Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

Taffty Hill

Remembering Taffy Hill

by Beverly Perna Ipswich lost a great friend recently with the death of Howard “Taffy” Hill. Memories poured forth as residents learned he had passed away at the age of 87 on March 26, 2011. Hill was a familiar sight at his near iconic store on Market Street, in […]

Photo of the Ipswich Town Farm by George Dexter

The Ipswich Town Farm, 1817-1928

Ipswich established its first poorhouse in 1717, and until then the poor and incapacitated were simply let out to the lowest bidder. There was a growing movement in Massachusetts during the early 19th century for establishing rural working town farms for the poor. In 1817 the town voted to buy the farm owned by John Lummus, on what is now Town Farm Road.

Greek Hotel Ipswich

The Greek Hotel

The J. J. Goodhue home at the corner of Market Street and Saltonstall Streets is visible in the 1872 Ipswich village map, and in the 1884 village map, but the 1910 village map identifies it as the Greek Hotel, which operated a coffee shop on its main floor. In […]

Nautical map of Crane Beach

The missing dunes at Castle Neck

When Google maps first went online, it showed a couple of large dunes at the tip of Crane Beach, one labelled “The Great Dune.” It was the tallest of the newer dunes, comparable in size to Wigwam Hill, which is an older well-established dune in the middle of Castle Neck. The Great […]

Carted back to Ipswich, 1714

In the Old North Burying Yard on High Street in Ipswich lies the body of the Reverend Samuel Belcher. Born in Ipswich in 1639, he graduated from Harvard College in 1659, and studied for the ministry, and was preaching at Kittery, Maine as early as 1663. In 1668 he married Mary, daughter […]

The Ipswich Lower North Green, photo by George Dexter

George Dexter’s Ipswich

Perhaps the best-known early Ipswich Photographer was George Dexter (1862-1927). His photographs along with those of Edward Lee Darling (1874-1962) provide a wonderful visual history of the town. Thanks to Ipswich native Robert Cronin for sharing with me his collection of George Dexter glass plate negatives that have been […]

View of Ipswich Town Hill in the Winter from the hill

Ipswich after a snowstorm, circa 1900

  This photo was taken by Ipswich photographer George Dexter in the late 19th or early 20th Century from Town Hill above High Street, in the vicinity of Highland Cemetery. The First Church and Methodist Church steeples are in the background. Snow-covered Heartbreak Hill rises in the distance. Copies of […]

Portrayal of the cold day and a Winter scene by George Henry Durrie

The Cold Friday of 1810 – New England Historical Society

The Cold Friday on Jan. 19, 1810 brought terrible winds and frigid temperature talked and written about for generations. Tales of the killer weather event made their way into town histories, journals and court records long after it happened. They told of the many people who froze to death while traveling along the highways. Houses, barns and vast numbers of timber trees were blown down or broken to pieces.

Jeffreys Neck Ipswich ma map and aerial view

Jeffreys’ Neck Road

This history of Jeffreys Neck is from the Agawam Manual and Directory by M.V.B. Perley, published in 1888. The business of fur-trading and fishing along the New England coast received a new impetus about the beginning of the seventeenth century. In 1604 Agawam was the center of Arcadia, so-called in the […]

Taking to the air in Ipswich, 1910-11

In 1909, W. Starling Burgess joined with Augustus Moore Herring to form the Herring-Burgess Company, manufacturing aircraft under a license with the Wright Brothers, thus becoming the first licensed aircraft manufacturer in the United States. Burgess took the initial flight of his first plane in 1908 at Chebacco Lake in Hamilton, MA. […]

Ipswich in the Great Depression

The severe winter of 1933-34, in which below-zero temperatures lasted for weeks, added great misery to the lives of the homeless during the Great Depression. As part of the New Deal, President Roosevelt signed a forced draft work relief program known as the Civil Works Administration, putting millions to work on […]

Homes of the Wades

Jonathan Wade arrived in Ipswich in 1635 with the first wave of Puritan settlers. He came into ownership of land along the South Green originally granted to the Rev. Nathaniel Ward, and left an estate valued at £783. In the 19th Century, the Wade family of housewrights built several homes on for […]

Dow Brook and Bull Brook

Featured image: Dow-Bull Brook Trail, from the Essex County Trail Association site. Remnants of the old grist mill and saw mill dam on the Egypt River, originally constructed by Nehemiah Jewett, are behind the Ipswich power plant transformer station on High St. Jewett’s Grist mill on the Egypt River […]

A hike on Town Hill in Ipswich

A Town Hill Hike

This a somewhat aerobic four-mile hike from downtown Ipswich to the top of Town Hill. Starting from close to sea level at Zumi’s or the Riverwalk Mural, it follows the river for a while before climbing 160′ to the top of Town Hill. It descends to Fowler’s Lane, […]

Burke Shoe Factory Ipswich Ma

Hammatt Street and Brown Square

Until the second half of the 19th Century, much of the area bounded by Central Street, Washington Street, Mineral Street and Market Street was a wetland with an open sewer known as Farley’s Brook running through it. The railroad came to Ipswich in 1839, changing the town forever. Stagecoaches no longer made […]

Haunted houses of Ipswich

These ghost stories were shared on Facebook. A friend of mine mentioned that a few years ago a realtor was getting ready to go out the front door at the Jonathan Pulcifer house on Summer Street, when he noticed a stack of old publications sitting on the bottom […]