3 Summer Street, the Benjamin Kimball house (c 1720, alt. 1803)

Benjamin Kimball house, 3 Summer St., Ipswich MA
3 Summer Street, the Benjamin Kimball house (c 1720, alt. 1803)

At 3 Summer Street is the Benjamin Kimball House, a 1720 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 at that time. The Benjamin Kimball house is late first period but has been altered with Georgian and Federal influences. The walls and roof are constructed of huge beams with mortise and tenon joinery, and the first floor outside corners have gunstock posts, evidence that they once supported the roof.

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 1760’s, 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. Structural evidence suggests Kimball moved an existing early 18th century, 1 1/2 story cape-style house to the lot, and added a full second floor to it.

Three months later, Kimball sold the land and house on Sept. 5, 1803, to Elisha Gould (174:172), the husband of Rebecca Kimball. Gould sold to Daniel Lakeman 8 years later, and after 1836 it stayed in the family of James Staniford, into the 20th Century.

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 names of the owners of the lots, Kimball and Gould, lend support to the theory stated below. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that the John Kimball house was conveyed to Benjamin Kimball Jr. in 1816.

Who was the original builder of this house?

The original location of this house has never been established. Benjamin Kimball Jr. (1756–1833), known as Captain Benjamin Kimball, was involved in several real estate transactions during that period. Kimball and his father Benjamin Kimball Sr. are both buried in Bridgton, Cumberland County Maine. He did not live in the house on Summer Street after he moved it there and rebuilt it, but the following information suggests that the house may have once been part of the lot adjoining the John Kimball property at 77 High Street.

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….Thomas Smith sold his interest to Andrew Smith, May 24, 1787 (146: 307). This old house disappeared many years ago.”

The early George Smith house was apparently removed or taken down. This seems to be the site of 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. By 1872 ownership was in the Lord family. According to the Ipswich property database, the house now at that location was built in 1966.

Waters continues:

“Samuel (Smith) sold his half to Nathaniel Caldwell, 1713 (30: 43). Moses Day, the administrator of (his 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.” (No information is provided regarding Benjamin Kimball’s ownership, but Susanna Kimball married Jeremiah Day, jr., on Apr. 13, 1772 (Ipswich Vital Records)

The Chronological history of the Old North Buring 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 property 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 listed with the sale.

It seems quite possible that the present Benjamin Kimball house on Summer Street was built immediately west of the Old North Burying Ground in 1713 by Nathaniel Caldwell shortly after he purchased the land from Samuel Smith, and that the house was sold separately by Jeremiah Day to Benjamin Kimball, to be moved to another location.

A Nathaniel Caldwell was born in Ipswich in 1669 and died in 1738. He would have constructed this house at the age of 44. 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. 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.

The Stone-Rust house which still stands on the east side of the Cemetery on High Street is similar to the probable form of the Benjamin Kimball house before it was moved and the second floor added.

Harold Bowen

This house was Harold Bowen‘s home, and in 1976 he wrote about it 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. Thusthe 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, 1940’s.
Harold Bowen's house
The Benjamin Kimball house, late Twentieth Century

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