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.

Inside Stonehenge and Kings Rook in Ipswich MA
Inside the Kings Rook (photo restored from damaged original).

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

54 thoughts on “Kings Rook and the Stonehenge Club, when Ipswich rocked!”

  1. 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.

    1. Gardner’s owned the Salem news. I worked for gardner’s at big gatherings band concerts. Howard at motocross events. Built chairs and stained them. Worked on apartments attached to coffee house. Sandy Ferguson was great. I was mesmerized with here ability with a abacus . I went on rent collection with gardener he owned almost a hundred units. P

  2. 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”

  3. 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?

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. I worked @ King’s Rook Cycles in Beverly at the parts counter from ~1968 through 1972. It was a great place to work.

    2. 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……

    3. 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!

    4. Bill hamm here. Bought your old car prototype worked kitchen made sandwiches. Ate your wife’s cheesecake. Bought a bike out of your Honda store. Remember cycle parts you started. The kings took awful poor singers KRAPS. Poor boy and banks of the old ohio. You were vocal I played base . You were vocal.

    5. Howard
      Are you still with Sandy? Greatest times I ever had was working the parts dept for you on Brimbal Ave. and renting an apt at Stonehenge with Joe Luciano.
      I retired from the Dept. of Defense in 2013 after 21 years at the Pentagon.

  7. 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

    1. In the Summer of 65…what can I say…a magical summer for me.I was 13yo and I would borrow my cousins ID.I loved The Rook. The upmost reason why I had to get in there was there was a band that played the Stones really well! So now I know the lead singers name.I wish there was footage.The Stones song that summer I believe was “Painted Black”.

  8. 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

  9. 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…….

    1. Hey Ron, how goes it !
      I feel lucky to have met some ofTut’s friends and you a Kathrine sure bring back a lot of memories and good laughs .Peter Wholey(not sure on spelling of last name) great piano player along with Toby McGregor. Paul McDade,Wink Ashworth, Jeff Dolan. I also remember watching the gates a few times for Howard Ferguson at Pepperell. I feel very lucky that he didn’t mind a tag along at times.

    2. Hi Jeff,
      Nice to see your name. I remember my first day at Ipswich High Becky came up to me and said ‘Hi, I’m Jeff Dolan’s sister.’ I think both of us went for quite a while people knowing our real names. I think that was a magic time for all you. Right time right place. Our Mum may not of thought that, she did meet her first Hell’s Angel there one day.
      .not sure how to pass on contact info, but sure.

      1. Jane, I’m in Sedona, Arizona (cel.)928-301-4185. I used the reply form to give you my email address, but I don’t know if it was sent along….

  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

    1. I used to go there to see Tom Rush. I can’t remember the name of the grenadine drinks. It was something catchy that made us underage drinkers feel as though we were having something cool.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

    1. 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)!!

  13. 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.

  14. “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.

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    1. The Roots of Evil was an Ipswich based band containing Mike Girard and Stacey Pedrick who would later form The Fools.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. The Kings Rook was truly unique in every way : it’s almost hidden location, intimate atmosphere with fireplaces burning, totally original non alcoholic grenadine flavored drinks, and incredible musical talent.
    Among others saw Judy Collins there in the “original” KR before an expansion that about tripled its tiny size. She performed on a small wooden platform maybe a foot high in the middle of the room about 10ft from me.
    The Kweskin Jug Band appeared a number of times. Loved the soulful in her own world band member Maria Muldaur often featured.
    Other less known ( then ) acts streamed through but always of quality and entertaining.
    I left for the military in 1969. Got married and in 1973 brought my wife back to the area and to the Kings Rook I had told her so much about – to find it was gone.

      1. Hey Billy, Billy (Will) Keyworth here. I remember you helping my mom with her Jaguars. How are you? Message me at my email/website below! Hope to hear from you. Dad dies at 90 in 2016. Mom’s still alive at 87 this this year!

  21. Apart from falling in love with Bonnie Raitt, I most remember Freebo, playing boogie woogie on the upright piano, and wearing a loin cloth.

    1. There were several iconic things in Ipswich, the sign for The Panther Club, the Blue Clock in the Strand Theater, Dusty’s neon sign, and The Rook / Stonehenge. I personally did not know The Rook but it was my brother Tuts world. He worked there late 60’s. It was a time that he remembered with smiles and laughter with the friends he made there. There were three things he like doing back then, standing on Quint’s Corner ,riding his motorcycles and being at The Rook.
      Thank you The Rook for being there.

      1. Dear Jane, Tut was one of my closest friends in those days. I ran into him several years later for a brief conversation. I have always wondered what happened to you and Tut and Henry. I live in Arizona and love to get intouch with you all…

      2. Jane…..I think of you and Tut often. God we had great times, didn’t we?
        Ron Cole

  22. Such a cool place! I hung out at the Rook in Mhead as a teen but managed to find a ride a few times to Ipswich to hear some folk greats. Mimi and Dick Farina, Tom Rush come to mind❤️

  23. Hi there,
    What a great list of posts. I grew up in Mhead so spent a lot more time at the local Rook, but would hitch up to Ipswich where I saw everyone from Tom Rush to the original Butter Band.
    Later saw early Geils and a local Bosstown Sound group called Eden’s Children, who did an amazing version. Of Season of the Witch.
    Man, I miss those days!
    Tom Vickers

  24. Ohhhhh what wonderful memories are brought back here! Billy Toabe here. Big hello to Wayne Ward!
    My first real job was working at the Kings Rook in Marblehead. I would ride my bike there after HS and started out cleaning up the place from the night before. Then working in that little kitchen washing dishes and making cheese platters and sandwiches. Ohhhhh that yummy cheesecake and pastries!!! I loved working at The Rook, all my Hippie friends hung out there.
    My girlfriend Shellie Smith’s sister worked at Stonehenge and she saved use a little table and got us in 3 nights in a row to see J Giles Blues Band!

  25. Thank you Howard Ferguson for running Kings Rook in Ipswich with many great musicians and opening Kings Rook Honda where I bought my first bike in 1968.

  26. I worked in the kitchen as well. I was a student at Gordon at the time. Drove there in my 39 Chevy the next morning to sweep and get things ready for the next day. i remember when the General’s ladies put on a fashion show.. and of course i remember Bill Hamm and his mom, ,jeff Dolan, I remember Frank Howard giving me a back to school before i had my car. Sure does bring back memories.

  27. Was introduced to The Rook in 1966 by classmate Andrea MacGregor, Toby’s younger sister. Loved it and missed it when I left for college 1970… Rode with Wink on his Harley many times… Best dance venue ever. Fondest of memories and I have pictures!

    1. Just saw in the news today (12/20/21) that Mike Nesmith died. My wife is from Marblehead, so we went to the rook there a lot when we were dating. After we were married we went to Stonehenge several times, the most memberable was hearing Mike sing “jJoanne”. I just listened to him at The Britt Festival 1992, and his voice still brings tears to my eyes. He will be much missed for his solo work.

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