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Historic Ipswich

The Ipswich Historical Commission acts to preserve the history and historical assets of the Town of Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Ipswich town wharf circa 1930, photography by Edward Darling

The Old Town Landings and Wharfs

Many a pleasant sail down the river are in the memories of William J. Barton. “These were the names of the places and flats along the Ipswich River before my time, and familiar to me during my time. They were used by the fishermen and clammers. I know. I was one of them. It was the happiest time of my life.”

Ipswich Cornet Band

The Grand Old Fourth

“The night before the Fourth of July, thousands of people were milling up and down Central and Market Streets and Depot Square. Every man and boy carried a revolver and shot off blank cartridges as fast as they could re-load. “At five o’clock on the morning of the Fourth, the sexton of the Methodist Church could open up the doors and let in the boys ring the church bell for an hour. Then came the parade.”

The Pillow Lace Tercentenary plaque on High Street in Ipswich

Ipswich Pillow lace

In the late eighteenth century, Ipswich had 600 women and girls producing more than 40,000 yards of lace annually. In the 1820’s Ipswich industrialists opened a factory and imported machines from England to mechanize and speed up the operation, which destroyed the hand-made lace industry.

The Ipswich jail on Green Street

The Ipswich jail

The second jail in the Colony was erected in Ipswich in 1656. Sixteen British prisoners were kept hostage in the cold and cruel stone jail during the War of 1812. A large brick House of Corrections was constructed in 1828 at the site of the present Town Hall on Green Street.

Appleton Farms "New House"

Homes of the Appletons

Appleton Farms was gifted to the Trustees of Reservations by Francis and Joan Appleton in 1998. Originally granted to Ipswich settler Samuel Appleton, it is the oldest continuously operating farm in America. The farm continued in family ownership for seven generations, and the extended family built homes along Waldingfield Rd. and the nearby vicinity. 

Choate Island and Rufus Choate

Choate Island was originally known as Hog Island, and is the largest island in the Crane Wildlife Refuge and is the site of the Choate family homestead, the Proctor Barn, the White Cottage, and the final resting place of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Crane. There are great views from the island summit of the Castle Neck dunes and Plum Island Mount Agamenticus in Maine.

Ipswich hosiery advertisement

Ipswich Hosiery

In the mid-18th Century, Ipswich women started making lace with distinctive patterns. After the first stocking machine was smuggled from England to Ipswich in 1822, immigrants arrived in Ipswich to work in the cotton and hosiery mills, contributing to the town’s diverse cultural heritage.

South Main Street postcard, Ipswich MA

South Main Street

In March 1692 the Selectmen laid out twenty-three small lots and granted them “to as many individuals with the conditions that they not encumber the highway, make provision for drainage under the buildings, that each person provide paving four-foot wide all along before ye said buildings for the convenience of foot travelers, and erect posts to keep horses from spoiling the same.”

Green Street Bridge painting by Theodore Wendel

The Green Street Bridge

Twenty years after building the County Street Bridge, construction began for the Green Street Bridge. The original structure was made of wood but was later replaced by an arched bridge of stone on May 14, 1894. This was the fifth bridge built on the Ipswich River in the Town of Ipswich.

Photograph by Clarence White of Arthur Wesley Dow

Arthur Wesley Dow

Ipswich artist Arthur Wesley Dow (1857 – 1922) was one of the town’s most famous residents. During summer, Dow and his wife ran the Summer School of Art from the historic “Howard house” on Turkey Shore Road. The Ipswich Museum owns the largest collection of works by Arthur Wesley Dow.