The Burley Tavern, Green St., Ipswich MA

Two Taverns for Two Susannas

2 Poplar Street, Swasey Tavern (1718)
2 Poplar Street, the Howe-Homan –Swasey Tavern at the corner of Poplar and County Streets in Ipswich. Some structural elements of this house may date to 1693.

In the 1700s two of the fine inns in Ipswich were run by women, a mother and daughter both named Susanna. Although the two houses are both on corners of County Street, they were separated by the river; the County Street Bridge was not built until a hundred years later.

In 1725 Increase How purchased “a good mansion house”at the corner of County Street and Poplar Street from John Whipple, who had purchased the house from John Ayres in 1705. Ayres built the earlier structure in 1693. How kept an inn in the house, and after he died in 1754 at the age of 74 his daughter Susanna (who had married Captain Richard Homan) ran the inn. She appears to have been open-minded. In 1756 she received and took in three Catholic families from French-speaking Nova Scotia whose arrival had been anticipated and debated by the Ipswich people for several months.

A late 1800s photo of the Swasey Tavern, facing Poplar St. In the distance you can see the Cogswell School on Payne Street, and the historic Lakeman and Hodgkins houses at the intersection with Turkey Shore Road.

In the fall of 1789 just four months after he took the oath of office, President George Washington visited Ipswich and dined at Susanna Homan’s Inn. Crowds awaited him at the South Green where he was welcomed by the Selectmen and a regiment of the militia. At the Inn he partook of a meal and proceeded on to Newburyport. Susanna Homan, whose tombstone describes her as “fair and good” died three years later at age 66.

Despite the early ownership records, there are no indications of First Period construction in this house. A Federal-era hip roof was replaced by a Mansard roof in the late 1800s to give it a third floor. The building is now known as Swasey’s Tavern, after the town moderator General Swasey who famously fell dead at Town Meeting in 1816. The building was later utilized as a boarding house for the pupils of the Ipswich Female Seminary.

The Andrew Burley house, Green St. in Ipswich
TheAndrew Burley house / Smith’s Tavern, 12 Green Street. This house was built before 1688.

The widow of Increase How was also named Susanna. In 1762, she married Captain John Smith, who had purchased the 1688 Andrew Burley house at 12 Green Street two years earlier from the estate of Andrew Burley’s widow Hannah. Andrew Burley was a wealthy merchant, justice of the Sessions Court and was elected as representative to the General Court in 1741. He updated the house with fine Georgian features. Susanna (How) Smith ran an inn in this ancient house until 1790.

Andrew Burley’s will left detailed instructions for the care of his widow Hannah. He left her “the improvement of the land and buildings where I now live, and to be yearly procured for her, put in her barn, by my executors one load of salt, one load of English hay, also twelve bushels of corn, four of rye, four of malt, two hundred pounds of good pork, as much beef, thirty of butter, fifty of cheese, twenty of flax from the swingle, ten of sheep’s wool, and six cords of wood, to be delivered at her said dwelling house yearly while she remains my widow, and for the same time to find her a horse and a chair to ride to meeting or elsewhere as her occasion requires. I also give her one cow and my household goods.

6 thoughts on “Two Taverns for Two Susannas”

  1. Gordon, I’m a direct descendant of Elizabeth How who was hanged for a witch. She lived in the outer Linebrook area (where I live now). However, I was not aware of other How’s in Ipswich later on.. This is fascinating!! You are such a wonderful resource to our town. Thank you for all you do.

  2. Both of these homes happen to be in my neighboorhood. Thank you for sharing this very interesting history. Found it intriguing and educational. I look forward to more of your research on Ipswich history. Sarka

  3. Fantastic story, as usual! Thank you, Gordon. The last part of the story should have mentioned that a developer came in, tore down both houses and put a Super Walmart in town — but the Walton family was kind enough to re-route traffic and give Ipswich money to re-pave the road. 🙂 Casey

    Casey W. Wright978.500.9232

    Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2014 22:30:36 +0000 To: caseywright1@msn.com

  4. Gordon,
    who owns the Andrew Burley house at 12 Green Street, and has it been for sale recently? I remember you showing it to us when we were on your Sunday tour in early August.
    it sure is great to keep up with the goings on in Ipswich through your website.
    Dave Gregory(Hovey)
    Fountain Hills, AZ

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