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Haverhill, Massachusetts

Haverhill, Massachusetts
Haverhill from across the Merrimack River
Haverhill from across the Merrimack River
Flag of Haverhill, Massachusetts
Official seal of Haverhill, Massachusetts
Nickname(s): Formerly "The Shoe City"
Location in Essex County in Massachusetts
Location in Essex County in Massachusetts
Haverhill, Massachusetts is located in USA
Haverhill, Massachusetts
Haverhill, Massachusetts
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Essex
Settled 1640
Incorporated 1641
Incorporated (city) 1870
 • Type Mayor-council city
 • Mayor James J. Fiorentini
 • Total 35.6 sq mi (92.3 km2)
 • Land 33.0 sq mi (85.4 km2)
 • Water 2.7 sq mi (6.9 km2)
Elevation 50 ft (20 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 60,879
 • Density 1,700/sq mi (660/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 01830, 01831, 01832, 01835
Area code(s) 351 / 978
FIPS code 25-29405
GNIS feature ID 0612607

Haverhill ( ) is a city in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 60,879 at the 2010 census.[1]

Located on the Merrimack River, it began as a farming community of Puritans, largely from Newbury Plantation. The land was officially purchased from Pentucket Indians on November 15, 1642 (a year after incorporation) for three pounds, ten shillings.[2] Pentucket was renamed Haverhill and would evolve into an important industrial center, beginning with sawmills and gristmills run by water power. In the 18th and 19th century, Haverhill developed woolen mills, tanneries, shipping and shipbuilding. The town was for many decades home to a significant shoe-making industry. By the end of 1913, one tenth of the shoes produced in the United States were made in Haverhill, and because of this the town was known for a time as the "Queen Slipper City". The city was also known for the manufacture of hats.


  • History 1
    • 17th century 1.1
    • 18th century 1.2
    • 19th century 1.3
    • 20th century 1.4
    • 21st century 1.5
  • Education 2
  • Geography 3
  • Transportation 4
  • Demographics 5
  • Topics of interest 6
    • Points of interest 6.1
    • Notable visitors and inhabitants 6.2
  • Notes 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9


Haverhill has played a role in nearly every era of American history, from the initial colonial settlement, to the French and Indian Wars, and the American Revolutionary and Civil wars.[3]

17th century

The town was founded in 1640 by settlers from Newbury, and was originally known as Pentucket, which is the native American word for "place of the winding river". Settlers such as John Ward, Robert Clements, Tristram Coffin, Hugh Sheratt, William White, and Thomas Davis aided in the purchase of land known by Indians as Pentuckett. The land was purchased from native Indian chiefs Passaquo and Saggahew and permission was granted by Passaconaway, chief of the Pennacook's. Settlers, Thomas Hale, Henry Palmer, Thomas Davis, James Davis and William White were its first selectman. First Court appointments; given to end small causes were given to Robert Clements, Henry Palmer,and Thomas Hale. At the same court, it was John Osgood and Thomas Hale that were also appointed to lay the way from Haverhill to Andover.[4] It is said that these early settlers worshipped under a large oak tree, known as the "Worshipping Oak".[5]

Worshipping Oak, January 2012
Worshipping Oak, August 2012

The town was renamed for the town of Haverhill, England,[6] in deference to the birthplace of the settlement's first pastor, Rev. John Ward.[7] The original Haverhill settlement was located around the corner of Water Street and Mill Street, near the Linwood Cemetery and Burying Ground. The home of the city's father, William White, still stands, although it was expanded and renovated in the 17th and 18th centuries. White's Corner (Merrimack Street and Main Street) was named for his family, as was the White Fund at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall was chosen to preside over the Salem witch trials in the 17th century; however, he found the trials objectionable and recused himself. Historians cite his reluctance to participate in the trials as one of the reasons that the witch hysteria did not take as deep a root in Haverhill as it did in the neighboring town of Andover, which had among the most victims of the trials. However, a number of women from Haverhill were accused of witchcraft, and a few were found "guilty" by the Court of Oyer and Terminer.

One of the initial group of settlers, Tristram Coffin, ran an inn. However, he grew disenchanted with the town's stance against his strong ales, and in 1659 left Haverhill to become one of the founders of the settlement at Nantucket.

18th century

Haverhill was for many years a frontier town, and was occasionally subjected to Indian raids, which were sometimes accompanied by French colonial troops from New France. During King William's War, Hannah Dustin became famous for killing and then scalping her native captors, who were converts to Catholicism, after being captured in the Raid on Haverhill (1697). The city has the distinction of featuring the first statue erected in honor of a woman in the United States. In the late 19th century, it was Woolen Mill Tycoon Ezekiel J. M. Hale that commissioned a statue in her memory in Grand Army Republic Park. The statue depicts Dustin brandishing an axe and several Abenaki scalps. Her captivity narrative and subsequent escape and revenge upon her captors caught the attention of Cotton Mather, who wrote about her, and she also demanded from the colonial leaders the reward per Indian scalp. Hannah Dustin remained controversial throughout her lifetime and remains controversial since the Native American Indians she killed and scalped in order to escape were allegedly not her original captors and among the people she killed were allegedly young children. (Hannah, born Hannah Emerson, came from a troubled family: in 1676 her father Michael Emerson was fined for excessive violence toward his 12-year-old daughter Elizabeth, who in 1693 was hanged for concealing the deaths of her illegitimate twin daughters; and in 1683 Hannah's sister Mary was whipped for fornication.[8])

In 1708, during Queen Anne's War, the town, then about thirty homes, was raided by a party of French, Algonquin and Abenaki Indians. Like most towns, Haverhill has been struck by several epidemics. Diphtheria killed 256 children in Haverhill between November 17, 1735 and December 31, 1737.[9]

19th century

In 1826, influenza struck.

A temperance society was formed in 1828.

Haverhill residents were early advocates for the John Quincy Adams presented the Haverhill Petition on January 24, 1842. Even though Adams moved that the petition be answered in the negative, an attempt was made to censure him for even presenting the petition.[10] In addition, poet John Greenleaf Whittier was an outspoken abolitionist.

The Haverhill and Boston Stage Coach company operated from 1818 to 1837 when the railroad was extended to Haverhill from Andover. It then changed its name and routes to the Northern and Eastern Stage company.

It was Ezekiel Hale Jr. and son Ezekiel James Madison Hale (descendants of Thomas Hale) that gave Haverhill a great head of steam. It was in the summer of 1835, the brick factory on Winter St was erected by Ezekiel Hale Jr. and Son. It was intended to run woolen flannel at a whopping six hundred yards of flannel per day. It was Ezekiel JM Hale, age 21 and graduate of Dartmouth College that came to the rescue when fire destroyed the operation in 1845. He rebuilt the mill at Hale's Falls, now more than twice as large produced nearly three times the output. Ezekiel JM Hale became Haverhill's Tycoon. EJM Hale served a term in the State Senate and was much revered in the area. Hale donated large sums of money to build the hospital and library.[11]

Haverhill was incorporated as a city in 1870.

In the early morning hours of February 17, 1882, a massive fire destroyed much of the city's mill section, in a blaze that encompassed over 10 acres (4.0 ha). Firefighting efforts were hampered by not only the primitive fire fighting equipment of the period, but also high winds and freezing temperatures. The nearby water source – the Merrimack River – was frozen, and hoses dropped through the ice tended to freeze as well. A New York Times report the next day established the damage at 300 businesses destroyed and damage worth approximately $2M (in 1882 dollars).[12][13][14]

In 1897 Haverhill annexed the town of Bradford. Bradford had previously been part of the town of Rowley. At the time, this was regarded as a promising move for Bradford, given the wealth and prosperity of the manufacturing center in Haverhill. Haverhill's international prominence in shoe manufacturing waned, however, after the Great Depression. Historians also cite a lack of reinvestment in newer plants and equipment, as well as competition from less expensive imports as reasons for the erosion of the industry.

Haverhill became the first American city with a socialist mayor in 1898 when it elected former shoe factory worker and cooperative grocery store clerk John C. Chase.[15] Chase was re-elected to this position in 1899 but defeated the following year.

20th century

Haverhill was the site of the eponymous Haverhill fever, also known as rat-bite fever, in 1926.

In the early part of the 20th century, the manufacturing base in the city came under pressure as a result of lower priced imports from abroad. The Great Depression exacerbated the economic slump, and as a result city leaders enthusiastically embraced the concept of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s, receiving considerable federal funds used to demolish much of the north side of Merrimack Street, most of the Federal homes along Water Street (dating from the city's first hundred years of development), and throughout downtown. Many of the city's iconic buildings were lost, including the Oddfellows Hall, the Old City Hall, the Second Meetinghouse, the Pentucket Club, and the Old Library, among others.

During Urban Renewal, the iconic high school—the inspiration for Bob Montana's Archie Comics —was falsely declared "unsound" and slated for demolition. Instead, the historic City Hall on Main Street was demolished, and city began using the High School of Archie's Gang as the new City Hall.

Urban Renewal was controversial. Several leading citizens argued to use the funds for preservation rather than demolition. Their plan was not accepted in Haverhill, which chose to demolish much of its historic downtown, including entire swaths of Merrimack Street, River Street, and Main Street. However, examples of the city's architecture, spanning nearly four centuries, abound: from early colonial houses (the White residence, the Duston Garrison House, the 1704 John Ward House, the 1691 Kimball Tavern, and the historic district of Rocks Village) to the modernist 1960s architecture of the downtown Haverhill Bank. The city's Highlands district, adjacent to downtown, is a fine example of the variety of Victorian mansions built during Haverhill's boom years as a shoe manufacturing city.

21st century

Haverhill, Massachusetts downtown (River Street) pictured at dusk from the Comeau Bridge over the Merrimack River

In the 21st century, downtown Haverhill has undergone a renaissance of sorts. Housing trends, combined with a rezoning by the city led by longtime Mayor James Fiorentini and the use of Federal and State brownfield's money to clean up abandoned factories, resulted in the conversion of several abandoned factories into loft apartments and condominiums. There has been a total of $150 million in public and private investment in the downtown old factory district area. Additionally, the Washington Street area gained new dining and entertainment spots, and federal, State and local funds contributed to removing an abandoned gas station on Granite Street, cleaning up the site and converting it to a 350-space parking garage. The city was able to obtain Federal, State and local money to put in a new boardwalk and boat docks downtown.[16] Recently, the city completed a rezoning of downtown proposed by Mayor Fiorentini designed to encourage artist loft live work space and educational uses for the downtown area. Despite the city's efforts, old buildings remain vacant or underutilized, such as the former Woolworth department store – boarded up for 40+ years at the intersection of Main Street and Merrimack Street. Recently a group purchased that building with the intention of redeveloping it, however those plans fell through. In February 2014, it was announced that plans were made to redevelop "Whites Corner" by demolishing the vacant Woolworth building along with other surrounding buildings including the former Newman's Furniture, Ocasio Building, replacing them with the new mixed-use project called Harbor Place. Those buildings along with other smaller ones were officially demolished as of March 19, 2015 making way for the construction of the Harbor Place project.


Haverhill is the home of the main campus of Northern Essex Community College. Until its closing in 2000, Bradford College provided liberal arts higher education in Haverhill. In 2007, it became the new home of the Zion Bible College, now called Northpoint Bible College. Recently, The University of Massachusetts at Lowell (U-Mass Lowell) has announced its intention to locate a satellite campus in Haverhill and has begun teaching several courses at Northern Essex Community College.


Haverhill is located at (42.778090, -71.084916).[17] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 35.6 square miles (92.3 km2), of which 33.0 square miles (85.4 km2) is land and 2.7 square miles (6.9 km2), or 7.47%, is water.[18] The city ranks 60th in the Commonwealth in terms of land area, and is the largest city or town in Essex County. Haverhill is drained by the Little and Merrimack rivers, the latter separating the Bradford section of town from the rest of Haverhill. The highest point in the city is found on Ayers Hill, a drumlin with two knobs of almost equal elevation of at least 335 feet (102 m), according to the most recent (2011-2012) USGS 7.5-minute topographical map.[19] The city also has several ponds and lakes, as well as three golf courses.

Haverhill is bordered by Merrimac to the northeast, West Newbury and Groveland to the east, Boxford and a small portion of North Andover to the south, Methuen to the southwest, and Salem, Atkinson and Plaistow, New Hampshire, to the north. From its city center, Haverhill is 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Lawrence, 27 miles (43 km) southeast of Manchester, New Hampshire, and 32 miles (51 km) north of Boston.


Haverhill lies along Interstate 495, which has five exits throughout the city. The town is crossed by five state routes, including Routes 97, 108, 110, 113 and 125. Routes 108 and 125 both have their northern termini at the New Hampshire state border, where both continue as New Hampshire state routes. Four of the five state routes, except Route 108, share at least a portion of their roadways in the town with each other. Haverhill is the site of six road crossings and a rail crossing of the Merrimack; two by I-495 (the first leading into Methuen), the Comeau Bridge (Railroad Avenue, which leads to the Bradford MBTA station), the Haverhill/Reading Line Railroad Bridge, the Basiliere Bridge (Rte. 125/Bridge St.), the Bates Bridge (Rtes. 97/113 to Groveland) and the Rocks Bridge to West Newbury, just south of the Merrimac town line. In 2010, a project began to replace the Bates Bridge, 60 feet (18 m) downstream, with a modern bridge. The project is expected to take two to three years and cost approximately $45 million.[20]

MBTA Commuter Rail provides service from Boston's North Station with the Haverhill and Bradford stations on its Haverhill/Reading Line. Amtrak provides service to Portland, Maine, and Boston's North Station from the same Haverhill station. Additionally, MVRTA provides local bus service to Haverhill and beyond. The nearest small-craft airport, Lawrence Municipal Airport, is in North Andover. The nearest major airport is Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, and the nearest international airport is Logan International Airport in Boston.


As of the census[33] of 2010, there were 60,879 people, 25,576 households, and 14,865 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,846.5 people per square mile (683.1/km²). There were 23,737 housing units at an average density of 712.2 per square mile (275.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 88.3% White, 4.5% African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.6% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 4.30% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Hispanic Latino made up 14.5% of the population (5.8% Puerto Rican, 4.6% Dominican, 0.9% Mexican, 0.5% Guatemalan, 0.3% Salvadoran, 0.3% Colombian, 0.2% Cuban). 16.8% were of Irish, 14.6% Italian, 10.1% French, 9.0% English, 7.8% French Canadian and 6.3% American ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 22,976 households out of which 33.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.0% were married couples living together, 13.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% were non-families. 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.11.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 33.5% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 12.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 90.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $49,833, and the median income for a family was $59,772. Males had a median income of $41,197 versus $31,779 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,280. About 7.0% of families and 9.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.3% of those under age 18 and 10.0% of those age 65 or over.

Topics of interest

Points of interest

  • Main Street Historic District[34]
  • Haverhill Stadium (now Trinity Stadium)[35]

Notable visitors and inhabitants

George Washington visited the city on his victory tour in the 1790s, and proclaimed that Haverhill was "one of the most beautiful villages". In honor of his visit, the city renamed a portion of Merrimack Street to Washington Street, and Washington Square Park was also named in his honor.

Henry Ford acquired one of the city's historic bridge toll booths and installed it in his Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. It is thought that Ford's project was, in part, an inspiration for the historic Old Sturbridge Village in central Massachusetts. Another industrialist was so impressed with the design and elegant proportions of the White Church at the Bradford Common that he had the church measured and raised funds to have several replicas built around the United States.

Among the city's other notable visitors were a number of presidents, and the young Henry David Thoreau who visited the city in his professional capacity as a land surveyor in the 19th century. The artist Henry Bacon (painter) (1839–1912) was born in Haverhill.

Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer got his start in show business by operating a chain of theaters in downtown Haverhill.

Former whaler Rowland H. Macy established his first dry goods store on Merrimack Street in 1851, on the site of the present A-1 Deli. That store was the precursor to his later Macy's stores, and he held his first Thanksgiving Day parades in downtown Haverhill.

Haverhill is one of the main inspirations for the comic Archie. The comic's creator, Bob Montana, lived in Haverhill and attended Haverhill High School from 1936 to 1939. He based Riverdale High School on the old high school building (which is now City Hall) and the characters Archie, Jughead, Veronica, Betty, and Reggie on his classmates from Haverhill High School. The "Choc'lit Shoppe" of Archie Comics fame was also inspired by an actual chocolate shop in operation on Merrimack Street in the 1930s.[36]

Haverhill has become familiar to riders of Amtrak's Downeaster train service between Portland, Maine, and Boston. The conductors regularly refer to it as "the jewel in the crown of the Merrimack valley".

Other notable inhabitants include:


  1. ^
  2. ^ The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts by George Wingate Chase pg 46,47
  3. ^ George Wingate Chase, History of Haverhill, Massachusetts.
  4. ^ George Wingate Chase, The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, p. 46–47, 63–65.
  5. ^ History of Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Arthurs Gazette
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Haverhill, MA City Fire, Feb 1882 | GenDisasters ... Genealogy in Tragedy, Disasters, Fires, Floods. (2009-11-02). Retrieved on 2013-08-02.
  15. ^ Frederic C. Heath, Social Democracy Red Book. Terre Haute, IN: Debs Publishing Co., 1900; p. 108.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ , January 9, 2010Newburyport Daily NewsNew $45M Groveland bridge will ease travel -
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Main Street Historic District (Haverhill, Massachusetts)
  35. ^ Haverhill Stadium - About - Google. (2013-07-24). Retrieved on 2013-08-02.
  36. ^
  37. ^ a b
  38. ^ Legendary Locals of Haverhill - Christopher P. Obert, Nancy S. Obert - Google Books. Retrieved on 2013-08-02.
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ Gates, Anita. 'Peter Breck, TV Actor Known for ‘The Big Valley,’ Dies at 82.' The New York Times, February 10, 2012


  • "Haverhill, Massachusetts", Classic Encyclopedia
  • The Story of Hannah Dustin
  • "The Great Fire at Haverhill" from The New York Times archive
  • "Haverhill's Great Loss" from The New York Times archive
  • Disaster Genealogy - The Haverhill Fire
  • Arrington, Benjamin F. (1922). Municipal History of Essex County in Massachusetts. Volume 2 - Haverhill. Volume 3 Biographical. Volume 4 Biographical. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company.
  • Chase, George Wingate (1861). History of Haverhill. Haverhill, MA: self-pub.
  • Mirick, B L (1832). History of Haverhill. Haverhill: A W Thayer.
  • Haverhill - Facts of Interest (1880).
  • Haverhill Board of Trade (1889). Haverhill an Industrial and Commercial Center. Haverhill, MA: Chase Brothers.
  • Regan, Shawn, "Literary Haunts", Eagle-Tribune, October 22, 2006
  • Thomas, Samuel (1904). Whittier-land: A Handbook of North Essex.
  • White, Daniel (1889). The Descendants of William White, of Haverhill, Mass.

External links

  • City of Haverhill official website
  • Early History, Families, etc. of Haverhill at Rootsweb
  • Ghosts of Bradford College - Ghost stories from Haverhill
  • Master Plan for Downtown Haverhill, The Hammersmith Group, 2008
  • Topsfield Historical Society (1910). Vital Records of Haverhill to 1849, vol 1 - Births. Image and OCR at Text version at
  • Bailey, O.H. (1893) : Panoramic Map of Haverhill
  • Fowler, T.M. (1914) : Panoramic Map of Haverhill
  • McFarland, James and Josiah Noyes. 1795 Map of Haverhill
  • Gale, James. 1832 Map of Haverhill . This is a very interesting map showing all the mills and mill streams and names of prominent rural home owners. Click on map for very large image.
  • Beers, D G. 1872 Atlas of Essex County. Map of Haverhill - Plates 32, 33. City Center - Plate 35. Published 1872.
  • Walker, George H. 1884 Atlas of Essex County. Map of Haverhill - Plates 164, 165. City Center - Plate 163. Published 1884.
  • Walker, George H. Atlas of Haverhill and Bradford. Published 1892. Images at Salemdeeds. Select plate number, then click on map to get the very large image.
  • USGS. Historic USGS Maps — Haverhill - 7.5 Minute Series 1943, 1944, 1952, 1955. 15 Minute Series - 1893,1935,1956.
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