John Appleton House, 2 North Main Street, Ipswich MA The John Appleton House, 2 North Main Street: Colonel John Appleton (son of  Samuel Appleton, an immigrant) acquired the lot which is now the northwest corner of North Main St. and Central St.  in 1707 after commanding a regiment in the expedition against Port Royal. He and his father Samuel Appleton were leaders in the effort of the townspeople to refuse to accept Royal taxation – the action known as the “Andros Rebellion.” – for which both Appletons were jailed in Boston. (Note: the names Samuel and John Appleton were carried through many generations and branches of the Appleton family, and create some confusion regarding the John Appleton who was a leader of the Andros rebellion.)

At the time this house was constructed, it was the first to have a third story (later removed by Daniel Noyes around 1768). John Appleton lived in this home for the rest of his life. He represented the Town in General Court in 1697, was a member of the Council from 1698 to 1723. After many years of service as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, he was removed from the bench in 1732 by Governor Belcher on the ground of his age, as he was then eighty, but was made Judge of Probate in the following year and lived until 1739. His death was the occasion of many eulogies.

View from the foot of North Main Street the morning after the 1894 Central Street Fire. The John Appleton House is on the right.
The John Appleton house in the early 20th Century, courtesy Ipswich Museum.
The John Appleton house in the early 20th Century, courtesy Ipswich Museum.

Col. Appleton acquired this lot in 1707 after commanding a regiment in the expedition against Port Royal, and  lived in this home for the rest of his life. He represented the Town in the General Court in 1697, was a member of the Council from 1698 to 1723, served as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and at the age of eighty one was made Judge of Probate. His death in 1739 was the occasion of many eulogies.

This was the first house in Ipswich to have a third story, which was removed by Daniel Noyes around 1768 after he bought the house. He replaced the windows and restored the aging house throughout. Daniel Noyes served the town as school master, post master, a member of the Committee of Correspondence and Inspection in the Revolution, delegate to the Provincial Congress, and Register of Probate.

The John Appleton house after it was saved by the Ipswich Heritage Trust, renovated and turned into a commercial office building. (Photo provided by the Ipswich Historical Commission)

In 1962 the Appleton House was purchased by Exxon, so they could build a gas station on the site. The Ipswich Heritage Trust was formed in an attempt to purchase it for preservation. After intensive efforts they succeeded, and the house is now protected by a covenant. This was the first successful effort to preserve historic structures in Ipswich, and laid the ground for future covenants and formation of the Ipswich Historical Commission. Only by the intervention of a few dedicated people was this historic home saved. It now serves as the Professional Building.”

Permission to demolish the house and allow construction of the service station was placed on the shoulders of the selectmen, and the Old Town Hall was packed one evening at a hearing.

As Alice Keaton noted, “the hearing droned on for some time, the arguments pro and con dutifully heard and recorded. The smiling representative from the oil company listing all the benefits that the town would accrue– and all the preservationists disputing him every step of the way.” The assembled crowd was shocked when the selectmen cast their vote with the oil company.

Taking matters into her own hands, Kay Thompson spearheaded formation of the Ipswich Heritage Trust under the aegis of the Ipswich Historical Society (now known as the Ipswich Museum). After long negotiation, the oil company relinquished title for a payment by the Trust of the full purchase price plus attorney’s fees and other costs. With the help of outside donations, the project was financed. Within two years, and at a price far less than cost, the house was sold for use as a professional center, with deed restrictions assuring the trustees that no significant changes would be made to the structure’s frame and outer appearance.

The Dr. John Manning house (pink) and the Old Post Office (red) were the next two buildings saved by the Ipswich Heritage Trust

Meanwhile, the Trust took an option, and exercised it, on two more buildings on Meeting House Green, which were both in deplorable condition and threatened with disastrous conversions or even demolition. The Dr. John Manning house was built in the Eighteenth Century. He was a evolutionary surgeon, inventor, and early crusader for smallpox inoculation.  The other building, on the same property was constructed before 1769, had been the town’s first post office and is perhaps the earliest in the country still standing. Both were then later sold as a unit with deed restrictions covering interior detail as well as framing and out-side appearance.

It was through individual efforts and personal monetary sacrifice that instead of a service station at Marketplace Square, we have a beautiful historic home housing business offices. These homes are now a source of pride to the owners and to the town. These efforts eventually gave rise to the Ipswich Historical Commission, of which I am a member.

Information is from  Something To Preserve, published by the Ipswich Historical Society, 1975.

From the Antiquarian Papers, Volume 1:, History of Mr Hammatt’s House

Written by Abraham Hammatt: “The house was possessed and probably built by the Honorable Col John Appleton, son of Samuel Appleton who was born at Little Waldingfleld England, 1586 and came to America and settled in Ipswich with his father Samuel Appleton in 1635.  He was married Nov. 23 1681 to Elizabeth,  daughter to John Rogers. President Harvard College. He died Sept 11, 1739 aged 87. His wife died in 1754, aged 91. By his will dated Feb. 8, 1734 he bequeaths to his wife Elizabeth “besides various other property, the Mansion house and all the buildings, and land adjoining which is my orchard, during her natural life.” He bequeaths to his son Daniel the mansion house after his wife’s decease and makes him residuary legatee. Col Daniel Appleton, son of John and Elizabeth died 1762 intestate. He married in 1715 Mrs. Elizabeth Berry of Cambridge who outlived him and became his administratrix. In the appraisal of the estate the mansion house and homestead with other buildings are appraised £266, Jan. 19 1768.

When the property came into the possession of Daniel Noyes Esq the house was of three stories and much decayed. He reduced it to two stories and put it in thorough repair, making new windows and window frames, new sills and replacing the lower posts of the frame which had decayed, From the stale of decay in which the house was when Mr Noyes purchased it there is reason to infer that it could not have been less than eighty or ninety years old and it was built about the time John Appleton was married in 1681. When in 1838 I repaired the house I put in new windows and window frames clapboarded the whole house and wood house and built the portico at the front door. I found at that time the sills and posts of the frame which Mr Noyes had put in were quite free from decay. The northeasterly parlor, the chamber over it with the front entry and staircase are I presume as they were when the house was built. The southeasterly parlor appears to be more recent. The chamber over it had never been finished when I came into possession of the house in 1835. The chamber over the kitchen I refinished, and the passage to it from the front stairs in 1838.”