An Irish tanner named Thomas Hart arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony on the ship Desire from Baddow, Essex County, England and in 1637, settled in Ipswich. He built a one-room home, and gradually expanded it. He and his wife Alice had two daughters Sara and Mary, and two sons, Thomas and Samuel.
In 1678, Samuel Hart and his wife began a new house on the land he inherited from Thomas senior. Until recently historians believed that Thomas Hart’s original two room structure was the oldest section of Samuel Hart’s house, but recent tree ring dating indicates that the timbers were cut around 1680, and thus the name of the restaurant “1640 Hart House” is not factual. The right side of the original building was added around 1725, and the building has been expanded several times over the years. The Hart House, The Payne house owned by the Trustees of Reservations, and the Ipswich Museum’s Whipple House are the only First Period houses in Ipswich that are open to the public.
Ownership was conveyed by Philip Kimball to antiques dealer Ralph W. Burnham in 1902. Burnham undertook a restoration of the house, installing paneling from the demolished Saltonstall-Merrifield House on Country Road. Moldings in the Hart House and the 1677 Whipple House owned by the Ipswich Museum are identical, further verifying the date of construction for the oldest part of this house. On the right side of the Hart House is a tavern that was constructed by Burnham for his antiques business, which was extended in the early 21st Century.
In the 1930s, the two oldest rooms of the Hart House were moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. The present Keeper Room and second floor room at the Hart House are exact duplicates of those original two rooms constructed primarily from First Period materials. Read the entire history of the Hart House at the Historic Ipswich site