Proposed condos on Washington St. in IpswichCommentary

Nightmare on Washington Street

One of the older established ways in town, Washington Street may have started as a footpath for Native Americans long before John Winthrop and the first settlers arrived. Today’s Washington Street was called once called Bridge Street, and for two centuries was known as Gravel Street for the two gravel pits on the hillside. It took a right turn to High Street at Lords Square on what is now Liberty Street. In the19th Century, small and moderate sized Victorian houses replaced many of the original structures in the old colonial neighborhood.

Before Washington Street was reconstructed in 2011, it had become an eyesore with huge swaths of cracked pavement and a buckling sidewalks (when there was one at all.) The redesigned road is a tremendous improvement in aesthetics and safety. Visitors see a well-preserved neighborhood that compliments the historic character of our town, and the community has a safer way to walk to stores, schools and Bialek Park.

Washington Street before reconstruction in 2011.
Washington Street was a hideous sea of degraded asphalt before it was reconstructed in 2011.
Washington Street as it appears today
Washington Street as it appears today. The condo units on the right were built in 2005 after the St. Stanislaus Church was demolished. Developer John Colantoni proposes to demolish the car wash on the left, and construct 16 four story units. Contrary to the proposal’s description, the units would exhibit little if any historic character other than mansard roofs, and would be completely incompatible with the existing architecture of the street.

The Great Wall of Washington Street

Site plan for 16 Washington Street
Site plan for 16 Washington Street

Developer John Colantoni recently went before the Planning and Design Review Boards with plans to build 16 townhouses at the location of the existing car wash on Washington Street, near the intersection with Mineral Street. The “design” is by ASB Design Group of Topsfield. The proposed construction would provide little green space, increasing by 5,380 square feet an already hideous amount of impervious surface, which the developer claims to address by capturing stormwater in a retention system, with “landscaping rain gardens” instead of yards. The four story height of the wall of structures would have roof decks for its inhabitants, who are assumed to be willing and capable of climbing four flights of stairs to get from room to room. Plans show 48 parking spots, 32 of which would be in garages that take up almost the entire first floor of the monstrous proposal.

Ipswich zoning bylaw has a “Footnote 11” that applies to the Intown Residential zone (IR) and provides a so-called density bonus in exchange for making two units “affordable.” An article on the warrant for town meeting on October 16 will give Ipswich residents the opportunity to abolish the density bonus and return some semblance of sanity to the explosion of massive condominium proposals in our small town. This particular lot is zoned for business, and would not be subject to removal of Footnote 11 in the IR district.

Proposed building #2 of six units proposed for the car wash lot on Washington St. near Mineral St.
Proposed building #2 of six units proposed for the car wash lot on Washington St. near Mineral St.

A group of Ipswich citizens has organized to oppose and block the construction of such massive developments in our small and historic community, including the proposal for the former Brunis, as well as the Washington Street project. Visit Ipswich Citizens for Sustainable Development on the Facebook page.

Historic houses on Washington Street

  • Information is from MACRIS, the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System. Photos are from the Ipswich Patriot Properties database.
78 Washington St. 78 Washington Street, the Daniel Haskell House (1835) - The Federal trim and substantial chimneys identify this house as perhaps the earliest of the story-and-one-third 19th century cottages on Linebrook. It is uncertain which Daniel Haskell Sr. or Jr. was the owner. Records show that both died of dementia.
62 Washington St., the Robert Stone house (1869) - 62 Washington St., Ipswich MA
Washington St., Ipswich 59 Washington Street, the Charles W. Bamford house (C 1887) - This house was built between 1884 and 1888 for Charles W. Bamford, who was at various times in his career the Town Clerk, Treasurer, and Justice of the Peace. The elaborative cornices and multiple colors of paint are a mix of Italianate and Queen Anne Victorian.
56 Washington St. 56 Washington Street, the Ephraim Goodhue House (1875) - The earliest owner of the house was Ephraim Goodhue, listed in town directories as a blacksmith and grocer with a shop on Pleasant Street. By 1902 the house had been converted to two-family use.
53 Washington St. 53 Washington Street, the George W. Smith – Pickard House, (1880) - The earliest owner to be identified is George W. Smith who owned the house by 1884, and is listed in town directories as a flagman for the railroad. By 1910 the property was owned by Henry A. Pickard .
46 Washington St. 46 Washington Street, the James S. Marble- James Peatfield house (1860) - This two-family house was came into the possession of Sanford and James Peatfield in 1859. James Peatfield came to America in 1827. He built one of the first lace machines in this country, and invented a warp machine, after which he began manufacturing woolen underwear. Together with his brother, Sanford, Peatfield built a brick mill on Washington Street.
44 Washington St. 44 Washington St., the Howard Hills house (1905) - The house at 44 Washington Street was built between 1902 and 1907, and was constructed for Howard S. Hills who was manager of Russell’s Ideal Lunch at Depot Square.
42 Washington Street 42 Washington Street, DJ’s Variety Store (1938) - This small grocery store was built between 1936 and 1940, and was operated by Christ G. Geanakos as a grocery store. Geanakos lived at 1 Burley Avenue.
41 Washington Street, the George Brown house (1883) - John A. Brown sold this lot to George B. Brown in 1883 and he built a house shortly thereafter. Brown’s house is one of the few Stick Style Victorian homes in Ipswich. Brown built a grist mill, also located on Washington St., in 1881. He started with a single team and by 1888 employed 6 men. Brown was the first in the area to install a roller mill, which removed all foreign iron substances from the grain before it entered the mill
37 Washington Street, the Brown-Grossman-Doucette house (1884) - This house was built by 1884 by George V. Brown, one of several houses he built on a large parcel. Brown operated a large hay & grain business nearby at Brown Square and lived on Liberty Street. In 1916 this house was occupied by Charles (& Mary) Grossman and Denis (& Maggie) Doucette.
35 Washington Street 35 Washington Street, the Charles and Margaret Bell house (c 1890) - These identical houses on Cottage St. were built for Charles E. and John A. Brown, who were also involved in speculative development on Brown and Liberty Streets.
32 Washington Street, the Frederick Bray – Daniel Nourse House (c 1870) - The first owner of this house, built around 1865 was Frederick Bray, a Civil War veteran. By 1884 it was owned by Daniel P. and Sarah Nourse. Nourse died by 1888 and the house was sold. By 1916 it was occupied by Dennis and Nora Monahan. Dennis is listed in town directories as a mason.
31 Washington St., the Laffy – Chapman – Morrill house (c 1880) - This house was built between 1872 and 1884. By 1884 it was owned by Michael Laffy; Laffy is listed in town directories as a laborer. By 1910 the house was owned by Walter Chapman, a farmer who lived on Pineswamp Road and presumably rented this house. In 1916 the house was occupied by Euclid A. and Charolette B. Morrill. In 1924 it was occupied by Insurance agent William F. Connor and his wife Mary.
18 Washington St., Ipswich MA 18 Washington Street, Sanford Peatfield House (1860) - This house was built for Sanford and Mary Peatfield around 1860. Sanford and James Peatfield built a brick mill on Washington Street and continued making woolen underwear until about 1877. The factory became the Hayes Hotel, and burned in the 20th Century.
Patrick Riley House on Washington Street, Ipswich MA 16 Washington Street, the Patrick Riley house (c 1865) - Patrick Riley is listed in town directories as a farmer. By 1924 this house was occupied by Isaac W. Mitchell, a carpenter.
Patrick Riley House, 12 Washington St. 12 Washington Street, the Patrick Riley house (1880) - This house was built between 1872 and 1884 for Patrick and Ellen Riley. Riley was a farmer and he and his wife owned this house and the one at #16. By 1924 this house was occupied by Maurice and Mary Blaquiere.
10 Washington St. 10 Washington St., the Mary Holmes – Captain John Lord house (b. 1770) - The house was constructed before 1770 at 45 N. Main St., and was moved to this location in 1860 by Michael Ready. The second floor was probably added at that time.

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10 replies »

  1. The home of my great grandfather, Charles Bamford, is listed. It’s also the home of my father, Earle B Bamford, who was raised in that home by his grandfather after being orphaned. He told me stories if the surrounding area being fields and farmland.

  2. Thank you for such a thoughtful presentation of some familiar homes that I am now able to appreciate even more. I am also very sad and disappointed about the spreading rash of condos. Even though this summer has replenished our water supply, I don’t assume that we can rely on that.

  3. Ok, I’m going put something out here as “food for thought” .. I grew up in this beautiful town, we were “outer linebrookers” i couldn’t have asked for a better town to grow up in, the sense of community, the fantastic friends, and families that genuinely loved the HISTORIC VALUE of this place.. After graduating from Whittier, i worked as a plumber in town until 97 when i moved to Florida, in those days, working on these treasured historic homes was an honor and a privilege…in those days, one of the most powerful entities in town was the “historical society” no changes were made to these homes or the town’s historical district’s without their approval, and that includes planning board..if they couldn’t stop something, they had the backing of the federal government at their back to protect our history… I’m not sure who has taken control of it , but it seems clear to me it’s leadership has been “hobbled” or deliberately taken over and silenced by “progressive thinkers” that see “dollar signs” not “precious American history” that can never be replaced..they have the power..THAT’S where to start, getting the correct people in there and make it “the force to be reckoned with” it once was…now, I’m not there, and i might be “of base” with my comments, but I’m hearing on this thread from people who clearly love this town..I’m just trying to “plant a seed” as it were.. It’s a town worth saving.!!🙏💝🇺🇸

  4. I lived in Ipswich for a while and resented the fact that a gas station was allowed to block the view of some of the oldest houses in the US. How could that happen! Please don’t let anything like that happen again.

  5. I hope this is the case of the developer asking for a mile expecting to get an inch. In any case there should a be a prompt and firm response that this development is drastically out of proportion to the neighborhood.

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