The Agawam House in Ipswich

The Great Agawam Stable Fire

Written by Harold Bowen in 1975

In the days of stagecoaches, there were several inns along the old Bay Road and High Street. These inns also provided stables in which to house the horses.. One of the later hotels was the Agawam House on North Main Street. In 1806 Nathaniel Treadwell bought land and a house and started his tavern business. He later sold it to Moses Treadwell in 1819. One of his most distinguished guests was General LaFayette, who was entertained and lunched there on Aug. 3, 1824 and later in the day journeyed to Newburyport, according to Waters’ history.

Since that time there have been many owners. The last before it ceased to be a hotel was a Mr. Southwick. The stable, although not a part of the hotel, was convenient for the guests to hire or put up their own animals for the night.

At 11:45 a.m. on May 26, 1927, Harold Haskell had just driven his horse into the Agawam House stable on North Main Street, fed him his noon meal, and was going home to his own lunch. He drove one of two teams owned by the American Railway Express Co. and they were kept at the stable.

Howard Blake had a hardware store in the Colonial Building on North Main, and Haskell, on his way out of the yard, stopped and spoke to Blake who was standing in his doorway. They happened to look toward the stable and saw it was all-aflame.

Haskell ran back to try to rescue his horses, but it was too late. He died in the flames. Blake ran over and pulled the fire alarm box at North Main and Warren Streets.

The map shows the stables behind the Agawam Hotel across North main Street from the North Congregational Church in Ipswich. The building still stands today but is unrecognizable.

The buildings formed sort of a half-circle in the yard behind the Agawam Hotel and were covered with tarpaper. When the Fire Department arrived, Chief Edward Smith saw that the fire was a serious one and called help from Hamilton, Beverly and Rowley.

The Hamilton Department roamed the neighborhood to put out small roof fires caused from burning embers from the stable fire. In all, 14 houses, the farthest away being my own house on Summer Street, caught fire. The rear of all the houses on Warren Street was charred by the fire. Walter Henderson lost a garage.

Harold Bowen (left), his parents and twin brother, in front of this house

At the time I was attending Manning High School and was in a classroom on the third floor. It was 10 minutes (which seemed like an hour) before recess. We could see the flames from the school. When the bell rang, my brother and I obtained permission from Principal Ralph Whipple to go home. When we arrived home, the Hamilton men were just climbing down off of our roof. A few shingles had caught fire.

The stable for years was a livery stable where one could go and hire a horse and buggy for an hour or a day. Many a young man had gone up there and hired a horse or team to take his girl for a Sunday ride. There were no flat tires or gas to worry about, and the old horse always brought you home safely.

Also destroyed in the fire were six funeral horse-drawn hacks and a hearse.

There were several owners of the stable, the last being Frank Woods who was in the teaming business. Fortunately, all his horses were working and none was lost. It was an exciting experience, and some of the residents of Warren Street still remember the Great Agawam Stable fire.

At one time, the Agawam House was a first-rate hotel and many prominent persons stopped here. I was a young boy when it closed its doors as a hotel, but I can still remember its last years of life. It was later sold and a Mr. Beaulieu renovated it into an apartment building. Then it was sold to Mr. Lampson, and extensive renovations were made at that time. The greatest change was the removing of the piazzas on the front and adding rooms.

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