45 Heartbreak Road, the James Burnham house (1690)

45 Heartbreak Road, the James Burnham house (1690)
45 Heartbreak Road, the James Burnham house (1690)

James Burnham was born in Ipswich in 1650 and died in 1729. He was married to Mary Cogswell. The first period home was built at 45 Heartbreak Road in 1690. Over the years it has been remodeled greatly.

James Burnham, son of Thomas Burnham who built the Giddings-Burnham House on Argilla Road served as a trooper in King Philip’s War, fighting in the Narragansett winter campaign under Major Samuel Appleton of Ipswich. James Burnham was also a witness in the Salem witch trials of 1692. His real estate dealings in the Candlewood section of Ipswich suggest that he was a man of some wealth, who could have afforded to construct or acquire a house comparable to the Whipple House.

There is strong evidence that a significant First Period structure is enclosed within the later finishes of this house, including

  1. Joist spacing of 17 to 18 1/2 inches (among houses examined by Cummings, those with comparable joist spacing were all built before 1683
  2. Steep roof pitch
  3. Nearly 20 feet square room dimensions (consistent with other major 17th century buildings in Ipswich
  4. Extreme width of summer beam boxes on both floors, suggesting that the enclosed summer beams are among the widest on record
  5. The disparity in wall width between the first and second floors on the three outer walls of the right-hand room (deeper walls on the first floor are often a telltale sign that overhanging second stories were later closed in

One of these features alone would not be sufficient proof of First Period construction, but together they provide compelling evidence that the Burnham house was constructed in the First Period. The house, in room dimension, suspected presence of overhangs, and possible presence of crossed summer beams most closely resembles the Whipple House and the Ross Tavern in Ipswich, and may, therefore, like those houses, be part of what Cummings called the distinctively elegant regional school of architecture that flowered in Ipswich in the late 17th century.

Prudence Fish remembers that a carpenter working on the house found something that didn’t make sense and called her to take a look.  She observed that the right hand side was early and the left hand side had a side lean-to which had been raised up to two stories.

Source: MACRIS

45 Heartbreak Road, the James Burnham house (1690)
Image from the MACRIS site

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