Public Safety

Featured image: 1922 Dodge, 1920 White, 1925 White and 1930 Sanford fire trucks at the Ipswich Central Street fire station.

The Public Safety Property Re-Use Working Group was recently created to provide community leaders and Ipswich residents with a variety of potential uses for the existing Police Station building and parcel located at 15 Elm Street and Fire Station building and parcel located at 55 Central Street, following the Fall 2021 Town vote approval of construction of a new combined Public Safety Building on Pineswamp Road.  Potential uses of the buildings and parcels will be presented to the Select Board prior to the 2022 Fall Special Town Meeting. An additional objective is to find a new location for the community gardens presently at the site of the future Public Safety complex.

History of the Buildings

Ipswich Central St. fire station
In 1907, voters approved construction of a brick fire station, replacing smaller stations spread about town. Designed for horse-drawn equipment, the building on Central Street has served the town for 114 years. The floor was reinforced to prevent today’s heavy fire trucks from falling into the basement. The building is too short to accommodate the hook and ladder truck.
Ipswich Town Hall Annex police department
I980 photo of the Ipswich Police Department building.

In the early 20th Century, the brick building at 15 Elm Street was constructed as an annex to the Old Town Hall. It was used as the Water and Electric Department office from 1937 until 1977 when the Electric Department moved to upper High St. Several years later the Police department moved in and finally had their own facility. The 100 year-old building is lacks the infrastructure considered essential for modern public safety buildings.

For decades, voters rejected replacement of the Town’s outdated public safety infrastructure. Construction of a new combined. Public Safety facility was approved at the October 16, 2021 Special Town Meeting and the Special Town Election on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.

It wasn’t until 1894, after buildings on Central Street and both ends of Market Street burned to the ground, that voters at Town Meeting finally agreed to construction of a modern water system. A reservoir was dug, pipes were laid, and in less than a year, water was running through the pipes. The town was still being protected by volunteer firemen manually pulling hand pumps on wagons. A decade later voters approved construction of a modern fire station to replace a scattering of smaller buildings throughout the town.
Ipswich fire 1894
Volunteer firemen at the Depot Square fire in 1894
The Dow Brook reservoir and a pumping station were constructed in the summer of 1894. Water began to run on Thanksgiving Day and proved to be of excellent quality and quantity for hydrants and domestic use,
After the 1894 fires, the Town converted a room in the rear of the old Town Hall on S. Main St. for storage of a horse-drawn fire truck.
Ipswich Central St. fire station
Motorized fire trucks replaced horses at the Central Street fire station in the 1920s
1953 plan to extend Ipswich fire station
The Selectmen of the town of Ipswich submitted a plan at the 1953 annual Town Meeting to extend the Central Street fire station to include offices for police, parking for cruisers and ambulances, and a 22′ x 34′ court room for the Clerk of Courts. The estimated cost was $77,000, and it was rejected. Sixty-one years later, the 2014 Ipswich Town Meeting rejected a study for combined facilities on Elm Street. Voters at the 2021 Special Town Meeting have the opportunity to approve construction of a modern facility at the intersection of Linebrook and Pineswamp Roads.

Proposed new Public Safety building

Sketch of the proposed new Public Safety building on Linebrook Rd.
Sketch of the proposed new Public Safety building on Linebrook Rd. from the 2021 Ipswich Public Safety Building Feasibility Study.
Ipswich Public Safety
Site Plan Option A at the intersection of Linebrook and Pineswamp Roads from the 2021 Ipswich Public Safety Building Feasibility Study. Besides police and fire, the town’s public safety responsibilities include 911 and communications, emergency medical services, harbors/waterways, emergency management, animal control and shellfish. Consolidating all of the town’s seven emergency services in a single facility, with combined communications, equipment storage and public space will give the town the kind of modern command center it needs to address anticipated situations.

Read: A Chronology of Ipswich Public Works: Telegraph, Telephone, Gas, Water, Electricity, Trash, Sewer, Wind and Solar

Links and further information

Categories: Places

4 replies »

  1. Great article along with a great comment. Taking the journey a few steps back to the days that the cellar under the PD was the Towns’ dungeon. Indeed it was. a dungeon. Constructed of bricks painted stark white with black iron barred swinging doors through which one entered . You ducked your head walked down a six foot tunnel and entered a small open area. The door was locked with a padlock. You were now in custody.
    There was also a gun firing range in the cellar which had limited hours. Due to the noise it could not be used during meeting when the Third District Court was in session or the local government was holding meetings.
    In the early to mid -70’s the cell block was condemned. Construction began on a two cell cement block addition to the two room PD upstairs. The ground basement level then became the Department’s crime scene photo lab. The former cell area was demolished and became a locker room for officers..During construction the department along with a “keeper of the lockup” transported prisoners to the Danvers PD.

  2. Great article, Gordon. Pictures speak louder than words. Some additional fun facts. The Elm Street Town Hall Annex did not become the police station until 1986 or so, when Old Town Hall – Elm Street again, was re-designed for additional space and many of the offices located in the annex moved over. Up until then, the P.D. occupied three little rooms and a cinder block lock-up on the first floor of Town Hall – now known as “The District” townhouses. To flush the toilets in the cell block, one needed to enter the Chiefs office and work the handles secreted in his closet. Very impressive when he had an office visitor and a prisoner at the same time. I need not describe further. We also had a subterranean locker room and shower in the basement, adjacent to the sewer ejection pump. After moving across the alley to 25 Elm Street, things improved mightily. The locker room was still situated in the basement, but partitioned from the sewer ejection pump by a thin skin of drywall. We also no longer escorted fighting, cussin’, intoxicated prisoners down the main entrance of Town Hall during meetings of the Board of Selectmen (as they were then referred,) or the Fin-Com, (as they are still referred,) allowing these governing bodies the peace and tranquility they required to conduct the public’s business. When old Town Hall de-camped to the location of the old Middle School on Green Street following the construction of the new Middle-High School on High Street (confusing, isn’t it?) the P.D. remained behind with the erstwhile Ipswich District Court. Eventually, the District Court took Route One North, landing at the traffic circle in Newburyport, leaving the P.D. and the now-vacant Town Hall the lone sentinels of a time long ago and far away. The elected and appointed fervently pledged that Old Town Hall would be re-imagined as a performing arts center breathing new life and prosperity to South Main Street, and would never, repeat never, be converted to over-priced housing for people with money, (or good credit at least.) The rest as they say, is history.

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