A slim majority of the 418 survey respondents would prefer an “iconic building” over a “natural subject,” for Andover’s next Town Seal.
The Town Seal Review Committee reviewed results from the three-question survey at its meeting Thursday. The survey did not include options for retaining the current seal, which the committee voted to replace the seal in October. Replacing the existing town seal and adopting a new one requires final approval from Town Meeting.
“There’s no way we can satisfy everyone, based on the survey,” said Town Clerk Austin Simko, who joined the committee priot to last week’s meeting. “The best we can do is make people feel like it was a fair process, and that we played it straight and this was the best possible decision.”
The survey was conducted online in April showed 160, or 38.2 percent, of respondents favoring a building over the 150, or 38.04 percent, who preferred a natural setting. There were also 99, or 23 percent, who favored text only on a new seal.
For the building, 248, or 60.33 percent, wanted Old Town Hall and 150, or 38 percent of respondents, preferred Memorial Hall Library on the seal. Twenty other respondents, or 4.7 percent, wanted a different natural setting on the seal.
The write-in suggestions for the seal included the Phillips Academy Bell Tower, the Gazebo in the Park, Ballardvale Mill Pond, an Elm Tree and depictions of rivers in Andover.
“I think one thing to take from this, more people chose the options that we gave them than people writing in options,” committee member Melissa Litton said. “And there were a variety of options written in.”
Andover’s seal depicts Cutshamache, a Pennacook leader who appeared in court in Boston on May 16, 1646, to acknowledge he had sold the land that became Andover to John Woodbridge for six pounds, a coat and the right for Pennacook people to continue fishing in the area. The image of Cutshamache was adopted when Andover updated its seal in 1899 was based on the design in a pin (above photo) a local jeweler sold for the town’s 250th anniversary in 1896. That first seal was designed by William Foster, who was 13 at the time and went on to become an artist.
Last fall, Andover joined several other Massachusetts towns that have reconsidered Native American imagery on their town seals when the select board appointed a Town Seal Review Committee to reevaluate the seal Andover has used since 1951, collect public input and, if warranted, propose a new seal for town meeting approval. A survey conducted last year drew 1,818 responses that showed people were almost evenly split on whether the town needed to update its seal, which it is required to have under state law.
The review committee’s next public forum is scheduled for May 23 at 7 p.m. at Memorial Hall Library. The committee’s last forum kicked off what Town Manager Andrew Flanagan, who sites on the committee, called a “difficult discussion.”
Massachusetts has required towns to have a seal since 1899 and the Andover town seal has been changed four times since the first one was adopted in 1855. The town adopted its current seal, which is based on artwork from Andover’s 250th anniversary in 1896, in 1951, according to a history of the seal on the town’s Website.