric brought new residents to North Andover and created a growing demand for homes, schools, and businesses. North Andover quickly began to grow and change.
north andover high school
Merrimack College, which opened in 1947, graduated its first class in 1951. In 1955, the year of the town’s Centennial Celebration, the first class graduated from the new North Andover High School on Main Street. Also in the 1950s houses were moved from Main Street across from Town Hall to create a shopping plaza and parking lot in the middle of the town. Downtown North Andover became a shopping destination.
By 1960 North Andover had changed in many ways from its quiet small town identity. The population had increased by several thousands and the many people who lived and worked in North Andover were not “townies”.
However, it was the development of Interstate Highway 495 that completed North Andover’s metamorphosis into a suburban community. The highway did create a demand for new housing in the town.
Of course, there were many other changes to North Andover during the 1960s. The Franklin Elementary School was built right next to the Melamed’s Turkey Farm. The Atkinson School was a controversial concept for North Andover since it was planned to educate all the seventh and eighth graders in town at one separate location, and thus changed the traditional model of the neighborhood grammar school.
By 1970 North Andover had changed almost completely from a small town to a thriving suburb. It was clear to everyone that change in North Andover would continue throughout the decades to come.