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Haverhill ( ) is a city in Essex Countymarker, Massachusettsmarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 58,969 at the 2000 census.


Early History

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."

The town was renamed for the city of Haverhill, Englandmarker, where many of the original settlers' families were from. In 1701 it was nearly destroyed in an attack by the Abenaki Native Americans.

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

Witch Hunts

For most of its history, the town was progressive. Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall was chosen to preside over the Salem Witch Trials in the 17th century, however he recused himself, and 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.


Haverhill was an early advocate for the abolition of slavery, and still retains a number of stops on the Underground Railroad. In 1834, a branch of the American Anti-Slavery Society was organized in this city.

In 1841, citizens from Haverhill petitioned Congress for dissolution of the Union, on the grounds that Northern resources were being used to maintain slavery. John Quincy Adams presented the Haverhill Petition on 24 January 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. In addition, poet John Greenleaf Whittier was an outspoken abolitionist.


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 became one of the founders of the settlement at Nantucketmarker.

A temperance society was formed in 1828, and at least one farmhouse on North Main Street served as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

Stage Coach

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.


Like most towns, Haverhill has been struck by several epidemics. Throat distemper killed 256 children in Haverhill between Nov. 17, 1735, and Dec. 31, 1737 . In 1826 influenza struck.

Shoe Industry

Located on the Merrimack River, it began as a farming community, that would evolve into an important industrial center, beginning with sawmills and gristmills run by water power.

In the 18th century, Haverhill developed tanneries, shipping and shipbuilding. The town was for many decades home to a significant shoe-making industry, earning it the title of the "Queen Slipper City of the World." The city was also known for the manufacture of hats.

Incorporated as a city in 1870, Haverhill annexed the town of Bradfordmarker in 1897. 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.

Architectural Development of the City

The original 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 has been 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.

Downtown Haverhill was originally a mix of waterfront mansions and small mills. As the town grew, many of these mansions were moved to other locations nearby rather than be demolished. 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 parades in downtown Haverhill. The building no longer resembles the historic engravings used in advertisements, as the top two floors were demolished and the ground floor facade has been altered significantly.

The stretch of Washington Street between Essex Street and River Street has been described as "one of the finest examples of Queen Anne industrial architecture," and it remains largely intact. However, the construction of the "Franchi Building" in 2006 was supposed to recreate the location and facade of the historic structure that burned down at that site. Instead, the final building featured a significant setback from the street, the deletion of most historic details, and the substitution of veneer brick and textured panels for the original patterned brick facade.

The city's architecture spans nearly four centuries, from early colonial houses (the White residence, above; 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 HaverhillBank. 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.

Urban Renewal Controversy

Haverhill embraced Urban Renewal, and received 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 was declared "unsound" and slated for demolition. Instead, a new high school was built, and City Hall now occupies the existing building.

Urban Renewal polarized the city, and several leading citizens including Byron Matthews, Gregory Laing, and architect Jonathan Woodman, among others, argued to use the funds for preservation rather than demolition. Their plan did not succeed in Haverhill, but they did manage to use the funds to preserve the neighboring town of Newburyportmarker.

Today, Haverhill and Newburyport are regarded as a case study in contrasts regarding preservation and development. Newburyport leveraged its historic assets to transform from a decrepit seaside town into a desirable commuter suburb, while Haverhill has devolved from a desirable neighbor of the affluent community of North Andovermarker into a town struggling with budget issues, and rising rates of violent crimes and drug use.

The questions over how to revive downtown Haverhill continue to this day. In 2008, regional papers including the Boston Globe covered the two different visions of how to revive the city and its downtown. The sitting mayor advocated additional demolition, while urbanist Constantine Valhouli presented a Downtown Master Plan for the city of Haverhill that presented strategies for reviving the city that leveraged the city's history and architectural heritage.

Famous 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. Washington's claims about the city's charm, at the time, were well stated.

Henry Ford acquired one of the city's historic bridge toll booths and installed it in his Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michiganmarker. It is thought that Ford's project was, in part, an inspiration for the historic Sturbridge Village in western 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.

Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer got his start in show business by operating a chain of theaters in downtown Haverhill. Mayer's theaters were among the many historically significant buildings demolished during the Urban Renewal of the 1950s through the 1980s.

Haverhill is also 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 Haverhill City Democratic Committee holds an annual breakfast to honor distinguished Democrats, and the 2008 breakfast was attended by guest speakers United States Senator John Kerry and United States Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas.

Higher education

Until its closing in 2000, Bradford College provided liberal arts higher education in Haverhill. In 2007, an affiliate of David Green's Hobby Lobby stores purchased the campus. Following an estimated $5 million renovation, it was gifted to the Assemblies of God as the new home of the Zion Bible Collegemarker.

Haverhill is the home of the main campus of Northern Essex Community Collegemarker, which has a wide array of courses available for undergraduate students.


Haverhill is located at (42.778090, -71.084916). It is bounded by Merrimac, Plaistow (NH), Atkinson (NH), Methuen, Boxford, North Andover, and Groveland.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 35.6 square miles (92.3 km²), of which, 33.3 square miles (86.3 km²) of it is land and 2.3 square miles (6.0 km²) of it (6.48%) is water. The city is among the largest in Massachusetts by land mass. Haverhill is drained by the Little and Merrimack rivers. Ayer's Hill, a drumlin with an elevation of 339 feet (103 m), is the highest point in the city.


As of the census of 2000, there were 58,969 people, 22,976 households, and 14,865 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,769.4 people per square mile (683.1/km²). There were 23,737 housing units at an average density of 712.2/sq mi (275.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.67% White, 2.41% African American, 0.22% Native American, 1.36% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 4.30% from other races, and 2.01% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.77% of the population. 16.8% were of Irish, 14.6% Italian, 10.1% French, 9.0% English, 7.8% French Canadian and 6.3% Americanmarker 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.

The population of Haverhill in 1765–1980, 1776 - 2810, 1790 - 2408, 1800 - 2730, 1810 - 2682, 1820 - 3070, 1830 - 3896, 1840 - 4336, 1850 - 3877, 1907 - 41,242(includes Bradfordmarker annexed in 1897).

Points of interest

Notable residents

References to Haverhill

  • 21 Grams
  • John Belleairs, various stories.
  • Jack Kerouac, passing reference in On the Road
  • Stephen King, "The Cell."
  • H. P. Lovecraft, "Dreams of the Witch House" and minor references in other stories.
  • The West Wing Episode #154 mention of train derailment between Haverhill, MA and Plaistow, NH.






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