61 Argilla Rd

Architectural Description: 

Greek Revival, interesting end vents often used in local schoolhouse buildings in 1848 - 1860s
Long windows on the first floor porch.

Former Kneeland farmhouse moved from 61 Argilla and attached to north side of house. Removed in 1965.
Nicely proportion barn of the same period, similar to barn at 48 Clark Road in Ballardvale.

A developer purchased the property in 2015. After several months of meetings with the Andover Preservation Commission to save the historic property it was determined that through neglect of maintenance the house was structurally unsound. It was razed on November 17, 2015. The barn however was salvageable. The following week portions of the barn wood planking, beams and cupola were removed. It is earmarked for incorporation into the new youth center meeting rooms and sound studio.

Historical Narrative: 

This land was once owned by the Rev. Francis Dane family in the 1660s, a small portion of his West Andover farm inherited by his son Francis. In the mid1850's it was purchased from the Dane family by Daniel P. Abbott. Abbot sold three parcels of land to Nathan K.& Tryphena (Mathews) Holt comprising about 28 acres in 1860 and 1864. Nathan Kimball Holt was born in Norway, Maine in July 1810 and married Tryphena Mathews b. Oct. 1806 of Andover, MA, inttention recorded Nov. 14, 1831. They had a son George Franklin Holt b. March 22, 1838 in Norway, ME.

George married Olive Jane Pettengill b. Sept. 11, 1840 in Portland, ME, daughter of William & Eliza (Randall) Pettengill. George enlisted in the US Naval Rendezvous at Boston on Sept. 15, 1862 serving as seaman for one year. George was a machinist who worked as an agent for the Baxter Engine Co. in Boston, makers of engines and boilers. George & Olive Holt were living in Providence, RI prior to purchasing the farm on Argilla Rd. They had three children; Ella L. b. Nov. 22, 1860 in Providence, RI, Cora L. b. 1865 in Andover and Willis K. b. Mar. 4, 1869 in Andover. The property was in Tryphena's name and assessed in 1870 for $1025. House, $300, barn $100 28 acres land $625. Trypheana died on Oct. 18, 1880 age 73y 11m 22d. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. Nathan K. died on May 19, 1887 age 77 y 10m 9d. Both are interred at West Parish Garden Cemetery.

Son George F. and Olive J. purchased the property in May 1876. The deed, held in Olive's name afford protection of assets, should anything happen to her husband George. Sadly their son Willis died of Scarlet Fever on Dec. 27, 1876. George died on Sept. 26, 1898 of Apoplexy. Olive held the farm about one more year then selling to Annie J. Lord, wife of Fred Lord on Aug. 1, 1899.

The following year Elizabeth Ann Lord of Lawrence, wife of James H. Lord, purchased the property on Oct. 2, 1900. James Lord was b. March 1869 in England and emigrated to the US in 1886. He married in 1895 to Elizabeth Ann b. Oct. 1868 in MA. They had six children, five of which survived; Kenneth b June 1896, Arthur b. Oct. 1898, John b. 1902 Roger b. 1904 and Rachel in 1909. James was a Poultry Farmer. The 1900 assessment of the property in Mrs. Annie Lord name totaled $4250. House $1400, Barn and shed $600. Soap house $100, Hen Houses $1000, and 28 acres $1150. Most likely the hen houses were built by Lord. John T. Lord purchased in 1903 and owned 3 years before selling to David & George Rennie.

The Rennie family were from Scotland. George and David Rennie were brothers. Their parents William Wallace & Isabelle (Millar) Rennie were from Alva, Stirlingshire, Scotland. William W. b. July 1847 was a spinner, and Isabella b. July 1853, had 12 children; George b. 1873, John M. b. 1876, Wallace b. 1877, David 1879, Mary b. 1881, James b. 1883, Adam E. b. 1884, Janet b. 1886, Robert b. 1887, William b. 1889, Isabella :Bella" b. 1892 and Elizabeth b. June 1894.

William Wallace Rennie and son David immigrated to America arriving in NYC on Nov. 23, 1894 on the S.S. State of California. They left from Glasgow, Scotland and listed Boston as their destination. They made their way to Lawrence, secured jobs in the Woolen Mills, an apartment at 96 Melvin St. and then sent for their family. William's wife Isabella and her 11 remaining children arrive in Boston on May 15, 1895 on the S.S. Scandinavian". The children ranged in at from 21 years to 11 months. All the children of age, 14 and older took jobs in the mills. The family later settled in at 40 May Street in North Andover.

George Rennie was a Spinner and brother David a Warp Dresser in the mills but left to pursue farming. They first purchased the Lord farm at 61 Argilla Road. on Feb. 17, 1906. and began in poultry but soon switch to strawberries on the 28 acre farm. David later sold his share of the farm to George & Margaret Rennie on Jan. 1, 1909, but no deed was recorded. David quit claimed the property in July 1938 to George. It was then named the "George Rennie Farm".

George Rennie married on Dec. 24, 1908 in North Andover to Margaret Mitchell Thompson b. 1884 in Scotland, daughter of William & Jane (Barclay) Thompson. George and Margaret would have two children; Wallace b. March 19, 1910 and Mary Jane Thompson b. May 23, 1913, both born in Andover, MA. Wallace worked the farm with is father later purchased it with a live tenancy for his parents. George died on Feb. 28, 1947 and Margaret died on March 23, 1948 age 64. They are interred at Spring Grove Cemetery. Wallace Rennie married Margaret Purcell b. 1912. Wally and Margaret had one son George Angus Rennie b. Jan. 25,1949. The Rennie's were members of Free Church and then West Parish Church. Wally was an athlete in Basketball in high school and coached the boys church league teams for many years. In and interview with Margaret (1984) she said of the strawberries: "I liked the "Catskill" variety, a nice large berry and very sweet."

The Rennie families established strawberry farms on Argilla Road. They also owned the farms at #85 Argilla (1924-1939) the "Rennie Brothers Farm" and #111 Argilla Rd. (1930-1956). All the land of Strawberry Hill Rd. and Rennie Drive were owned by the brothers. Beside supplying fresh fruit in season they shipped strawberry plants throughout New England and the rest of the country.

With the construction of interstates 93 and 495 the farms were slowly sold off to developers. Strawberry Hill Rd and Rennie Dr. was one of the first developments in West Andover. Wallace Rennie sold the last strawberry farm on Argilla Road in 1965 to contractors, James Bateson Jr., Neil Mitton, Joseph W. Watson Jr. and Arthur Williams who created the Bakers Meadow Realty Trust, creating house lots on Fairfax Drive, Dorset and Midland Circles, all names of strawberries. Margaret favored the "Catskill" variety, "a nice large berry and very sweet". Wallace, Margaret and son George then moved to Wolfboro, NH.

The former plant house, tractor garage and the large wagon shed attached to the rear of the barn NE corner were razed. The barn and house are all that remain of what was once a pristine and well maintained 28 acre George Rennie Farm. To the south of the house, a few yards, you will notice a long flat area in the lawn. This was a former bowling green which the Rennie brothers built shortly after purchasing the property. It was not maintained during WWII.
I remember four square chicken coops with shed roofs, in a row east of the barn, all facing south to catch the heat from the sun. They were not in use during Wallace and Margret's ownership but did house Rhode Island Reds.

Bibliography/References: 

Essex North Registry Deed, Lawrence, MA
Essex Registry of Deeds, Salem, MA
Andover Building Survey 1977-78
Andover Street Directories
Andover Valuation Schedules, 1860, 1870, 1900, 1910
Oral History Project - Andover Historical Society - 4/5/1984 - Margaret Rennie
Federal census, 1860 - 1940
Andover maps, 1830, 1852, 1872, 1888, 1906

Owners;
Daniel P. Abbott
Nathan & Tryphena Holt. - Oct. 11, 1860 - b. 614 leaf 105 - lot #1 Salem deeds
Nathan & Tryphena Holt. - May 30, 1864 - b. 670 p. 192 lot #2 - Salem deeds
Nathan & Tryphena Holt - June 20, 1864 b. 670 leaf 193 lot #3 - Salem deeds.
Olive Jane Holt, wife of George F. - May 3, 1876 b. 40 p. 199 - ENRD Lawrence, MA
Annie J. Lord, wife of Fred Lord - Aug. 1, 1899 - b. 172 p. 383
Elizabeth Ann Lord, wife of James H. Lord - Oct. 2, 1900 - b. 180 p. 147
John T. Lord, hus. of Annie Barker Lord - July 24, 1903 - b. 206 p. 211
David and George Rennie - Feb. 17, 1906 - b. 231 p. 359
George & Margaret T. Rennie - Jan. 19, 1909 - deed reference
Wallace & Margaret P. Rennie - Mar. 21, 1938 - b. 614 p. 360
Barkers Meadow Realty Trust - Dec. 31, 1964 - b. 1025 p. 490
Douglas C. and Patricia Anderson - Dec. 8, 1965 - b. 1049 p. 496
Patricia Anderson - July 11, 1974
Lester E. & Barbara E. Tomkinson - Jan. 30, 1976 - b. 1275 p. 618
Tomkinson Realty Trust - Mar. 6, 2008 b. 11092 p. 133

Inventory Data:

StreetArgilla Rd
PlaceWest Parish - West Andover
Historic DistrictNot Applicable
Historic NameNathan K. Holt/Geo. Rennie Farm
Present Useresidence
Original Useresidence farmhouse
Construction Dateabout 1860
SourceAndover Bldg. Survey
Architectural StyleGothic Revival
Foundationstone and brick
Wall/Trimclapboard/wood
Roofasphalt
Outbuildings / Secondary Structureslarge barn
Major Alterations1965 subdivison of farm; the tractor garage, plant house, barn wagon shed and portion of ell on house were razed
ConditionRazed Nov. 2015
Acreage0.691
Settingresidential
Map and parcel92-33
Recorded byStack/Mofford; James Batchelder
OrganizationAndover Preservation Commission
Date entered1975-1977; updated 1/2014, 8/9/2015, 12/2015

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