To explore the past of the Anderson Market building at 42-44 Main Street is to trace the history of the Mill Dam, downtown Concord’s business district. This gracious brick building was constructed nearly two centuries ago through the vision and entrepreneurial drive of the Concord Mill Dam Company. The site on which it stands has been occupied since the seventeenth century, when the Reverend Peter Bulkeley owned a grist mill on or adjacent to it. Before the present building was put up, the area in which it stands contained a rustic aggregation of businesses, including a grist mill, a tanyard, a bark house, a currier, a blacksmith, and a hat manufactory. Adjacent to this cluster of enterprises ran the section of the present Main Street that formed the original mill dam, from which Concord’s business center takes its name. The stream that powered the grist mill still runs beneath it today, a visible reminder of the past.
Beginning in 1826, through financial investment and hired labor, the Concord Mill Dam Company changed the face of downtown Concord. The company drained the mill pond, tore down old buildings, constructed new ones, sold building lots, collected rents, and managed tenants, bringing Concord’s business district into a new era. The Anderson Market building, one of the first Mill Dam Company efforts, was occupied during the nineteenth century by a variety of businesses, including a hatter’s shop, a watch and clock repair shop, a milliner, a tinsmith, a barber, and others. The property was still owned by the Mill Dam Company in 1853, when Henry David Thoreau surveyed it. Later (in 1855), after it had been sold to Asa Collier, Thoreau recorded additional detail. In October 1856, it became the subject of a court case, on which Thoreau’s efforts may have had a bearing. In 1860, lawyer John Shepard Keyes had his office in this building. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, it was converted to a grocery store, a use perpetuated under several owners well into the twentieth century.
In the twentieth century, events in the building’s history mirrored those occurring in Concord at large. In 1913, at a time when the demographics of the town were changing, Norwegian immigrant Lars Anderson purchased the structure. In the early 1930s, historically-conscious renovations were made to the market’s façade, a response to the increasingly generic appearance of Mill Dam buildings in the 1920s. A few years earlier, the Anderson Market building had been threatened by the proposal of would-be developer Albert Y. Gowen to raze Concord’s business district and replace it with a Williamsburg-like version of the town’s center. The proposal was hotly debated and eventually withdrawn. The building—by then a century old—survived, as did others on the Mill Dam.
Beyond exemplifying the history of Concord’s built landscape, the building at 42-44 Main Street also tells the story of the Andersons, a deep-rooted Concord family that over the years has contributed to town life in many ways. Beginning with the arrival of Lars Anderson from Loiten, Norway, in 1889, to the present-day management of Main Street’s Market & Café by David and Karen Anderson, four generations of the family have lived and worked in Concord, impacting and enlivening the town’s business, social, and cultural life.
When the Anderson Market building, the Concord Bank, and the other Mill Dam Company buildings were constructed along Main Street, they symbolized Concord’s ability to move forward into the future. Their resilient endurance after almost two hundred years of use allows us to see Concord’s past as integral to its pragmatic, functioning present.