Historic Districts and Neighborhoods

Ipswich was founded in 1633 in an area the native Americans called “Agawam”. The oldest part of town has remained to an exceptional degree intact, with more “First Period” houses (1625-1725) still standing than any other community in America. The contiguous historic neighborhoods of Meeting House Green, High Street, the East End, and the South Green are well-preserved streetscapes of 17th to 19th century private residences. Historic photos show that much of the village retains its historic buildings, roads, and settlement pattern. The 2014 Fall Town Meeting on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 established an Architectural Preservation District (APD) encompassing most of the houses in the four historic districts.

Meetinghouse Green Historic District

Ipswich lower green, photo by George Dexter
Market Square looking up at Meeting House Green. Photo by George Dexter, early 20th Century
Meetinghouse Green Historic District

Town Hill was the governmental center for early Ipswich. By order of the General Court, dwellings had to be within one half mile of the Meeting House at Meeting House Green. A meeting house was built here by 1636, surrounded by a high wall to protect them from the ever-present danger from Indian attacks. Several churches have stood at this same spot. 

The Meeting House Green Historic District includes thirty houses, three churches and the town library which are sited around the steep, rocky Green itself and along Main Street. It encompasses a wide range of architectural styles with approximately half of the structures dating from the eighteenth century and half from the nineteenth.

East End Historic District


The seafaring portion of the original village of Ipswich and offers an architectural history of the town’s development. It was here that the first houses were built in this town where fishing and lumbering were prominent industries. When settlers arrived in the 1630′s, wigwams, huts and hovels were constructed between Town Hill and what is now Town Wharf. The Ipswich River was the town’s avenue to the Atlantic.

The East End Historic District includes the Town Wharf, East, Water, Summer, Green, Hovey Streets and Agawam Avenue, and a major portion of County Street.

High St. Historic District

High St. photo before 1900
High Street, early 20th Century. Mount Pleasant and Bush Hill in the distance are just starting to be settled.

High Street was the main residential and commercial street of the new community. The predominant character of the street is now residential, but several of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Century houses along High Street earlier served as taverns, stores, or craftsman’s shops. One of the most important was the inn. Ipswich was on the road to Boston and a constant stream of travel passed through the town. The High Street Historic District boundaries define the northern area of earlier settlement and later growth. Lord’s Square is not included because it no longer conforms to the character of the area. The boundary lines continue west to the High St. bridge, which is a distinct boundary, for beyond it were common pastures during the 17th and 18th centuries.

South Green Historic District

South Side Store, Goodhue's Grocery
The South Side Store

The South Green Historic District dates from 1686 when the town voted that the area be held in common, and it has fulfilled various community needs. Cattle were gathered here to be driven to outlying pastures. All adult men reported monthly to the Green for military training. Above all, the South Green was the educational center of Ipswich. In fact, it was first known as the School House Green. The Green is bordered by Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian houses as well as a mid-18th century cemetery.

The Whipple House was moved to its present location at the north end of the Green in the 1930′s. The Nathaniel Wade House c.1727, John Heard House c. 1795, Locke’s Folly 1835-37 and “The Gables”, c. 1846 are among the most notable houses ringing the ancient training field. The Heard House marks the Northwest corner.

Ipswich Mills and Brown Mills Historic Districts

Pole Alley in Ipswich
The Ipswich Mill neighborhood, aka “Pole Alley”

The Ipswich Mills Historic District is the community in Ipswich MA west of EBSCO Publishing bordered by Union St., the MBTA commuter rail tracks and the Ipswich River. The former woolen and stocking mill buildings more recently housed Sylvania’s fluorescent lighting plant, and are where in 1942 Sylvania designed and assembled the proximity fuse for WWII bombs. The buildings now are the home of EBSCO Publishing. The Brown Stocking Mill Historic District is across Topsfield Road and includes mills and worker housing dating from 1906 at the Brown Stocking Mill on Brownville Ave. established by Harry Brown. Both districts were added to the National Park Services Registry of Historic Places in August of 1996 . That same year EBSCO Publishing moved into the old Ipswich Woolen Mills buildings. In 1868, Amos A. Lawrence established the original Ipswich Hosiery Mills in the old stone mill on County Street. By the turn of the 20th century the company had moved to the Ipswich Mills location and had become the largest stocking mill in the country. 

Streets and Neighborhoods

2 replies »

  1. There is a lot of history here for my family who settled here and the surrounding area in the 1600’s. Very excited to get to come visit very soon.


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