Kings Rook and the Stonehenge Club, when Ipswich rocked!

In the 1960’s, Howard Ferguson and Gardner Damon started the Kings Rook in a funky old building just beyond the Choate bridge on South Main Street, put together from pieces of other buildings by an antiques dealer named Ralph Burnham early in the 20th Century. Good coffee and cocoa were served, two fireplaces kept it warm in the winter, and music could be heard through the open windows. Many famous musicians played their tunes to Ipswich ears, including Tom Rush, Richard and Mimi Fariña, Judy Collins, the Cryan’ Shames and Paul Butterfield.

J. Geils at Stonehenge in Ipswich

Stonehenge Bonnie Raitt Ipswich

Stonehenge Ipswich MA Mimi Farina Mike Nesmit

Al Kooper at Stonehenge in Ipswich

Bonnie Rait at Stonehenge in Ipswich

J. Geils at Ipswich Stonehenge

John Lee Hooker at Stonehenge in Ipswich

John Hammond at Stonehenge in Ipswich

The Kings Rook – Stonehenge Club

In 1969 Phil Cole purchased the building, renamed it Stonehenge and continued the musical fare. The J. Geils Band, the original Modern Lovers, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Boz Skaggs, Bo Diddley, Al Kooper, Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen, Billy Squier with The Sidewinders, Leo Kottke, John Lee Hooker, Martin Mull, Michael Nesmith (from The Monkees), The Velvet Underground (without Lou Reed), Liv Taylor, John Hammond Jr., Pearls Before Swine, Mimi Fariña , Bonnie Rait, Tim Hardin, The Holy Modal Rounders, Jon Pousette-Dart, Fairport Convention, Matthews Southern Comfort, the Jackie Lomax Band and Harry Chapin all played at the Stonehenge Club.

The glory days did not last long, however, and by 1972 the music was gone. The building later became the Carriage House Restaurant before it was demolished. The site is now a professional building, but the new building on that site adopted some of the same architectural features.

The Kings Rook and Stonehenge sat behind and to the left of the Sherborne Wilson house, which still stands on South Main Street near the Choate Bridge


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28 replies »

  1. I spent the day with Jerry Harrison last year. He remembered fondly playing in Ipswich. He lives in Northern California but comes to visit family on Cape Ann now and then.


  2. The memories I have of going to Stonehenge several times with my boyfriend at the time have stayed with me all these years. I saw wonderful Bonnie Raitt, Tom Rush, and Al Kooper performances there, along with others,..was hooked on Al Kooper from then on. Even saw Michael Nesmith there. Yes, quite amazing and fortunate to think that these performancers sought out Ipswich as a venue, and not far from where I lived in Rockport. Stonehenge was was so intimate, it made you feel like they were there just for you.


  3. I’ll never forget the King’s Rook. I was a tall 14-year-old in May of 1967, and I was able to get in, even though 16 was the age limit. I spent the night dancing and talking with a 17-year -old IHS senior named Casha Soroka. I didn’t let on that I was in 8th grade. That place was magical. The band playing that night was called the Roots of Evil. Casha and I met up on Crane’s Beach the next day and walked up Steep Hill to the Castle mall. I was out of my league, but what an unforgettable weekend.


  4. We went to the Stonehenge several times. I don’t recall too much from that period of my life, but do vividly remember seeing Livingston Taylor there. Jim Croce too, I believe.


  5. Just found this on line. Loved going there and for the life of me, do not remember anything that I had to drink. I probably didn’t have any money. All I did was dance. Good bands and good music, and fun times with friends when I was in high school. Dance, dance, dance; all she did was dance.
    Lynn Cooper


  6. “The Rook” , as my friends and I called it, was a welcome respite from teenage life during mid sixties on the NorthShore. To be brief, we owe a lot to the owners and management for bringing meaningful musical culture and a place to relax or cut loose and dance. Thank you King’s Rook.


  7. To young to get inside I would sit on the river bank across the river and listen to the bands playing. I heard some great music.


  8. What a trip down memory lane! Enjoyed many a Friday night sipping Mitt Schlags….a type of express served in a very large mug with a handle (almost like a small soup bowl) but with a handle. It was topped with real whipped cream. My date: Art Ansel a Columbia post grad, and I a lowly senior in high school! I will always remember seeing some of the best names in the folk music scene and how I miss that whole “beatnik vibe”. Absolutely wonderful memories. Thanks for allowing us to post and share.


    • Tom Rush & The Kweskin Jug Band, w/ “GOD”, AKA Mel Lyman, “mit Schlag” Great fireplace/Beatnik Coffeehouse “Vibe”. Why was it “demo’d”? Shame Old places have Soul(s)!!


  9. I spent many happy Fridays or Saturdays at The Kings Rook ipswich in the mid sixties. Tom Rush, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, John Hammond and many others, sealed my love for the Blues and folk music. The grenadine drinks, a votive candle at each table, the stage so close , Magic!


  10. I am almost 70 yrs no and I remember the Kings Rook with great memories. Many nights of Grenadine and soda water, sometimes 7 up or ginger ale. No alcohol served at all. half the teens in town went there every Fri, and Sat. night, Really Great memories. Took my dates there many times, for quiet romantic times


  11. I started working there washing dishes in 1964 when Jackie Washington came to perform……Stayed until the end when Phil Cole bought the place. I have nothing but wonderful memories of those days…….


  12. I saw Michael Cooney perform at the King’s Rook in the mid 60’s. Was the coffee house located in a basement or lower level of the Ipswich building?

    I’m checking the accuracy of my memory


  13. A guy from Haverhill Ma had a band that played at the Kings Rook frequently – Vinny Schena – covered the Stones – pretty well as I remember


  14. Howard Ferguson setting history straight. about 1962 , the partners,howard ferguson / gardner damon – along with BROADSIDES dave wilson doing the booking, created the venue. Now , gardner acted as the maitre d at the door,as this was his participation in the business and I along with dave did the booking among daves friends/musicians/contacts. I did the day to day management of the place,till it was time [1964]to go off to open KINGS ROOK HONDA in beverly./ gardner and I created the KINGS ROOK REALTY TRUST,in 1960-61 to buy the building housing the original KINGS ROOK MARBLEHEAD that I started in 1959,GARDNER was this 22 year olds beatnik/hippies front man to the banks loan money needed to purchase the building I rented,but had to than purchase, as the landlady did not want to be involved in my marblehead town father fight. gardner was a customer of mine,had no involvement in that coffeehouse and only came in to that KINGS ROOK MARBLEHEAD for his pot of earl grey tea, write poetry ,and charm my afternoon clientell of older ladys . man, I LOVED HIM. he was instrumental in my financial

    survival at that time.


    • Howard; Good to see you writing here. Most of us thought that you were a genius and I’ll never forget the cheese cake that , I think, your wife made……


    • Dad, still remembered after all these years. I remember one of the security guards used to have hard candy that he shared with us kids and Toby (Debby McGregor) teaching me boogie woogie on the piano!


  15. In early 1972, Chi Coltrane was at stonehenge with Tim Hardin. Four of us came on Thursday and found the place empty. It seems Coltrane was on the bill for Friday/Saturday and Tim Hardin was solo on Thursday. The manager suggested Tim do a peronal set at our table and call it a night. Tim came out , sat at our table and performed gem after gem for 45 minutes. After Reason to Believe, he asked if we were satisfied, said goodnight and left. A once in a lifetime night. I don’t drive by that area without remembering that night.


  16. I remember Gardner Damon, very well, seeing him usually sitting at a table in the front room at the Ipswich Rook in the mid- 1960s. I know the town father’s of Ipswich, embraced the Rook as a “non-alcohol” venue for the teens in town, and unlike town fathers in Marblehead were very happy to have the Coffeehouse business in town. I remember one night in the mid 1960s coming to see Judy Collins play the Ipswich coffeehouse. She arrived early and decided to have dinner before the performance. During dinner she had a few drinks, and when she returned Gardner, (a notorious tee-totaller) thought she was drunk and made such a fuss she threatened not to perform. Cooler heads prevailed, and the show went on. Great memories. – Stephen P. Hall


  17. I went there to see Judy Collins many times. Also,my former wife, Karen Reed Parker, and I used to go there and rock out in 1967 when things were hopping there. I had many great times there and like all things, am sorry it is gone. Remember the Garage a Go-Go? It was in the old Ipswich Ford, right across the street, where my Dad bought his last new Ford in 1966. Who would have thought little Ipswich could have such cool places?


  18. Very good points , particularly in terms of Gardner Damon, he really was the one who was responsible for transforming the coffee house into such a fabulous venue for the top cutting edge talent of the day. It was a very remarkable venture to have such great people come and
    perform out in, what was at that time, the “boonies”


  19. I don’t recall their ever having served cocoa. Tea though. It was the same fare in Marblehead. Espressso or Earl Gray Tea and the offering of a tiny little square piece of cheesecake . That’s pretty much it except for the grenadine drink with bubbly water. And nowhere in this account is Damon mentioned. Gardner Damon did a lot to preserve potentially historic buildings locally and in Marblehead. Add to the list of rockers, another folkie act — The Pozo Seco Singers. and Eric Anderson. Good times.


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