Featured image: Argilla Rd. by Arthur Wesley Dow
Until the end of the 19th Century, The section of Argilla Road near the intersection with County St. was known as School Street, as shown in the 1884 map. The town’s first primary school was near this intersection, and indeed the South Green was long known as School House Green. Historic Argilla Road crosses pastures and deep woods, then opens up to a scenic vista of the Great Salt Marsh and the ocean on its way from South Green to Crane Beach.
In 1899, Ipswich Artist Arthur Wesley Dow sketched “The Long Road: Argilla Road, Ipswich” in which he depicts a gravel road with a path running parallel as it was before the automotive age. Dow created several woodcut prints of the scene depicting the walking trail converging with the road in the distance. More recent efforts to create a walking/cycling path from downtown Ipswich to Crane Beach along Argilla Road succumbed to opposition by some residents of the road.
The 1891 map shows the rest of the road as “Beach Street.” The 1910 Ipswich map is the first to label the entire road with the name Argilla. The origin of the name is explained by Thomas Franklin Waters in the book, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, published in 1910. “There were ways to the Labour-in-vain fields, and to the Heartbreak Hill lands, “Old England,” as we call it now, and to Chebacco (Essex). One of these is known now, as from the earliest days, as Argilla Road.” He wrote that John Winthrop Jr., founder of the town, received a 300-acre lot, which he transferred to Samuel Symonds, and which came to be known as “Argilla Farm,” named for the type of clay that abounds in the region around Heartbreak Hill. The word has its origin in Ancient Greek ἄργιλλος (árgillos, “white clay, potter’s earth”)
Along Argilla Road
The South Green was originally known as School House Green. Many of the most important early settlers received grants of land here. Maplecroft Farm: A 2009 Ipswich town meeting voted to purchase and place conservation restrictions on 247 acres of the farm. The Essex County Trail Association (ECTA) maintains a 1.4 mile walking trail through the property from Argilla Road near Heartbreak Hill to Rt. 133 at Raymond Field. This is a working farm– dogs and bikes are not permitted. View the trail map for Maplecroft Farm.
Hamlin Reservation This former coastal farmland is now protected by the Trustees of Reservations and is open to visitors, providing access to the salt marsh via a dike path that leads to a loop trail around Eagle Island. Gently rolling fields and marsh meadows at the provide a home to bobolinks and small mammals in this remote area isolated from the modern world. Hamlin Reservation map
Russell Orchards has been a working farm since 1920 and has 120 acres of fields, gardens, orchards, and barns. The Essex County Greenbelt Association established an agricultural restriction on the land so that it can never be developed. The Russell family welcomes visitors to the farm store during regular store hours. Other areas are open to paying pick-your-own customers during designated hours.
Crane Beach at the end of Argilla Road was voted the most popular beach in the Boston area in a recent poll. The extensive beach, 5 miles of dune trails along Castle Neck and the Crane Castle are managed by the Trustees of Reservations.
Castle Hill was owned by a succession of farmers. J. B. Brown transformed Castle Hill Farm from an agricultural holding into a gentleman’s farm and built the house now known as The Inn at Castle Hill. Richard T. Crane Jr. purchased the property in 1910 and built his grand estate, Crane Castle, grounds and gardens. First and Second Period Houses on Argilla Road, with address, name of original owner, and dates of construction.