Abraham Howe barn, Ipswich MA

421 Linebrook Road, the Abraham Howe barn (1725)

The following information was written by M.V.B Perley and was published in The Historical Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society, Volume 23:

“The western part of Ipswich was originally known as Ipswich Farms, and later became known as Linebrook Parish. James Howe’s first house along the old Indian way now known as Linebrook Road was built on the grant of 1650. His son John Howe Sr. disclaimed any right “in the first house my father built on his farm in Ipswich or any housing or land there.”

John Howe’s new house was built before 1688, probably soon after the contract for the barn in 1683. Records note that the barn is in the location of the original Howe house and measures 42 ft. long x 22 ft. wide and has 12 posts. The front door of John Howe’s house was driven full of nails to prevent the Indians cutting through.”

“This nearby 18th century barn was erected by Emerson Howe and was converted to residential use in 1948. The Howe homestead area of Linebrook Road includes at least six houses built by members of the Howe family. The site of the house of Elizabeth Howe, convicted as a witch and put to death in 1692 is nearby. Many Howes are buried in the Linebrook cemeteries, including Abraham Howe who lead the Linebrook Minute Men toward Lexington on April 19, 1775.”


Building Description

from the Massachusetts Historical Commission site MACRIS

The Massachusetts Historical Commission site identifies the Howe Barn as a “rare surviving example of a First Period barn frame, and is one of four such structures known to be extant in Essex County. Considering the preservation rate of redundant barns, the Howe barn may owe its survival to its conversion to a house. The building adds to our limited knowledge of the form and framing characteristics of First Period agricultural buildings. Construction characteristics of this barn, including angle of roof, placement of pins, treatment and size of stock and workmanship are, according to Robert St. George, nearly identical to those of the Stanley-Lake barn nearby in Topsfield. This link may allow identification of regional variations in framing practises. Similarities in construction between the two barn frames tend to corroborate the early 18th century construction date attributed to the Howe barn in local histories.”

EXTERIOR DESCRIPTION: The Abraham Howe barn was converted to a residence in 1948. The four bay long, two and one half story high, two rooms deep structure incorporates the oak frame of an early 18th century barn. Now embellished with Colonial Revival finishes, the shingled building maintains the profile of the original barn. A one story porch is the only addition.”

FIRST PERIOD FEATURES: The original frame is visible in the attic and in a few places in the living areas below where timbers were left exposed in 1948. The barn consisted of five bents, the construction of which was apparently varied according to function. The entry bay is noticeably wider than the other bays. The roof framing is of principal rafters, purlins, and slightly cambered tie beams. There are diagonal struts between the tie beams and rafters in the four southwestern most bents. In the northeastern most bent (marked number one with carpenters’ markings), there is a collar beam instead of struts. There is a very narrow flat chamfer on some of the beams exposed on the second floor.”

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Built by the Howe family on the Howe homestead settled in 1651, this barn is not the first barn to be built on the site. According to M.V.B. Perley, it incorporates timbers from the original barn. Although the date of the barn can not be pinpointed from physical evidence (since barn framing remained more or less unchanged in the 18th century), it is logical to assume that this barn was constructed in the first half of the 18th century to accommodate the farming needs of the several Howe households which occupied the site. Abraham Howe, built a house on the property in 1711 and according to tradition built the barn shortly thereafter.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.


421 Linebrook Road, the Abraham Howe barn (1725)
421 Linebrook Road, the Abraham Howe barn (1725)

2 thoughts on “421 Linebrook Road, the Abraham Howe barn (1725)”

  1. Members of the Hennessey family were the first humans to live in the building. It was converted from barn to house by then owner Miss Helen Wales. Mr. Dudley Corey was the carpenter who accomplished the conversion. All eight Hennessey children (Bill, Anne, Ellen, Dick, Alice, Jeff, Mary, and Janet) graduated from IHS. In the late forties and early fifties, it truly was a rural environment. Since we were closer to Topsfield than to Ipswich, our phone was on the Topsfield exchange. Phone was of the crank variety and our number on the three party line was 361, ring one-one (one long and one short ring). Bell Telephone soon converted the system from crank to dial and we were on the “Tucker” exchange. Life there was just great for the Hennesseys.

    Bill Hennessey
    IHS ’55

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