Featured image: Ipswich woodcut, 1838 attributed to S. E. Brown.
North Main Street starts up the hill directly across from Market Street, bears left at Meetinghouse Green and continues to an abrupt stop at the point where High Street and East Street merge. This neighborhood was once the religious, governmental and commercial center of Ipswich. During the seventeenth century, a meeting house, jail, fort, town pound and stocks were located here. Later the Post Office, Probate Court, Ipswich Female Seminary, Agawam Hotel and several commercial structures surrounded the Green. The most successful businessmen in Ipswich built fine Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate and Victorian homes on North Main Street.
Boston was only three years old when the Governor and Council of the Massachusetts Bay Colony resolved to “hasten the planting of Agawam.” John Winthrop, Jr., the Governor’s brilliant, eldest son, led the expedition in March of, 1633. The first houses were “wigwams, huts, and hovels” built against the hillside near what is now the Town Wharf. Meetinghouse Green on Town Hill was the governmental center for early Ipswich. By order of the General Court, dwellings had to be within one half mile of the Meeting House at Meeting House Green. A meeting house was built here by 1636, surrounded by a high wall to protect them from the ever-present danger from Indian attacks. Several churches have stood at this same spot.
In 1636, a court was located near the present site of the Public Library, and lawyers stayed across the Green at the Treadwell Inn. During the seventeenth century, a meeting house, jail, fort, town pound and stocks were located here. Later the Post Office, Probate Court, Ipswich Female Seminary, Agawam Hotel and several commercial structures surrounded the Green.
The boundaries of Meeting House Green were determined over 300 years ago and have remained nearly the same to this day. Commencing south from High St., the boundary line runs to the corner of Central Street and North Main, west to the corner of North and South Mains, and north to High St., thus encircling the Green and North Main Street. The Meeting House Green District includes thirty houses, three churches and the town library which are sited around the steep, rocky Green itself and along Main Street. It encompasses a wide range of architectural styles with approximately half of the structures dating from the eighteenth century and half from the nineteenth.
31 North Main Street, the Methodist Church (1859)-The Methodist Society was established in Ipswich in 1824. The current Methodist Church on Meeting House Green was constructed in 1859. The steeple appears on the town’s seal, drawn by Ipswich artist Arthur Wesley Dow.
40 North Main Street, the Captain Brewer house (1825)-This house at 40 North Main Street is across from Meeting House Green, and was built in 1825. It has served as a general store and is now is residential. We find it listed as both the “Captain James Brewer house” and the “John Brewer house” but have no information about either. View MACRIS
12 Meeting House Green, the First Church Meeting House (1832)-Built in 1832, the Old Meeting House at 12 Meeting House Green was deeded to the First Church in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1838 by George W. Heard, Esquire. It has served First church and the community of Ipswich as a Chapel and now as a coffee house and meeting place. The historic building was recently restored.