In March 1692 several Ipswich persons petitioned “to have liberty granted them to build shops upon ye bank by ye river side,” at what is now South Main Street. The Selectmen laid out this stretch of land in twenty-three small lots and granted them “to as many individuals with the conditions that they not encumber the highway, make provision for drainage under the buildings, that each person provide paving four-foot wide all along before ye said buildings for the convenience of foot travelers, and erect posts to keep horses from spoiling the same.” It was stipulated by the Town that the lots extend no farther into the river than “ye low water mark.” South Main Street in Ipswich was devastated by America’s love of the automobile. In the 20th Century, beautiful old houses here and at the other end of town on Lord’s Square were demolished and replaced by garages and service stations.
The Ross Tavern abutted the Choate Bridge on the downstream side. It was built in 1690 in downtown Ipswich, but in 1735 it was moved to the south-east side of the Choate Bridge where it remained until 1940 when it was disassembled and moved to its present location on Jeffreys Neck Road at the former Wendel Estate, where the original timber frame was restored and reassembled. 17th Century fireplaces and 17th & 18th century woodwork are features inside the house.
The Sherborne Wilson House built in 1685 till stands near the Choate Bridge. The Ross Tavern beside it was moved to Jeffreys Neck Road, where it is now known as the Wendell Estate.
Abutting the bridge on the west side was Bill’s Variety Store, which later became Immie Thayer’s bridal shop.
The photo below is the east side of South Main Street looking in the direction of the Old Town Hall, which is just out of the photo on the right. Note the electric poles, which indicate the photo was taken around the turn of the 20th Century. Of the houses shown here, only the Sherborne Wilson house, the corner of which is in on the left, still stands. The building on the far right with the Mansard roof was the Ipswich Savings Bank at the corner of South Main Street and Elm Street, and the bell tower on the Old Town Hall can be seen above and beyond that house. The second photo is the same view as seen today. The Birds Eye map of Ipswich below confirms Bill Varrell’s description in Images of Ipswich.