A controversy has arisen in the town of Ipswich about what to name the grassy lawn that hosts the Ipswich Visitor Center and the Veterans Memorial. The Ipswich VFW and other veterans organizations manage the memorial, but call it the “Memorial on the green near the Old Court House/Old Town Hall.” The green does not have a name.
Meeting House Green, which is also called the North Green, has a Civil War memorial, as does Market Square. The South Village Green was for two centuries called School House Green and served as the Colonial training ground. The Selectmen recently approved naming the one in the middle “Middle Green.” The area has an interesting history that may help the community find a consensus.
Until the 19th Century, this side of South Main Street was lined with houses. Sue Nelson wrote that “What we see today as a ‘green’ was once packed with dwellings and artisan workshops. This area would have been vital, busy, noisy and probably smelly with the nearby working waterfront on the Ipswich River.”
When John Heard in 1795 built the mansion that is now the Ipswich Museum, he moved the John Calef house that stood on that location to Poplar St. and extended his lawn along South Main to the Hall-Haskell house.
The Unitarians built a church near the intersection of South Main and Elm Streets, which became the Old Town Hall, aka District Court building, that is now a condominium complex known as “The District.”
Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that John Caldwell Jr. took down the ancient Amos Jones house, and sold his whole lot with buildings to John Heard, August 3, 1864 (675:276). In 1866 the Town took a strip of land, which included the site of the old Jones homestead, and moved the Town Hall a few feet to a new foundation, and added a first floor under the original building.
Alice Keenan wrote that John Heard’s son Augustine “always sought to acquire, move or tear down those houses surrounding the (South) Green in an effort to enhance and preserve the park-like setting he so admired….The old Crompton Inn, built in 1693 and later the home of Colonel Choate, the builder of the bridge, was torn down in 1836 and the land was sold to Heard.”
The Heards left standing the William Appleton house where Sally Choate ran a shop. Susan S. Nelson contributed the history of the building:
“This house was more properly known as the William Appleton house, built in 1766 by Appleton, an important Ipswich joiner/cabinetmaker. His daughter was Sally Choate, but Appleton was undoubtedly responsible for the elaborate woodwork inside and outside the house. Appleton also shipped his furniture in the coastal trade, and the Ipswich Museum archives held at the library contain receipts from local sea captains who shipped and sold his products. His home was considered important enough that it was recorded in measured drawings by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in the 1930’s. Your can view these drawings online in the HABS digital collection.”
A trolley on South Main Street. The Sally Choate house is on the right, and behind it is the Heard House, which is the Ipswich Museum. The Whipple House had not yet been moved to the location across the street from the Museum, but the postcard shows that the area that is now Sally’s Pond was also undeveloped.
The 1884 Ipswich map shows that the estate of Augustine Heard included the site of the Whipple House and Sally’s Pond, as well as the entire block between South Main, Elm and County Streets, with the exception of the Old Town Hall and the South Congregational Church. Heard acquired the lot of the church vestry, which was moved to 10 Hammatt Street in 1885. He also owned the house at 16 Elm St., which is now at the Smithsonian Museum. The South Congregational Church lot is now part of the Ipswich Museum grounds.
We can imagine people taking a stroll on Augustine Heard’s lawn between business at the Old Town Hall and the District Court. Alice Heard was the last member of the family to live in the Heard mansion, and sold it to the Ipswich Historical Society in 1936. Bill Varrell wrote that when Alice Heard indicated in 1938 that Sally Choate’s former home might become the site of a service station, the Town purchased the lot, tore down the house, and constructed a wooden Veterans Memorial on the spot where the granite memorial now stands.
The Veterans Memorial
“At the Annual Town Meeting held in March 1944 this committee was appointed to arrange for the erection of an Honor Roll to commemorate the services of all Ipswich men and women in the Armed Forces of our country. In carrying out its obligation the committee first canvassed the townspeople for an expression of opinion as to the best possible location for this Memorial. Several tentative sites were proposed for study, and after due consideration, the greater number of people finally determined upon the property owned by the Town on South Main Street as the proper location.”
“Thereafter, through the cooperation of the Board of Selectmen, this site was turned over to the committee. The Highway Department volunteered their services and were instrumental in filling in the cellar of the dwelling house that formerly existed on this property, and graded the land to the level of the adjacent sidewalk. Through the good offices of the Park Department the land was seeded and cared for, and a lawn was grown, and a pathway laid out to the base of the Honor Roll.”
“Donald J. T. Hamm of Ipswich designed the Honor Roll and assisted in its erection. We believe that the Town has every right to feel pleased with the location finally selected and the park-like appearance of the grounds. The Honor Roll itself is one of the most imposing in this vicinity and reflects great credit to the Town. There are over one thousand names on the Honor Roll at the present time, and room has been left for an additional three hundred names.”
“On November 26, 1944 the Honor Roll was dedicated. A parade was organized and speakers were secured, and a gathering of several hundreds of our townspeople witnessed the unveiling of the Honor Roll. It was considered to be a most inspiring occasion, and our thanks go to all those individuals and organizations that in any way contributed toward the success of this event.”
“It is our intention to beautify the grounds as presently laid out with the addition of such ornamental shrubs and trees as would seem fitting and proper. The committee is inserting an article in the Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting requesting an appropriation of a sum of money to carry out this purpose.”
CHARLES L. HENLEY. Cbairman, R A. JOHNSON, WALTER LEZON, EDWARD J. MARCORELLE, FRED C. WILDER
Harold Bowen wrote in Tales of Olde Ipswich about an earlier memorial at this locatio
“To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate a sum of money for the purpose of replacing the Veterans’ Honor Roll on South Main Street, an equal sum of money to be made available for said purpose from the Veterans’ Memorial Committee; or to take any other action relative thereto.”
“Jacob Burridge moved for indefinite postponement. Seconded. The Committee to replace the Veterans’ memorial on South Main Street has reached 80% of its goal. Unanimous voice vote.”
The Memorial Green
This lawn is an extension of the greenway that extends from the Old South Cemetery to the Old Town Hall. Perhaps some day the Riverwalk behind the EBSCO building will finally be extended across South Main Street through the unnamed Green to County Street where it can connect to the Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk. Regardless of the name eventually chosen, one thing most of us agree on is that it should not become the location of a new Public Safety building, as was proposed in the past.