Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

Ipswich MA Strand Theater in 1941

The Strand Opera House and Theater

The Strand Opera House was built in 1909 on Market Street in Ipswich and hosted operas, plays, travelling shows and even the Boston Symphony. In 1930 the Strand burned and re-opened as a movie theater.I n November, 1985 the Strand Theater was demolished. In it’s place was constructed the First National Bank of Ipswich.

John Updike at typewriter

John Updike, the Ipswich years

In 1957, John Updike moved to Ipswich, where he and his family lived in the Polly Dole house on East Street for seventeen years. Updike’s 1968 novel Couples and several of his short stories were based in the fictional community Tarbox, which everyone knew was really Ipswich.

The Ipswich steamship Carlotta

The steamship “Carlotta”

The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point boat yard, and sailed from Town Wharf to the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. The small hotels at Little Neck, Ipswich Bluff and Grape Island were favorite destinations for tourists and locals.

1893 Birdseye map of Ipswich

Panoramic maps depicting cities and towns were popular during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Also known as bird’s-eye views, the drawings were created as if viewed from the air. Click on the 1893 map of Ipswich, and keep clicking to zoom in and find your house!

Digging peat

The Peat Meadows

Deep in Willowdale State Forest is a bog which in the 1832 Ipswich map is the “Peat Meadows.” “Turf” as it was also called, became a commonly-used fuel when local forests were depleted and until anthracite coal became widely available.

The wearing of long hair and wigs

The wearing of long hair was a burning theme of address in the early Puritan pulpit. The clergy prescribed that the hair should by no means lie over the band or doublet collar. In 1649, the Governor and seven of the Assistants declared their “dislike and detestation against the wearing of such long hair, whereby men doe deforme themselves, and offend sober and modest men.”