The High Street Historical District in Ipswich was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. High Street was once the main residential and commercial street of the new community and several of the 17th, 18th and 19th Century houses still remaining once served as taverns, stores, or craftsman’s shops. High Street was part of the Old Bay Road with an overnight stagecoach stop in Ipswich was established by 1761. Central Street was built in 1871 and much of the High Street traffic was redirected.
The High Street District extends east and west along the side of Town Hill, from the intersection with North Main Street on the east to the viaduct over the B § M Railroad, tracks on the west. The district includes the 1634 Burial Ground and intersects the East End and Meeting House Green historic districts. Lord’s Square is not included in the district, having lost its historic character.
The following information is from the description of the High Street Historic District on the MACRIS site:
High Street dates back to the founding of Ipswich in 1633. It was the main residential and commercial street of the new community. The predominant character of the street is now residential, but several of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Century houses along High Street earlier served as taverns, stores, or craftsman’s shops. One of the most important was the inn. Ipswich was on the road to Boston and a constant stream of travel passed through the town. This was augmented by the Supreme, Superior, and Probate Courts which held their sessions in Ipswich, and by political conventions. A regular stagecoach with an overnight stop in Ipswich was established by 1761. Eight to twelve stages were passing through town daily by 1828. Ipswich inns flourished for many years.
Two popular ordinarys were located on High Street, The White Horse Inn and the Perkins Inn. Both were in business by the mid-17th Century, and both were infamous among the townspeople for many riotous evenings. During the 18th Century, cabinetmaker and carpenter shops lined High Street. Industry shifted to textiles in the 19th Century, and this main boulevard was the site of two important enterprises. Between 1827 and 1832, the New England Lace Company operated out of Dr. John Manning’s House, since removed. Hosiery manufacture, once the main industry in Ipswich, had its beginnings in Benjamin Fewkes’ small shop. He worked on two stocking frames built by the Peatsfield Brothers in 1832, the first frames made in the United States. Central Street was built in 1871, and much of the High Street traffic was redirected. At this time, the street began to acquire its purely residential character and it remains so today. The High Street District extends east and west along the side of Town Hill, from the intersection with North Main Street on the east to the viaduct over the B § M Railroad, tracks on the west. The district includes the 1634 Burial round that extends up Town Hill near the middle of the area, but excludes Lord’s Square, a group of modern commercial structures on the south side of the street, just west of the cemetery.
The High Street National Register Historic District boundaries define the area of earlier settlement and later growth. Two other districts, the East End and Meeting House Green, define the eastern border of High St. Running west the boundary lines follow back lots of both the north and south sides of the street. Lord’s Square has been omitted from the district as it no longer conforms to the character of the area. The boundary lines continue west to the High St. bridge, which is a distinct boundary, for beyond it were pastures during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the structures in this area today played no part in High St. development.
Thomas Franklin Waters wrote in Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony that in past times High Street was also called Hill Street, Great Street, Broad Street, Long Street, Bay Road, and The King’s Highway. The section beyond the Old North Burial Ground was “the West End,” a tradition long forgotten, but going in the other direction High Street abruptly changes its name to East Street, and that neighborhood is still known as “the East End .”
- Download a PDF with complete description of the High Street Historic District.
- View an interactive map of the High Street Historic District
The Legend of Puddin’ Street
For the 250th celebration of the founding of Ipswich, the Rev. Knowles wrote a poem which noted the unusual names of Ipswich streets. There is a very old legend about some mischievous boys who stole a bag pudding and kicked it down the road, lending High Street its most colorful nickname, “Puddin’ Street.”
We turn our eyes below and at our feet
Lies in peace old Pudding Street
So named because a pudding hard and dry
Was stolen by some tipsy passers by
These later years from vulgar names have shrunk
And called it High because the thieves were drunk
Another version of the story is memorialized in a poem written by Henry Bowen long ago:
I can remember very well
A tale the old folks used to tell
Of how a street well known to fame
Received its somewhat curious name
The oven then so long ago
Was built outside the house and so
While the good wife was getting dinner
There came along a tramping sinner
Who having not the fear of man
Opened the oven door and ran
The pudding had so much of heat
He quickly dropped it in the street
And fearing in that place to stay
Kicked it before him on his way
The pudding bag so stout at first
By violence at last was burst
And ever since that wicked feat
The thoroughfare is Pudding Street
Houses in the High Street Historic District:
High Street Walking Tour
The Olde Manse, 1 High Street. The 2 1/2 story, gambrel-roofed house was remodeled for the Rev. Nathaniel Rogers in 1727, who upon arriving in town helped resolve the schism with Familistic Puritans who opposed any legal system. The portico and extensive dormer are Colonial Revival features. The house was operated as an upscale restaurant and inn by antiques collector Joseph Burnham in the early 1900’s. It is currently known as the House of Peace and offers refuge for victims of war.
The John Gaines house at 3 High Street is an early 18th century 2 story wood frame house. John Gaines II and Thomas Gaines were father and son wood turners. Thomas moved to Portsmouth NH where by 1740 he owned and operated a thriving chair-making company. Those chairs now auction for over $10,000. For many years the house served as the Episcopal rectory, and was also the home of William Oakes, a horticulturist and educator. After he committed suicide his widow operated a boarding house here for students at the Ipswich Female Seminary.
The Pillow Lace Site, 5 High Street was property of the New England Lace Manufacturing Company. Ipswich was the seat of the hand-made pillow lace business. By 1790 the annual production was 41,979 yards. This craft continued until the introduction of lace machinery around 1838. This Heard family enterprise attempted to use the new knitting machines secretly brought over from England to make lace. Mulberry bushes were planted on the hill to provide food for silkworms, but the enterprise failed and the factory building was converted by Joseph Ross into a fine Federal three story mansion. The Ross Mansion was torn down in 1930 and replaced with a modern brick home.
The Joseph Newman house, 9 High Street. The house was built in 1762 by grocer Samuel Newman who also owned the Newman house we visited earlier on East Street.
The Wilcomb house, 13 High Street, built in 1668 by John Edwards. He was one of several townspeople appointed to the office of Tithingman by the Selectmen and instructed “to inspect disorderly persons, and to present the names of single persons that live out from under family government, to enter ordinaries and inspect them, and whatever else tends to irreligion.” This 2 story house has a timber frame, a rear ell and a Beverly jog. The name of this house comes from a later owner, Captain Joseph Wilcomb who was pilot of the ship SS Malay owned by Augustine Heard.
The Thomas Lord house. 17 High Street. This house was built in 1658 by Thomas Lord, who is mentioned as a hatter or cordwainer (shoe maker) on property originally granted to his father Robert and mother Hannah Day. This house shows the basic form of the early saltbox houses with the roof sloping down to one story in the rear. The large chimney accommodates a massive central fireplace. The windows are 6 panes over 9, a common arrangement in early houses. The house remained in the Lord family for generations.
The Georgian style Haskell – Lord house at 21 High Street was built circa 1750 by Mark Haskell, an Ipswich cabinet-maker. Daniel Lord married Eunice, the daughter of Mark Haskell. This house is said to be on the site of a home built by early settler Robert Lord who was the town clerk until his death in 1683. He is said to have been short but strong and fearless, serving for over twenty years in the Indian wars. There is a legend that local Indians proposed to decide a dispute with a group of settlers by a wrestling match. Robert Lord walked to the front as champion of the colonists, and the Indians selected an almost seven foot tall member of their tribe. In this contest the two men were to meet at full run. The Indian was thrown repeatedly upon the earth several times, and they eventually acknowledged defeat.
The Edward Brown house at 27 High Street was built in 1650, making it one of the oldest houses in New England. The asymmetrical arrangement of the windows and the location of the chimney suggest that the first modest section of the house was on the left, and that it has been greatly expanded and remodeled over the years. Edward Brown married Faith Lord, making this another of the many Lord houses on the street.
The Waldo-Caldwell house, 33 High Street is an elongated salt-box built in 1660. The homestead was bought by John and Sara Caldwell from Deacon Cornelius Waldo and his wife Hanna Cogswell. This house is on the site of the earlier Gov. Simon Bradstreet and Anne Bradstreet house. Born in 1612 to a well-educated family in England. Ann married Simon Bradstreet at age 16. Two years later they immigrated to New England on the Arabella with one of the earliest groups of Puritans. During their years in Ipswich, her husband was frequently away and Anne was left to care for their eight children. Her poems were secretly published in England in 1650 under the title “The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America.
The Lord – Baker house, 37 High Street, was built in 1720 and owned by blacksmith Robert Lord, descendant of settler Robert Lord. Many early details remain including raised field paneling, a summer beam and a huge fireplace, plus a Beverly jog on one side of the 2 story home. Robert Lord made the heavy leg-irons which later were used on the victims of the witch hysteria who were sent to Ipswich to await trial and execution.
41 High Street, the Daniel Lummus house was built in 1686, altered in 1746. After it was purchased by Al Boynton and Kathy Bruce, they discovered hand-made plaster lathe, chestnut flooring, paneling similar to the nearby Day Dodge house, and a large hidden brick fireplace. The “Hall” (great room) fireplace contains 3 beehive ovens and features a built-in “Inglenook seat”, thought to be the only remaining example in the country. The hall has been restored to its First Period appearance. Stenciling in the Parlor revives features introduced during the home’s first renovation at the marriage of cabinet-maker Daniel Lummus in 1747.
The John Lummus house, 45 High Street was built in 1712 on the foundation of the previous home of Governor Thomas Dudley who lived in the town for only 3 years. His daughter was Anne Bradstreet the first American poetess and wife of Simon Bradstreet, the last governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the 1960′s Phillip Ross won the Mary Conley historic preservation award for restoration of the house, which had fallen into ill repair.
57 High Street, the Stone – Rust house: This house was built in 1750 by Robert Stone and has many original features including wide pine floors. The separate barn was the blacksmith shop of William W. Rust Jr.
The Old Burying Ground, established 1634. Two of the first to be buried here were the wife and child of John Winthrop, Jr., son of the governor of Massachusetts and leader of the colonists who founded Ipswich. Many of the earliest grave markers were made of wood and no longer exist. Also here is the common grave of passengers who died when a schooner, the Deposit, ran aground in frigid waters close to the Ipswich Range Lights in 1839. From the sidewalk looking over the fence at the northern end you can see a slate-colored stone with the story of the Brig Falconer which was lost at Ipswich beach in December 1847. Twelve bodies of her crew were recovered and buried here.
73 High Street, the Nathaniel Lord house was built in 1720 and altered in 1847. Nathaniel Lord graduated from Harvard and spent 36 years as the Register of Probate in the Ipswich Court. His sons all entered the legal profession and one followed him in the same office. The western half of this house predates the eastern side.
77 High Street, the John Kimball house was built in 1680 and has a timber frame construction and a “Beverly jog” added on the left side for a second entrance. A chamfered summer beam is featured in the left front room, with wide-board tongue and groove wall boards. John Kimball was born in Rattlesden, Suffolkshire, England in 1621, and came to Ipswich on the “Elizabeth” from Ipswich England with his parents in 1634. He was a carpenter, wheelwright, farmer and apparently a proficient builder, but in his older years was declared insane. There are several Kimball houses nearby on High Street.
The Isaac Lord house, 83 High Street was said to have been built in 1771 at the location of the David Kimball house on Meetinghouse Green, and moved here in 1808, but there is no record or architectural indication that it happened. Architectural features of this house include an asymetrical facade, low ceilings, stone chimeny foundation, post and beam construction with angle braces and boxed summer beams, suggesting that it may be a much earlier house.
The Elizabeth and Phillip Lord house at 85 High street was built in 1774. In 1807 Elizabeth was widowed and sold 1/8 acre to John Kimball, who built and owned several properties in this vicinity.
The Simon Adams house at 95 High Street was built in 1700. Simon Adams was a soldier in the Narragansett Campaign against “King Phillip”, the hostile Indian chief and his followers.
The right half of the Merchant – Choate house at 103 High Street is the original structure built between 1639 and 1650, making it one of the oldest houses in America. A simple story and a half cottage was built by William Merchant who arrived in Ipswich with John Winthrop and the first settlers. The section on the left was later added by Merchant and has finer woodworking. After his death the two sections were often occupied by different families, the Russells and the Lords. In Colonial days this was the last house on the road; common land was fenced off beyond it for livestock.
Town Farm Road: In 1753 the town granted this road along a line separating the salt marsh from farm land. Ipswich had operated a poorhouse since 1717 and in 1817 the town voted to buy the farm owned by John Lummus and allocated $10,500 to create a town farm. New farm buildings were added in 1838 and 30-40 poor people worked there with guidance and support. By 1880 the town farm system was no longer cost effective, serving primarily as a place of last resort for the elderly poor. Federal social relief programs instituted after the Great Depression, including Social Security, relieved communities of the need to provide that service and our town farm closed in 1928.
The Baker-Sutton House at 115 High Street is just outside of the High Street National Historic District, which ends at the bridge. This house was built in 1725 and displays late 1st period to 2nd period Georgian architectural elements. The antiques business that operates from this house features period architectural pieces. In the 18th century a guild of hatters all lived on High Street in Ipswich, including Samuel Baker and Richard Sutton.
*Reverse direction on the West side of High Street to continue.
110 High Street, the John Kimball Jr. house was built in 1730. It is 2 stories, asymmetrical, with the eastern half of earlier construction. High Street originally continued past this house until the first bridge over the railroad tracks was constructed in 1906. From 1900 when the first trolleys came to town until the bridge was built, passengers had to unload here to switch from the trolley from Newburyport to continue through Ipswich.
The “House with Orange Shutters” at 106 High Street (1st period) owned by Caleb Kimball, brother of John Kimball. The elongated 2 story end-gable timber frame structure was built in 1715 and has a large fireplace in the left side. The orange shutters have become a long-standing tradition. A few years ago the sills on this First Period house had rotted to the extent that the structure was leaning forward and in danger of collapse. Beams had rotted and braces had been cut, further weakening the frame. Woodwright James Whidden jacked up the house and repaired the sills, posts and girts.
The John Kimball house, 104 High Street was built in 1715 and is one of four Kimball houses along High Street. In his old age the elder John Kimball was pronounced insane and placed under a guardianship. This 1st period 2 story timber frame house has an unusual elongated end gable. Inside, the large keeping room on the left has a chamfered summer beam and dark brown tongue and groove plank sheathing, while the rooms on the right side are smaller but with finer Federal finishing. The large Kimball Family, like the Lords, owned many properties along High Street.
The Joseph Fowler house, 100 High Street; The plaque on the Joseph Fowler house states that it was built in 1756. Fowler was a carpenter and bought the lot in 1720. Records indicate that a house may have existed on this spot before Fowler obtained it, although at least one old timer long ago reported that it had been moved to this location from Mineral Street. The house has gambrel roof with a central chimney, and post and beam framing with exposed “gunstock” posts.
88 High Street, the Tuttle – Lord – Shatswell house built in 1690. John Shatswell immigrated to Ipswich MA in 1633, was granted this piece of land and built the original house near the existing one. He is the earliest person in Ipswich to whom the title of Deacon was given. This House is one of the oldest residences in Town and remained in the family by inheritance from the time of the original grant.
82 High Street, the John Brewer house was built in 1700. This corner was known as Brewer’s Corner before it was Lord’s Square. He was the town clerk and being on the outskirts of town owned a considerable lot which he divided into sections and sold. In 1662 the town constables were ordered to pay him 20 schillings, charges he was due “about constructing the fort”.
* Carefully cross at Lords Square. A Dunkin Donuts on the right is the only opportunity for food and a rest stop for the remainder of this tour.
The intersection of High Street, Short Street, Central Street, Liberty Street and Linebrook Road is known as Lords Square. Asa Lord opened a store here in 1825, purchasing his first $200 of merchandise on credit. The business thrived, selling various merchandise including hardware, rum and spices. It was the town’s unofficial social center until its closing in 1930. The building was divided into two parts and moved, with the back ell going to Mount Pleasant Avenue. The store location is now a gas station. The Dunkin Donuts is where Captain Nathaniel Burnham operated a store, and next to it is the old fire station.
*One building at Lords Square and two historic houses on Linebrook Road are not part of the High Street National Historic District but are mentioned below:
The old Payne School sits on the other end of Lords Square between Linebrook Rd. and Liberty Street. It was last used for students in 1942. Since 1972 the small building has served as the Ipswich School ting and fireplace surround.
At 68 High Street, The John Wood-Lord house was built circa 1725. Martha Rindge was widowed with small children after her husband Daniel disappeared in 1727 while on a fishing expedition to Penobscot Bay, attacked by Indians. In Puritan law an adult unmarried woman was a feme sole, could own property and sign contracts. A married woman was a feme covert and could not own property individually. Widows regained the status of feme sole but were allowed to keep only one third of their property, and the law required them to wait three years until re-marrying. The court allowed Martha Ringe to marry John Wood before the three years had passed “in order to advance her circumstances”.
The Georgian style John Harris – Mark Jewett House at 66 High Street was built in 1795 by builder John Harris. In 1784 the town poorhouse on Loney’s lane had fallen into disrepair, and John Heard convinced the town that if it would buy John Harris’ previous home at the corner of High and Manning, he would provide $400 annually for the care of the poor. The contract was so controversial with residents in the affluent Hamlet section of town that they succeeded in breaking away in 1793 to create the town of Hamilton. A later resident Mark Jewett contracted to rebuild the First Church. The finished work was accepted on the condition that he must repaint the pulpit “in a sacred color”.
The Henry Kingsbury house, 52 High Street: This large house dates back to 1660.The builder Henry Kingsbury was the original owner of this house, but like many houses on this street it was occupied by the Lord family and at one time was owned by 3 different people. This very attractive First Period house was owned later by Robert Lord, who helped draft the town’s first fire laws and personally inspected many town chimneys. The front is asymmetrical, and the west end is the older original section. Chamfered timbers can still be observed in the stone foundation supporting one of its chimneys. It was once used as a private school.
The Ringe-Newman house, 44 High Street. The Anna Ringe and Elisha Newman house was built in 1780 and combines Second Period and Federal Period styling. The home has been restored preserving high ceilings, wide pine floors and five fireplaces. Elisha Newman was a cabinet maker.
42 High Street, the Holland-Ringe house was built in 1742 (2nd Period) with Federal-style trim. William Holland was wounded in the loss against the French at Cape Breton in Nova Scotia in 1745, was brought home and died. The house was sold to Daniel Ringe, another veteran of the French and Indian Wars. He sold the house to his son John Ringe, an esteemed Ipswich cabinet-maker. His widow divided the property and gave the land for the Ringe-Newman house next door to her daughter Anna Ringe.
The William Caldwell house, 40 High Street was built in 1733. Nathan Caldwell married the daughter of Elisha Newman and Anna Ringe, two doors down. The house was once so dilapidated that William Varrell reported it had been torn down. It is now owned by the Rev. Rebecca Pugh Brown of the First Church in Ipswich.
The White Horse Inn, 34 High Street was built in 1659. A tavern was established there with the same name as the tavern in Cambridge England where discussions first began that led to the rise of Puritanism. Owner Corporal John Andrews offended the sensibilities of his neighbors by keeping open doors and open bar until past nine o’clock, encouraging young men in devious ways. “Corporal John Andrews was for several misdemeanors complained of to this Court for selling wine by retail without license upon pretence of selling by the gallon.” A petition signed by many of the most prominent citizens led the Court to revoke his license, “by complaint of sundry offences.
The Joseph Bolles house, 30 High Street was built circa 1720, an early 2nd period house. It has a symmetrical 5 bay Georgian façade with secondary entrances through a Beverly jog into an extended east side. Joseph Bolles was a carpenter and the son-in-law of Nathaniel Lord.
The Phillip Call house, 26 High Street is a 2 story timber frame First Period house built by cordwainer Philip Call about 1659. The evolution of this property to its current twelve rooms is an outstanding example of careful adaptation of various periods over four generations. Appearing as an old Victorian when purchased by the current owners in 1967, its careful restoration uncovered such important elements as an outstanding chamfered 17th century summer beam, that defines the original 2 112 story house, first enlarged around 1725. Restoration also discovered 17th century field paneling behind new walls, and one of the last remaining three-hole privies in Ipswich.
The William Russell house, 12 High Street: Job Harris built a house on this location in the 1760’s. It was still standing at the time William Russell, who owned a dry goods store on Market Street, bought the property. Rather than tear down a serviceable house, he sold it and moved it to the other side of the block on Warren Street. When Russell bought the property, it was owned by Aaron Ross. This house is a Queen Anne period house, relatively unusual in Ipswich. The sitting room contains a fireplace decorated with sea serpents. According to tradition, this house had the first inside bathroom in Ipswich.
The Joseph Ross house, 6 High St: The Whittier Porter Funeral Home, a Victorian home built in 1890 by Joseph Ross (1822-1903). He was a contractor from Ipswich credited with designing and popularizing the horizontally folding railroad drawbridge. The Ross family in Ipswich descend from Killicross Ross, a Scottish soldier captured at the battle of Dunbar by Oliver Cromwell’s army. He was sold to Puritans who needed servants, and never returned to Scotland. He married a woman from Beverly. His son Daniel married into the highly respected Rogers family, and the assimilation of the family into the Puritan social structure was thus accomplished.
At 4 High Street is an 1850 Greek Revival home. Roger Derby and his wife moved to Ipswich in 1672 and lived near this location. They were among the “cursed set of heretics” called Quakers and were frequently found guilty of absence from the public meeting on the “Lords dayes” and for their frenzied noisy demonstrations outside the meeting-house. The two were warned, fined and dealt with harshly. A 1656 law forbade any captain to land Quakers, and none were suffered to speak with them. Stiff punishments included having ears cut off, the tongue bored through with a hot iron, being and tied to a cart’s-tayle and whipped through the town, and a sentence of death, although these extremes are not known to have happened in Ipswich.
End of Tour
A Walking Tour and History of Ipswich is produced by Gordon Harris