John Appleton house, Ipswich

Saving John Appleton’s house

Colonel John Appleton acquired the lot at he northwest corner of North Main St. and Central St. in 1707 after commanding a regiment in the expedition against Port Royal. John Appleton, his father, and his father’s brother Samuel Appleton were among the leaders in the effort of the townspeople to refuse Royal taxation – the action known as the “Andros Rebellion.” – for which they were jailed in Boston, and for which Ipswich is known as the Birthplace of American Independence.

This photo from the 1894 Central Street fire shows the John Appleton house on the far right, which was separated from the flames by Central St.

In 1962 the Appleton House was purchased by Exxon with the intention to build a gas station on the site. The Ipswich Heritage Trust was formed in an attempt to purchase the house for preservation. The house is now protected by a covenant. This was the first successful effort to preserve historic structures in Ipswich, and laid the ground for future covenants and formation of the Ipswich Historical Commission. Only by the intervention of a few dedicated people was this historic home saved. It now serves as the Professional Building.”

Permission to demolish the house and allow construction of the service station was placed on the shoulders of the selectmen, and the Old Town Hall was packed one evening at a hearing. As Alice Keaton noted, “the hearing droned on for some time, the arguments pro and con dutifully heard and recorded. The smiling representative from the oil company listing all the benefits that the town would accrue– and all the preservationists disputing him every step of the way.” The assembled crowd was shocked when the selectmen cast their vote with the oil company.

Taking matters into her own hands, Kay Thompson spearheaded formation of the Ipswich Heritage Trust under the aegis of the Ipswich Historical Society (now known as the Ipswich Museum). After long negotiation, the oil company relinquished title for a payment by the Trust of the full purchase price plus attorney’s fees and other costs. With the help of outside donations, the project was financed. Within two years, and at a price far less than cost, the house was sold for use as a professional center, with deed restrictions assuring the trustees that no significant changes would be made to the structure’s frame and outer appearance.

Old Post Office in Ipswich
The Dr. John Manning house (pink) and the Old Post Office (red) were the next two buildings saved by the Ipswich Heritage Trust

Meanwhile, the Trust took an option, and exercised it, on two more buildings on Meeting House Green, which were both in deplorable condition and threatened with disastrous conversions or even demolition. The Dr. John Manning house was built in the Eighteenth Century. He was a surgeon, inventor, and early crusader for smallpox inoculation. The other building, on the same property was constructed before 1769, had been the town’s first post office and is perhaps the earliest in the country still standing. Both were then later sold as a unit with deed restrictions covering interior detail as well as framing and out-side appearance.

It was through individual efforts and personal monetary sacrifice that instead of a service station at Market Square, we have a beautiful historic home housing business offices. These homes are now a source of pride to the owners and to the town. These efforts eventually gave rise to the Ipswich Historical Commission.

*Read the entire history of the John Appleton house

1 thought on “Saving John Appleton’s house”

  1. Congratulations Gordon on another spell binding lesson in Ipswich history. Clearly you devoted untold hours to unravel the story, and you present it in a compelling way. It could be a movie entitled Hero’s And Old Houses….Thanks to all who made it possible

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