The South Green dates from 1686, when the town voted that the area be held in common, and it has fulfilled various community needs. Cattle were gathered here to be driven to outlying pastures. All adult men reported monthly to the Green for military training. Above all, the South Green was the educational center of Ipswich. In fact, it was first known as the School House Green.
As early as 1636 a Grammar School was established in Town. Ezekiel Cheever, famous New England educator, came to Ipswich in 1650 as schoolmaster. The first schoolhouse was built on the corner of Poplar and County Road. by 1652 and Cheever taught there until 1660. The Grammar School remained in this location until 1704, when it was moved to the new Town House on Meeting-House Green. In the mid-18th century Madam Rogers, wife of Samuel Rogers, kept a school for young ladies in her home at the north end of South Green.
In 1794 the Grammar School moved back to the area into a new building on the corner of County and Argilla Roads. From 1828, the South District of town shared the building for its own school, and in 1836 the Grammar School merged with a new English High School. That merger brought radical changes in the scope and purpose of the Grammar School, and many residents marked that date as the passing of the ancient school. The second district school moved to a new building nearby at Payne and Poplar Streets about 1850, and the High School left the old South Green building in 1874.
Today the South Green is no longer the educational center of Ipswich. The boundaries of the South Green essentially ware determined when the Green was set aside by the town 300 years ago, and today they remain nearly the same. The Heard House marks the Northwest corner, then the boundary line runs south to Saltonstall Creek, crosses County Rd., then runs north to the Sweeney Tavern, which marks the northeast corner. The line then runs east to the northwest starting point. The boundaries were predetermined by the structures in the area.
“The South Green is a most fascinating microcosm, the people who lived there and the structures that ring it — 17th Century, Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival — a fragile link to the Ipswich that was — and a nagging and constant reminder of the precious heritage that we have inherited and more times than not, use so carelessly.
We remember seeing a picture of the Green, painted about 1840, and being struck by the beauty and complete serenity of the scene. Two riders canter by the house, the lady, ramrod straight in her side-saddle, her feathered hat and elegant skirted riding habit reminding us of a time romantic. Her gentleman companion, faultlessly turned out, wears his fawn riding suit with an air of careless elegance. Down the street, in front of the Giddings house and store on the corner of Argilla Road, two ladies walk arm in arm, deep in conversation. Five enormous elm trees line up on the western side of the Green, and underneath a chaise is being drawn by two sleek horses.
The Colonel Baker house looks much the same as it does today, minus of course, the office addition built by Dr. Pallotta. Next door one can glimpse the Aaron Smith house, and further down the old Walley-Dana manse that many of us can still remember. Across the Green stands the old Swasey Tavern, three storied, and looking as elegant as only a Georgian mansion can — this before it was so sadly “Victorianized.”
And, gleaming ghostly in the background, the focus of the picture — The South Parish House — newly built, columned and pristine, and now gone forever. Here near the Green lived the Rev. Nathaniel Ward, author of “The Body of Liberties” and “The Simpler Cobbler of Agawam,” his house on the east side of the Green. Cotton Mather tells us that Ward had inscribed over his fireplace, “Sobrie, juste, pie,” (soberly, justly, piously) and afterwards added “Laete” (gladly). Close by lived his son-in-law, Dr. Giles Firmin.
Across the way lived the Honorable Worshipful Richard Saltonstall, son of Sir Richard, whom on his arrival, was immediately honored with public office. Deputy to the General Court in 1636, and although one of the elite establishment, disagreed violently with his peers, standing alone in his opposition to such important and controversial items as life tenure for “a certain number of magistrates” and “single-handed and alone lifted his voice like a great trumpet in the Great and General Court” against the stealing of slaves “as contrary to the law of God and Country,” and demanding the imprisonment of the officers of the ship that had stolen them. The brook that halved his generous grant was known for generations as “Norton’s,” but is now and forevermore “Saltonstall’s Brook.”
That famous schoolmaster, Ezekiel Cheever, lived near the corner of Poplar street and kept the school-house nearby. He labored here between 1650 and 1661 before moving on to Boston and its Latin School. The Rev. Nathaniel Rogers, pastor of the First Church from 1638 to 1655, the first of the long line of Rogers to shepherd the Puritan flock, lived to the rear of the Colonel Baker house, “sundry remains” being found when a water line was dug to “the Gables” in 1846.
As time passed, more houses were built, the mansion of John Heard in 1799, and the tone of the South Green already established, remained. Augustine Heard always had his eye out to acquire, move or tear down those houses surrounding the Green, already perhaps crumbling, in an effort to enhance and preserve. the park-like setting he so admired. He bought the property of Daniel Cogswell when that 1816 house and store was partially destroyed by fire, moved the store-house from the area adjacent to the present location of the Whipple House, and set it up next to the South Side Cemetery where he put it to use as a barn.
The old Crompton Inn, built in 1693, the favorite stopping off place of Judge Sewall for a helping of “roast fowle”—and later the home of Colonel Choate, the builder of the bridge, was torn down in 1836 and the land sold to Heard. Its neighbor, the 1740 Walley-Dana House that used to sit in front of the Whipple House was bought by the Heritage Trust in the mid-1950’s and taken down. The old house, weak with age, had been eyed by the telephone company as a perfect site for a new office building. Thankfully, the Trust came to the rescue and the area was opened up to reveal the Whipple House in all its glory. The telephone company had to be content with buying another old house further down County Road, moving it to the back of the property and erecting the present telephone building.
The Whipple House has been around, too. Originally it stood down on Saltonstall street, and in 1927 it was moved to its present location — the land the generous gift of the Crane family. A delightful picture of the 17th century structure, squarely in the middle of the Choate Bridge, looking for all the world like it was wedged in to stay, is a particular favorite.
Across the way from the Wade Manse, the South Side burying ground, owned jointly by the First and South Parishes stood silent sentinel on the land conveyed by Dr. John Manning in 1773 and again in 1795. The civic-minded Dr. Manning sold the town more land for widening the road and extending the training field. In time, in 1859, the town would acquire ownership of all the church owned burial grounds, “their conditions often in deplorable neglect and a notable improvement in the cemeteries resulted.”
It seems everybody was improvement minded. In 1892, a civic-minded group, and we rather suspect that the Rev. Waters and the Appletons were among its leaders, prevailed upon the town to fill and grade the South Green ‘where a fine lawn was established.” Flower beds were planted and maintained “by the South Side people, and bordered by the splendid elms became a thing of beauty.” Eventually the town assumed the care of the Green and for many long years it remained “a thing of beauty.”
Today, alas, things are sadly different. The South Green or School House Green or Training Field–all part of “that microcosm of social and architectural history of the town” seems rather lost and forlorn–coming to life once a year for a carnival-like affair–and forgotten until the next. Let’s hope that when we’re handing out birthday gifts during our 350th celebration we don’t forget the South Green–and maybe, once more, it will become “a thing of beauty” that it deserves.”
Houses and places in the South Green Historic District
Ipswich Old South Cemetery-The Old South Cemetery was used from 1756 till 1939. It sits between the South Green and the Ipswich River and is an easy walk from downtown. A walking trail extends down the slope to the River and continues downstream to Sally’s Pond near the Whipple House. It has approximately 1000 interments, and is a beautiful area … Continue reading Ipswich Old South Cemetery
The Choate Bridge opens, 1764-The Choate Bridge in Ipswich was constructed in 1764 and is the oldest documented surviving double stone arch bridge in North America. As part of Rt. 1A and Rt. 133 the Choate Bridge is estimated to carry between 10,000 and 20,000 vehicles each day! The town approved construction of the stone bridge on April 18, … Continue reading The Choate Bridge opens, 1764
66 County Road, the Southside Store (1835)-The South Green also had a grocery store for many years. Originally known as the Goodhue Grocery, in the 20th Century it was called the South Side Store. The store closed in 1980.
70 County Road, the John Hayes house (1910)-The hip roof , the generous front porch and extended eaves of this 1910 house draw from the Arts and Crafts architectural styles of the early 20th Century. The Hayes Tavern at Depot Square was known as the Hayes Hotel in the mid-Twentieth Century.
96 County Road, Old South Church Parsonage (1860)-This charming small house with elaborate Italianate trim was built in 1860 as the parsonage for the South Congregational Church, which was at the head of the South Green. The church burned in 1977. The Rev. Thomas Franklin Waters and his family lived in this home.
16 Elm Street, the Baker – Tozer house (1835)-Samuel S. Baker, active in real estate, bought the lot at 16 Elm Street and built this house in 1835. He sold it to shoemaker William S. Tozer (1804-1860) in 1841. The house consists of three combined structures, one having been moved from a different location and added on
37 South Main Street, Baker’s Store (b. 1828)-The first structure on the site was between 1692/3 and 1722. The former Baker's Clothing Store at 37 South Main Street was built in 1828 and has a combination of Italianate and Greek Revival elements.
11 South Village Green, the Gables (1838)-This house was designed by mathematician David Baker as an upscale lodging for lawyers in town for the Ipswich court. He was unable to repay the money he borrowed from Augustine Heard, who took possession. In the 1920's Nellie Huckins purchased the house and ran the Gables Tea Room.
1 South Green, the Captain John Whipple House (1677)-The oldest part of the house dates to 1677 when Captain John Whipple constructed a townhouse near the center of Ipswich. The house had fallen into serious disrepair in the early 20th Century but was saved from destruction, moved through town and over the Choate bridge to its current location on South Green, and restored to its 1683 appearance. The original frame of oak, chestnut, and tamarack is largely intact.
54 South Main Street, the Ipswich Museum (1795)-This Federal-style structure was built in 1795 by John Heard, who became wealtthy as a privateer during the American Revolution. The house was purchased by the Ipswich Historical Society from the Heard family in 1939.
59 South Main Street, the Philomen Dean house (1716)-Dr. Philomen Dean bought this lot in 1715 and built a house. After various owners, the building was sold to the Boston and Ipswich Lace Co. in 1824, and an addition was built. In the late 19th century the building was used by as a tea room.
85 County Road, the John Wade house (1810)-The John Wade house was built at the far end of South Green in 1810, but was moved further down County Road in 1948 to make room for the South Green Burial Ground expansion. This house bears remarkable similarity to the homes of housewrights Asa Wade and Samuel Wade, both still standing in their original locations on County Rd. facing the South Green.
5-7 Poplar Street, the Dr. John Calef house (1671)-This house was built on South Main St. between 1671 and 1688 by Deacon Thomas Knowlton. In the 1700’s the house was owned by Dr. John Calef. who was Representative from Ipswich to the General Court, and lost favor with the town when he sided with Loyalists. In 1777 John Heard moved the house to its present location in order to build his elaborate Federalist home which now houses the Ipswich Museum. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
78 County Road, the Samuel Wade house (1831)-In 1831, Samuel Wade purchased a lot and built this house as his home. In the early-mid Twentieth Century, the Samuel Wade house became the Southside Nursing Home, with 20 rooms & 13 bathrooms. It was restored as a private residence by the Marchand family, who made it their home in the 1960’s and 70’s.
76 County Road, the Asa Wade house (1836)- Asa Wade, original owner of the South Side Store, bought this property in 1831 and built a house. This building was once identical to house next door, which was built by Samuel Wade, who may have built both houses. The house is front-gabled, but is trimmed with Federal motifs.
72 County Road, the David Giddings house (1828)-The site of the David Giddings house was bequeathed by Jonathan Wade to his grandson Nathaniel in 1749. In 1828 Wade sold the lot and the shop standing on it to David Giddings, who enlarged it to a two-story dwelling facing the Green.
7 South Village Green, the Col. John Baker House (1761)-Daniel Rogers sold his homestead to John Baker in 1761 and Baker built this house, which has much original material, including Georgian paneling and original fireplaces. This house is protected by a preservation agreement with the Ipswich Historical Commission.
69 S. Main Street, the Samuel Dutch house (b 1733)-Samuel Dutch bought this land in 1723 and built this house by 1733. The front appears to have been enlarged with a third floor and a hip roof during in the early 19th Century. The rear wing has a chamfered summer beam, suggesting that it was an older house.
83 County Road, the Rogers and Brown House (1723)-The Rogers and Brown House (also known as the Nathaniel Rust House) at 83 County Road is believed to be three houses joined together, at least one from the First Period. In 1836 the house and lot were conveyed to the South Parish as a church site. Asa Brown bought the house and removed it to its present location in 1837.
2 Poplar Street, Swasey Tavern (1718)-John Ayres built a house in 1693, and sold it in 1705 to John Whipple, who did extensive alterations. In 1725 Increase How purchased the "good mansion house” from Whipple and ran an inn. In 1789 President George Washington addressed the citizenry from these steps. It was owned by General Joseph Swasey in the early 19th Century.
36 South Main St., the Hall – Haskell house (1820) Ipswich Visitor Center-ust past the Choate Bridge on South Main Street The Ipswich Visitor Center is located in the Hall - Haskell House, sometimes called the “Little Red House." Earlier structures stood at this site before mariner Charles Hall and his wife bought the property in 1819. In 1820 they built this house, where they lived upstairs and ran a general store on the lower floor.
1 Turkey Shore Road, the Burnham-Patch-Day house (1730)-This house has a preservation agreement with the Ipswich Historical Commission. The house was built by Thomas Burnham in 1730 on the foundation of the earlier house he bought in 1667. The large ell on Poplar Street was added in the early nineteenth-century. Abner Day bought the house of the heirs of John Patch in 1814 and kept a well-known tavern.
2 Turkey Shore, the Heard – Lakeman House (1776)-Nathaniel and John Heard bought this land in 1776 and built the present house. Nathaniel sold the house to Richard Lakeman III in 1795. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and has a preservation agreement with the Ipswich Historical Commission.
88 County Road, the Col. Nathaniel Wade House (1727)-This house was built in 1727 by Captain Thomas Wade. On September 25, 1780, his son Nathaniel Wade received an urgent correspondence from General George Washington that General Arnold had "gone to the enemy" and to take command at West Point. The house is protected by a preservation covenant with the Ipswich Historical Commission.
Map of the South Green Historic District
Houses and businesses bordering the South Green National Historic District on South Main, Elm and County Streets but which are not included in other historic districts are added to the map below.