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Historic Ipswich

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

Thomas Dennis house, County Street, Ipswich MA

Thomas Dennis, legendary Ipswich joiner

Thomas Dennis (1638–1706), came to Ipswich from Devonshire, England. His home at 7 County Street still stands, and is where he practiced his trade as a joiner and master carver. The furniture of Thomas Dennis took on the status of historic treasure, and over time more pieces were attributed to him than he could have produced in his lifetime.

Washington St. in Ipswich

Washington and Liberty Streets

For two centuries it was known as Gravel Street for the two gravel pits on the hillside, and took a right turn to what is now Lords Square. After the 100th Anniversary of the War for Independence, Gravel Street became Washington Street, and the remaining section of the old Gravel Street took the name Liberty Street.

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. Ipswich industrialists imported machines from England to mechanize and speed up the operation, which destroyed the hand-made lace industry.

Commons, Ipswich photo by Edward Darling

The Commons

When the Town of Ipswich was established, ownership of a house and land within the town bounds carried with it the right of pasturage beyond the Common Fence. In 1788, the commoners resigned all their land interests to pay the heavy town debt incurred during the Revolution.

The 1918 flu epidemic in Ipswich

An estimated 1,500 cases of the so-called “Spanish flu in Ipswich resulted in at least 66 deaths. It is believed that the country reached herd immunity after the virus mutated to a less lethal variant. By the end of the pandemic, the average life expectancy had been shortened by 12 years!

Several Ipswich MA men in the mid-19th Century

Election night in Ipswich

“The climax of petty officialdom might well have been reached in 1797 when the list of officers chosen at the Town meeting included Selectmen, Overseers, Town Clerk and Treasurer, Tithing-men, Road Surveyors, Fish Committee, Clerk of the Market, Fence Viewers, Haywards, Surveyors of Lumber, Cullers of Fish, Sealers of Leather, Hog-reeves, Gangers of Cask, Sealers of Weights, Measurers of Grain, Corders of Wood, Firewards, Packer of Pork, and Cullers of Brick.”

The Great Fire of Boston, November 9-10, 1872

The Great Boston Fire of 1872 occurred on November 9-10, 1872 and destroyed the city’s business district, burning uncontrolled for more than 12 hours with such heat that it created a raging firestorm. Starting in a building at the intersection of Summer and Kingston Streets, the flames leaped from one wooden roof to another, leaving a smoldering pile of rubble between the Common and the waterfront.