1832 Ipswich map

The ancient names of Ipswich streets and places

During our long winters, Ipswichites retreat to Facebook and debate the names of familiar places. Just don’t ever call them Ipswichians.

Castle Hill

The first Crane Castle was torn down after a dozen years and was replaced by the one still standing.

A well-intentioned person posted a photo of the “Historic Crane Estate,” to whom one reader replied, “I always called it Castle Hill.” Another reader pointed out that “the Great House at the Crane Estate is not a fortified structure and therefore is technically a manor house, not a castle, but nonetheless a lovely place.”

When John Winthrop Jr. and the settlers of Ipswich arrived in 1634, the Native American tribal leader Masconomet lived at a fortified location, a castle of sorts I suppose, where he could keep a watchful eye for attacks. He sold Castle Hill to the Ipswich colony along with the rest of Agawam for about $25 and a promise of protection from the Tarrantines. From the Ancient Records of Ipswich we learn that in 1634 the Ipswich selectmen unanimously voted “That the Neck of Land whereupon the great Hill standeth, which is known by the name of the Castle Hill, lying on the other side of this River towards the Sea, shall remayne unto the common use of the Town forever.”

Nonetheless, in 1639 the Town deeded Castle Hill with nearby meadow and marsh to John Winthrop, Jr. to persuade him to stay. Winthrop sold the property to Samuel Symonds, after which Winthrop and almost all of the 12 original settlers moved away and became the Founding Fathers of the Ipswich Diaspora.

The Beach

Crane Beach was called Patch’s Beach in the 19th Century

The dispute over the name of the Castle does little to resolve the tiring argument about whether it’s Crane Beach or Crane’s Beach. The Trustees call it Crane, the Townies call it Crane’s. Before the 20th Century it was Lakeman’s Beach, before that Brown’s Beach, and before that it was Patch’s Beach. No matter who owned it at the moment, it was historically called “Ipswich Beach.” Strictly speaking, it’s Castle Neck Beach, which to my knowledge, it has never been called, and should not be confused with the other side of the Neck, which would be Castle Neck River beach, and I’ve never heard it called that either.

Lord Square

Asa Lord's Store
Asa Lord’s store

The name of this bewildering intersection in Ipswich has perplexed map-makers for many years. Before the 19th Century it was called Brewer’s Corner. It was the site of Asa Lord’s Store, and almost every house on adjoining High Street was occupied at one time by a member of the extended Lord family. Is it Lord’s Square, Lords’ Square, Lords Square or Lord Square? Pronounce any of them and they come out the same. On Google Maps and the United States Postal Service site it is officially “Lord Square.” According to the Ipswich Assessors Office it’s “Lords Square.” Regardless, it’s not square at all, and the intersection is a mess however you spell it.

Market Square

Tyler Block
The 1907 Tyler Block, the last and largest building to be constructed after the great Central Street fire of 1894.

What newcomers to Ipswich call “Five Corners ” was Quint’s Corner to many people growing up in Ipswich, but in the early 20th Century it was called Tyler’s Corner. In the 19th Century, a muddy footpath to the mill dam was renamed Market Street and replaced North Main Street as the commercial center of town, and the intersection became known as Market Square. Historically, it was a good place to rest the horses before heading up the hill.

The Wharf

Glover’s Wharf in the distance, with Brown’s Wharf in the foreground.

Some people need a stiff drink every time they hear the phrase, “Town Landing” rather than “Town Wharf,” but there was never an official “Town Wharf.” There was Brown’s Wharf, Glover’s Wharf, Hovey’s Wharf, Appleton’s Wharf, Hunt’s Wharf, Lakeman’s Wharf, Pulcifer’s Wharf, Sawyer’s Wharf and quite a few other wharfs. They are all gone.

The changing names of Ipswich streets

High Street in Ipswich
High Street

During the 19th Century, there was a movement throughout the United States to change the ancient names of American streets to something more dignified and uniform. Thus our country is full of streets bearing names such as Maple, Green, Summer, Main, etc. Many Ipswich Streets lost their original names, but a few fortunate ones, such as Turkey Shore and Labor in Vain, gained them back.

Until the middle of the 19th Century, Central St. did not exist. The principal thoroughfare in Ipswich was venerable High Street. The main portion was variously called ye Great Street, ye Long Street, High Street, Hill Street, and was sometimes alluded to as the King’s Highway, which was the Bay Road. The upper end gained the nickname Pudding Street ” from an ancient story.

Depot Square was Bridge Street but there’s no record of a bridge. It continued straight on today’s Washington Street before the era of the locomotive. Not to be confused with Bridge Lane, which was Green Street, Washington St. was the way to the mill bridge from the western side of the village. It began at present day Market Street, and became Scott’s Lane, and later Gravel Street from the two gravel pits at the base of Mount Pleasant which furnished the road material. It rounded onto present-day Liberty Street, the name Gravel Street being retained until it reached High Street.

Summer St.
Summer Street

Summer Street was Stony Street or Annable’s Lane in the first century of settlement. It is the town’s oldest “way,” connecting the Meeting House and the River. In the first years it was simply called “The Way to the River ” or “The Way to the Meeting House ” depending on which direction you were heading. Summer Street apparently means nothing at all. Sometimes it was called “the cross-way leading to the mill.”

Spring Street was Hog Lane, and before the Bay Road was built it was known as “the Way to the Merrimack.” It came to be called Brook Street, not too different from the present name. For the Indians and the earliest settlers, this was the main road for eastern travel, and continued to be used for many years. Its course went over Town Hill and by bridge across Egypt River to its juncture with High St /Rt. 1A.

Green Street was Bridge Lane, even though there is no record of an early bridge over the river there. It was long known as Green Lane before it became a “street.”

Late 19th Century photo of Summer Street by Edward Darling–the Foster house is on the right. (Edward Darling)

The oldest section of County Street is between East Street and Green Street, and was called Cross Street. The County Street bridge was built in the mid-19th Century. From the River to the South Green, the other side of County Street was Mill Street.

On the north side of the river a public way was preserved from any encroachment. Part of it is Water Street, and it continued on what is now the Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk to County Street.

On the south side of the river, Turkey Shore connects to Labor In Vain Road and Poplar Street. The maps of the 1800s give it the name Prospect Street, but Ipswich residents demanded that it be given its old name back, and thus we still have Turkey Shore.

Labor in Vain also retained its ancient name, so-called for the “Labor in Vain fields” which often flooded. Gould’s Creek was named for a 19th Century resident on the road, J. J. Gould but was originally called Labor In Vain Creek. If you’ve ever tried to paddle against the tide at Gould’s Bridge you’ll understand that you are laboring in vain.

North Main St. in the 1800s
North Main Street in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of the Ipswich Museum

North Main Street was “the Way to the Mill” if you were going downhill, or “the Way to the Meeting House” when going uphill. The road in front of the Ipswich Library was Common Lane (because it faced the Town Common, later known as Meeting House Green and now as the North Green.) Common Lane continued to Green Lane, which became Green Street.

Chebacco Way was a path from Turkey Shore Road to the Labour-in-vain fields and the Heartbreak Hill lands and included Rocky Hill Road and part of “Old England Road,” and continued to Chebacco, which is the part of Ipswich that became Essex. The road came to be known in the early days as Argilla Road, named for the clay that dominates the soil. Today’s Argilla Road continues toward town on what was originally School Street to the South Green, which was for centuries known as the Schoolhouse Green.

South Main Street began its existence in 1646, when the first wooden cart bridge was built at or near the Choate Bridge. Maps from the 1800s show South Main Street continuing on today’s County Road, which was an ancient way by which foot-travelers from the south and east forded the river near the present pedestrian footbridge. From Boston to Portland it became the Bay Road and after crossing the River it wound up the hill to North Main St. and High Street.

Wood’s Lane as it was originally known, became Merrifield’s Lane, later Fruit St, and is once again Woods Lane. The former Cable Hospital sits on Windmill Hill, and below it at the intersection of Essex and County Roads is an ancient boulder with the inscription “Parting Paths.

Market St. in the 1800s
Market St. in 1880

Mill Street: Access to the mill was gained through the present Union Street, which was given the later name before we had unions.

Saltonstall Street is named after the town’s first miller, but was called Winter Street in the Village Maps from the 1800s. It was the original location of the Whipple House, which was moved to the South Green.

A crooked foot-way led from Depot Square, through the Hammatt St. parking lot across Farley brook (now buried underground), then on Wilde’s Court, crossing today’s Central Stree and continuing up the hill turned sharply to the right, entered North Main Street.

This way to the meeting house for settlers in the northwest section of the town was known as Pindar’s Lane. The upper end of the old Pindar’s Lane stilll exists as Loney’s Lane, but it ends on Warren Street, named after the engine and firehouse which were once located there.

Dirty Lane, because it crossed muddy Farley Brook, was afterwards called Baker’s Lane, and now bears the name Mineral Street. The 1832 Ipswich Village Map labels it Back Street.

Central Street was once a wetland and did not exist until the mid-19th Century. Manning-Street and Hammatt Street were created shortly thereafter. This is why the houses on those streets are almost all Victorian. Brown Square is so-called because of Mr. Brown and his coal gas plant.

Gould's bridge
Gould’s Bridge before 1900.

Candlewood Road was named for the pine trees that provided a pitch that could be burned like a candle. The Candlewood area was settled by the Kinsman, Lakeman and Fellows families, who all have roads named after them.

The land bounded by the Bay Road, Essex Road, Candlewood Road, Fellows Road and Lakeman’s Lane was a part of the Common land of the Town. When the Common lands were divided into Eighths in 1709, it became part of the division known as the South Eighth and was known as The Inner Common of the South Eighth.

Mill Road replaced an older road that led to Warner’s Bridge, where several mills operated in the 19th Century.

Pineswamp Road leads to Willowdale Forest, which is all pines and swamp. It was part of the common land.

The Appleton Family named Waldingfield Road after the place of the family’s origin in England.

Heartbreak Road was named after the hill, which was too hard to farm, but a poem attributes the name to an Indian princess who waited for the return of her English lover. Old maps label it Hard Brick Hill for the clay that dominates the soil.

Jeffreys Neck Road is named after the Englishman who had already occupied the Neck when the Puritan settlers arrived. They paid him to leave.

There was a farm but no other houses on Mount Pleasant until the town’s first subdivisions were built around Lafayette Road and Mount Pleasant Avenue and

Agawam Street, was renamedVermette Court because we already have an Agawam Avenue. The 1872 Ipswich Village map shows the lots laid out but with no houses yet built.

Linebrook was originally called “Ipswich Farms.” Linebrook Road was called Boxford Road . Leslie Road honors one of the early pastors of Linebrook Parish.

Upper High St. was called Rowley Road. The neighborhood on High Street adjoining Rowley is still known as “Ipswich Village.”

In the first decade of the town’s existence, Topsfield was a part of Ipswich known as New Meadows. The part of Ipswich known as the Hamlet was “set off” as a separate parish in 1714-15 after several appeals to the Town and to the General Court. It named itself Hamilton. Chebacco followed suit in 1818 and renamed itself Essex.


6 thoughts on “The ancient names of Ipswich streets and places”

  1. Really fascinating. Seems like everything is kind of “bunched together.” Is that because people had to walk everywhere back in the day while in town or because of an Indian threat? I like “Labor in Vain” …

    1. Road names made sense when the roads were new, but the town grew around them. In Ipswich, Rt. 1A from the north is High Street, and continues straight as High Street at Lord Square even though 1A curves to Central St. That’s because Central Street was a wetland until about 1860. High Street continues to North Street, where it abruptly changes its name to East Street. That’s because it was once the center of town. East Street continues one block where it stops at County Street, but County Street becomes East Street and it continues past the wharf to Jeffreys Neck Road. This is because County Street was once only two blocks long, named Cross St.

      Or, go to Market Square (Five Corners) in Ipswich, the intersection of Market, Central, North Main and South Main Streets, even though there’s really just two streets crossing. But that’s another story.

    1. I live on the corner of turkey shore and woods lane but my deed calls them prospect st and love traces back to 1898. Love obviously changed to fruit then woods and prospect to Turkey shore td.

  2. Hello Gordon,
    I was born in Ipswich in 1942 and lived there on Wainwright Street until I joined the Navy at seventeen. When I visit Ipswich I see the many changes and often times your articles explain or just document the many differences I see when I visit. You sir do a great service for us displaced townies.

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