ANDOVER — Selectmen voted Monday to honor past resident Benjamin Punchard and the contributions he made to the town, first with a plaque, then a rebranding of the town’s Senior Center.
The Selectmen approved spending $1,157.44 to install a bronze plaque at the entrance of the Town Offices on Bartlet Street. The plaque honors Punchard, who left a large endowment to Andover in his will in 1850 that later launched the town’s public school system.
“The [Punchard Free School] trustees were appointed in 1850 by a gentleman named Benjamin Punchard,” Earl Efinger, chairman of the Trustees, said. “He felt that education should be free for the students in the town of Andover.”
“He underwrote a will and bought this land you’re standing on now,” he added.
After the town moved its operations into the building in 1987, however, the Punchard name faded from the building. The name of the school is included on memorials inside the building’s entrance honoring Andover soldiers during the World Wars, but Punchard himself isn’t mentioned anywhere.
The plaque will be installed in the main entrance stairway for the Town Offices, opposite a recently installed Sept. 11 memorial plaque. It will explain how Punchard’s endowment in 1850 later led to the creation of the Punchard Free School in 1856.
The school was renamed Punchard High School in 1902, and the present Town Offices building was built to house the school in 1917. The school was moved and renamed Andover High School 40 years later, in 1957.
After hearing the plaque proposal and approving it unanimously, the board heard an unrelated presentation from the Council on Aging to rename the town’s Senior Center space to The Center at Punchard, Celebrating Life Experiences.
Council on Aging Chairman Don Robb asked the Selectmen to approve the renaming to honor the legacy of the Punchard Free School. It was approved unanimously.
After the meeting, Robb said he had no idea the Trustees were presenting until he saw the agenda.