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
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
[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
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
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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