Little Bitz – The Stevens Estate
The majestic Stevens Estate atop Osgood Hill in North Andover has provided the backdrop for many modern fairy-tale weddings. But before the stately country manor house served as a regal gateway to new beginnings, it had a rich history of its own — one that earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
The story begins with Moses T. Stevens, the son of Capt. Nathaniel Stevens, who was the founder of Stevens Mill and father of the woolen textile industry in North Andover. Moses, a graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover and Dartmouth College, worked alongside his father for many years as part of Nathaniel Stevens & Son (later Moses T. Stevens & Sons). In 1853, Moses married Charlotte Emeline Osgood, and together the newlyweds acquired a mass of land from the Osgood family. They continued to buy up the Osgood property between the Stevens Mill (known today as Mill Pond) and the northwest edge of Lake Cochichewick. In 1884, Moses and his wife established a farm on the grounds and named it “Edgewood Farm.” They contracted Hartwell & Richardson of Boston to build a manor house at the top of Osgood Hill, which was part of the farmland.
Red brick and brownstone were used in the construction to reflect the Romanesque influence of H.H. Richardson (unrelated to the aforementioned) that dominated much of Boston architecture at the time, according to Marty Larson, historian and board member at the estate, who names Boston’s Trinity Church as another example of the style.
The Stevens Estate was christened in 1886 with “interiors lavishly finished in rich materials including mahogany and oak paneling, leaded glass, imported marble fireplaces, and embossed wall coverings,” Larson says. Many of these features remain intact. Equal attention was paid to the land that framed the home. “An elaborate landscape was designed by Ernest & James Bowditch [that] featured sweeping lawns and carefully placed walks and views. It was the finest residence in its time in North Andover.” In addition to continuing his father’s business, Moses served as a state representative and state senator, and was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1891 to 1895.
The estate was given to Boston University in 1953 by Moses’ grandson, Abbot. In a prayer delivered on behalf of the accepting university, officials called on God to help them “guard faithfully this great boon [and] loyally to pass it on to the coming generation.” Sadly, however, the school could not fulfill this promise and sold the land to a developer in 1994. The sale of the Stevens Estate led to “widespread public support for the town to acquire the property, and with an unprecedented ‘reverse override,’ the ballot vote was followed by a special meeting which approved the purchase (1995),” Larson says. The Stevens Estate is one of the few remaining Victorian-era estates in the country.