Ten Years Later -- What’s in the 1885 City Directory?

Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Courtney MacLachlan, volunteer researcher on the Amesbury Carriage Museum's industrial survey team. It’s a followup to her July article about the 1875 Amesbury City Directory. How much Amesbury changed in this short 10-year period!


Ten Years Later -- What’s in the 1885 City Directory?

Compared to 1875, the town of Amesbury had changed considerably. Most noticeably, West Amesbury had split from Amesbury and been incorporated as the town of Merrimac. The West Amesbury neighborhood along the river was now called Merrimacport. The borders on the Salisbury side of town had changed as well. Salisbury gave up its western part, so Amesbury now included both sides of the Powow River and all the mills downtown. These mills had grown so that they were now the heart and soul of the town. Along the river, Salisbury Point became part of Amesbury and became known as Point Shore. These new boundaries of town, created in 1876, are the ones that we have today. 

Not only had the town’s borders changed. Amesbury’s residents enjoyed faster transportation and more comfortable living standards. The railroad was a greater presence than in 1875, and heads of household listed new jobs such as engineer, fireman, switchman and conductor. Although most people probably still heated with coal and wood, steam heating was increasingly popular, and some head-of-households worked at installing steam heat. Others worked as gas fitters. One listed himself as engineer at the pumping station. 

This advertisement by coal dealer W. H. Ames appeared in the 1885 Amesbury City Directory. The coal yard was probably located where Larry’s Marina stands today, but they also kept a business office in the “Post-Office Block.” Note the advancing technology: “Connected by Telephone.” Courtesy of Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

This advertisement by coal dealer W. H. Ames appeared in the 1885 Amesbury City Directory. The coal yard was probably located where Larry’s Marina stands today, but they also kept a business office in the “Post-Office Block.” Note the advancing technology: “Connected by Telephone.” Courtesy of Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.

Also, the school system had shifted from one or two-room neighborhood schools to a graded system. Not only were there neighborhood grammar schools, but there was also an intermediate school and a new Amesbury High School with trained teachers. Downtown, business at the Mill District was booming, as evidenced by the presence of two new hotels, the American House and the Hotel Mascot, both on Main Street. What’s more, there were four restaurants, three on Main Street and one on Market Street. Entertainment was provided as well. One person listed himself as bartender at the American House, another as the manager of the Merrimac Opera Hall on Friend Street, and a third as the owner of a billiard hall at 5 Pond Street. It is interesting to note that Amesbury was just beginning to use house numbers in the more crowded streets of town. A typical address for others might be: ‘Main Street n. [near] iron bridge, S.P. [Salisbury Point].

Carriage-building and textiles were the main employers in Amesbury. The carriage industry had expanded, creating new occupations for heads-of-household. Along with carriage building trades that had been listed in 1875, there were new jobs, such as carriage hanger, carriage packer and carriage shipper, carriage stitchers who sewed dashboards, and makers of carriage umbrellas and carriage shafts. The Hamilton Corporation was the large textile mill downtown and many textile workers listed their residence as the Corporation Boarding House. Most workers listed themselves simply as ‘mill operatives,’ but some listed their jobs as loom fixer, elevator man and watchman. 

A quick comparison of addresses with occupations reveals that the neighborhood structure of town was still in place. Many people walked to work, so the downtown mill area with its corporate boarding houses and large mills along the Powow was the neighborhood of the mill workers. Shops and businesses were also centered downtown in the Mill Village. Carriage makers concentrated on Carriage Hill but small carriage shops were scattered throughout town, hatters tended to live near the hat factory, and boat builders at Salisbury Point (Point Shore) area. Small grocery stores were scattered throughout town and the farmers were on the outskirts. Amesbury was a busy town, and its structure was largely defined by its economic production. 

These and many other interesting details about Amesbury’s development are found in the city directories. They are full of information! Trends and changes are revealed to anyone who studies and compares these directories over the years. City directories are found in the Amesbury Public Library. 

Ron KlodenskiComment