269 Highland Road

Architectural Description: 

Academy Hill NR District
Exceptional trim; large form; appears to be all original; commanding site
The house is at once, handsome yet austerely simple. The architectural forms are quietly ornamented by the long front porch with its rhythmic balustrade and cresting. Two small cross gables break up the front facade with fanciful barge-boards. This scroll work, often called "gingerbread" was "made possible by the latest technology, the steam powered scroll saw, allowing the carpenter to cut the curves and repeat the pattern easily."

Historical Narrative: 

1980 - National Register nomination
1994 - Building Marker
1995 - Preservation award, certificate of appreciation
In 1848 Boston merchant, Benjamin Rogers Jr. purchased three parcels of land in Andover, two from Joseph Gass, a stonecutter living in Roxbury, MA. The Gass parcels contained 40 aces along Highland Rd. Rogers would acquire additional parcels, 12 aces from Benjamin Eames, 12 aces from Daniel Rea, 16 acres from Isaac Blunt estate via Joseph Holt, creating a farm of 117 acres by 1850. Rogers built the wonderful Carpenter Gothic home on the rise of Carter’s Hill with a commanding view to the north. The 1850 Andover Real Estate Valuation schedule lists a dwelling house $2000, store house $400, barn $350, small house $250, 117 acre farm $2340 and the Rea land $144. Total assessment $5484. His personal stock was $543.

Benjamin Rogers Jr. was 48 when he purchased the property and in the 1850 Census list himself as a farmer. Benjamin Rogers Jr. was born May 27, 1800, son of Benjamin & Rachel (Jones) Rogers. He grew up in Marshfield and married Mar. 6, 1825 to Caroline Clift also of Marshfield. Caroline was born on Dec. 15, 1802. They would have six children; Caroline Amanda b. Sept. 14, 1826, Isabella Anna b. Mar. 22, 1828, Benjamin Franklin b. 1830, Frances “Fanny” Elvira b. Aug. 25, 1832, Amanda b. 1836 and Lysander Waldo b. July 25, 1838. The 1850 census lists all the family in Andover except daughters Caroline and Amanda. Three additional servants are also listed; two farm laborers, Bryan Toy and Patrick O. Havers, both 33 and a domestic Ellen Mehan age 25 all from Ireland. Five years later farm hands John O’Brian age 17 and Timothy McCarthy age 20 are working at the farm and Mary Donahue age 20 is the house domestic.

In 1860 Benjamin Rogers Real Estate value is $35,000, his personal estate $10,000. The town valuation now only lists the house and barn and 107 acres at an assessed value of $5335. Farm Stock $240. Son Waldo, now 22, is working on the farm and daughter Isabella or “Annie” age 31 remains at home with her parents. By 1870 Benjamin is listed as a retired merchant. His real estate is valued at $60,000 and his personal estate at $5000. Benjamin, Caroline and Annie are all that remain at the homestead. Benjamin retires to Cambridge and sells the farm on Oct. 6, 1870 to William R. Meade of Cambridge for $10,000.

Over the next year the deeds change hands as Meade mortgaged through Rogers borrowing $8000. Then takes a second mortgage form James H. Ford of Chesterfield, NH for $15,000 subject to the two mortgages of which the grantee assumes. James Ford sells a portion of the farm in Apr. 1871 to David Simonds of Boston for $5500. The remaining mortgage was assigned to S. F. Woodbridge in Oct. 1870, then re-assigned to George A. Simonds of Boston in Feb. 1871 and discharged in April 1871.

David Simonds sells to John F. Bassett on April 20, 1871 the 70 acre Ford lot for $6000. The deed includes “subject to public use of a way laid out by Benjamin Rogers, over the same.” John F. Bassett also buys the five parcels that included the Rogers Homestead from George A. Simons of Boston for $6000. Seven months later John Bassett sells his property to Sally Bassett, wife of Joseph R. Bassett of Boston. Sally Bassett holds the property for nearly a year then sells to Sarah Downing, wife of Emanuel Downing on Oct. 24, 1872 for the handsome sum of $20,000. The deed is clear that the property is Sarah Downing’s without interference from her husband Emanuel.

For the next 96 years the farm would be owned and operated by the Downing family. Emanuel and Sarah (Lynn) Downing both immigrated to America. Emanuel was born in Melton, Devon England in 1820, son of William & Elizabeth Downing. He first married Joanna Vosper about 1840 and had three children; Alfred J. J. V. b. Oct. 4, 1841 in Launceston, Cornwall, England, Isabella b. 1844 and John James Vosper b. July 1846, both in St. Thomas, Cornwall. Joanna died and Emanuel married again. The name and fate of his second wife is yet unknown but about 1856 Emanuel comes to Boston with his children, settling in East Boston. Emanuel lists his profession as Builder. Emanuel marries a 3rd time in Boston, MA on Nov. 18, 1858 to Sarah (Lynn) Downing. Sarah was born in 1825 in Ireland, daughter of John & Jane Lynn. Emanuel & Sarah would have one child, Elizabeth J. L. b. Sept. 29, 1862.

In the 1880 Census Emanuel & Sarah are living at 227 Princeton St. East Boston with their 17 year of daughter Elizabeth. They have one servant, a Domestic Mary A. Scully and a boarder Armanda Gibbs age 74 who lists her occupation as City Missionary. Their daughter Elizabeth died on Oct. 16, 1887 at age 25 in Boston. Her father Emanuel died on Nov. 2, 1890. They are interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, MA. Sarah remarried to a man named Gallagher but he died on Jan 7, 1894 at age 74 in Boston. Step-son Alfred became a plasterer and lived at 227 Princeton St. in 1897. It appears that Sarah L. Downing purchased the Andover farm and step-son John J. V. lived and managed the farm for his parents.

John James Vosper Downing married in Boston on Feb. 14, 1869 to Sarah Jane Barr, dau. of James S. & Jane (Lynn) Barr. Sarah was born in Boston in Dec. 1849. John and Sarah would have nine children; Emanuel b. Oct. 8, 1869, Nellie G. b. Dec.17, 1872, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Belle b. Oct. 1873, Sarah Barr b. Dec. 15, 1875, John Vosper b. Sept. 17, 1877, James G. b. Oct. 1, 1879, Joanna Charlotte b. Apr. 28, 1883, Dorrice “Doris” b. Apr. 1885 and Richard Paul b. Mar. 18, 1889-d.July 28, 1889. Sadly John J. V. Downing died on December 22, 1888 at age 42 of double pneumonia. John’s obituary in the Townsman states “His health failing while in business in Boston about sixteen years ago, he left the city and came to Andover purchasing the “Roger’s place,” which with marked enterprise and skill he has converted into a fine dairy and stock farm. In raising of stock he has been successful, having not long ago one of the finest herds of Jersey cows in the vicinity. He paid much attention also to the cultivation of fruit, having this year over 1500 barrels of apples. Mr. Downing was much respected as a intelligent, energetic, upright man..” The management of the 101 acre Downing farm then fell to his oldest son Emanuel now age 19.

Emanuel never married and continued in his father’s work. The Downing’s vast apple orchards produced a busy fall, shipping apples, cider and produce. They also had a small dairy operation. The farm extended southeast to Route 125 and down both sides of Highland Rd. and Summer St. Emanuel died July 6, 1909 at 39 year of Pernicious Anemia exhaustion. He was interred with his parents at Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, MA.

Siblings John V. and Sarah B. had graduated from Punchard High School together in 1897. Little sister Dorrice graduated in 1903. Both sisters would become school teachers but Sarah B. remained at home with her mother as did sister Nellie G. Their mother Sarah Jane would be a guiding presence until her death on Aug. 12, 1928 age 78. Dorrice taught in New Rochelle, NY public schools.

Brother James G. Downing then took over the management of the farm after his brother’s death. James never married and continued with the farm work until his retirement in 1954. As the remaining family members retired they returned to the homestead. In 1955 James and Sarah B. are joined by John and wife Maebelle and Dorrice.

Brother John Vosper Downing and his wife Mabelle retied to the Downing farm in 1955 after living in Salem MA for twenty years. John married on Dec. 22, 1908 to Mabelle Anna Moran b. Aug. 3, 1883 daughter of David & Julia F. (Murphy) Moran of Westford, MA. They had three children, Zelia B. born 1910, John b. Oct. 14, 1916 d. Feb. 20, 1917 and James Vosper b. 1920 in Salem, MA. Maebelle died on July 25, 1956 and John V. on Aug. 5, 1959.

Sister Joanna D. Foster, married Philip Weeks Foster on Feb. 27, 1912. Philip a landscape architect was the son of George Whitefield Foster and Isabella J. Weeks of Andover. Joanna & Philip made their home in Wakefield and had two girls Joanna b. 1914 and Mary b. 1916. After the death of Philip Joanna moved back to the homestead in 1959. Brother James died on Nov. 29, 1965 at age 86. The two remaining sisters Joanna D. Foster and Dorrice sold the Downing homestead to C. Lincoln Giles, trustee of 1700 Estate Trust on Nov. 5, 1968. Giles renovated the house and converted the former Downing barn into a home at 271 Highland Ave. Dorrice died on Sept. 9, 1970 and Joanna D. Foster the last of her generation died on July 16, 1971 in
North Andover.

A family named Porter rented the Downing house from 1971-1974. Harry A. Porter was a Metal Engineer, his wife Jeannie Davis Porter a pianist. The property with the house, now divided into separate lots, was sold to George D. & Annmarie Ferance on July 30, 1976.


Essex County Registry Deeds, Salem MA
Essex Northern Registry Deeds, Lawrence, MA
Andover Advertiser
Andover Townsman
Ancestery.com - Downing Family Genealogy
Jane Griswold Sunday Drive - Lawrence Eagle Tribune 1-29-1989
Andover Historical Society vertical files.
See 1980 National Register nomination for more information
1980 National Register Nomination
1994 Building marker
1995 Preservation Award, Certificate of Appreciation
Joseph & Mary Gass – 1848 – b. 401 leaf 241 Salem Deeds – land 2 lots – 40 acres
Benjamin & Caroline Rogers – 1848 – b. 401 leaf 241 Salem Deeds
William R. Meade – Oct. 6, 1870 – b. 6 p. 246 & 249 – 5 lots
James H. Ford – Oct. 6, 1870 – b. 6 p. 250 – 6 lots
David Simonds – Apr. 15, 1871 – b. 8 p. 215 – portion
David Simonds & George H. Simonds – Apr. 13, 1871 – b. 8 p. 375 separate lots
John F. Bassett – Apr. 20, 1871 – b. 8 pgs. 245 & 417 – 6 lots
Sally Bassett, wife of Joseph R. Bassett – Nov. 15, 1871 - b. 12 p. 11 & p. 235 – 8 lots
Sarah Downing, wife of Emanuel Downing, Oct. 24, 1872 – b. 18 p. 209 – 8 lots
Joanna Downing Foster, Consvr. – Sept. 24, 1968 - Probate
1700 Estate Trust, C. Lincoln Giles, trustee, Nov. 5, 1968 – b. 1118 p. 283 & 284
George D. & Annmarie Ferance - July 30, 1976 – b. 1287 p. 712
George D. Ferance – Aug. 13, 1981 – b. 1524 p. 341
William B. & Helen Watt -
Watt Realty Trust, Wm. & Helen Watt - June 9, 2009 – b. 11631 p. 65

James Downing et al, 11-21-1951
Archie N. Foster & Elizabeth D. Sargent, 11-20-1952

Inventory Data:

StreetHighland Rd
PlacePhillips District
Historic DistrictIndividual National Register Listing
Historic NameRogers, Benjamin - Downing, John J. House
Present Useresidence
Original Useresidence
Construction Datec.1848
Architectural StyleGothic Revival
Foundationstone & granite
Wall/Trimclapboards, wood
Outbuildings / Secondary Structuresgarage
Major Alterationslot split-out building transfer to lot 30a, 1969 Barn sold off separately in 1971, converted into house
Acreage1.32 acres; 48,290 square feet approx. frontage 180 feet
Map and parcel5-30
MHC NumberANV.270
Recorded byStack/Mofford, James Batchelder
OrganizationAndover Preservation Commission
Date entered1975-77, 10/2014