Newest Historic Commissioner has Link to Prominent Phone Benefactor

A letter from Haverhill's Thomas Sanders to Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. Sanders' great-great-grandson was appointed to the Haverhill Historic Commission.

The newest member of the city’s Historic Commission has the perfect pedigree for his new position.

Eric Sanders is the great-great-grandson of Thomas Sanders, the Haverhill businessman who financed Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone.

Sanders, who calls himself a “closet history buff,” said he is proud of his family connection to one of Haverhill’s most prominent citizens.

Thomas Sanders made his fortune in Haverhill’s shoe industry, inventing a process for cutting leather soles on a large scale, relieving manufacturers of the need to cut their own in each individual factory, according to his profile in the Haverhill Hall of Fame at the Public Library.

Mr. Sanders built a grand mansion, named Birchbrow, overlooking Lake Saltonstall. The ruins of the home can be found behind Winnekenni Castle. The financier’s affinity for leather extended beyond shoes, according to his great-great-grandson. When visitors reach Birchbrow’s remains, they may discover bits of leather that once covered the driveway to the mansion.

Sanders will help to bring attention to Birchbrow by working with Eagle Scout Lukas Rouleau this summer on a project to create signs for walking and biking trails that lead to the site.