Walking tours of historic Ipswich

Lower summer Street, Ipswich
Lower Summer Street near the Ipswich River

Walking tours of historic Ipswich are led by Town Historian Gordon Harris, who tells the stories of the town’s historic houses and the people who lived in them.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.” The historic neighborhoods of Meeting House Green, High Street, the East End, and the South Green offer well-preserved streetscapes of 17th to 20th century homes.

Regularly-scheduled guided tours

Dates and Times: Guided walking tours in 2021 can be added to the calendar by request and are open to the public by signup. Group size for each tour will be limited to about a dozen people. The charge is $10 per person, or $100 per group. Please pay by cash or check at the beginning of the tour. Tips are appreciated.

Reserve a space on this tour, or request a tour by sending an email to: historicipswich@gmail.com or text Gordon Harris (978) 979-6598. (No voice mail please). Leave your email address and the date you are requesting. Scheduled tours for which there are no signups may be cancelled without notice. Preregistration is requested but not required unless the group size is already too large.

First Period houses on Water St.
First Period houses on Water St.

Custom ancestry and architectural tours

Ipswich is the country’s best-preserved Puritan town, and its residents have been the proud custodians of its history. Many people trace their roots back through several generations to Ipswich, one of the earliest towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Town Historian Gordon Harris leads customized tours for people wishing to “walk in the footsteps of their forefathers,” in which we visit the neighborhoods, houses and gravestones of early settlers and their descendants. Tours were recently provided for descendants of Isaac Cummings, William Fellows, Reginald Foster, William Story, and Richard Kimball. The minimum charge for special group tours or custom tours is $100 for the group.

To arrange a custom group tour, email Ipswich town historian Gordon Harris at historicipswich@gmail.com. Please include ancestors, houses or locations you are interested in seeing.

Meeting House Green, North Main & the East End

Description: This one mile tour begins at Meeting House Green and visits the East End Historic District, including North Main, East, Summer, Water, and County Streets. Extended tours and options include the South Green, High St., and the Old North Burying Ground, taking up to two hours, depending on the pace of the group.

Location: This tour starts in the garden at the intersection in front of the Ipswich Public Library on Meeting House Green. View at Google Maps.

Ipswich walking tour from the Ipswich Visitor Center

Description: This full version of the Historic Ipswich tour starts at the Ipswich Visitor Center and follows the River to Water, Summer, County East, Meeting House Green, North Main and South Main Streets., with a total distance of 1.4 miles. This tour takes up to 2 1/2 hours and is for participants who can walk at a steady pace. (Slower walkers will enjoy the shorter version that starts at Meeting House Green).

Location: The Ipswich Visitor Center at 36 South Main St. View location.

Self-guided tours

Walking tour of historic Ipswich
The red route is 3/4 mile and starts at Meeting House Green. The full tour is 1.4 miles and starts at the Ipswich Visitor Center

Some scenes from the tours:

13 replies »

  1. Just spent a lovely afternoon on a historic walking tour, narrated by Gordon Harris. This is a must for every resident. You will be filled with pride as a result of your enriched understanding of the role our great town and it’s citizens have played in American history. You will also gain a perspective of how history impacts current issues, such a town planning and development. Gordon’s passion for history and research, is our win, as he literally is able to answer all questions. His gift as a storyteller, makes the experience one to remember.

    • My husband and I took a Gordon tour in Sept. 2019 and it was wonderful. If I lived closer, I would do it again. He is an excellent guide and has a wonderful knowledge of the town of Ipswich.

  2. I went on a tour with Mr. Harris this July. As one whose family is derived from Ipswich but who had never visited, it was a true privelege to hear Mr. Harris speak with passion and erudition on the history of a town that is now very dear to me. Those with even the faintest interest in history should avail themselves of the opportunity to hear a real authority on Ipswich by scheduling a tour.

  3. Thank you Gordon, for the great tour of Ipswich on Aug. 4th. With Daniel Hovey, the immigrant, being my 9th great-grandfather, and us being the only ones on the tour that day, you were able to spend a little more time on various Hovey homes around town. And yes, I think we did find the original site of Daniel’s house on Tansey Lane. It is a long trip from Arizona, but we will be back, very soon, hw hope. Thank you again for making the history come alive. It was a great day for both of us.

  4. We had a delightful, informative, entertaining walking tour of Ipswich. Gordon had the history, humor and time to do it justice. Great take!

  5. Mr. Harris was kind enough to arrange a private tour for me and my father. We walked for hours through Ipswich — we were given the option to drive but declined — as Mr. Harris gave us an enthralling orientation to Ipswich history. He took us to numerous sites of note to the Fellows family and expounded some of the reasons for their importance. I encourage anyone interested in Ipswich to schedule a tour with Mr. Harris; it is a real treat to hear someone discourse avidly and expertly on a subject about which he is passionate, especially if the fate of one’s family is tied into that subject.

  6. Regarding the Walking Tours – highly recommended! If you want to learn why they built the way they did, Gordon knows his stuff. These people were practical, orderly and committed. They had town rules for building and for respecting the land. To top it off, seeing a home that was built by, or belonged to, your own ancestor is really exciting. I love this town, and I’m so thankful it has been preserved. Thanks to Ipswich and all those who have worked, and continue to work, for this amazing history.

  7. As a descendent of early pioneer Isaac Cummings, it was a special moment to be standing on land he owned as his life in Ipswich was described. Gordon made history come alive for a tour bus of descendents. Thank you Gordon.

  8. My mom’s family has been in Ipswich and Rowley since the Great Migration and we lived there back in the early 70s. I need to head up that way and take this tour.

  9. This is one of the best walking tours I’ve been on. Gordon’s knowledge of the history of Ipswich allowed us to understand the daily life of Ipswich resdents from the time the town was established through the Revolutionary War and beyond. We learned things the history books omit. It is worth your time to take this tour!

  10. If you have a chance, take Gordon’s tour! Even as an Ipswich resident, I learned so much about our town and our history. Take the tour, you will be glad you did!

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