The Joseph Ross house, 6 High St., Ipswich: The Whittier Porter Funeral Home, a Victorian home built between 1884 and 1887 by Joseph Ross (1822-1903). He was a contractor from Ipswich credited with designing and popularizing the horizontally folding railroad drawbridge.
The Ross family in Ipswich may descend from Killicross Ross, a Scottish soldier captured at the battle of Dunbar by Oliver Cromwell’s army. He was sold to Puritans who needed servants, and never returned to Scotland. He married a woman from Beverly. His son Daniel married into the highly respected Rogers family, and the assimilation of the family into the Puritan social structure was thus accomplished.
In the first half of the 18th Century, this was the site of the home of Col. Dr. Thomas Berry, one of the most unusual characters in Ipswich history.
Joseph Ross (1822-1903) began his working life as a house carpenter in Ipswich, his native town. He is best known for designing the first movable span bridge in the country, which he patented in 1849 at the age of 26. According to his obituary, “he has been engaged in some of the largest engineering enterprises in this section of the state.” At the time of his death, his firm was completing the Cooper Street Bridge in Wakefield which still stands today.
The horizontally folding drawbridge designed by Joseph Ross became the most common railroad bridge type in Greater Boston in the 19th Century. The movable span was a truss hinged on one end so that the bridge could be raised slightly before swinging them to one side to clear the marine channel. The 1835 Boston and Lowell’s Charles River bridge built in 1835 was designed on this principle, and the Mystic River drawbridge #7 continued in service through the 20th Century. Ross built several of his bridges for the Eastern Railroad, later acquired by the Boston and Maine Railroad Company, and by 1858, at least ten horizontally folding draws were in service in the immediate Boston vicinity. The design was well adapted to railroad use because it was capable of carrying heavy loads safely.
Joseph Ross was succeeded by his sons Frederick and Joseph Jr. in the business.
The New England Lace Manufacturing Company’s failed factory on High Street was purchased by Joseph Ross in the middle of the 19th Century, and he converted the building into the “Ross Mansion.” In the late 19th Century he built this fine Victorian home across the street, which is now the Whittier-Porter Funeral Home. Ross served as a town selectman, state representative from Ipswich, founder and president of the Ipswich Savings Bank, and trustee of the Ipswich library.
- Mystic River Drawbridge # 7 Library of Congress
- Historic American Engineering Record: patent application with full description, by Joseph Ross
- Historic American Engineering Record, Cooper St. Bridge
- Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters
- Publications of the Ipswich Historical Society
- Historic Bridges: Essex County, Massachusetts
- Library of Congress: Bellows Falls Arch Bridge
- Bankers Obituary Record
- At the General Assembly of the State of Rhode-Island and Providence, Part 1
- MACRIS (County St. Bridge)
- Bridgehunter: Joseph Ross & Sons
- Historic Bridges: Rocks Village