38 East Street, the John Harris house (1743)

The John Harris House at 38 East Street was built circa 1742. It is a Second Period Georgian home, 2 story, end gable, with wood frame clapboard siding. The symmetrical 5 bay façade has numerous side and rear additions dating to the early 19th Century or before.

38 East Street Ipswich
Rear of the John Harris house, showing the two wings and a barn that was built before the 1880’s

Description from MACRIS: “John Harris inherited the east side of his father’s estate in 1742, and probably built the present dwelling shortly thereafter (82:252). The house is a good example of a large Ipswich house of the 2nd period, and it has acquired a notable collection of side and rear additions. An interesting example of reuse of materials appears in the attic, where 17th century shadow molded sheathing is used as roof boarding.

38 East Street Ipswich
John Harris house, about 1980 from the MACRIS site
38 East Street Ipswich
The John Harris house is in the middle of this photo of East Street taken by George Dexter, early 20th Century.
Early 1900's photo looking down East Street toward County Street. in Ipswich
Early 1900s photo looking down East Street toward the wharf. The John Harris house is the large house on the left, easily identified by the roofline and “Beverly Jog.” The corner of a small house can be seen on the far left, which was taken down some time after 1910, as determined by the 1910 map.

Thomas Franklin Waters traced the history of the lot from 1634 until the beginning of the 20th Century, including transfer of deeds, with book and number pages.

“The next original lot was owned by William Symonds, sold to Thomas Harris, fisherman, “my house, wherein I now dwell” with two acres, bounded northeast by the house lot, now owned by Harris, which he bought of John Warner, 1648 (Ips. Deeds 1: 159). By the will of Thomas Harris, his estate was divided between his sons, John, Ebenezer and William, extending from the Stephen Hovey lot to the lot now owned and occupied by the widow of John Roberts.

John owned the west part, William the east portion. Ebenezer sold William half a dwelling and a third of the house lot and orchard, half the barn, lean-tos and shop, and a fourth of the “clay pitt meadow” on the opposite side of the street. Feb. 25, 1695 (32: 49).

The heirs of John (William and John) succeeded to his estate. John had the east half and William the west, Dec. 22, 1742 (82: 252). William Harris sold a piece of land, three rods six feet on the Street, the line on the east side running north, over the middle of a well, two rods eight feet, to John Holmes May 18, 1766 (158: 133). Capt. Holmes built the house now standing next the Hovey house, which his widow Sarah sold Joseph Wait, March 12, 1805 (176: 26). Joseph Wait sold to Elizabeth and Polly Ross, singlewomen, the house “which I purchased of Sarah Holmes” July 12, 1816 (209: 277). “Polly” Ross kept a “dame store” in the small building connected with the house. It was purchased by Aaron H. Sweet, whose will, filed Feb. 7, 1860, bequeathed all his property to his widow. She conveyed it to Dr. Charles Cullis, of the Home for Consumptives (tuberculosis) March 5, 1880 (1033: 145), who sold to Frederic Willcomb, Jan. 31, 1885 (1354:216). *Dr. Cullis operated 25 faith-based wellness clinics in New England but there is no history of one in Ipswich.

The John Harris property descended to Capt. Stephen Baker, whose heirs still own and occupy. (circa 1900).”


The 1832 map shows Mrs. Harris living in the house at 38 East Street. The small house to its west which no longer stands was owned by Mrs. E. “Polly” Ross, who operated a “Dame Shop” in the house. It was sold to Fred Willcomb. Auxiliary buildings are not shown in this map.


38 East Street is the Stephen Baker estate in the 1872 Ipswich map. To its west is the W. Johnson house on the same property, no longer standing, and 30 East Street, the Hovey house, better known as the Francis Jordan house. The map shows a small hay scale weighing station that once sat on the corner (shown below.) Auxiliary buildings are not otherwise shown in the map.

The 1884 Ipswich map shows 38 East Street with the house that sat to its west on the same lot, and the barn behind it, still standing.
1910 Ipswich map
The 1910 Ipswich map shows the John Harris house as 36-38 East St. The house at #34 was removed after this date but before 1949. The barn behind it still stands. J. Damon owned these two properties as well as the Francis Jordan house on the corner with Spring St.
1893 Ipswich Birdseye map
Front entry and stairs, John Harris house on East St.
Fireplace in the John Harris house

Harris Family in Ipswich

The first of the Harris family in Ipswich was Thomas Harris, a fisherman who was born in England and died in Ipswich in 1687. He purchased land in the East Street area in 1665. His first son also named Thomas was born in Ipswich in 1648 and died at sea in 1687. A second son John was born in 1652 and died in 1732. This John Harris was deputy sheriff and had the duty of transporting accused witches to Salem for trial. He also had a son named John Harris, born in 1686, who may be the builder of this house.Genealogy pages for Harris families in America often point back to this family. View at genealogy.com.

Other Harris family homes in Ipswich:

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