3 Summer Street, the Benjamin Kimball house (Thomas Smith “currier” c 1720-30, moved in 1803)

At 3 Summer Street is the Benjamin Kimball House, a two-story, end gable building with a center chimney. The core of this house, probably a 2 room cape, was moved to this location in 1803 and expanded with a second floor by 1807. The downstairs of the Benjamin Kimball house is late first period but has been altered with Georgian and Federal influences. The walls are constructed with mortise and tenon joinery, and the first floor outside corners have gunstock posts, evidence that they once supported the roof. The west half of the front side bows out at the foundation, but not the east half, creating an uneven foundation line in the front of the house. The foundation for the east side of the house has a short brick extension. Therefore it is possible that the present house was placed on an existing foundation. When Elizabeth Fuller sold the house and land at 5 Summer St. in 1754 to Thomas Treadwell (107:158), the deed lists Nathaniel Hovey’s land to the southeast and Joseph Abbe’s land to the northeast. However, the home of Joseph Abbe was on S. Main St., and a previous house has not been documented at this location.

Benjamin Kimball house, 3 Summer St., Ipswich MA before restoration
The Benjamin Kimball house in 1980, from the MACRIS site

Thomas Franklin Waters recorded that when the large lot at the corner of North Main Street and Summer Street was divided after the death of its owner, Dr. Francis Holmes in the 1760s, mention was made of a house lot that had been staked off at the lower end of the lot on Annable’s Lane (Summer Street). This is the lot on which the Benjamin Kimball house stands. The lot remained in possession of the Holmes heirs, and on June 10, 1803, Sarah Holmes, widow of John, sold it to Benjamin Kimball Jr. (172,48). Structural evidence suggests Kimball moved an existing early 18th century, 1 1/2 story house to the lot.

Three months later, Kimball sold the land with a house on it on Sept. 5, 1803, to Elisha Gould (174:172), (who married Rebecca Kimball, the daughter of Moses Kimball in 1778) for $300.00. Dendrochronology tests indicate that it was Elisha Gould who converted the one and a half story Cape or gambrel to its current full two-story height in 1807. Gould sold to Daniel Lakeman 8 years later, and after 1836 it stayed in the family of James Staniford, into the 20th Century.

Who was Benjamin Kimball Jr.?

Benjamin Kimball6 (Benjamin5, Benjamin4, Benjamin3, John2, Richard1 was born in Ipswich, baptized Oct. 24, 1756. He enlisted as a soldier in the Revolutionary War in 1775 and continued to serve until the end of the war in 1783. He married Feb. 2, 1780, Lois Warner of Londonderry, N. H., who died Oct. 15, 1799. He married 2nd, Aug. 17, 1800, Susanna Stone, who died a year later on March 19, 1801 in childbirth. He married 3rd, Feb. 5, 1802, Susanna Potter, who survived him. He was a Revolutionary soldier, aged twenty- three in 1780, In his application for a pension on April 7, 1818, he stated that he was age 61 and living in Ipswich. He died June 20, 1822. The 1832 Ipswich map shows the Widow S. Kimball house bordering the Old North Burying Ground on the northwest.

Benjamin Kimball Jr. had several children (Lucy, Benjamin, Lois, John, Joanna, Hannah and an infant who died.) We have details about Benjamin7, born Nov, 30, 1786, who died. Oct. 29, 1867. He married April 16, 1807, Huldah Wade, who died Nov. 3, 1813. He married 2d, Nov. 29, 1815, Priscilla Kimball, born Aug. 8, 1784, who died Dec. 18, 1872, daughter of Jeremiah Kimball of Ipswich. He resided in Ipswich. Source: History of the Kimball Family, page 261. This Benjamin, the son of Benjamin Kimball Jr. apprenticed to Samuel Wade.

Where was the house originally?

The following information indicates that part of the house was once located on a lot that was added to the west side of the Old North Burying Ground.

Diagram 2, early settlers of Ipswich
Thomas Franklin Waters included this diagram in his book Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, portraying original land grants in Ipswich. The lot belonging to George Smith abuts the cemetery (Old North Burying Ground as it was laid out at that time).

In his 1905 book Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Thomas Franklin Water wrote about the lot just west of the Old North Burying Ground in Ipswich:

“The lot next the Burying Ground was owned by George Smith. At his death, his son, Samuel, received the northeast side and Thomas the northwest.” In the will of George Smith of Ipswich dated 13 Apr. 1674, to sons Samuel and Thomas Smith he equally divided his property upon condition that his wife be allowed the parlour and furniture belonging to it for her own use and the use of the cellar and other rooms in the house. “My two sons shall be equally charged in maintaining her…son Samuel will pay son Thomas for living in the house until his own be fit to live in.” A later generation Thomas Smith sold his interest to his son Andrew Smith, currier, May 24, 1787 (146: 307). This indicates that the house at 3 Summer St. was owned by Thomas, before he granted his interest in the house to his son Andrew. Waters concluded that “this old house disappeared many years ago,” but did not know what had happened to it.

On September 10, 1802, the descendants of Andrew Smith sold a lot and the southeast side of the home of Andrew Smith to William and Sarah Danforth of Londonderry NH for $100.00. (173, 220). On January 12, 1803, Benjamin Kimball Jr. purchased part of the lot and part of a house from William Danfort and his wife Sarah for $250. (172-48). The deeds included the “southeasterly end of the dwelling house,” with the line running through the middle of the house northwesterly to Nathaniel Lord’s house…then back to the start, “with liberty to pass between the said house and the burying ground…the above being part of the land and dwelling house of Andrew Smith late of Ipswich deceased.” The Ipswich Vital Records show just one Andrew Smith, who died July 24, 1797 at the age of 40. His gravestone is at location C-34 in the Old North Burying Ground.

It’s surely no coincidence that the very next entry in the Salem Deeds is also on January 12, 1803, when Sarah Holmes sold the lot at 3 Summer St. to Benjamin Kimball for $60, which is where the so-called Benjamin Kimball house stands now (Book 172, page 48).

Waters continued:

“Samuel (Smith) sold his half to Nathaniel Caldwell, 1713 (30: 43). (Unfortunately the deed is unreadable). Moses Day, the administrator of (Nathaniel’s heir) John Caldwell sold the property (with a house) to Jeremiah Day, May 20, 1793 (Salem Deeds 159:20). Benjamin Kimball was a later owner.” Waters provided no information regarding Benjamin Kimball’s ownership of this half of the Smith house, but it appears that this is the house that was moved to Summer St. by Benjamin Kimball, who retained the land and apparently build a new house adjoining the Burying Ground to the west. (The house presently standing at 71 High St. may have been built by Benjamin Kimball, but this has not yet been determined.)

Nathaniel Caldwell purchased land from Samuel Smith in 1713. A Nathaniel Caldwell was born in Ipswich in 1669 and died in 1738. Thomas Franklin Waters recorded that in 1713 Nathaniel Caldwell conveyed to his son John “my homestead in which I now live” on East St., which he had purchased in 1681. The year 1713 is also when Nathaniel Caldwell purchased the lot by the cemetery from Samuel Smith. John Caldwell inherited the house by the Old North Burying Ground from his father Nathaniel. The administrator of John Caldwell sold the property to Jeremiah Day, May 20, 1793. Waters notes that Benjamin Kimball owned it later, apparently briefly but did not mention a deed. The house could have been moved to the Summer Street lot after Jeremiah Day sold the land to the town in 1799 to extend the Old North Burying Ground to the west.

Jeremiah Day: Susanna Kimball married Jeremiah Day, jr., on Apr. 13, 1772 (Ipswich Vital Records). Jeremiah Day died July 1825 at 83 years of age (Ipswich Vital Records)

The Chronological history of the Old North Burying Ground notes that in 1799, Jeremiah Day sold the town three acres located on the west and north sides of the Burying Ground, enlarging the Burial Ground to approximately 4.7 acres. (Essex County Registry of Deeds, Book 164, Page 248, March 9, 1799.) The signing was witnessed by Jeremiah Kimball. No house was included with the sale, but the description of the plot states that the line continues to the middle of the Andrew Smith house….”with the southeasterly end of the house standing on the premises, and the chamber over the lower room in the northwesterly end of the said house.” This appears to be the same southeast side of the Andrew Smith house that Benjamin Kimball bought from Smith’s heirs in 1803. The logical conclusion is that after Andrew Smith’s death in 1797, Jeremiah Day and Benjamin Kimball each owned half of the house. Day sold the land to First Church Parish to extend the Burying Ground, and Kimball moved at least the southeast half of the Andrew Smith house to Summer St.

The various deeds related to these properties are somewhat confusing to sort out, but it seems probable that Benjamin Kimball’s home was immediately west of the present Old North Burying Ground, and abbutting on the east was the Smith house, which Benjamin Kimball moved when the Burying Ground was extended.

Who were Thomas and Andrew Smith?

The Ipswich Vital Records confirm the lineage of Andrew Smith in the deed research by Thomas Franklin Waters. Andrew Smith (1757-1797) was the son of Thomas Smith (1716-1791). Andrew Smith married Sally Warner of Londonderry in 1785 in Ipswich. His father’s wife is listed as Tryphena, daughter of Henry and Sarah Russell of Ipswich, born Aug. 14, 1720. Thomas Smith’s parents were Thomas (1683-1726) and his wife Emma Emmons or Emins, who married in 1704. Andrew Smith was probably a descendant of George Smith, who first owned the High St. lot. The house at 3 Summer St. was likely built by Thomas (1716-1791), father of Andrew, or possibly by Thomas’ father Thomas (1683-1726).

1832 Ipswich map shows the Old North Burying Ground.
The 1832 Ipswich map shows the Old North Burying Ground with the names of the owners of the homes surrounding.

The 1832 Ipswich map shows the Old North Burying Ground with the names of the owners of the homes surrounding. Slightly west of the former location of the Smith house is the Thomas S. Gould house in the 1832 map. The first record of that house was when it was transferred to William Gould by widow Eunice Ripley in 1811, abutting the Old North Burying Ground and land of Benjamin Kimball and land of Isaac Lord (196,10). By 1872 ownership was in the Lord family. According to the Ipswich property database, the house now at that location was built in 1966. The house in front of it facing High St. is given a date of approximately 1850, but the original deed was not found. The 1832 map shows the Widow S. Kimball as the front abutter to the Gould house at the present 71 High St. This is certainly Susanna Kimball, the wife of Benjamin Kimball Junior. Whether the existing house at that location was the Benjamin Kimball house has not yet been determined. The Ipswich assessors page gives it an approximate date of 1850.

The Gould connections

The History of the Kimball family lists multiple marriages between the extended Kimball and Gould families. A Benjamin Kimball6 (Benjamin5, Aaron4, Benjamin3, John2, Richard1 was born in Ipswich in 1756. He died in Bridgton, Me., July 16, 1833. This Benjamin Kimball Jr. (1756–1833) and his father Captain Benjamin Kimball Sr. are both buried in Bridgton, Cumberland County Maine. His occupation was shipwright. His wife was Abigail Davis who he married in 1754, and married second, Huldah Foster Gould, the widow of Amos Gould on August 28, 1784 in Boxford. Source: History of the Kimball Family, page 264

Rebecca Kimball, daughter of Joseph Kimball of Ipswich, married Elisha Gould, Feb. 21, 1778. John Kimball born on Feb. 22, 1800, married May 28, 1831, Rebecca Gould, daughter of Elisha Gould of Ipswich. This is the Elisha Gould to whom Benjamin Kimball sold the house at 3 Summer St.

The first allusion to a small gambrel- roofed house to the rear of the Benjamin and Susanna Kimball lot, abutting the burying ground is the conveyance by Eunice Ripley, widow, to William Gould, Sept. 16, 1811 (196: 10). Eunice Smith of Ipswich married Campbell Ripley of Salem in 1782 (Ipswich Vital Records).

Dendrochronology

A dendrochronology (tree ring) study was performed on this house in June, 2018 by William A. Flynt, Architectural Conservator at Historic Deerfield. Unfortunately he was not able to take samples from the downstairs summer beams, which are likely to be the oldest timbers in the house. His conclusion reads as follows: “Wile the range of species and decent ring counts in a majority of the samples was invaluable in determining the age of the roof frame in both the main house and ell, unfortunately very few samples could be obtained from the first floor frame of the main house, which the historical records suggest could be older than the upper floor and attic. To compound matters, those few samples that were obtained from first floor framing members, by and large turned out to have too few rings to make analysis possible. Short of removing casings from first floor framing for further dendrochronological sampling, it is not possible at this time to confirm or refute the hypothesis that this portion of the structure is actually older than the upper floor and attic. As for the second floor and attic framing, the dates coming out of the various tests confirm that this potion of the house was constructed no earlier than the spring of 1807. This is a few years later than what is noted in the Historic Ipswich records (c. 1803) which would make the construction fall under the ownership of the Elisha Gould family rather than Benjamin Kimball.”

Harold Bowen

The house at 3 Summer St. was Harold Bowen‘s home, which he wrote about in 1976 in Tales of Olde Ipswich:

“My father bought this old home in 1918 and I have lived here ever since–58 years to be exact. Abbot Lowell Cummings of the Masachusetts Society for the preservation of Antiquites (SPNEA, now Historic New England) came here to look at my home. When he came in, Cummings first became interested in the gunstock posts. These are upright corner beams which are narrow at the bottom and wider at the top, and resemble the butt of a gun. Thus the name. He couldn’t understand why they were on the first floor instead of the second story because the beams were so designed to carry the weight of the roof. He also noticed that the handrail on the second floor was different from that below.Right off, he said, “I want to see the attic chimney.” Right there on the chimney was the mark where the old roof had been. Originally, my house was a two-room one-story house.”

Harold Bowen (left), his parents and twin brother, in front of this house
Harold Bowen (left) with this twin brother (right) and their parents Henry S. and Mattie, in front of the Bowen residence, sometime in the 1920‘s
Henry Bowen
Mattie and Henry S. Bowen, who operated a print shop in the building behind the home.

In 1980, the Town accepted the Benjamin Kimball House on Summer Street which had been left to the Town as a bequest by the late Harold Bowen. The April Town Meeting voted to authorize the Selectmen to sell the property for a price not less than $32,000; and the sale was finally completed at that price in November. The sale included a preservation agreement, and that the proceeds from the sale of the property were placed in a Trust known as the Harold D. Bowen Memorial Fund, under the management of the Trust Fund Commissioners. The income of this Fund can be used by the Historical Commission for historical and preservation purposes,

Benjamin Kimball House, 3 Summer Street Preservation Agreement

This house is located in the Ipswich Architectural Preservation District and is additionally protected by a preservation agreement between its owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission. Protected elements include:

  • Front and side facades of the original four room dwelling
  • Central frame including primary and secondary members
  • Central chimney
  • Wooden architectural elements in the front hall, including stairway, paneling, molding, and doors.

Information from the MACRIS site

Benjamin Kimball jr. bought this house lot on June 10, 1803 (172:48) and three months later he sold the lot with a dwelling to Elisha Gould (174:172). As detailed below, structural evidence suggests Kimball moved a mid-18th century house to the lot, and modified it extensively. At first glance, the two front rooms indicate a typical center chimney floor plan of the late 18th century, with an ell added later to the rear. But the stairway to the cellar reveals the end of a huge wooden lintel beam that spans a hidden fireplace. This large fireplace in the left front room, first floor, stands behind a smaller fireplace now visible in this room. In addition, the vertical cornerposts in the front two rooms of the first floor were shouldered at the first floor ceiling level, indicating that at one time a roof began at this point; hence the building was formerly a story-and-a-half Cape instead of the present two story house. Further evidence supporting this theory may be seen in the change of stair detail: a simple heavy first-quarter-18th-century hand rail ending at the first floor ceiling is continued by a more delicate balustrade of the Federal period at the second story level. This was probably added by Benjamin Kimball in 1803.

The Benjamin Kimball house over the years

The Bowen residence
The Bowen residence in the 1940s.
Harold Bowen's house
The Benjamin Kimball house, late Twentieth Century

Sources & Further reading:

Timeline of deeds for Summer St. and High St. properties

  • 1713 Salem Deeds (30: 43). Samuel (Smith), son of George Smith sold his half to Nathaniel Caldwell. (Deed is unreadable).
  • May 28, 1787: Salem Deeds (146, 307) Thomas Smith to Andrew Smith. ( £150.00) (High St.)
  • May 20, 1793 Salem Deeds (159:20) Moses Day, the administrator of (his heir) John Caldwell sold the property, three acres to Jeremiah Day. Bordered by the Burying Yard and land of Lumus, Lord and Andrew Smith. The line passed through the middle of a house on the premises. (Total £122.00)
  • March 9, 1799: Salem Deeds (164, 248) Jeremiah Day sold the town three acres located on the west and north sides of the Burying Ground, enlarging the Burial Ground to approximately 4.7 acres. (£70.00). Bounded by the Burying Ground, Jonathan Lumus, the heirs of Phillip Lord, land of Andrew Smith, with the southeasterly end of the house standing on the premises. Note that this is less than Jeremiah paid for the identical property.
  • September 10, 1802: Salem Deeds (173, 220) Descendants of Andrew Smith (Smith, Ripley et al), to William & Sarah Danforth, southeasterly end of the homestead of Andrew Smith, deceased. Benjamin Kimball as a witness. ($100.00) (High St.)
  • September 10, 1802: Salem Deeds (172, 48) William & Saran Danforth to Benjamin Kimball southeasterly end of the homestead of Andrew Smith, deceased.. ($250.00) (High St.) .
  • January 10, 1803: Salem Deeds (172,48) Sarah Holmes to Benjamin Kimball (lot on Summer St.) ($50).
  • Sept. 5, 1803: Salem Deeds (174:172) Benjamin Kimball Jr., shipwright, & Susanna his wife to Elisha Gould (lot with house on Summer St.) ($300.00)
  • September 16, 1811 Salem Deeds (196,10) Eunice Ripley, widow, to William Gould, 3/4 acre lot on High St. with dwelling house and buildings thereon ($240.00) bounded by the Burial Ground, the road and lands of Benjamin Kimball and Isaac Lord, reserving to Benjamin Kimball Jr. all the privileges he enjoys of “passing up and down the way between Kimball’s land and the Burying Ground.” Waters referred to this as a small gambrel house that was still standing in 1900. The house presently on the location, 69 High St., was constructed in the mid-1960s
  • October 23, 1811 Salem Deeds (195, 14) Elisha & Jane Gould to Daniel Lakeman, lot with house on Summer St. ($850.00)

On the lot at 71 High St. was the home of Benjamin Kimball Jr. The house presently at that location was constructed around 1850 according to the Ipswich assessors site. The 1856 map identifies the building at that location as the “Union Store.” The New England Protective Union, established in 1849, was a cooperative movement which provided markets for rural produce in exchange for goods to stock local stores. At the height of the movement there were hundreds of “Union Stores” in New england. The movement gradually lost momentum during the 1850s and disappeared by the end of the Civil War. The 1872 abd 1884 maps show the owner as A. Lord (probably Asa Lord, who owned the long-standing store at Lord Square).

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