The Ipswich Public Library at 25 North Main Street in Ipswich is an 1869 Greek Revival building. The library and the first books were a gift to the town from Augustine Heard. and a large endowment by Professor Daniel Treadwell, whose family homestead originally sat at this location. The wings on either side were added later.
In 1830, at the age of 45, Heard was in Canton, China, as a partner in the trading firm of Samuel Russell & Co, the leading American opium dealer in China. Founded in 1640, Augustine Heard and Company grew to become the largest American firm trading along the China Coast. The family fortune was begun by his father John Heard. John Heard (1744-1834), who in 1770 opened a rum distillery on Turkey Shore. Heard expanded the business after the Revolution by importing rum from the West Indies. He and his wife Sarah Staniford had nine children, including Augustine Heard.
Thomas Franklin Waters wrote the following in Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:
“Captain Augustine Heard began his career as a sailor in 1806, with the super-cargo Ipswich ship, “Eliza,” sailing to the Mediterranean, took another ship to China, following this with a voyage to the Mediterranean in 1807 a in the little 74 ton topsail schooner “Betsy,” from Beverly. His first voyage as captain was in the Salem brig “Caravan,” in 1812. He was master of the brig “Gov. Endicott,” and the fine ships “Bengal,” “Packet,” “Emerald,” and “Mary Ellen.” Giving up the sea, he began a mercantile career in China, which brought him wealth and great reputation in the business world. In his old age, he built the Public Library and gave it to the Town with a valuable library and a substantial endowment. The Public Library was planned by Augustine Heard, Esq. and Prof. Daniel Treadwell, independently of each other, and each made provision for it by generous gift. Mr. Heard proceeded, however, to erect the building and established the library. The exercises of dedication occurred on March 9, 1869. Professor Treadwell, in his will, made a large addition to the endowment.”
The old Treadwell house was taken down to build the Library. This sketch from Genealogy of the Willcomb Family shows it next to the Probate Court, which later gained a second floor and is now the Odd Fellows Building.