Andover Historic Preservation


31 ELM ST31 elm st (click to enlarge)

31 ELM ST

historical narrative

Dedicated September 19, 1908.
Themes: Architectural, Community Development, Religion, Social/Humanitarian

"Small group of consecrated men and women" began to meet on Sundays at various homes "aroused at the evil of over two million Negroes held in bondage" and distressed that local churches were not taking strong stand on the issue of slavery. Abolitionism was a controversial issue in the 1840's and abolitionists were refused recognition by the Andover Conference of Congregationists. Local churches were closed to abolitionist meetings.

The Free Christian Church was organized May 7, 1846 at house of Stephen Dinsmore, corner of Main and Chestnut (old Capt. Joseph Richardson House, site of Andover Press). Members were from other local churches: 14 from South Parish; 17 from West Parish; 3 from the Baptist and 10 from the Methodist Society, who wanted to be free from all alliance with slavery. They first rented the Universalist Church (then at corner of Main and Punchard). In 1849, John Smith purchased the Methodist Church on Main St.; remodelled and moved it to Railroad St., where it was used 1850-1907, having been rededicated as Free Christian Church May 8, 1850. In 1907, the first church was sold to Boston and Maine Railroad.

The church bought the Kimball estate on Elm Street, which had two houses and a barn and sold it at public auction March 2, 1908, requiring the purchaser to remove the buildings from the site. The present church was possible chiefly through the generosity of the family of the late Joseph Smith, son of Free Church founder John Smith. Plans for the new church were drawn by McKim, Meade and White of New York. Contractors were Hardy and Cole. The cornerstone was laid Sept. 21, 1907 and the new church building was dedicated Sept. 19, 1908. It cost $67,000 and was described by the Andover Townsman: "as a triumph of architect and artisan, simple but dignified; substantial and yet graceful." "The object of the architect was first utility, then simplicity, durability and beauty." The church was burned by fire Jan. 1941, but renovated to its original form and beauty.

bibliography/references

Andover Townsman, issues of May 11, 1906; March 29, 1907; Sept. 27, 1907; Sept. 11, 1908; Sept. 25, 1908; July 3, 1914; April 25, 1946; May 11, 1967
Manual of the Free Christian Church, Andover, Mass., Lawrence, 1881
Exercised in Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Free Christian Church
Manual of the Free Christian Church, Andover, Mass., 1923, Free Press
Memorial Booklet of the Free Church Fire of January 27, 1951. Andover, 1951
Smith, Mary Byers; "The Founding of the Free Christian Church of Andover" - Essex Institute Historical Collections, vol. 82, Oct. 1946.

inventory data

Table: Inventory Data for 31 ELM ST
Place: Andover Center
Historic District: Not Applicable
Address: 31 elm st
Historic Name: Free Christian Church
Present Use: church
Original Use: church
Date of Construction: 1907
Source: cornerstone
Style/Form: Georgian Revival
Architect/Builder: McKim, Mead & White of New York
Foundation:
Wall/Trim: red brick
Roof:
Outbuildings / Secondary Structures parish house annex at rear/right angle to church
Major Alterations: repairs after fire - renovated and rededicated 1957 garage 1973
Condition:
Moved:
Demolished:
Acreage: less than one acre; 41,950 square feet, 164 feet approximate frontage
Setting:
MHC inventory number: ANV.173
Recorded by: Stack/Mofford
Organization: Andover Historical Society
Date: 1977-79

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