83 High Street, the Isaac Lord house, 1696-1806

Structural evidence in the house at 83 High St. in Ipswich suggests that the right section was a one-over-one room “half house” to which the left side was added by Isaac Lord in 1806-08

History of the house

Richard Kimball, the settler, received a house lot at this location in 1637. The land was inherited by his son John Kimball, who conveyed the lot to his “beloved son Richard Kimball” in 1696 (12: 114).

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote the following:

Richard Kimball received a house lot, adjoining Goodman Simons in the original apportionment, and it was recorded in 1637. He may have been the original owner of the two lots, which John conveyed to Richard Kimball in 1696 (12: 114). Certainly Richard Kimball owned the lot next in order, and in his will, probated Dec. 25, 1752, he bequeathed his real estate to his son Richard and daughter Elizabeth, both minors (33 :107). Elizabeth married Philip Lord, and after his death, she sold one eighth of an acre and part of her house to John Kimball Jr. Dec. 25 1806, (186: 147).”

Richard Kimball (John1-Richard 1) owned the adjoining lot at 85 High St. In his will, probated Dec. 25, 1752, he bequeathed it to his daughter Elizabeth, who married Philip Lord. The house they built is still standing, and is known as the Phillip and Elizabeth Lord house.

Richard Kimball sold the original Kimball house with a half acre to Isaac Lord, felt-maker, Feb. 26, 1784 (142: 213). and Elizabeth Lord sold him a small piece. Dec. 5. 1805 (180: 219). ” (Waters)

Richard Kimball’s deed to Isaac Lord, felt-maker, Feb. 26, 1784, was bordered by land of Phillip Lord west and north, 3 rods bordering his own land, “then returning 18 rods southwesterly by land of Deacon Nathaniel Kimball to the original location (142: 213). Deacon Nathaniel Kimball owned the property at 79 High St. The lot described includes the empty lot between 79 and 83 High St., which was almost certainly the home of Richard Kimball (1 and or 2) and later the home of Joseph Lord and his widow, before it was demolished. (Read a first-hand story about the Joseph Lord house.)

Elizabeth Lord ‘s sale to Isaac Lord of a small piece from her adjoining lot, Dec. 5. 1805 (180: 219) indicates that Isaac Lord extended his lot by purchasing 1/8 acre from Elizabeth Lord with the intent of building a new house or adding an addition to the left side of this house.

Isaac bequeathed his property to his nephew Joseph Lord, whose heirs owned the house now standing, but the original (Richard Kimball) house stood on the site of Mr. Thomas H. Lord’s, and was occupied by his widow, when it had fallen into a very ruinous condition.” (Waters)

Isaac Lord, son of Nathaniel Lord and Elizabeth Day, was born July 29, 1753 in Ipswich. He married Susanna July 27, 1776. Their children were Isaac, born 1777; Joseph, born 1778; Nathaniel, born 1780; Levi, born 1784. Isaac Lord died September 06, 1828 in Ipswich, and Susanna died April 06, 1841 in Ipswich.

A Lord family tradition is that this house was originally the jail constructed in 1771 at Meeting House Green, and was moved to this location in 1806. It is more probable that Isaac lord used lumber from the old jail to build or add on to this house.

On Nov. 24, 1846, Isaac Lord Jr. assigned 1/2 of the house and property to Thomas H. Lord, and his brother Levi Lord released all rights to the “home of my honored father.” Salem Deeds (book 374, page 194)

Isaac Lord bequeathed his property to his nephew Joseph, including the adjoining early home of Richard Kimball . Waters wrote that the house was occupied by Joseph Lord’s widow “when it had fallen into a very ruinous condition.” That house was either in the empty lot southeast of the Isaac Lord house, or on the lot of the Thomas H. Lord house, still standing at 79 High St.

The house at 83 High St was acquired by Rupert Kilgour and his wife Marion Lord in 1973 from Viola Lord, and was placed on the market in 2017. The house is undergoing substantial renovation in the fall of 2020.

High Street Ipswich MA, early 20th Century.

Masonry

Early Colonial bricks in Massachusetts
Bricks in the wall behind the stairway at the Isaac Lord house

A massive stone base in the basement supports the fireplaces and chimney, and transitions to brick at the first floor level. The bricks are narrower than present day standards, and are mortared with clay.

Richard Irons, the best known restoration mason in New England was interviewed in Early American Homes in 1999: “Chimney footings evolved. Throughout the first quarter of the eighteenth century, chimneys had fieldstone bases, sometimes measuring as much as twenty by eighteen feet. By the 1740’s big brick arches in the basement were the common support structure; by the 1830’s, these supports had evolved to straight piers.”

83 High Street, Ipswich MA
Rumford fireplace at 83 High Street, from the Coldwell Banker site. The base of the fireplaces and the chimney is stone from the basement to the first floor
The same fireplace during renovation
Hall room fireplace in the Isaac Lord house during renovation. The bake oven on the left was at some time bricked in. On the right is the brick stairway wall.
Downstairs southeast side fireplace paneling in the Isaac Lord house (removed during renovation)
Fireplace in an early Massachusetts house
Fireplace in the downstairs front southeast room at the Isaac Lord house
Exposed fireplace chimney with narrow bricks and clay and sand mortar.

Above the massive stone base for the fireplaces, the chimney bricks and fireplace bricks on the right side measure 2″ x 8″, and are mortared with clay. The bricks on the left side fireplace measure today’s standard, approximately 2 1/4″ x 7 3/4″ with some variation.

Brick size laws

Large clay bricks were used from 1630 -1730. In 1679 the Massachusetts Court ordered that brick sizes be standardized at “9 inches long, 2 1/4″ thick.” Modern bricks measure about 7 1/2″ x 3 1/8″ x 2 1/8″. A Massachusetts act in 1711 consolidated all previous brick laws and set the size at 9″ x 4″ x 2 1/2″. Nonetheless, between 1750 and 1780, bricks diminished in size despite the law , with the smallest 18th Century bricks being about 7 1/4″ x 3 1/2″ x 1 3/4″.

Mortar

Modern mortar was invented in the 19th Century. Abbott Lowell Cummings wrote in his seminal book, “The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725: “Clay was the only “mortar” in which the bricks of the chimney stack were laid, to the level of the roof at least, and the efficacy of this material is abundantly proved by the soundness and plumb condition of a substantial number of early chimneys…Not until late in the (17th) Century were extensive beds of limestone discovered at Newbury.” Clay mortars continued to be used until
the mid-19th century.

Read: “Early Brick Laws in Massachusetts” by Orville W. Carroll

Structural Observations summary

The Ipswich Town Historian toured this house and made the following observations: 

  • The front of the Isaac Lord house is 17′ deep x 30′ wide with an oak frame
  • Steep roof, narrow original building depth.
  • The earliest (front) part of the house is asymmetrical, with a 14′ wide room on the left front side, a central entrance, and only 8’6″ wide for the room on the right.
  • The current saltbox shed is framed upon an earlier “broken back” shed to create a second floor.
  • Massive stone fireplace foundation with bricks beginning at the floor level. The bricks are narrower than today’s standard size, and are mortared with clay below the chimney line.
  • The top of the foundation is near the ground level with no granite facing.
  • Full height basement on both sides.
  • The right side has plank wall framing and corner bracing (late 17th -early 18th Century in Essex County). The front, left side, and the attic have studs and horizontal sheathing. Unlike other plank framed houses, the tops of the planks do not fit into a rabbet, indicating that they were reused or modified.
  • Both sides employ gunstock corner posts on the second floor.
  • Unornamented exposed summer beams were used on both sides. The painted beams on the right side are smooth with a crude chamfer, while the beams on the left side are rough and square.
  • Posts, beams and the underside of floors were whitewashed, indicating that they were originally exposed.
  • Floor boards in the attic are extremely wide.
  • Uncertain deed records before 1800.
  • The downstairs fireplace wall had feather edge raised paneling.

Layout

hall-parlorThe floor plan of the front part of the Isaac Lord house is typical of a “hall and parlor” layout found in 17th and 18th Century coastal New England. The form entails a rectangular, timber-frame two-room configuration, two rooms wide and one deep with a steeply pitched side-gabled roof and a central chimney. The windows are asymmetrically placed. The depth of early hall and parlor houses varied from about 16 to 20 feet deep and up to 40 feet wide. A saltbox addition was usually added to 17th Century houses, or as part of the original construction beginning in the late 17th Century. The larger hall was the living room, and the smaller parlor served as a private room commonly used for sleeping.

ips_158
83 High Street, 1978 photo by the Ipswich Historical Commission on the MACRIS site.

The frame

The photos below were taken in November 2020, when renovations began on the Isaac Lord house

83-high-roof-framing
Principal rafter and common purlin roof framing in the Isaac Lord house.
Front entry and framing in the Isaac Lord house, after the plaster ceiling was removed. The floor joists and floor are whitewashed, which indicates they were once exposed.
timber frame wind brace and gunstock post
Southeast upstairs east and front walls at the Isaac Lord house. Note the different construction methods.
Framing in an Ipswich early house
The second floor of the Isaac Lord house after the plaster walls and ceiling were removed
Stairway at the Isaac Lord house
The front stairway was open only at the bottom before an original thin plank wall was removed. Closed stairways are usually found in only the oldest Colonial houses. The bricks behind it are the chimney.
Gunstock post in the second floor of the Isaac Lord house
Beverly jog
The southeast side of the Isaac Lord house has 1 1/2″ vertical plank framing which appears to have been nailed rather than rabbeted into a beam. All of the other walls, including the attic above, are studded and have 1″ horizontal sheathing. The lighter boards on the rear are from when a saltbox shed was added and the Beverly jog was made taller.
sheathing on the Isaac Lord house
Horizontal sheathing at the attic level on the driveway side has a triangular wood patch, perhaps indication of a previous attached wing.
Beverly jog on the Isaac Lord house
The Beverly jog on the southeast side of the Isaac Lord house was raised to make it two floors.
sheathing on an early Ipswich house
Exposed exterior sheathing on the front and northwest sides of the Isaac Lord house. The lighter boards show when the saltbox extension was raised higher to accommodate new second floor rooms.
horizontal board sheathing on colonial house
Horizontal sheathing on the north side of the Isaac Lord house.

Maps

richard-kimball-grant-high-st
Map by Thomas Franklin Waters of original land grants on High Street. The Isaac Lord house sits on the north side of the original Richard Kimball lot and 1/8 acre purchased from Elizabeth Lord (presumably the Robert Lord lot).
1832-ipswich-map-lord-square-high-st
This closeup from the 1832 Ipswich map indicates the house at 83 High Street, owned by Isaac Lord Jr. at that time. The Widow Joseph Lord house, no longer standing, was similar to an old photograph on the Thomas H. Lord house page.
high-st-joseph-lord-house-maple-st

The rear of the Isaac Lord house is in the center of this photo taken from the hill above by George Dexter, circa 1900.

“The Ould Gaol”

There’s an old tradition in the Lord family that the building at 83 High Street was once the 1771 town jail on Meeting House Green and was moved to High Street and converted into the house we see today. In 1973 Margaret Welden identified the house as the “Ould Gaol” for the Ipswich Historical Commission, but provided no documentation. The first Ipswich jail was constructed in 1652, was replaced in 1684 and that was in turn replaced with a gambrel-roof jail in 1771.

Joseph Felt wrote in the History of Ipswich, Essex and Hamilton that in 1684, the year that the colony charter was revoked by King Charles II, the towns which sent juries to the courts in Ipswich and Salem were ordered to help build new houses of correction in the two towns. Salem built its first jail, a timber-frame building measuring “thirteen feet stud (interior height), and twenty feet square, accommodated with a yard.”

Ipswich apparently replaced its existing jail near the Meeting House. An act in 1699 by the Massachusetts legislative ordered every county in the colony to build a House of Corrections for “rogues, vagabonds, common beggars…and the poor,” unless one already existed. Construction in 1684 of a “house of correction” is recorded in the Genealogy of the Willcomb Family. and the Massachusetts Historical Commission Reconnaissance Survey for Ipswich.

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote only that the “Old Gaol” served its purpose until it was replaced with a gambrel roof jail in 1771. (In Colonial Massachusetts, the jail and the house of correction were not always the same thing.) Waters wrote, “On December 25, 1770, plans for a new building with a keeper’s house were presented and approved, and a building committee was appointed to proceed forthwith. This plan has been preserved in the Court Files. The plan shows that the prison was a two story building with gambrel roof, and that the rooms under the roof were used for the House of Correction….In 1808, the old Goal site, with its yard was sold to Rev. David Tenney Kimball. The deed gives the bounds (and) the gaol reserved to be taken away by Jan. 1, 1808 (185: 152) recorded April 2, 1807.” The 1771 jail was replaced by a stone jail, and a large brick jail was constructed in 1828 at the site of the present Ipswich Town hall.

A handwritten town clerk’s record indicates that the old jail building would be disposed of separately from the sale of the lot to the Rev. Kimball. Samuel Lord was one of the committee of 4 persons who were assigned to take care of the various transactions. There were several Samuel Lords over the years, but at least one lived in the area of this house, and perhaps he arranged for Isaac Lord to take possession and remove the lumber to this location for his expansion.

Sources and further reading:

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