Location Scout: Potters Place
Potters Place in Andover, New Hampshire is a unique opportunity to set back in time and create some great photographs.
The area consists of several preserved buildings including a train station, general store, freight building, a garden, small cemetery as well as an old metal box car and bright red caboose. More train related photographs and artwork.
Potters Place is a village named for Richard Potter, an early 19th century magician, hypnotist and ventriloquist. Richard Potter (1783–1835) was the first American-born magician to gain fame in his own country and was African-American.
The Potters Place village contains the homestead and grave site of Richard Potter.
Here is a description of one of Mr. Potter’s curious acts back in the day:
Another of Potter’s “curious” ads, this one for a show at the Boston Columbian Museum in 1818, is cited by Haskins and Benson:
Mr. Potter will perform the part of the anti-combustible Man Salamander [a mythical combination of human and reptile] and will pass a red hot bar of iron over his tongue, draw it through his hands repeatedly, and afterwards bend it into various shapes with his naked feet, as a smith would on an anvil. He will also immerse his hands and feet in molten lead, and pass his naked feet and arms over a large body of fire. He will also perform a variety of pleasing magical deceptions; which, to give a minute detail of, would fill a volume. The performer, not being willing to anticipate the pleasure the audience may receive from his performance, flatters himself that he is so well known in different parts of this country, as not to require the aid of a pompous advertisement. In addition to his magical and ventriloquial talents, he will introduce a number of songs and recitations.
The Potter Place railroad station, built in 1874, houses a significant portion of the Society’s historical collection. This station is an extremely well-preserved example of Victorian station design and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located on the Northern Railroad (later the Boston & Maine Railroad) line that ran from Boston to White River Junction in Vermont, and on to Montreal. This station preserves intact the station master’s office, and recreates the feeling of a busy railroad depot of the early to mid 20th century.
The homestead site and grave of Richard Potter and his wife are located immediately across the tracks from the station.
A well-preserved caboose, the Central Vermont CV-4030, built in the early 1900s, is located beside the station and is open for visitors.
Adjacent to the station is the Potter Place freight house and a Boston & Maine railroad box car. The freight house, built in the early 1900’s retains almost all of its original features and appearance. It was served by a still-existing spur from the main-line railroad.
Across the main street from the station is located the J. C. Emons Store and Potter Place Post Office, dating from 1912. The store continued to serve the village until 1958. The post office functioned until 1988. The Society has restored it as an exhibit of a typical turn-of-the-century village store. The original tin ceiling has been rebuilt, and display cabinets and other store fixtures have been put in place. The Post Office area contains the original mail boxes and sorting table.
In his classic study The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1855), Boston-based black historian William Cooper Nell profiled this Richard Potter, emphasizing his landed virtues at a time when many in the white community still thought the only solution to the free black ”problem” was colonization. Nell wrote:
On the Northern New Hampshire Railroad, some thirty miles from Concord, in the town of Andover, is a station called Potter’s Place. This little village derives its name from RICHARD POTTER, the celebrated Ventriloquist and Professor of Legerdemain. Within twenty rods of the track stands a neat white, one-story building, with two projecting wings, all of Grecian architecture. From this extends, south-westerly, a fine expanse of level meadow. This house, and the adjacent two hundred acres, were owned by RICHARD POTTER. . . . This Potter owned in fee simple, unincumbered, the fruits of his successful illusions, optical and auricular.
Potter was a colored man, half-way between fair and black. He for a long time monopolized the market for such wares as sleight of hand, and ‘laborious speaking from the stomach…’
… Potter was temperate, steady, attentive to his business, and his business was his delight. He took as much pleasure in pleasing others, as others did in being pleased. I have never heard a lisp against his character for honesty and fair dealing. He was once the victim of persecution from a Mr. Fitch, who had him arrested as a juggler. Potter plead his own case, and secured an equittal.
More info about Richard Potter and Potters Place: