Glazier-Sweet house, 12 Water St.

12 Water Street, the Glazier – Sweet house (1728)

The Glazier – Sweet House at 12 Water Street in Ipswich transitions the First and Second Periods of Colonial construction, and was built in 1728 by Benjamin Glazier, a sea captain. The original half house and early Beverly Jog addition remain with later additions. The Ipswich River is directly across from the house. Like many colonial homes in Ipswich it has a “Beverly jog” on the left side. The interior features many period-style furnishings. View MACRIS

Water Street house and boat cyanotype by Arthur Wesley Dow
The Glazier-Sweet house circa 1900.

The late John Fiske wrote “I love the fact that our house is fast approaching its 300th birthday and that the lives of many local families are now silently embedded in it. It is more than a human habitation, it’s a sign of human continuity.”

The Glazier-Sweet house is the third building from the right in this old photograph of Water Street. Since that time the chimney was moved to the opposite side of the house. The buildings on the right of the picture are where the Ipswich Yacht club is now.
Watercolor of the Glazier-Sweet house by Arthur Wesley Dow, who lived across the river.
1891 watercolor by Arthur Wesley Dow of the Ipswich River and the cart path that is now Water Street. The Glazier-Sweet house is in the foreground.
The Benjamin Glazier house, photo taken in the 1980s by the Ipswich Historical Commission.

This story is by the late John Fiske, a former member of the Ipswich Historical Commission.

On the front of our house is a plaque by the town’s Historical Commission identifying it as the Glazier-Sweet House, 1725. Benjamin Glazier bought the lot from Nathaniel Clarke in about 1720 and erected his, now our, “half-house” a year or two later. Half-houses had two rooms, one up, one down, and often a third room in a lean-to running along the back. The front door and chimney were at one end.

Half-houses were starter homes – the idea was that the owner would soon be able to add the “missing” half on the other side of the door, thus making the traditional seventeenth-century, central chimney house. Poor Benjamin never did this, and our house remained a modest half-house for a century and a half. In the late nineteenth century it received an addition, known locally as a “Beverly Jog,” and then in the twentieth century it was extended again into the comfortable, 2,500 sq ft house that it now is.

The “improvers” who had enlarged it had been more concerned with making it modern and comfortable than with historical authenticity. Hence, the ugly front door it had when we moved in.

We turned to Sid to make us a new one. Sid is a Vermonter with sap in his veins; if it’s wood, Sid’s the man. But what should the door look like?

When Benjamin built the house, the seventeenth-century planked door was just giving way to the new fangled (and expensive) Georgian paneled door. But Benjamin was no trend-setter: he had neither the money nor, we believe, the attitude. We’re as sure as we can be that he had an old-fashioned planked door made of local white oak. So that’s what we wanted from Sid.

But because the door opened into our front room, we needed it insulated against the New England winter. So Sid designed a two-faced, plank door with high-tech insulation sandwiched in the middle. We’re delighted with the result, and if Benjamin is looking down at us, he’ll be green with jealousy: we have the door he would have built if he could.

But at least he’d agree that the house looks more like it did when he built it – now, he just wants us to change the color to something closer to his.

Summer beam and floor joists in the oldest section of 12 Water St.
Downstairs room
Upstairs bedroom


Excerpts from the Massachusetts Historical Commission site, MACRIS , 2004

The house is set facing east across Water Street and the Ipswich River, set back from the street on a corner lot. A low rubble stone retaining wall in front of the house contains the difference in elevation between the house and the street.

Originally built c. 1728, the core of this small, simple, vernacular house has grown with additions on three sides and has been extensively altered. However, the additions and alterations do not obscure the original half house form and probably early Beverly Jog addition. The original part of the house, heavily restored since 1987, is three bays wide by two bays deep.  The roof is framed without returns and there is no cornice. On the original block and the Beverly Jog addition current sash is consistently 6/9 on the first floor of and 6/6 on the second, so is probably contemporary. An exterior chimney on the north elevation was probably added in the twentieth century.

The house expanded with many ells in the perhaps two hundred and eighty-six years since its erection. The first, possibly late eighteenth or early nineteenth century addition was probably the two and one-half story gable-roof ell placed perpendicularly off the rear elevation. It is no longer possible to say how many bays deep it was as a one and one-half story Beverly Jog addition on its south elevation and two gable-roof ell additions of two and one stories on its north elevation obscure the original configuration. Its south elevation has two widely separated 6/6 windows on the second floor and a contemporary sliding glass door on the rear of the first floor. Off the west or rear elevation of this ell is a one-story shed-roof ell with a 4/4 window on the south elevation and double 4/4 windows on the west elevation.

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2 thoughts on “12 Water Street, the Glazier – Sweet house (1728)”

  1. This house is currently for sale. In real estate photos, first floor summer beam appears to be chamfered. Has that been documented?

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