22 Mineral Street, the Ephraim Harris House (1696, alt. 1835)

The Ephraim Harris House at the corner of Mineral and Central Streets contains within it a first period home. The earliest sections of this house were built by the Warner family in 1696 on the north side of Market Street at the location of the Bank Ipswich today and remained at that location through the 1800’s.

In 1835, Ephraim Harris, builder, was commissioned by Capt. Robert Kimball to build a new house on his Market Street lot. The lot was already occupied by an old dwelling house built by Daniel Warner prior to 1666. Harris removed a portion of the Warner house to his own land at the corner of Central and Mineral Streets, and enlarged it. A chamfered summer beam running from girt-to-girt is a remaining first period feature in the earliest, western half of the house..

ephraim-harris-house-mineral-st-dexter

Photo looking at Mineral Street, by George Dexter, circa 1910. The Ephraim Harris house is on the left.

In 1997 a large tree fell on the house, crushing the roof. The owner replaced it with a much steeper roof, restoring its possible First Period appearance and providing living space in the attic.

Mineral Street (called “dirty lane” in the 1600’s) crossed the wet area that was eventually drained in the early 1800’s and continued to Washington Street, known then as Gravel Street because of the gravel pit near that intersection.

22-mineral-roof-crushed-prudence-fish

The rear of 22 Mineral St. after the tree fell and crushed the roof. Photo by Prudence Fish

Photos by previous owners Al and Kathy Boynton

Restoring The Warner House

by Prudence Fish

The Town of Ipswich refers to this house as the Ephraim B. Harris house, named after the man who moved the ancient house to his land in the 19th century and added onto it. For this post, focusing on the Warner family, we will refer back to its beginnings on Market Street and call it the Warner house.

The Warner family was a family of blacksmiths. In the 17th century they made their home in Ipswich. Their house was located on what is now Market Street just about where Bank Ipswich is located today. It was probably a one cell house, having one room down and one chamber above with a big chimney at one end with a small entry. It was probably a typically modest house for the period like many others. This very early house stood at this site until the 19th century. Some say it was built in 1696. This may well be correct.

At this time the house was moved by a builder, Ephraim B. Harris, to the corner of Mineral and Central Streets. Central Street had not been laid out so that the address of the house was on Mineral Street, an early street originally called Baker’s Lane, and remains so today at 22 Mineral Street. The gable end of the house faces Mineral Street with the formal front door facing High Street and the back door facing Central Street. Actually I believe Abner Harris located the house in his own back yard as the house he lived in was on the corner High Street and Mineral Street. Newer houses now separate Abner Harris’s homestead from this house.

In the new location an addition was made to the old house with a Greek Revival front door and staircase. To the left of the new front entry were two new rooms, one up and one down with fireplaces in a new chimney for a total of four fireplaces in the house. The rooms in the early part of the house were very large, a clue to the age of the house.

Across the ceilings in the early side of the house was a huge summer bean with a flat chamfer and lamb’s tongue chamfer stop. There was evidence that the summer beam had even been wallpapered to make it disappear at a time when it was not fashionable to have exposed beams showing in the more refined rooms of the later period.

Many years passed until the house entered the 20th century. At this time a family consisting of a widow with children, lived in the house until eventually only one member of that family was left living here. She had very limited means and the house became run down. This lone occupant lived on the second floor. The house was an eyesore surrounded by chain link fencing. Behind the house, almost on the property line, was an enormous tree. It was a really huge tree.

In 1997 when everyone thought spring was just around the corner there was a surprise April Fool’s Day snowstorm. At the height of the storm down came the big tree right on top of the house threatening to sever the house into two parts. The occupant was sitting in her second floor kitchen. Her life was only spared by the huge oak frame, specifically the summer beam, of the old house which stopped the downward momentum of the great tree right over her head, saving her life. Rescue crews carried her out without even her slippers on her feet never to return as an occupant. I regret that I do not have a photo of the huge tree hanging over the house. It was an unforgettable sight.

Now I, the old house Realtor in town, inherited the tough assignment of selling the crushed house. It took a long time to clean out the house. Some of the neighbors demanded that it be razed.

Happily, that never happened. A builder bought it and put the old house back together. The roof on the house had been replaced by Ephraim Harris and was not as steep as it should have been for a first period house. With that in mind the new owner decided to gain more living space from the new attic by creating a much steeper roof. The roof had to be replaced anyway. The pitch is now higher than it ever was but it made the small house much more livable. After the almost demolition of the house it sold for a mere $68,000, an unheard of low price in a high priced marketplace. After restoration it sold for $345,000 and later for $395,000 as it has been transformed from a crushed derelict to an attractive first period house.

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