Living in the town of Exeter for five weeks, we get accustomed to the area. We walk downtown to go to some shops and restaurants, while taking in the scenic views. A name that each of us Exonians are sure to come across is “Swasey.” We pass the bandstand, also known as the Swasey Pavilion, and some of us even visited Swasey Parkway for the July 17th Independence Day Celebration.
Now, here’s the question on everyone’s mind: Who is this “Swasey” guy?
Ambrose Swasey was born on December 19th, 1846 in Exeter, and attended our very own Phillips Exeter Academy. Throughout his life, he practiced a number of professions, from engineer, inventor, and machinist, to entrepreneur, executive, and philanthropist. Among his most celebrated accomplishments was the Warner and Swasey Company, a tool manufacturing business founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1880 in partnership with Worcester Reed Warner. In addition, he also created the turret lathe, which was used by factories to create duplicate parts used in machines. Swasey died on June 15th, 1937 in his hometown of Exeter.
Now that we know who he is, let’s get to his contributions to our community, shall we?
Just a few blocks away from campus, we have the unmissable bandstand, or Swasey Pavilion. Before we had the beautiful one we have now, Exeter would manually move in a seasonal wooden bandstand in the summer, where the Exeter Brass Band would perform every July. After discussing building a new bandstand with friend and sculptor Daniel Chester French, Swasey arranged for his friend Henry Bacon to design and build a new one. By August of 1916, the new and improved bandstand called the Swasey Pavilion was placed in Exeter. The Exeter Brass Band, founded in 1847 continues to play on the bandstand to this day.
In addition to the Swasey Pavilion, Swasey also donated the Swasey Parkway. Tired of seeing the town dump on the bank of the river, he decided to clean the place up and give it to the town of Exeter. In November of 1931, the Exeter Shore Parkway was born. Soon after it was created, the Exeter community dedicated it to Ambrose Swasey, and renamed it Swasey Parkway in his honor. Currently, the Parkway with its scenic views is commonly used for running, town celebrations, and photography.
Ambrose Swasey was and remains a crucial member of our community surrounding Phillips Exeter Academy. Due to his generosity and contributions to our society, he managed to create beautiful structures that add to the charm and culture of Exeter, New Hampshire.