Sparks Tavern

John Sparks, taverner, 6 N. Main St. (1671)

Sparks’ Tavern was opened by John Sparks “biskett baker” and his wife Mary in 1671. The left side of the house at 6 N. Main St. is believed to have been their home, and a hand-drawn map from 1720 shows the location of the tavern behind it. Sparks was granted a license to draw and sell beer at a penny a quart, “provided he entertain no inhabitants in the night, nor suffer any person to bring wine or liquor to be drunk in his house.” The tavern became a popular stopping place on the Old Bay Road, and soldiers were occasionally quartered there. Men of business would meet for food and drink at Sparks’ “ordinary,” where the menu was whatever was being prepared that day.

Just down the hill from the Puritan meeting house, the tavern served as the “publik house,” and was where the Ipswich Quarterly Court was held in the 17th Century. It was not until 1704 that a town house was erected on Meetinghouse Hill. In 1692, a summons was issued to several individuals to “Make personal appearance before ye Worshipful Major Samuel Appleton Esq., & ye Clerk of ye Court to be at ye house of Mr. John Sparks in Ipswich on ye 22d Day of This Instant April, at two o’clock afternoon concerning the clearing up of ye Grounds of Suspicion of Rachell Clinton’s being a witch.

In early 1693, John Sparks laid down his license, and John Rogers, a saddler, continued its operation as a public house known as the Black Horse Inn. In November 1692, Governor Phelps dismissed the infamous Salem Court of Oyer & Terminer, and on May 2, 1693, the Superior Court convened in Ipswich with several grand juries to consider dozens of outstanding charges of witchcraft. The Ipswich court, undoubtedly meeting in the inn, dismissed charges against all but four women, who were acquitted, and the Salem witchcraft trials finally ended in Ipswich. In 1737, Capt. Nathaniel Treadwell built a new inn next door, which is also still standing. The rear of the location where the two lots converge was referred to as “the old tavern lot,” and for many years the Treadwell house was said to have been the earlier Spark’s Tavern.

The right side of this house was added in the early 18th Century by the Smith family or by Ebenezer Stanwood, who purchased the property in 1747. The house was restored in 2014, and the rear ell was replaced at the same time. Much of the First Period framing is now exposed. Read more about the Sparks house at the Historic Ipswich site.

6 thoughts on “John Sparks, taverner, 6 N. Main St. (1671)”

  1. Your posts. Really look forward to them! Ipswich is such a lovely living museum. The xeriscaping looks odd fronting this First Period. Is this because of the recent drought?

      1. That’s a shame. There are ways to do it that are quite pleasing. Wish they would have used local rocks and made the plantings more natural. That being said I’m thankful they’re taking such good care of this historically important home.

    1. I agree Peg that it looks odd. This was my family’s home for many years and had nice shrubs. It was a difficult decision for me to sell it to the developer, but he did make nice condos by enlarging the rear.

  2. You know Gordon, these homes provide a touch-stone to the past, and how it must have been. But it is your work that makes it apparent and those in the future will appreciate every word you write..THANK YOU

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