The excerpt below is from Robbins's memoir Old Andover Days, primarily describing the Andover neighborhood where she spent much of her childhood.
. . . Of the row of professors' houses on the west side of the Common, the one at the southern end was that built for my father. Mr. Bartlett had bought for the


Seminary the six acres of land on which it was to stand, and had given my father carte blanche to "build a dwelling house thereon according to his pleasure." The house, though perfectly simple, was large and commodious. Behind and about it were the barns, sheds, and store-rooms made necessary by the conditions of existence in those primitive times. It should be remembered that the production of the necessaries of life was then much less specialized than it is to-day. We had to keep our own cow, and our own hens. We had to raise and store many of our supplies. We depended besides upon our own horse and carriage. All this necessitated, even for a professor in a theological seminary, a certain amount of stock, implements, and service; and it called for an array of outbuildings which have since fallen


into disuse and have been torn down. When the establishment was finished, and Mr. Bartlett came to inspect it, he said in his simple, brief manner, --

" This is exactly such a house as a professor ought to have."

The house was painted a pure and austere white. In fact, there was no building on the hill which was painted any other shade, until my sister and I, as young ladies, having seen, on a visit to Newburyport, that the fashionable color for houses was then a delicate d^ab, went to the painter, procured a sample, and on our return to Andover, without consulting our parents, ordered our house painted in the worldly shade. My father only looked at us and drew his red silk handkerchief across his mouth.

No separate view of the house as it


used to be is in existence; and various changes and additions, with the removal of the outbuildings, have made the present structure almost unrecognizable. Some idea of how it used to look may be obtained from the view opposite p. 38, in which it is the last house on the left.

[Photo from pg. 38]

Such a home as it was for children! The sheds and haymows, the three yards, the fields and gardens, afforded fine places for play. And then the fruit-trees! They bore cherries and plums, apples and pears and quinces, such as Massachusetts can no longer boast.

The next house to the north of us was for some time the Mansion House, of which I shall speak later. In the wide space between there was built in 1832 a brick building called the " book store." It is the middle building in the view op-


posite p. 38. Successive firms of printers made it their headquarters; and there many of my father's books were published. The house to the north of the Mansion House was the residence of Professor Woods. It was a box-like building, very square and plain. In the old days it was without blinds.

In striking contrast to this house was the one beyond it, which was occupied by the professors of rhetoric. It was presented to the Seminary by Mr. Bartlett, who had given Dr. Griffin, who was to be the first professor to occupy it, the same privilege that he gave my father, of building his house to suit himself. Dr. Griffin, who had come from Philadelphia, was a man of cultivated and expensive tastes. He built so many of these tastes into his house that the expense not only astonished and mortified Dr.


Griffin himself, but was a source of trouble to every one concerned in the affair. It is said that after signing check after check to pay bills connected with the construction of the house, Mr. Bartlett gave Squire Farrar, the treasurer, authority to pay whatever further bills might be presented, and forbade him ever to let him know how much the dwelling cost. The crowning extravagance of Dr. Griffin, to Andover minds, was his having put upon the parlor walls a paper which cost a dollar a roll. When he was remonstrated with for this lavish outlay, he tried to cover his mistake by ordering another paper, at twenty-five cents a roll, and having that put on over the other, -- still at the expense of Mr. Bartlett. Dr. Griffin stayed in Andover less than two years, when he was permitted to return to the elegance of


Philadelphia. The house was then assigned to Dr. Porter, who occupied it through the years of my childhood. It is often spoken of as the " Phelps house," sometimes as the " president's house "; and it has always been the handsomest among the residences of the Andover professors.

Next beyond this house was a low, unpretentious building occupied by the Seminary steward. Next in order stood the large, dignified square house occupied by Samuel Farrar, or Squire Farrar, as he was always called. This man was the " honest treasurer " whom Holmes called " the good old, wrinkled, immemorial squire." In his yard was a small building used as the treasurer's office. The house is still in existence, but has been moved back to the western brow of the Hill.


During my early childhood this was the last house in the row opposite the Common; but in 1833 a brick house was added at the end. This was the home first of Dr. Skinner, and afterwards for many years of Professor Park.

A few other buildings not in this row must have mention. Nearly opposite my father's was the house of Dr. Murdock. This was a simple structure with a gable roof. In the yard was an old-fashioned well, with a sweep; and beside the well hung a gourd, for use as a drinking-cup. In this house Oliver Wendell Holmes was for some time a boarder. My most vivid remembrance of him as a boy is as he stood by the well-sweep, drinking from the gourd.

A little way down the hill toward Boston from Dr. Murdock's, and on the same side of the street, stood Shipman's


store. Here we were often sent on errands, and here we spent our pennies on candy, sweet-flag, and slippery-elm. Even the stronghold of trade in the guise of this little country store was in Andover made to pay tribute to the requirements of theology and learning; for in this same building my father had his printing-press. This may seem a strange possession for an Andover professor; but when my father began to teach Hebrew, he found that he must write a Hebrew grammar, there being nothing adequate on the subject in the English language. When the grammar was written, because there were no Hebrew characters in American printing-offices, and no printers capable of setting up Hebrew type, he had to solicit contributions, buy a press, and import Hebrew type. He even set up some of the


grammar himself, until he could train compositors capable of doing such work. As the first home of what was called, from the chief contributor, the Codman Press, Shipman's store has my lasting interest.

On the eastern side of the Common was the Academy building where my brothers went to school. It was a plain brick building with a cupola. In the corner of the Academy yard was the residence of the principal, -- a dear house to me, for I was very fond of Mrs. Adams, and one of the Adams children was my most intimate girl friend. Just the other side of the Academy building stood the modest schoolhouse where Miss Davis taught the little girls living on the Hill. On a street running west from Main street, close by Squire Farrar's house, was a row of homely barracks


which served as dormitories for the boys of Phillips Academy.

It will be seen that the buildings on Andover Hill had almost all of them an academic, and in many cases a theological association. There was one house, however, which brought us in some degree into contact with the big outer world. This was the Mansion House, built by Judge Phillips in Revolutionary days. Standing in the line of houses opposite the Common, it was much the largest and stateliest among them. It was for years separated from our house only by grass and trees, so that we could see it from our windows. We heard tales of the public offices and high social position of Judge Phillips. We looked with awe on the windows of the room where Madam Phillips had received the great George Washington. The house


had become an inn; and before it every afternoon drew up the stage that was our only public means of connection with Boston and the world at large.

Living in my father's family was a strong, noble-minded New England woman who occupied at once the place of " help " and of friend. In her youth she had been a member of Madam Phillips' household; and our earliest hours of story-telling were filled with descriptions of the grandeur of the Mansion, and with accounts of the fine doings that had taken place there in its palmy days. Our own home was plain with an almost Puritanic severity; but at Madam Phillips' there had been such silver, such table-cloths, such pomp and ceremony of gubernatorial life! Who had the finest lace that human fingers ever wove? Whose muslin frills and bordered caps


were a miracle of plaiting? Whose stiff silks and heavy, broidered satins came rustling down to us through the years? Who was the lady of Andover Hill, to whom the great and the small alike did reverence? Madam Phoebe Phillips. Her youthful romance was one of the very few to come to our carefully guarded ears. The attic window where she had prayed for her husband when he was away at the war was one of the Meccas of our youthful imagination. Indeed, so real a woman was Madam Phoebe Phillips to my childhood, that although I know she died before I was born, I cannot divest myself of the idea that I saw her as a living woman, and that she led me with other little girls over her great house, showing us the different rooms, and pointing out with pride the crepe-hung chair in which


George Washington had once sat down.

The dignity of Madam Phillips' social station, and the munificence of her charities, certainly counteracted in some degree the unworldly traditions in which we were brought up; and under the circumstances such an influence was perhaps not unwholesome. Yet this stately dame, we were told, had had for the establishment of the Seminary a deep personal concern. She had contributed of her property toward its establishment. In the southeast parlor, the very room once dignified by the presence of Washington, she had assembled the company which had inaugurated the new institution. And her chief consolation in dying was that she could see from her window the Seminary buildings, and realize that within them thirty-six students


were already gathered. Thus the influence of the Mansion House was not so antagonistic as might have been expected to that of the other buildings with which we were surrounded.

Andover Hill, it must be admitted, was in some ways a strange place for children to grow up. We were not the center of interest, with our environment carefully adapted to every need and whim. Even the old adage, " Children should be seen and not heard," was amended in Andover to " Children should not be heard, and should be seen only on stated occasions, such as family prayers and Sabbath services." But, after all, a measure of repression has its educational advantages; the sense of pride is a comfortable inheritance; the gardens, fields, and woods were near and free . . .


Sarah Stuart Robbins, Old Andover Days: Memories of a Puritan Childhood. Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1908: 13-27, 38

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