Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA
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The Heartbeat of Haverhill spent serious time Googling “Haverhill history” this week, and over and over again THOH was reminded that we made our history on the heels of shoes.
Haverhill had a 200-300 year history making shoes from the time in 1646 when a shoemaker, Andrew Greeley, moved to town (1). He traveled to area farms and cobbled shoes from available hides. This was back before shoe sizes existed, when all shoes were custom made on the spot and DSW was as alien a concept as cell phones. From such humble beginnings it’s hard to imagine that according to Wikipedia by the end of 1913, one tenth of the shoes produced in America were made in Haverhill, and because of this the town was known for a time as the “Queen Slipper City”. By 1914 Haverhill had 126 companies devoted exclusively to manufacturing shoes and boots, and in 1915, 25 million pairs of shoes were being produced here (2). When you consider the vision supplied by Haverhill industry leaders that transformed shoes from entirely utilitarian to fashion must-haves, Haverhill might be a girl’s best friend.
The Heartbeat of Haverhill readily found articles about such shoe design icons as Haverhill’s Stuart Weitzmann. (“Stuart Weitzman—America’s shoe designer to the stars—who took over his late father’s Haverhill shoe factory in 1965 at the young age of 24 and turned the business into a multi-million-dollar global empire spanning 70 countries.”(2)), but Haverhill’s reputation was built by the quality of the shoes, slippers and boots made here and for that we need to remember and thank the people who labored in the shoe factories and built our city.
The Haverhill Historical Commission (HHC) is doing just that and invites everyone to celebrate the men and women who worked in Haverhill’s shoe industry.
The New Shoe Workers’ Memorial Plaza Dedication
Saturday, October 26 at 10:00 am.
Location: in front of the new downtown parking garage across from the commuter rail station
The new plaza will offer benches for relaxation and contemplation, landscaping and select historical photographs. And at the dedication all are invited to hear comments by the Haverhill Historical Commission, Mayor Fiorentini , and Representative Brian Dempsey. Former shoe workers and their offspring who still live in Haverhill will describe daily routines and share memories. The project was enhanced through a collaboration with the Haverhill Gazette, enabling the HHC to gather over 100 photographs as well as an enthralling collection of stories from people who worked in the industry.
If you would like more information or to support the memorial plaza, please contact Sandra Palmer at the Haverhill Historical Commission Room 201, City Hall (978) 374-2330.
Shoe-La-La! In related news, another shoe project is underway in Haverhill. Team Haverhill http://teamhaverhill.org/projects/arts/solesofhaverhill/ launched The Soles of Haverhill 2014 –Fashion Forward, (a sequel to the original Soles of Haverhill Shoe-labration in 2009 that paired artists and sponsors of three dimensional sculptures) which promises to bring new excitement, more activities, and even greater attention to Haverhill’s continuing renaissance. According to the Team Haverhill website, “the highlight of the multi-month celebration will be a high-profile public art display of artistically designed imagery on shoe sculptures throughout the downtown area. Though specific initiatives and events are still in the planning stage, Team Haverhill organizers hope to create a downtown “Fashion Trail.” incorporating the shoe sculptures and special events hosted by local and downtown businesses.
For 2014 the shoe sculpture form for 2014 was inspired by a shoe in the Buttonwoods Museum collection. The “inspirational” shoe was made by the Hazen B. Goodrich Company for the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893. Soles of Haverhill is currently looking for businesses, organizations and individuals to sponsor shoes. Find out more about the sponsorship opportunities by reviewing the Soles of Haverhill–Fashion Forward Sponsorship Packet or contact Leota Sarrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Shoes … they can make a fashion statement, and in the instance of Haverhill, they can make a city. Is there no limit to what a good pair of shoes can do?
©2013 by Alison Colby-Campbell
(1) The Haverhill Book: Haverhill, Mass. Chamber of Commerce. [from old catalog] 1919
George Wingate Chase, The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1861, reprinted 1997. pp. 532-7
This page is a reproduction of the somewhat edited version developed by Lin Wright
(3) The Haverhill Book published by the Chamber of Commerce in 1919 http://archive.org/stream/haverhillbook00have#page/8/mode/2up