John Brewer house, Ipswich MA

82 High Street, the John Brewer house (1680)

The oldest parts of the John Brewer House, a private residence at 82 High Street in Ipswich, were built between 1680 and 1690 by John Brewer Jr.

Burnham’s Grocery is on the left, then a white house no longer standing, and the John Brewer house is third in this old photograph of Lord’s Square

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote the following in Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1905, Ipswich Historical Society):

1641 map of Ipswich lot assignments
1641 map from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony shows John Brewer Sr. owning all of the property on the north side of Lord’s Square

“From the corner now occupied by Mr. Nathaniel Burnham’s grocery (note: site of the Dunkin Donuts) to the railroad crossing, lots were assigned and houses built at the beginning of the settlement. This corner was known as early as 1728, and probably much before, as Brewer’s Corner.”

“The Brewer house lot was of goodly size, and Mr. Brewer sold it in several pieces. To Daniel Low, he sold a quarter of an acre on the corner, with a dwelling, and the land on Boxford Road extended to the ditch that drains the lands, June 13, 1717.”

(Note: Daniel Low’s parcel is approximately the same three properties currently owned by the owners of Dunkin Donuts, the North side of Lord’s Square from High Street to Linebrook Road).

“A lot on the northwest side, abutting on “the widow Setchwell,” (note: John Shatswell house, still standing as well) and bounded by the County Road northeast and the “County Road leading to Topsfield or however otherwise,” he sold to Capt. Stephen Perkins at about the same time.”

“Francis Sawyer was in possession of the intervening tract in 1734, and he may have bought it when the others made their purchases. Sawyer and his wife, Susanna, being administratrix of Daniel Low, mariner, sold the Low homestead on the corner to Samuel Williams, saddler, on Dec. 5, 1743. It came later into the hands of Nathaniel Hart. The executors of Sarah Hart sold to Hannah Goodhue, widow, the east part of the present dwelling, June 10, 1805 and Isaac Kimball sold the western end to Jonathan Haskell, with a quarter acre, Jan. 11, 1817.”

John Brewer house at Lord Square in Ipswich
The John Brewer house in the 1980s

Who was John Brewer?

In old records the name Brewer is often spelled Breuer or Bruer. tells us that John Brewer Sr. was born in 1626 or 1627. He apparently came to Ipswich with his father Thomas Brewer who is shown living in Ipswich in 1639. Town records show that in 1662 the town constables were ordered to pay John Brewer 20 schillings, charges he was due “about constructing the fort”. John Brewer Sr. died on June 23, 1684 in either Ipswich or Sudbury, MA.”

Ipswich 1943 Memorial Day parade
The Brewer house is the second from the right in this 1943 Memorial Day parade photo

The senior John Brewer and his wife Mary Whitmore had a son, also named John, who was born in Ipswich in 1653 and died in 1697 at the age of 43. He was a tailor in Ipswich and lived on his father’s homestead. In January 1674, John Brewer married Susanna Warner. He married his second wife Martha Perkins in 1689. They had four children, Hannah, Martha, Margaret, and John. On October 2, 1683, “John Bruer” was chosen Town Clerk and instructed to copy the two old Town Books (Town Records). He is the likely builder of this house.


Framing and masonry in the John Brewer house

6 thoughts on “82 High Street, the John Brewer house (1680)”

  1. Thanks for this history. I lived at 82 High Street from 1986 to 1989. Never saw a ghost, but froze in the winter and sweltered in the summer, owing to the lack of insulation. Some newspapers stuffed into the chinks, seemed to be the extent of it. We told visitors not to bother taking their coats off in the winter. Still, lots of charm. Andy Brengle

  2. Hi Andy–the lack of insulation is still an issue. We have tried not to remove any of the original house while renovating–a chore, but historically better. One can still open the walls and find the original cowhair plaster, hand hewn boards and lathe, and what served for an early form of insulation–desiccated corn cobs! Lots of old newspapers betweek floorboards. It was very interesting to read firsthand accounts of local events during the temperance movement! Have also found 17th century shoes in the floorboards, which I have been told was to keep the spirits of those who wore them from walking the floors at night. (It worked–I never hear their footsteps.) Thanks for sharing your story. –Kathy Hegarty

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s