12 Market Street, the Abraham Wait house (1832)

(Featured image by David Stone)

Sullivan Insurance is located in the colonial-style brick building at 12 Market Street in Ipswich known as the Abraham Wait house, constructed in 1832. The Wait house is the only surviving early 19th Century brick building on Market Street.

Wait and his brother operated a shoe store on Market Street, and over the years the building has been used as a bank, business office, doctors office, and dwelling house. The last residential use was by two women, Ms Wait and Ms Russell. Sometime between 1884 and 1910 (according to map evidence) a substantial addition, also of brick, was placed to the rear of the east half of the Wait house, set on a concrete block foundation.

Market Street in Ipswich is a relative latecomer to the town’s central street grid, running as it does through what was swampland adjacent to the Ipswich River as late as 1717. Although house lots were granted by 1638 on the land that comprises present-day Market St., Ipswich historian Thomas Franklin Waters tells us that “The whole neighborhood was very low and the meadow land adjoining, now drained and occupied, was originally a swamp of elders.” A path or “common way” apparently ran along the front of these house lots past the free-running “Heard’s brook.” This path eventually evolved into a real, if muddy road, and by 1832 when the Philander Anderson map of Ipswich was published, the dirt road had acquired the grand title, “Market Street.”

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