83 High Street, the Isaac Lord house, c. 1690-1784

An Ipswich tradition is that the house at 83 High Street was the 18th Century jail moved from Meeting House Green. 17th Century features in the house indicate that the legend has no credence.

Isaac Lord

This home was in the extended Lord family since 1771. It was acquired by Rupert Kilgour and his wife Marion Lord in 1973 from Viola Lord, and was placed on the market in 2017. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that Isaac Lord purchased the ancient Richard Kimball house on this lot in 1784. 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.

Waters does not indicate the date or nature of construction of this house:

“Richard Kimball received a house lot in 1637 which John Kimball conveyed to Richard Kimball (2) in 1696 (12: 114). Richard Kimball also owned the adjoining lot in his will, probated Dec. 25, 1752, which he bequeathed to his son Richard and daughter Elizabeth, who married Philip Lord. 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 of the adjoining lot, Dec. 5. 1805 (180: 219). Isaac bequeathed his property to his nephew Joseph.”

Waters wrote that the original Richard Kimball house stood on the site of the Thomas H. Lord house next door (still standing) and was occupied by his widow, when it had fallen into a very ruinous condition.”

“The Ould Gaol”?

There’s an old tradition in the Lord family that the building at 83 High Street was once the 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.

Barnstable jail

This 1690 structure in Barnstable served as the County jail until c.1820, when a new stone jail was built. We have no description of the 1684 jail that was ordered to be built in Ipswich, but it could have been similar. It was replaced in 1771 with a gambrel roof building, and in 1806 by a stone jail.

The first Ipswich jail was constructed in 1652, and may have been replaced in 1684 with an undocumented jail 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 already had a jail near the Meeting House and it is unclear if it built a new one. 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 of a new jail in Ipswich is found in the chronological history of Ipswich in the Genealogy of the Willcomb Family, but Thomas Franklin Waters wrote only that the “Old Gaol” served its purpose until 1750.

The 1771 gambrel roof jail was replaced in 1806 by a stone jail, and a large brick jail was constructed in 1828 at the site of the present Ipswich Town hall. Observations of the roof construction in this house prove that this is not the 1771 building. The age of the house appears to be pre-18th Century, leaving open the possibility that it is the undocumented 1684 jail or the home of Richard Kimball. It bears some resemblance to the 1690 jail in Barnstable, still standing.

High Street Ipswich MA, early 20th Century.

Early Construction

83 High Street, Ipswich MA

Photo of the first floor of 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.

This building appears to be quite old. Existing original details include a boxed 10″ summer beam and exposed boxed braces. The gable wall in the each chamber reveals corner braces that were papered over, typical of First Period plank houses (1625-1725). Unusual casement type “L” hinges are used on a feather-edge door. Vertical sheathing in at least one room has a very wide feather edge, found primarily in First Period houses. Narrow beaded vertical sheathing is in the first floor front hall. The earliest (front) part of the house is asymmetrical, with a 14′ wide room on the left front side, but only 8’6″ wide for the room on the right. The chimney sits on a massive stone foundation, typical of first period construction. Floor boards in the attic are extremely wide.

Gordon Harris, the Ipswich Town Historian visited this house in the spring of 2018. Preliminary observations suggest that it has several features that indicate that parts of the house appear to have built in the First Period (before 1720). Further examination will occur as the house is renovated by the new owners:

  • The Isaac Lord house is 17′ deep x 30′ wide. The part to the right of the chimney may be a later addition.
  • Steep roof
  • Narrow original building depth.
  • The off-center doorway predates Georgian construction, with a larger parlor on one side.
  • Massive stone fireplace foundation with bricks beginning at the floor level.
  • Foundation near the ground level, no granite facing.
  • Possible plank wall construction with corner bracing (late 17th Century in Essex County).
  • Exposed beams throughout the oldest section, and a summer or carrying beam that is currently boxed in.
  • Uncertain deed records before 1800.
  • Resemblance in construction to the 1700 Perkins-Hodgkins house in Ipswich, and the original layout of the 17th Century John Alden house in Duxbury, with the exception of the location of the chimney.


Ipswich has 59 First Period houses. Only about 300 are left standing. The floor plan of the original Isaac Lord house is typical of a “hall and parlor” layout found in 17th 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 were 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.


83 High Street, 1978 photo by the Ipswich Historical Commission on the MACRIS site. The roof line and the windows in the front facade raise the possibility that the original house was extended in one or both directions.

Deed Research

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote about the houses on the east side of High Street at this location, but the exact reference to this house is unclear:

85 High Street, the Phillip and Elizabeth Lord house: “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 (331:107). 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); the same house that John Lane Jr. sold to Benjamin Fewkes March 21, 1832 ( 264:87). This house, now owned and occupied by Mr. Nathaniel Burnham, was probably built by Phillip Lord.”

83 High Street (this 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). Isaac bequeathed his property to his nephew Joseph, whose heirs own the house now standing, but the original 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.”

79 High Street, the Thomas H. Lord house: “Alexander Knight owned the house lot east of Kimball’s, and after him John Gamage was in possession. Richard Kimball bought a third of the lot. on the east side, and sold it to his son Richard Feb. 9, 1715-16 (28: 205); but Richard 2nd sold it back to John Gamage, May 9, 1721. ) William Gamage, executor of the will of his uncle, John, sold the house and barn and one and one half acres to Jacob Perkins Oct. 26, 1753 (104:92). Jacob Perkins sold to Deacon Nathaniel Kimball of the South Church February 17, 1757 (103: 235). It continued in the same family, and was set off to Jonathan, in 1820 (Pro. Rec. 396: 145-148). Deacon John Kimball occupied the house for many years. The architecture denotes age, and it was probably built a century and a half ago. (The Ipswich Historical Commission estimates the date of construction approximately 1814-1835).”

73 High Street, the Nathaniel Lord house (C 1720): Allen Perley, the original grantee, sold his house and land to Walter Roper, Sept. 3, 1652 (Ips. Deeds 2: 44). John Roper succeeded, then Benjamin Dutch. Dutch sold the northwest half of the homestead, two acres in all, lately of John Roper, to John Brown, 4th, Feb. 3, 1737 (77: 33), and the northeast half to Nathaniel Lord, June 16, 1741 (84: 202). Lydia Thornton, widow, sold half an old house, bequeathed her by her former husband, Mr. John Brown, to Nathaniel Lord, hatter, Jan. 23, 1796


Map by Thomas Franklin Waters of original land grants on High Street


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, has been tentatively identified by a photograph.


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


83 High Street, Ipswich. Photo courtesy of Dylan Brown


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