A painting of the John Gaines house

The John Gaines house, 3 High St. is an early 18th Century home, remodeled in the Federal era.

Henry Gaines emigrated from England to Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1638. His son John moved to Ipswich and married Mary Treadwell. They had one son John II, who became a turner and chairmaker.

Three members of the Gaines family in Ipswich are famous for the chairs they produced: John Gaines II (1677–1748); John II’s younger son, Thomas Gaines (1712–1761), who stayed in Ipswich and worked with his father; and Thomas’ brother John Gaines III (1704–1743), who moved from Ipswich to Portsmouth, NH about 1724 and established the shop that made the Gaines chairs famous. The Gaines family produced numerous types of chairs commonly found in colonial New England, but their work was distinguished by the use of carved feet, yoke-shaped cresting, and designs on the front and back stretchers.

A set of John Gaines chairs
A set of John Gaines chairs

For many years the Gaines house served as the Episcopal rectory, and was also the home of William Oakes, a horticulturist and educator. His widow operated a boarding house here for students at the Ipswich Female SeminaryThis house is within the Ipswich Architectural Preservation District, and has a preservation agreement with the Ipswich Historical Commission. Preserved elements shall not be altered without prior written approval of the Historical Commission. View a copy of the preservation agreement.

  • The front and side facades of the dwelling
  • The central frame, including primary and secondary members
  • The wooden architectural elements, including paneling, mantelpieces, doors and other molded detail in the two front first floor rooms.
  • The wooden architectural elements, including the stairway, paneling, doors, and other molded detail in the central hall of the dwelling.

The following text is from the book, “Something to Preserve” by the Ipswich Historical Commission:

gaines_sign“Although a 1725 frame building possibly exists beneath clapboards and plaster, this is for all intents and purposes a house of the turn of the century, 1800. The conformation of this date rests most emphatically on the McIntire-type Federal trim and detail found in the two front first-floor rooms.

The left hand first-floor front room has an outstanding Mcintire-type mantelpiece with ropework molding. The rest of the room reveals rosettes and reeded detail in the wainscoting, arched doorways with reeded trim, recessed paneled windows and dentil-molded cornices. The exterior rear wall has a fine molded arched window. The roof is pitched in the front, with a hipped roof to the rear, a curious formation that gives evidence of a Federalized house of considerably earlier date. The building’s existing trim ranks with the best in New England.”

The front stairway
The front stairway

The John Gaines House at  3 High St. in Ipswich is a  2 story, end-gable house with a wood frame and clapboards. The 1806 house has considerable  Federal-style remodeling in the interior.

The following is taken from “A Walking Tour and Brief History of Early Ipswich Massachusetts“ produced by the Ipswich Visitors Center, Marjorie Robie and William Varrell:

In the early days of the 19th century it was the home of the well known lawyer, educator and naturalist, William Oakes.  He is best known for his book Scenery of the White Mountains.  After his death in 1848 as a result of jumping off the east Boston railroad ferry, his wife supported herself by running a boarding house for students from the Ipswich female Seminary. It also served for over one hundred years as the Episcopal rectory.  View MACRIS