It’s hard to pin down just what makes Andover so special. It’s a centuries-old bastion of intellect, a national leader in land preservation, a cradle of history, and a champion of local business. But why choose? All of these characteristics make Andover a truly unique place that’s made its mark not only on the North Shore but on the United States and the world.
“Andover’s been blessed with visionary organizations, both large and small,” says resident Steve Golden.
One of the largest—and certainly the most well known—of those visionary organizations is Phillips Academy, which is among the most prestigious secondary schools in the world. Its 1,100 students hail from across the globe, and according to Head of School John Palfrey, the school had a record number of applicants from 96 countries last year.
“This is a 237-year-old school that has been at the forefront of American education since its founding,” Palfrey says. Since 1778, the Andover school has turned out countless luminaries, from the inventor of the alarm clock to both Bush presidents to Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners, actors and athletes, dignitaries and diplomats. Although classical education is at its heart, the school continues to explore “very promising new frontiers in education,” says Palfrey.
Among those frontiers is the Tang Institute at Andover, which launched during the 2014–2015 school year. The Institute is a “physical and virtual hub for entrepreneurial exploration” that has already allowed students and faculty to engage in endeavors such as developing an open-access online calculus course through a partnership with Khan Academy.
“About one million people every month are using Phillips Academy [mathematical] problems created here on this campus,” Palfrey says, adding that the Tang Institute exemplifies the school’s motto, non sibi, which means “not for self” in Latin.
“We want to make the most amazing educational experience with the kids who are here, but we want to share the wealth of that community with the world,” he says.
Sharing the wealth of the Phillips community with Andover and the surrounding communities has also been part of the school since its founding. Its renowned museum, the Addison Gallery of American Art, not only is free and open to the public, but also engages in educational programming with other local schools.
In addition, the Bay Circuit Trail, a permanent recreation trail and greenway stretching more than 230 miles through eastern Massachusetts from Plum Island to Duxbury, cuts through the Phillips Academy campus, allowing explorers to enjoy nature and the campus’s historic buildings and landscape, parts of which were designed by luminaries like Frederick Law Olmsted and Charles Platt.
Andover’s trails allow hikers to see more than the Phillips Academy campus, however. In fact, Andover has been at the forefront of land preservation in America for generations, establishing one of the first conservation organizations in the country, AVIS (Andover Village Improvement Society), in 1894.
“AVIS is where land acquisition for conservation purposes started,” says Steve Golden, who not only calls Andover home but has also been actively involved in the Andover Trails Committee for 20 years. He says Andover is rightly known for its history, downtown, and schools, not only with Phillips Academy but also the prestigious Pike School and the high-performing Andover public schools. But it’s also known for its dedication to conservation.
“I think equally important to the character of the community is the extraordinary open space that we have,” he says.
Among those open spaces are more than 1,100 acres of AVIS reservations, portions of Harold Parker State Forest, 1,600 acres of town-owned and-managed conservation land, and The Trustees of Reservations’ 700-acre Ward Reservation. Explorers can paddle the Shawsheen River, hike the Bay Circuit Trail, explore a rare quaking bog and see insect-devouring pitcher plants in the Ward Reservation, and see views of Boston from the top of Holt Hill, the highest point in Essex County, all without leaving Andover.
There are so many great places for people to enjoy close to home in Andover,” Golden says. “Why go travel to other, distant places?”
Existing alongside that wealth of conservation land is also a downtown that’s alive with local commerce.
“I think it’s very important to have a vibrant downtown,” says Holly E. Nahabedian, president of the Andover Business Community Association and vice president and branch manager of Century Bank. “You want to make it a destination.”
In addition to promoting the downtown’s great small businesses and restaurants, the all-volunteer Andover Business Community Association succeeds in making downtown Andover a destination through its signature events, including Holiday Happenings, Boutique Blowout, and, most especially, Andover Day, held each September, with a mini amusement park, farmers’ market, and about 200 vendor tents.
It’s easy to see why Andover Day would attract nearly 10,000 people who want to celebrate each other and this unique town.
As Golden says, Andover is “as good as they come.”