3 Spring St., Ipswich MA

3 Spring Street, the James Scott house (1840)

The house at 3 Spring Street was built on land that was originally part of the Francis Jordan land grant (the house on the east corner of Spring Street and East Street). The Philander Anderson Map of 1832 shows each residence in Ipswich but does not show this building or non-residential structures.

The 1856 Walling map of Ipswich and the 1872 map show a building there labelled “J. Scott.” This puts the first use of 3 Spring Street as a residence at 1832-1856. It is possible that the building may have been used as a barn or shop before that. The 3 Spring St. property was portioned off from the large two-acre parcel originally owned by Francis Jordan. James Scott was born in Ireland about 1820 and married Bridget Callahan in 1844. The 1850 federal census places him on the North Green in Ipswich, not on Spring St. The 1856 Walling map shows him in place on Spring Street and this location is confirmed by the list of neighbors adjacent to Scott in the 1855 state census.

Early photo of Spring St. in Ipswich
This photo of the intersection of East Street and Spring Streets was taken before electrical lines were strung in town. A hay scale is in the foreground
Detail of king post supporting roof framing in the original part of this house.

Thomas Franklin Waters’ only reference to a James Scott is for James Scott Jr., listed in Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony as having fought in the Civil War. He was born in 1848 according to his 1902 death record. He enlisted at age 18 in February of 1865 and remained with the regiment until it disbanded in Darien, Georgia in August 1865. His pension record is on file at the National Archives and identifies his widow Annie. This James Scott lived for a time on Sawyer St. with wife Annie and children, based on info from the 1865 state census. Waters tells us that he bought the west half of the Francis Jordan house in 1870 and the other half was opened by Perley Scott, who despite the same last name was not related to him.

Ceiling and roof framing at 3 Spring Street

A peek in the attic indicates that the house has been expanded four times. The front two rooms of this house, one over one, make up the original hip roof structure. The rest of the house has been added on and overlaps half of the small original building. The downstairs ceiling is over 7′ high but the upstairs ceiling is just over 6′ high. It is reasonable to speculate that the original structure may have been a single room with no second floor or ceiling, possibly a barn or shop.

Two horizontal beams span the hip roof from front to back, supporting two horizontal diagonal “dragon beams” and a vertical “crown post” or “king post” on each of the two horizontal beams, leaving an open rectangle in the center of the room. The top of the hip rafters and blades rest on the puncheons. Although one person told us that they were added in the 20th Century, they appear to be original. Sheetrock hid this framework from view until it was exposed during a recent renovation. The downstairs walls in this house have salvaged wide single-bead planking, varying in width up to 24″ and continuous in length without joints.

The hip roof became common in Britain and France during the Renaissance, perhaps because builders were more highly educated and able to master the complex mathematics of compound miters. English designer Batty Langley included the above sketch in his book Ancient Architecture Restored, published in 1742. Low pitched hip roofs were also common during the Renaissance in Italy as well as Creole America. Hip roofs became a dominant feature of Federal era (1780-1830) homes in the American Northeast.

Spring Street was originally called Hog Lane and then Brook Street. Springs and wells along the street have reliably provided water for residents and the town. A deep brick-lined well about 3 ft. in width is at the right foundation edge of the newer section of this house, covered with a large stone. Brick-making was one of the very early industries established in the Colonies, and bricks were being manufactured in Salem in 1629. It provided water for the early structure and perhaps for the house down the hill (Francis Jordan house) which faces East St.

An old well abuts the foundation of this house

Thanks to Sue Nelson, Tim Gillette and Caroline Pfefferkorn for further information.

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