The coastal town of Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts is situated at 42° 40’ 45” N 70° 50’ 30” W. approximately 30 miles northeast of Boston.
Population:- The population, according to the 2020 census, was 13,785.
How to get there :-
By road: From Boston & the south take Interstate Highway 95 north. Then take US Highway 1 north to Topsfield, then turn on to Ipswich Road. From the north use Interstate Highway 95 south, then State Highway 133 east to intersection with State Highway 1A.
By Rail: Ipswich Station is on MBTA Commuter Rail’s Newburyport/Rockport Line. From Boston North Station take Newburyport-bound train to Ipswich. Approximate journey time is 55 minutes. From Newburyport, Boston-bound trains take around 20 minutes to Ipswich.
Nearest major airport is Boston’s General Edward Lawrence Logan International.
Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hrs). Daylight saving time in summer +1 hr.
Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)
Please note that the sections on Ipswich Clams & Ipswich Soil have now been moved to the Ips Misc page.
Ipswich Ales has been moved to the Ips Misc. page & is now incorporated into the Beers Named 'Ipswich' section
Old Ipswich Rum has been moved to the Ips Misc. page
The earliest human inhabitants of the Massachusetts and New Hampshire area arrived about 12,000 years ago, after the glaciers had retreated. New England as a whole was inhabited by Algonquian-speaking groups of Native Americans for centuries before Europeans arrived in the area. These ancient Algonquian-speakers gave rise to the Abenaki which was the main group living in New England, Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, a region called Wabanaki (“Dawn Land”). Within the Abenaki, the Pennacook tribe formed a confederacy of smaller tribal units, and the Merrimack Valley in the southern part of New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts was their home.
The Agawam was one of these tribes within the Pennacook Confederacy which had their main village at the location of Ipswich; the tribe occupied the eastern part of what is now Essex County covering today’s communities of Ipswich, Hamilton, Wenham, Gloucester, Rockport, Essex and more. The territory was called Wonnesquamsauke, meaning literally, the “pleasant water place”, the word being a compound from ‘wonne’, (pleasant), ‘asquam’, (waters), and ‘auke’, (a place). This word was sometimes contracted to Wonnesquam or to Asquam. The deep gutteral pronunciation of ‘asquam’ by the Native Americans sounded to the English like ‘agawam’, and hence that word became applied to the indigenous people of that locality.
The tribe was mentioned by Capt. John Smith, and they were described at the time as numerous. However, by the 1630s they had almost disappeared, only a few score by then survived. The cause of their collapse was mainly the hepatitis plague of 1616-1618, which had a fatality rate of over 90%, brought by European fishermen before the Puritan settlers arrived in the area. It was against this backdrop that on 28 June 1638, the Sagamore, or leader, of the Agawam, Masconomet, sold the ‘Bay of Agawam’ to John Winthrop for £20 sterling. Whether he actually sold the land or not is a matter of interpretation, since the Native Americans had no sense of land ownership. In 1643 he and some other sagamores went before the Colonial Court and put themselves under the formal protection of the English.
When the general Indian uprising against the settlers known as King Philip’s War (1675-76) began, the Agawam at first remained peaceful, although the uprising was led by the neighbouring tribe, the Wampanoag. However, after settlers took some of their children as hostages as a precautionary move against an attack, the Agawam joined the Wampanoag Confederacy, and helped in the raids on the towns of Hatfield, Northampton and Springfield. Nevertheless, the British won decisively. Many of the Native American survivors were taken into slavery, and the rest went into hiding. The few Agawam families now moved away to make new homes among the Abenaki to the north, and became assimilated into that tribe. By 1700 there were very few Native Americans to be seen at Ipswich.
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Originally called Agawam*, the area that was to become Ipswich was first described in 1614 as “an excellent habitation, being a good & safe harbour” by Capt. John Smith. In 1623 William Jeffrey from England established a claim in the area. This became known as “Little Neck”. Five years later he established a permanent settlement known as “Jeffrey’s Neck”. There were already 38 Europeans settled here when John Winthrop arrived in the area in 1633 to establish a Puritan colony. Winthrop, whose father was a prominent landowner from Suffolk, England & governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, together with the Rev. Nathaniel Ward, also from England & who is regarded as the “Father of the First American Constitution”, named the town Ipswich. The town was incorporated in the following year.
The 4th August 1634 entry in Gov. Winthrop’s journal reads
“At the court, the new town of Agawam was named Ipswich, for Ipswich in England, in acknowledgment of the great honor and kindness done to our people who took shipping there.”
* Not to be confused with the present day town of Agawam in Hampden County, Massachusetts; more than 100 miles from Ipswich.Top of Page
Ipswich was the second location in Essex County after Salem to be settled by the English. As such, its jurisdiction extended from the boundaries of Salem and included all the territory north to the Merrimac River, and westward from “ocean to ocean”. The area under the control of Salem was accepted to run along the coast to include Jeffryes Creek (now Manchester-by-the-Sea) and Cape Ann (now Gloucester and Rockport), both places having already been occupied by settlers from Salem. At this period the actual boundaries were not determined, but it was generally agreed that authority and control should be exercised to the extent of six miles from each town’s meeting house.
Although the territory north and west of Ipswich was unsettled, it was not unknown. That the town exercised its authority over this area can be seen in a grant made by Ipswich in December 1634 allowing John Pirkins to build a fish trap on the River Quasycung (now the Parker River), near where Newbury would later be located.
However, the General Court at Boston was ready to allow new plantations to be carved out of this territory. In March 1635 it ordered that Cochichawicke (now Andover, North Andover and part of Lawrence) should be reserved for an inland plantation, so this effectively limited the westward extent of Ipswich. In May 1635 the General Court allowed Wessacucan to be settled by the Rev. Thomas Parker and renamed Newbury. This was south of the Merrimac River so a line was drawn half-way between that river and Ipswich, the land to the north of this line becoming part of Newbury. This area gave rise to the present towns of Newbury, West Newbury, Newburyport, Haverhill, Methuen, and part of Lawrence.
In March 1639 a group of families from Yorkshire, England, under the Rev. Ezekiel Rogers, bought land from both Newbury and Ipswich to form a new plantation named Rowley, after their home town in Yorkshire. This was incorporated by the General Court in September 1639 and its area extended for eight miles from its meeting house in each direction where the land was not already settled. This covered the present towns of Rowley, Georgetown, and Boxford.
The laying out of the eight miles around Rowley penned in the town of Ipswich and prevented any extension inland in future. In May 1642 the boundary between Ipswich and Salem was finally demarcated. This left the present towns of Topsfield (including what is today part of Middleton), Hamilton and Essex within the bounds of Ipswich. Ipswich became increasingly smaller as each of these became incorporated and broke away as independent towns: Topsfield in 1650; Hamilton in 1793; and Essex in 1819. (As these were settled places within Ipswich, they are dealt with separately on The Ones That Got Away page).
There were minor adjustments to the boundary resulting in the loss of land from Ipswich to Topsfield in 1774, to Rowley in 1785, to Boxford in 1846 and to Hamilton in 1896. In 1892 the boundary in the tidewater between Ipswich, Essex and Gloucester was fixed.
Ipswich is known as the “Birthplace of American Independence”. This stems from a protest in 1687 by Ipswich residents, led by the Reverend John Wise, regarding the actions being proposed by the Royal Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Sir Edmond Andros, who, having landed at Boston in December 1686, had brought in a tax of one penny in every pound in order to afford himself a revenue. The colonists argued that, as Englishmen, they could not accept taxation without representation. Some of the citizens were jailed & fined for their actions, but when Andros was recalled to England in 1689 after King James II was overthrown, the colonists were issued a new charter by King William III & Queen Mary. This was, however, the first protest against “Taxation Without Representation”, which would eventually lead to the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 83) & ultimately Independence.
The famous Salem Witch Trials took place over a period of sixteen months, from February 1692 to May 1693. Centred around Salem, other settlements in Essex County were also caught up in the paranoia & hysteria surrounding the court hearings & prosecutions that followed, which also spread to other Massachusetts counties such as Suffolk & Middlesex. In all, more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft during this period, with 20 being put to death.
As it did in Europe, religion played a big part in the witch hunts that took place in New England at this time, with the Puritans leading the way with their contention that Catholicism (as well as just about any other form of religious practice other than their own) was the work of the devil. Central to this was the biblical verse Exodus 22:18 which states “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”. The publication in 1689 of the book Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions by Cotton Mather, a minister of Boston’s North Church, also added fuel to the fire. Another factor was superstition; with natural events & disasters, such as disease, sudden deaths & crop failures being seen as the result of diabolical intervention. A third factor underlying the accusations & subsequent trials, were local family feuds & rivalries concerning such things as grazing rights, property boundaries & church privileges. Indeed, a case can be made for this being the primary motive behind many of the events, with the religious & superstitious aspects being used as a smokescreen, especially in the early days before the hysteria began to spread further afield than Salem.
Much of the evidence used against the accused was what was known as “spectral evidence” in which the victim of witchcraft would claim to see the apparition or the shape of the person who was allegedly afflicting them. Other means of determining if someone was a witch included: pricking the flesh of the accused (to see if they felt pain); the discovery of ‘familiars’ (demonic spirits in the guise of animals); possession of books on horoscopes, palmistry & other occult matters; & the ‘touch test’, in which the accused was made to lay their hands on the afflicted whilst the latter was in the throes of a fit (the immediate cessation of the fit proving the guilt of the accused).
Although the Salem Witch Trials are named after Salem Town (now Salem) & Salem Village (present day Danvers), around 14 & 11 miles south of Ipswich respectively, many other communities were to become involved, Ipswich being just one of them. Preliminary hearings in early 1692 were conducted in a number of towns across the counties of Essex, Suffolk & Middlesex, including Ipswich, until in May of that year a Special Court of Oyer and Terminer was established by Sir William Phips, Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, to hear the trials in Salem Town (oyer et terminer is an Anglo-French term literally meaning “to hear and determine”). Phips appointed Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton as the chief judge. Although Phips was to order the termination of the court only four months later in September 1692, arrests continued until May 1693, when the trials were finally suspended & the remaining prisoners released.
The allegations had begun in early 1692, when three women from Salem Village - Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne & a slave named Tituba – were accused of causing fits* in the nine year old daughter Elizabeth, & eleven year old niece Abigail Williams, of the Reverend Parris, as well as two other girls. They were interrogated & sent to jail pending sentence; Sarah Good being confined in Ipswich jail. These allegations seemed to spark a wave of religious fervour, which, over the next few months, resulted in many other people, both men & women, being accused & brought to trial. Although these were mainly confined to the communities of Salem Town & Salem Village, the people of Ipswich were not immune to the ongoing crisis:
In March 1692, Ipswich resident Rachel Clinton (or Clenton) was accused by various Ipswich people of being a witch. Amongst these allegations were those by Mary Fuller that Rachel had caused the death of a neighbour, whilst Thomas Boreman alleged she was able to shape-shift into a dog or a turtle. William Baker accused her of causing the loss of a quantity of beer by supernatural means. Although acquitted, she died destitute in 1695.
Elizabeth How (or Howe) lived in Linebrook Parish, close to the boundary with the neighbouring town of Topsfield. She was arrested in May 1692 on charges of being a witch. Her main accusers were the Perely family of Ipswich, who alleged that Elizabeth had caused fits in their ten year old daughter. She was also accused of afflicting several other girls within Salem Village, & causing the death of livestock. She was executed on 19th July 1692; the only Ipswich resident to be put to death during the Salem Witch Trials.
A former Ipswich resident, Sarah Buckley, was also among the accused, although by the time of the events she was living in Salem Village. She was eventually found not guilty & released.
Several Ipswich men served on the Grand Jury of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, held in Salem, including Robert Paine, Richard Smith & Thomas Boreman (the latter being one of the accusers of Rachel Clinton).
*Many of the accusations leveled at the so-called witches were that they caused fits in their victims. One modern theory suggests that, far from being of supernatural origin, these fits were, in fact, a condition known as convulsive ergotism caused by eating rye bread made from grain infected by the fungus Claviceps purpurea (a natural substance from which the drug LSD is derived).
Ipswich Company, Essex Regiment (Ipswich militia): The New England colonists did not maintain a standing professional army. Their defence relied on town militiamen. As soon as the settlers arrived they had to post guards, and arrange armed expeditions when moving around outside the settlement. As early as April 1631, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony established the first military legislation—a simple requirement for all adult males to possess arms. Based on the English system, local colonial militias or “train bands” were to be established in each town.
(For greater detail on the organisation and history of the militia in Massachusetts, see Suffolk County Militia on Suffolk County, Mass. page of )
On 13th December 1636 the General Court ordered that the town militia companies be merged into North, South and East Regiments. The first muster, as far as is known, was held on 9th March 1637 in Salem to prepare to fight the Pequot Native Americans. Militia units in that region—from Salem, Saugus, Ipswich and Newbury—formed up for the first time as the East Regiment, commanded by Col. John Endicott of Salem. The Ipswich Company was established under Capt. Daniel Dennison appointed by the General Court. Training was to be eight times in a year. The 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army Guard is the direct descendant today of the East Regiment. On 7th September 1643 the East Regiment became the Essex Regiment, and the Ipswich militia constituted a company within the Essex Regiment. A reorganisation of the colony’s armed forces took place on 13th October 1680 when the Ipswich Company had grown sufficiently large to be divided into three companies. In 1689 another reorganisation introduced three Essex Regiments, and the companies of Ipswich, Rowley, Gloucester, Wenham, Topsfield, and Boxford formed the 1st Essex Regiment.
The Essex Regiment provided protection to the settlers and fought in the Pequot War, King Philip’s War, and the French and Indian War. The Ipswich Companies served in each of these conflicts. Local militiamen usually marched off for one brief engagement, normally within a 200 mile radius of Ipswich, and returned home within days of their departure, although some volunteered for longer campaigns further afield, such as the Quebec expedition of 1690. The local committee at Ipswich would reward individuals with grants of land for outstanding service. Although the militia was inactive after the French and Indian War (1754-1763), it was revived with the realisation that action against the British was inevitable. By 1774 there were six Essex Regiments. In January 1776 five of these were adopted into the Continental Army. Those who enlisted for three-year terms in the Continental Army went further and saw action in some of the war’s major campaigns. The remaining Essex Regiment remained in the service of Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War.
Ipswich Minutemen: On 24th January 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress formed a special company of Minuteman in which Captain Nathaniel Wade of Ipswich would be the commander. “Minutemen” were teams of select men from the colonial militia. They were generally younger and highly mobile, and could be rapidly deployed. Members underwent additional training, and held themselves ready to turn out rapidly (“at a minute’s notice”), hence their name. Nathaniel Wade’s men were known as the Ipswich Minutemen. Their training field was the South Green. (The oldest house now standing on the Green is the Nathaniel Wade House, built in 1727.) On 19th April 1775 the Ipswich Minutemen marched to join the Battle of Lexington and Concord that started the war for independence. They took part in the Siege of Boston, and Wade led the Minutemen Company at the Battle of Bunker Hill. In January 1776 Wade and many of the fellow Minutemen re-enlisted and were transferred to New York, where they saw action in the Battle of Long Island, Battle of Harlem Heights, Battle of White Plains, and assisted in the Battle of Trenton. On 31st December 1776 the enlistments of the soldiers ended, and those who did not re-enlist in the Continental Army returned home. Nathaniel Wade reenlisted and was eventually promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and made aide-de-camp to General George Washington. In 1780 Washington gave command of West Point fort to Wade after General Benedict Arnold deserted to the British. By his vigorous action, Wade prevented the loss of West Point to the British. After the war he served as a Colonel in the Massachusetts Militia. Nathaniel Wade lived in Ipswich throughout the rest of his years.
Another regiment connected to Ipswich was that of Col. Jonathan Cogswell, also known as the 3rd Essex County Militia Regiment. This was called up at Ipswich on 19th April 1775, during the Battles of Lexington and Concord and was used to guard the Massachusetts coast from July 1775 to January 1776. The regiment was also called up again in September 1777 as reinforcements for the Continental Army during the Saratoga campaign, and it finally disbanded in November 1777.
After the Revolutionary War the militias stood down. In the 1812 War with Britain militia from the towns were mustered but saw little activity other than guard duty in the ports. The militia was by then simply called the “Massachusetts Militia”. After the War of 1812, the militia fell into decline, although officers were still commissioned up to 1831. In 1840 the enrolled militia throughout Massachusetts was disbanded and replaced by a state-wide volunteer militia. Companies of organised militia based on towns and counties no longer existed.
It should be noted that the “Washington Blues”, a local militia organisation formed in 1834 for ceremonial duties and colonial war re-enactments, although occasionally referred to as the “Ipswich Militia”, has never officially been given that name.
The Chartered Military Company of Ipswich: In addition to militia units there were a number of chartered “Military Companies” organised during the early colonial period. These were considered élite units that were privately financed and chartered by the Colony. On 14th May 1645 “The Military Company of Ipswich, Newbury, Rowley, Salisbury and Hampton” was chartered. However, it never seems to have been activated since there are no further references to it thereafter.
On 21st April 1775 an event took place during the early stages of the Revolutionary War in the Massachusetts town of Ipswich, which became known as “The Great Ipswich Fright”.
A rumour, which no one tried to authenticate, spread that British ships had been seen sailing up the Ipswich River towards the town. The alarm was sounded. Old men, boys and all the women in the place who were not bedridden or sick met in front of the meeting house. The rumour soon had it that British regulars had landed on the coast and were marching upon the town. A scene of terror and confusion followed. Defence was out of the question as all the able bodied men had marched to fight in the battles of Lexington and Concord. Soon after the people of Beverly, a village a few miles away, heard the rumour, but by now the word was that the enemy had fallen upon Ipswich and massacred all the inhabitants. Soon the stories spread to other towns. There ensued an irresistible, uncontrollable panic across this part of north-eastern Massachusetts. Flight was resolved upon. All the horses and vehicles in the towns were requisitioned; men, women and children hurried towards the north. Some threw their valuables into wells. Large numbers crossed the Merrimac and fled into New Hampshire. All the boats on the river were constantly employed for several hours in conveying across the terrified fugitives.
The next day somebody realised that there had been no invasion, no houses were burnt down and no inhabitants had been massacred. The refugees slowly returned homeward, with the uncomfortable feeling of having been made to look rather foolish in their premature flight. After that, an “Ipswich Fright” became a saying in America during the 19th century for any unwarranted panic.
This trial, considered the last witchcraft trial in America, took place in 1878. So named due to the fact that one of the main participants, Lucretia L. S. Brown, lived in Ipswich, the trial actually took place twelve miles away in Salem, & is therefore alternatively sometimes known as the Second Salem Witch Trial (the first being the famous cases of 1692-3, see above).
Lucretia L. S. Brown was an adherent of the Christian Science religion; a system of thought and practice derived from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy (1821 – 1910) & the Bible. Having been left an invalid by a childhood spinal injury, she sought, apparently with some success, a cure through “Animal Magnetism”; a form of hypnosis advocated by Baker Eddy in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875). In 1878, having suffered a relapse, Brown accused fellow Christian Scientist Daniel H. Spofford of attempting to harm her through his “mesmeric” mental powers. Spofford had known Mary Baker Eddy & been one of her supporters; being instrumental in the publication of her book. The two had since fallen out, however, & he had been expelled from the Association of Christian Scientists on the grounds of “immorality”. The trial commenced on 14th May 1878, with Baker Eddy herself amongst the witnesses giving evidence against Spofford. The presiding Judge Horace Gray, however, dismissed the case three days later on the grounds that the complaint was “framed without a knowledge of the law of equity”. Although Lucretia Brown appealed against the decision, this too was dismissed in November of that same year.
John Whipple House was built in the late 1630’s or early 1640’s, possibly for John Fawn. It is widely regarded as the best surviving example of early seventeenth century Colonial architecture in New England.
Bought by the British soldier Capt. John Whipple soon after its completion & thereafter in the Whipple family for five generations, it still features original timber framework & panelling from the late seventeenth century.
It had been used as housing for mill workers in the late nineteenth century, until in 1898 it was purchased by The Ipswich Historical Society. It was restored &, since 1899, the house has been open as a museum, although it was moved in 1927 from its original location on Market & Saltonstall Streets, to its current position at the intersection of County & South Main Streets. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
“An Old Ipswich House” by W.H.Downes is one of three papers that constitute No.10 of the publications of the Ipswich Historical Society introduced in December 1900, and was published in 1901 by The Salem Press Co. It tells the story of John Whipple’s house, the home of the Historical Society.
Built by John T Heard between 1795 & 1800, this neo-classical style mansion was home to the Heard family until 1936, when it was bought by the Ipswich Historical Society. Heard was a prominent Ipswich businessman & merchant, with links to China & the West Indies. For many years the house was also known as the Waters Memorial, after Thomas Franklin Waters who was the author of the two volume Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as well as being founder of the Ipswich Historical Society in 1890 . The house is situated on South Main Street & is now open as a museum. Exhibits include the Arthur Wesley Dow Collection, the Ipswich Painters Collection & the China Trade Collection.
Situated on South Main Street (next to the Town Hall), & locally referred to as the “Little Red House”, the property that is now known as the Hall-Haskell House was originally bought by Thomas Perin in 1691, before being sold to the Wise family in 1733. There is no record of when the original house was demolished. In 1800, the land was acquired by Charles Hall, & by 1819 Mary Hall is known to have been resident in the present house; from the ground floor of which she ran a general store. The Haskell family bought the property in 1825, before it passed to Abraham Caldwell. It was eventually bought by John Heard in 1864 & remained in the Heard family until 1930.
Marked for demolition in the 1980s, the house was seen as providing valuable historic information on the social history of the ordinary people of Ipswich in the early nineteenth century, & was therefore saved by a group of local people, with restoration work beginning in 1982. The house now operates as the Ipswich Visitors Center, & is also in use as an art gallery.
Merchant-Choate House John Kimball House Isaac Goodale House
With 62 houses from the “First Period” of American architecture (1625 - 1725) still in existence, Ipswich has more buildings from this era than anywhere else in the country. The most famous of these is the John Whipple House (see above), but many more are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most are named after the builder or original occupant of the house. Many names of early Ipswich families recur time & again in the list of First Period Houses, & in the Other Historic Buildings section below, such as Burnham, Caldwell, Dodge, Kimball, Kinsman, Lord etc.
The features of a First Period house include board & batten front door, large central chimney, narrow clapboards, steeply pitched roof & small casement leaded glass windows. Many of the First Period houses still extant in Ipswich exhibit later modifications & additions, & various sources disagree as to which buildings do actually date from this period & which are of a later vinatge. Those recognised by the Ipswich Historical Commission are listed below by street,with approximate date of construction:Argilla Road
Robert Kinsman House c 1714
Rust-Rogers-Brown House c 1685-1750 - Sometimes called the Nathaniel Rust House, this building
initially stood on the site of the later South Meeting
House, before being moved to its present location by
Asa Brown in 1837.
Bennett-Caldwell House c 1725
Benjamin Dutch House c 1700-10
Thomas Dennis House c 1670 -1750
Matthew Perkins House c 1701-09
Hodgekins-Lakeman Houses (three houses) c 1690
Perkins-Hodgkins House c 1700
Jordan-Snelling House c 1700 (also known as the Francis Jordan House)
Ruth Fellows House c 1714
Fellows-Appleton House c 1693
Fox Creek/Labor In Vain Road
Bennett’s Farm c 1680-1740
Andrew Burley House c 1688 - Run as “Smith’s Tavern” between 1760 & 1790
Thomas Low House c 1680
James Burnham House c 1677-1700
Edward-Brown House c 1650
White Horse Inn c 1658
Waldo-Caldwell House c 1660 - This building stands on the site of the earlier house of Gov. Simon
Bradstreet (built around 1630).
Daniel Lummis House c 1700
Jonathan Lummis House c 1712
Kingsbury-Lord House c 1660
John Kimball House c 1680-1700
John Kimball House c 1715
Caleb Kimball House c 1715 (also known as the House with Orange Shutters)
John Brewer House c 1680
Tuttle-Shatswell Houses (four houses) c 1690-1720
Simon Adams House c 1700-20
Merchant-Choate House c 1650 - One of the oldest buildings in Ipswich, the house still has its
original English-type cottage frame.
Philip Call House c 1659
Thomas Lord House c 1658
Joseph Willcomb House c 1668
John Kendricks House c 1675
Jeffrey’s Neck Road
Paine-Dodge House c 1694 (also known as Robert Paine House)
Ross Tavern/Collins-Lord House c 1700
Shatswell Planter’s Cottage c 1650
Hart House c 1640
Chapman House c 1720
Ephraim Harris House c 1696
Doctor John Calef House c 1671
Swazey Tavern c 1700 - It is said that George Washington was offered refreshment here whilst
on his way to Newburyport. It was later used as a dormitory for the
Ipswich Female Seminary.
South Main Street
Shoreborne-Wilson House c 1685
Phelomen Dean House c 1716 (also known as the Madeline Linehan House)
South Village Green
John Whipple House c 1640 (see separate section, above)
Jonathan Pulcifer House c 1718
Knowlton House c 1688
James Foster House c 1720
Willcomb-Pinder House c 1718
Foster-Grant House c 1717 (also known as Grant House)
Nathaniel Hovey House c 1718
Appleton-Kimball House c 1700 (also known as Moses Kimball House)
Turkey Shore Road
Emerson-Howard House c 1680 (also known as Howard House)
Nathaniel Hodgkins House c 1720
David Grady House c 1720
Jabesh Sweet House c 1713
Harris-Stanwood House c 1696
Preston-Foster House c 1690
York-Averill House c 1715
Captain Sutton House c 1715
Capt. Moses Jewett House Col. Nathaniel Wade House Ebenezer Stanwood House
In addition to the sections above, Ipswich also possesses many other historic buildings from the eighteenth & nineteenth centuries. These are listed below & date from the Second or Georgian Period (1725-90), the Third or Federal Period (1790-1830), or the Victorian Period (1830-1900). Sources differ as to exactly when some of these houses were built, & as you will see, some of the buildings below date from prior to 1725, i.e. within the timeframe for First Period houses. Those listed in the First Period Houses section above are, however, those that are listed as such by the Ipswich Historical Commission. Any others from that period not listed by this organization are included in the list below. (With different sources giving different dates, & occasionally different names, to the same property, it may be that there is some duplication & inaccuracy here. If anyone notices any discrepancies or omissions, please let me know by emailing the details to email@example.com)
2 Agawam Avenue c 1763
Newmarch-Spiller House 1800s
Samuel Kinsman House c 1750
Argilla Farm c 1734
Stephen Smith House c 1742
John Patch House c 1760
T. Brown House 1840s
Isaac Fellows House c 1705
Jeremiah Kinsman House c 1756
Rhoda Kinsman House c 1818
Col. Nathaniel Wade House c 1727
Brown-Burnham House c 1775
85 County Road c 1815
Ringe-Leatherland House c 1718 (also known as the Ringe-Pinder House)
Dennis Dodge House c 1740
Capt. Abraham Knowlton House c 1726 (also known as Bethia Fitz House)
Benjamin Grant House c 1735
45 County Street early 1800s
Foster-Russell House c 1856
Baker-Newman House c 1725
Dodge House c 1725
Polly Dole House c 1720
Willcomb Mill c 1830
Widow Caldwell House c 1740
Luther Wait House c 1810
John Harris House c 1742
Hovey-Dodge House c 1865
Ringe-Lord House 1832
Wainwright-Treadwell House c 1727
16 Elm Street - site of Abraham Choate House, now in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC
& known as “The Ipswich House” (see separate section, below)
Joseph Fellows Jr. House c 1734
Fox Creek Road
Epes-Brown House c 1720 (also known as Bellosellsky House)
The Olde Manse c 1727 (also known as Rogers Manse, after Rev. Nathaniel Rogers)
John Gaines House c 1725
Joseph Newman House c 1762
George A Lord House 1857
Haskell-Lord House c 1750
Harris House 1700s
Lord-Baker House c 1720
Holland-Ringe House c 1742
James Fitts House c 1767
Stone-Rust House c 1750
Wood-Lord House c 1725
Nathaniel Lord House c 1720
The Old Jail c 1771
Elizabeth & Philip Lord House c 1774
Joseph Fowler House c 1756
Dow-Harris House c 1735
Capt. Moses Jewett House c 1759
Aaron Jewett House c 1780
Caldwell House c 1733
Joseph Boiles House c 1720
Baker-Sutton House c 1725
John Kimball Jr. House c 1730-40
4 High Street 1800s (Pink House)
Jeffrey’s Neck Road
Capt. John Smith House c 1740
Benjamin Fellows House c 1740
Old Cross Farm c 1726
William Conant House c 1769
Abraham Howe Barn c 1750
Howe Homestead c 1725
Allen Perley House c 1784
Stacey-Ross House c 1734
Bailey House date unknown
William Warner House c 1780
Caleb Warner House c 1734
Mitchell House c 1790
Mitchell Barn 1700s
Foster-Hills House c 1787
Tobias Lakeman House c 1732
North Main Street
Old Post Office c 1825
James Brown House c 1720
Ebenezer Stanwood House c 1747
Christian Wainwright House c 1741
Dr. John Manning House c 1765
Funeral Home c 1825
John Chapman House c 1770
Thomas Morley House c 1750
Day-Dodge House c 1737
Capt. Richard Rogers House c 1728
40 North Main Street 1800s
47 North Main Street late 1800s
Old England Road
Capt. Treadwell House c 1748
Harris-Spiller House c 1740
South Village Green
Aaron Smith House c 1776
Col. John Baker House c 1761
John Henderson House c 1777
Benjamin Kimball House c 1720
Widow Fuller House c 1725
Thomas Treadwell House c 1740
Soloman Lakeman House c 1750
48 Summer Street date unknown
Goodhue-Adams House c 1763 (also known as Goodhue-Patch House)
Robert Wallis House c 1703
Turkey Shore Road
Burnham-Patch House c 1730
Heard-Lakeman House c 1776
Stephen Boardman House c 1725
John Foster House late 1700s - May have once been a tavern
Applefield House c 1759
Glazier-Sweet House c 1728
Grant House date unknown
Vivian Endicott House late 1800s
In 1963, the house that formerly stood at 16 Elm Street in Ipswich, known as the Abraham Choate House, was relocated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC.
The ten room house was built in the mid 1760s by Abraham Choate, although the building also incorporated parts of an older structure, believed to date from around 1710. In 1822 the house was purchased by Josiah & Lucy Caldwell, who used it to host meetings of the Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society. It was later bought by the Heard family, who divided the building up into apartments for workers at the town’s hosiery mill. The house was owned by the Scott family from 1942 to 1961, & then stood empty until 1963, when plans to demolish it to make way for a parking lot were scheduled. Through the efforts of two local women, Kay Thompson and Helen Lunt, however, the house was saved & moved to the Smithsonian, where it is on display to this day as the centerpiece of an exhibition on two hundred years of American home-building technology. It is known as “The Ipswich House” & is the museum’s largest single artifact.
“Within These Walls” described as a living history play that celebrates the house, five families & 200 years of history, is performed annually at the site of the house in Elm Street. Written by Ipswich Playwright J T Turner, the play was performed by the Ipswich-based The Actors Company at the Smithsonian on 3rd August 2013, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the relocation.
Built in 1764, Choate Bridge spans the Ipswich River & is the oldest surviving stone arch bridge in the United States. Named after Colonel John Choate, an Ipswich resident who funded & oversaw its planning & construction, he is alleged to have been the first person to ride his horse across the bridge after completion. In 1838 the bridge was widened & in 1989 extensively renovated. Since 1972 it has been on the National Register of Historic Places.
Whilst it was being built, a blind man from Rowley, named Mr Clark, recited the following poem on the bridge, in the presence of, amongst others, Colonel Choate. The verses were written down many years later, from memory, by Nathaniel Dutch.
John Winthrop Junior, also known as John Winthrop the Younger, was born in Groton, Suffolk, England (around 15 miles west of Ipswich) in 1605 or 1606. He studied at Trinity College Dublin, then returned to England to study law in London, before spending two years at sea; travelling to such places as Italy & Turkey.
His father, John, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, had emigrated to America in 1630, & the younger John followed his father the year after, where he was given the post of Assistant to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1633 he was instrumental in establishing the settlement that was to become Ipswich. In 1634, after his first wife & daughter died, he returned to England, remarried &, in 1635, returned to America to establish a colony on the Connecticut River which he named Saybrook. He was also influential in establishing the settlement that was to become New London. Later he became one of the magistrates of Connecticut & in 1657 he was elected governor of the Colony of Connecticut; a position he was to hold until his death. In 1675 he became one of the commissioners of the United Colonies of New England. He was also a renowned physician & was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in England. He died in Boston in April 1676.
Nathaniel Ward was born in Haverhill, Suffolk, England in 1578. He studied law at Cambridge & became a barrister before entering the ministry; becoming a chaplain for a while in Prussia. His brothers, Samuel & John, both became ministers in Ipswich, Suffolk (see The Master’s House section on the page). After being dismissed for his puritan beliefs, he left England & settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts. At this time he wrote The Body of Liberties, which established a code of principles based on Common Law, the Magna Carta and the Old Testament. Published in 1641, it was later to be adopted by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Company. It is often said that The Body of Liberties was instrumental in formulating the American tradition of liberty that would eventually evolve into the United States Constitution. This led to Ward being regarded as the ‘Father of the First American Constitution’.
Ward’s second book, written in 1645-6, was entitled The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America, which was published in England under the pseudonym ‘Theodore de la Guard’. Later versions contained additions & amendments to the original. The book has been described in some quarters as the most interesting literary work from America in the first half of the seventeenth century.
After the end of the English Civil War, Ward returned to England, where he settled in Shenfield, Essex; dying there in 1652.
America’s first published poet, Anne Bradstreet, lived in Ipswich for several years during the seventeenth century. Born Anne Dudley in Northampton, England in 1612, at the age of sixteen she married Simon Bradstreet who worked for the Massachusetts Bay Company. Two years later the couple emigrated to America along with Anne’s family. Her father, Thomas Dudley was to become Deputy Governor under John Winthrop of the new Boston settlement, while her husband became its Chief Administrator. Both her father & husband were involved in establishing Harvard University.
Initially settling in Salem, then Cambridge, the Bradstreet family soon moved to Ipswich, where Anne began writing poetry, whilst also looking after their eight children; her husband being away on business for extended periods during this time.
Anne’s poems were intended to be read by close friends & family only, & were never meant for publication. Her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, however, secretly copied some of her works & took them to England, where they were published in 1650 as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts, without Anne’s permission. This was the only collection of her work to be published during her lifetime; the Tenth Muse not being published in America until 1678, when it became the first book written by a woman to be published in the United States. A second volume, Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning also found its way into print that same year. This second volume contained one of her most famous poems, To My Dear and Loving Husband.
After eight or nine years in Ipswich, the Bradstreet family moved to North Andover, where Anne died in 1672.
In 1997, the Bradstreet Gate was opened at Harvard University in her honour, adorned by a plaque with a quote from one of her poems.
Arthur Wesley Dow was born in Ipswich in 1857 & is probably the town’s best known artist; many of his works depicting scenes from the Ipswich area.
After studying art in Paris, Dow returned to America & taught art for many years; later becoming director of the Fine Arts Dept at Columbia Teachers College in New York City. He always, however, retained a house in Ipswich &, as well as being a founder member of the Ipswich Historical Society, between 1891 & 1907 he & his wife ran the popular Ipswich Summer School of Art.
Dow was much inspired by Japanese art, & in 1899 he published ‘Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers’. In 1908, he & his friend Everett Stanley Hubbard, also an Ipswich man, published ‘By Salt Marshes: Pictures & Poems of Old Ipswich’.
Dow was also interested in photography, & in 1899 he produced an album of 41 photographs entitled ‘Ipswich Days’, which has now been published, but was originally intended as a present for his friend Hubbard.
When he died in 1922, Dow bequeathed 18 acres of land to the town to be used as a public park, & donated his house to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.
The Long Road - Argilla Road, Ipswich by Arthur Wesley Dow
Author John Updike (1932-2009) lived in Ipswich between 1957 & 1974. Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Updike is probably best remembered for his 1984 novel The Witches of Eastwick & his Rabbit series of novels, which chronicle the life of Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom. Two of this series; Rabbit is Rich & Rabbit at Rest received the Pulitzer Prize.
Much of Updike’s best work was written whilst living in Ipswich, including Rabbit Run, The Centaur & the 1968 novel Couples. The latter is set in the fictional town of Tarbox, which many people consider to be based on Ipswich; with many of the characters that the novel portrays being based on Ipswich residents of the time. Updike, however, always denied this.
John Updike published more than 20 novels, as well as several collections of poetry & short stories. He was also renowned as a literary & art critic, & wrote regularly for The New Yorker. In 1963 he received the National Book Award for The Centaur & the following year he was elected to the National Institute of Arts & Letters. After leaving Ipswich he moved to Boston. He died of lung cancer in Danvers, Massachusetts in 2009.
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Born in New York in 1943, Cornelius Crane Chase is better known as actor & comedian Chevy Chase. On his mother’s side he is part of the Crane family who owned Castle Hill, & he is known to have spent his summer vacations there as a child.
Chase is probably best known for such films as ‘Caddyshack’, ’The Three Amigos’ & the National Lampoon’s Vacation series. His name derives from the fifteenth century English ‘Ballad of Chevy Chase’ & was given to him as a nickname by his grandmother.
The geographical feature Castle Hill is a 165 acre promontory that overlooks Ipswich Bay & is surrounded by sea & salt marsh. It is part of the 2100 acre Crane Estate & was supposedly named after the Castle Hill area of Ipswich in England. The area once belonged to the founder of Ipswich, John Winthrop. The estate was bought in 1910 by Richard Teller Crane Jr.
The mansion called Castle Hill is the second to grace the site, the first being an Italian Renaissance style building built in 1910 but demolished in 1924 to make way for the present 59 room Stuart-style house, which was completed in 1928. During this period extensive landscaping of the estate was also carried out.
After Crane’s death in 1945, part of the estate was donated to a land conservation & historic preservation group called The Trustees of Reservations. Four years later, the remainder of the property, including the mansion, was also donated to the same organisation, who today offer tours of the house. The venue also hosts weddings & other functions.
In 1998 Castle Hill was designated a National Historic Landmark. It has been used for the filming of several movies including ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ & ‘Flowers in the Attic’.
The Crane family don’t only have links with one Ipswich. In 1855 Richard Teller Crane Snr, founded the engineering company Crane Co. of Chicago, which the younger Crane inherited. In 1919, when he was looking for somewhere to expand his business into the UK, he chose the town with the same name as that in which he had built his home. If you look closely at a picture of Castle Hill, then look at a picture of Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich, England, you will note some striking similarities. How much the design of the second Castle Hill mansion is based on the English house, & how much is mere coincidence, is not known. (See page & Buildings: Ipswich, England album in the Photo Gallery for comparison).
Designed by architect William G Rantoul in the style of Haddington Hall in Scotland, Turner Hill Mansion was built in 1903 for the Boston industrialist Charles Rice & his family. The family occupied the house until after Mr Rice’s death in 1943, when it was sold to The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, who used the property as a spiritual retreat until 1997. In that year it was bought by the Raymond Property Company, who have restored the property & opened it as a golf course & wedding & event venue. Since 2007, the golf club has been member-owned & is ranked as one of the top courses in Massachusetts.
The Elizabethan style house boasts hand-moulded plaster ceilings, wall friezes, oak floors and hand-carved panelling, doors and stairways. Numerous function rooms of varying sizes are available, whilst the grounds include an outdoor chapel. Today the Turner Hill estate covers more than 300 acres & includes 120 residences set among towering pine trees, lawns, gardens & ponds.
Established in 1636 by Samuel Appleton, Appleton Farm is considered America’s oldest continuously operating farm. Samuel Appleton was born in 1586 at Little Waldingfield, Suffolk, England (around 20 miles west of Ipswich). He emigrated to America in 1635. After settling in Ipswich, he later moved to Rowley & died there in 1670.
Initially growing vegetables, corn & hay, later generations of Appletons diversified into timber, beef & dairy production. By the late nineteenth century, the farm had primarily become a country estate, holding fox hunts & steeplechase meetings. In 1898, Samuel Appleton's original house was incorporated into a new house named 'Waldingfield'; named after the family's place of origin in England. In 1998 the 658 acre estate was gifted to The Trustees of Reservations, who run the farm today.
Now open to the public, the estate includes historic farm buildings, the oldest dating back to 1794. Six miles of trails cross the farm through grassland, woodland & wetland habitats, together with crop fields & livestock pastures. These trails are suitable for walking & horse riding. The wetland areas are home to the rare blue and yellow spotted salamander. Adjacent to the farm are the Appleton Farms Grass Rides; a further five miles of trails through forest, open fields & wetlands originally laid out for horse riding & carriage driving, but which can now be used for walking, mountain biking &, in winter, cross country skiing.
Starting in 2009, work began on converting the estate’s historic Old House into the Appleton Farms Center for Agriculture and the Environment.
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Owned by The Trustees of Reservations, Greenwood Farm is now a nature reserve situated at Jeffrey’s Neck. It features a First Period farmhouse known as the Paine House, named after Robert Paine, later foreman of the Salem witch trial jury, who arrived in 1640 & began farming the land; building the salt-box style house in 1694 (a salt-box house is usually a wooden framed building with a long, pitched roof that slopes down at the back. It is asymmetrical, having one storey at the back & two at the front, & takes its name from the resemblance to a wooden lidded box in which salt would be stored).
Greenwood Farm Reservation is named after Thomas Smith Greenwood, who was born in 1807 on what was known at that time as Hickory Farm or Hickory Grove Farm. After going to sea, he returned to raise his family in a house built around 1828 close to the Paine House. Smith Greenwood was the first keeper of the lighthouses built at Lakeman Beach (now Crane Beach), & was instrumental in rescuing several of the passengers of the Deposit, that ran aground in 1839.
After becoming a summer retreat for the Dodge family in 1916, who turned the Paine House into a guesthouse, Greenwood Farm was acquired by The Trustees of Reservations in 1975. The house today contains a fine collection of Colonial Revival furniture and decorative arts. The Reservation offers great views of the Ipswich River & the salt marshes, & the property includes several islands, of which Diamond Stage, Homestead &Widow’s Island are the largest.
Situated predominantly within the boundaries of Ipswich, Willowdale State Forest offers 40 miles of trails for walking, biking, horse riding & cross country skiing. The forest includes the Pine Swamp area & also the 100 acre Hood Pond, which is suitable for fishing & boating. The Ipswich River runs through the southern part of the forest & beyond this the forest adjoins the Bradley Palmer State Park.
Sandy Point State Reservation is situated at the Southern-most tip of Plum Island; an 11 mile long Atlantic Ocean barrier island. Managed by the Department of Conservation & Recreation, the 77 acre reserve is a popular & scenic coastal beach habitat. It is also an important nesting area for the piping plover & the least tern; both species being considered endangered. The reserve includes the glacially formed hill known as Bar Head, as well as Stage Island Pool; a freshwater pond created by salt workings that were undertaken here during the nineteenth century. Just to the north is the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the southern part of which falls within the boundaries of Ipswich & through which access is gained to Sandy Point.
Situated on Essex Road, Wolf Hollow is a non profit organisation established in 1990 by the late Paul C. Soffron & run by the North American Wolf Foundation Inc. Wolf Hollow is dedicated to the preservation of the wolf in the wild & offers the visitor the chance to see wolves in their natural environment & to discover how a wolf pack functions. It is home to a pack of British Columbian timber wolves (a subspecies of the gray wolf) started from five cubs donated from other organisations across the USA. At any one time the pack consists of around ten to twelve individuals. Wolf Hollow is open to the public at weekends, during which visitors are given an hour long presentation.
James Appleton Morgan, the author of the poem below, was born in Portland, Maine in 1850. He is probably best remembered for his controversial theories as to the origins of Shakespeare’s plays.
By James Appleton Morgan
I love to think of old Ipswich town,
Old Ipswich towne in the east countree,
Whence on the tide you can float down
Through the long salt grass to the wailing sea,
Where the Mayflower drifted off the bar,
Seaworn and weary, long years ago,
And dared not enter, but sailed away
Till she landed her boats in Plymouth Bay.
I love to think of old Ipswich town,
Where Whitefield preached in the church on the hill,
Driving out the Devil till he leaped down
From the steeple's top, where they show you still,
Imbedded deep in the solid rock,
The indelible print of his cloven hoof,
And tell you the Devil has never shown
Face or hoof since that day in the honest town.
I love to think of old Ipswich town;
Where they shut up the witches until the day
When they should be roasted so thoroughly brown,
In Salem village twelve miles away;
They've moved it off for a stable now;
But there are the holes where the stout jail stood,
And, at night, they say that over the holes
You can see the ghost of old Goody Coles.
I love to think of old Ipswich town;
That house at your right, a rod or more,
Where the stern old elm trees seem to frown
If you peer too hard through the open door,
Sheltered the regicide judges three
When the royal sheriffs were after them,
And a queer old villager once I met,
Who says in the cellar they're living yet.
I love to think of old Ipswich town;
Harry Main - you have heard the tale - lived there;
He blasphemed God, so they put him down
With an iron shovel, at Ipswich Bar;
They chained him there for a thousand years,
As the sea rolls up to shovel it back;
So when the sea cries, the good wives say
"Harry Main growls at his work to-day."
I love to think of old Ipswich town;
There's a graveyard up on the old High Street,
Where ten generations are looking down
On the one that is toiling at their feet;
Where the stones stand shoulder to shoulder, like troops
Drawn up to receive a cavalry charge,
And graves have been dug in graves, till the sod
Is the mould of good men gone to God.
I love to think of old Ipswich town,
Old Ipswich town in the east countree,
Whence on the tide, you can float down
Through the long salt grass to the wailing sea,
And lie all day on the glassy beach,
And learn the lesson the green waves teach,
Till at sunset, from surf and seaweed brown,
You are pulling back to Ipswich town.
From the 1750s to the 1840s, women throughout the town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, were heavily engaged in the only successful commercial production of handmade bobbin lace in the United States. Today handmade Ipswich Lace is rare, and nearly always found as museum pieces.
Ipswich was a prosperous port until the 1740s, when the Ipswich River silted up, closing the harbour to larger ships. This brought about an economic depression as the menfolk lost their livelihoods. About 1750, in order to compensate for this loss of income, a group of Ipswich women started making and selling bobbin lace, used for collars, cuffs or trim on handkerchiefs and household linens. The distinctive patterns were mostly floral, geometrical or abstract. Unlike needle lace, bobbin lace is made using spools to hold the many threads that go into it. In the 18th century the thread and pins were imported, but the bobbins were made locally and passed down from mother to daughter.
Wearing lace was a status symbol for both men and women. However, at that time only the wealthiest colonists could afford to buy imported French, Flemish or English lace. The cheaper Ipswich Lace soon became so popular that traders travelled to Salem and Boston to sell it. The onset of the Revolutionary War cut off European imports and gave a further boost to the industry. George Washington’s 1789 visit to Ipswich made its lace even more fashionable after he picked up some of the black silk variety for his wife, Martha. Owning Ipswich Lace now became a source of national pride. By 1791 some 600 women, more than 1 in 4 of the adult female population, were engaged in lace production in Ipswich.
Then the men got involved. In an effort to mechanise the industry, Ipswich men in the 1820s started importing machines from Britain that could produce background netting. Men monitored the machines, while the women embroidered the designs on the netting. Lace, once a symbol of wealth, lost its social prestige, having been replaced by machine laces that were available to almost everyone. Within two decades the handmade Ipswich Lace industry was gone.
Situated on the Crane Estate is the 1,234 acre Crane Beach, formerly known as Ipswich Beach, on the Atlantic Ocean; a popular recreation site as well as being a conservation area. Like Castle Hill it is maintained by The Trustees of Reservations. It consists of approximately four miles of sandy beach & dunes skirted by pitch pine forest.
Crane beach is recognised as one of the most important breeding sites in the world for the endangered piped plover; a species that came close to extinction in the nineteenth century.
Just inland from Crane Beach is the 680 acre Crane Wildlife Refuge, which includes salt marshes around the estuary of the Castle Neck River. Around 180 species of birds have been recorded here.
Ipswich Range Lights were two lighthouses located on Crane Beach to serve as a navigation aid for mariners coming through the main channel toward the mouth of the Ipswich River. (Range lights, known in some parts of the world as leading lights, are a pair of lights that provide safe passage for shipping entering a shallow or dangerous channel, & can also be used for position fixing.)
Situated 542 ft apart on an east-west axis, the lights were initially built as 29 ft tall brick towers in 1838, together with a keeper’s house. Originally both towers had fixed lights but, due to mariners confusing these with a pair of fixed lights on Plum Island to the north, the western tower was quickly replaced with a revolving light.
By 1867 the front light had been replaced by a wooden structure described as a “shanty-like affair known as the “bug light””, that could be moved as the channel shifted. By 1878 the shifting of the sands had resulted in the rear tower becoming cracked, & it too was replaced in 1881; in this instance with a cast iron conical tower (see photo, right). In 1932 the front light was discontinued & the rear light automated. Six years later the rear light was replaced with a skeleton tower that still functions to this day; the cast iron tower being removed & shipped to Edgartown in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts in 1939, where it replaced the Edgartown Harbor Light that had been destroyed in the hurricane of the previous year.
Sometime after this, the keeper’s house was destroyed by fire, & the skeleton tower is all that now remains of the Ipswich Range Lights.
Situated to the east of town, just off the Argilla Road, stands Heartbreak Hill; made famous in the poem of that name by Celia Thaxter. The legend attached to this spot concerns an Indian woman who fell in love with a white sailor &, when he returned to sea, would pass her time on the hill, watching over the ocean for his return; which he never does. Eventually, she pines away & dies of a broken heart.
Celia Thaxter (1835-94) was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She lived much of her life on Appledore Island, where she ran the Appledore House hotel for many years. During the latter part of the nineteenth century she became one of America’s best known authors.
The Ipswich River is approximately 45 miles long & is formed by the convergence of six tributary streams at Wilmington: the Mill Brook, Lubbers Brook, Sawmill Brook, Maple Meadow Brook, Patches Pond Brook and Cold Spring Brook. The actual source of the named Ipswich River (or alternatively the Mill Brook) occurs in swampland just north of Mill Pond Reservoir near to Burlington, although the Sawmill Brook is the larger and longer tributary. The Ipswich River then flows through the towns of Wilmington, Reading, North Reading, Middleton, Topsfield, Hamilton & Ipswich, before emptying into Ipswich Bay & the Atlantic Ocean. At its confluence with the sea, the Ipswich River becomes a tidal estuary, with mud flats & marshland uncovered at low tide. The river is navigable by small craft only as far as the centre of Ipswich, where rocks & a change in elevation prevent further progress upstream.
Predominantly flatwater, although it can become fast flowing in the spring, the river is flanked by swamp & wetland areas along much of its course. The river has two dams; the Willowdale Dam & the Ipswich Dam (previously known as the Sylvania Dam). Although much of the land adjoining the river is in private ownership, boating, swimming & fishing are allowed in certain areas, & the river is very popular with canoeists. The upper parts of the river can sometimes dry up during the summer months.
The Ipswich River watershed covers an area of approximately 155 sq miles, providing drinking water for an estimated 350,000 people.
At Topsfield, around six miles from the town of Ipswich, is the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, which, at 2,800 acres, is the Audubon Society’s largest wildlife sanctuary in Massachusetts. Created by glacial action 15,000 years ago, the park comprises more than ten miles of trails through forest, meadow & wetland habitat. The Ipswich River runs for eight miles through the Sanctuary.
In the town of North Reading, some 15 miles or so from Ipswich, is the Ipswich River Park. This is a 49 acre site created in the 1990s & includes a conservation area, wild flower meadows & picnic sites, together with various sports facilities.
Situated on the Atlantic coast of northern Massachusetts, Ipswich Bay stretches from the southern tip of Plum Island to the most northerly point of Cape Ann; a distance of around six miles. The Bay’s deepest point is approximately 70 ft, although the southern & southwestern areas are much shallower. Apart from the town of Ipswich, two other towns share a coastline with Ipswich Bay; Gloucester & Rockport.
The northern shoreline of Ipswich Bay is located within the town of Ipswich, where both Plum Island Sound & the Ipswich River empty into the bay. Heading southwards, Plum Island Sound is separated from the mouth of the Ipswich River by the protruding headlands of Great Neck & Little Neck. On the southern shore of the Ipswich River, the shoreline of Ipswich Bay continues eastwards along the peninsula of Castle Neck, with its 4 mile stretch of unbroken sandy beaches including Steep Hill Beach & Crane Beach (see above). This is the easternmost point of the town of Ipswich, where it borders the town of Essex.
At the eastern tip of Castle Neck, Ipswich Bay is fed by Essex Bay, which itself is fed by the Essex River & Castle Neck River; the latter forming much of the boundary between the towns of Ipswich & Essex. The town of Essex itself has no direct access to Ipswich Bay, however, as the narrow entrance to Essex Bay forms the town line between Ipswich on the western shore & the city of Gloucester to the east. Until 1819, the town of Essex was part of Ipswich (see The Ones That Got Away page).
On the Gloucester or eastern side of the Essex Bay estuary, the coastline of Ipswich Bay follows Coffin’s Beach eastwards to Wingaersheek Beach & the mouth of the Annisquam River. (With a coastline on both Ipswich Bay & Massachusetts Bay, the city of Gloucester is cut in half by the Annisquam River, which connects to Gloucester Harbor & then, by way of the Blynman Canal, to Massachusetts Bay; essentially making Cape Ann an island).
From the mouth of the Annisquam, the coastline of Ipswich Bay takes a northeasterly turn onto Cape Ann, with Annisquam Harbor Light, (see photo, right) situated on Wigwam Point overlooking the bay. There has been a lighthouse here since 1801, although the current structure dates from 1897. Further north along the Cape Ann coastline is the small community of Bay View, with the headland of Davis Neck jutting out into the bay. Further north still are the communities of Lanesville & Folly Cove. Whilst the shore between the Ipswich & Annisquam rivers consists almost entirely of sandy beaches, the Cape Ann peninsula coastline is far more rocky, with sandy beaches only found in the sheltered bays such as Hodgkin’s Cove & Plum Cove.
Folly Cove marks the town boundary between the city of Gloucester & the town of Rockport. Rockport is situated at the northern tip of Cape Ann & is surrounded on three sides by sea. Halibut Point is the most northerly point of the town, & also marks the eastern extremity of Ipswich Bay.
Ipswich Bar: More commonly known nowadays as Sandy Point, Ipswich Bar is the historical name for a spit of land at the southern tip of Plum Island. With strong year-round currents & dangerous submerged rocks, the area has a long history of ship wrecks & groundings, such as the Falconer, a 360-ton brig from Belfast in 1847, the Argus in 1850 & the City Point in 1883. Many shipwrecked sailors lost their lives here, usually due to hypothermia or drowning, as although the spit was no more than a quarter of a mile from land, the only way to reach it was through the icy waters, raging surf & strong currents.
Ipswich Bluff: Located on the west coast of Plum Island, around half a mile east of Great Neck, Ipswich Bluff is a headland or cape that juts out into Plum Island Sound. During the late nineteenth & early twentieth centuries, there were a few small hotels located here & the Bluff was a popular destination for Ipswich residents, with a passenger steamer service operating.
Essex County, in which Ipswich is situated, is the most north easterly county of Massachusetts. To the north it is bordered by the New Hampshire county of Rockingham, to the west is Middlesex County & to the south Suffolk County. In the east it is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean. The county was created in 1643 by the Massachusetts General Court & has two county seats: Salem & Lawrence.
In 1812, the ninth Governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, divided the electoral districts of Essex County to favour the Democratic-Republican party candidates over the Federalists. At some point, it was noted that the new boundaries resembled a salamander (see map by Boston cartoonist Elkanah Tisdale, left). Or, as one journalist is said to have remarked “That’s not a salamander, that’s a Gerrymander”. From this time onwards, the word ‘gerrymandering’ entered the English language to describe the process of manipulating electoral district boundaries.
Since 1999, Essex has ceased to have any county government, as all such functions are now run by state agencies.
In 1996, the Essex National Heritage Area was established, which covers the whole of the county. The aim of this organisation is to promote tourism & cultural awareness & to preserve the historic buildings, sites & districts of the county, with their important examples of colonial & maritime settlements & industries.