Featured image: Meeting House Green, 1839
The National Register of Historic Places is the official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that have been determined significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture. Ipswich has a total of seven listed historic districts and 62 individual structures.
Boston was only three years old when the Governor and Council of the Massachusetts Bay Colony resolved to “hasten the planting of Agawam.” John Winthrop, Jr., the Governor’s brilliant, eldest son, led the expedition in March of, 1633. The first houses were “wigwams, huts, and hovels” built against the hillside near what is now the Town Wharf. Meetinghouse Green on Town Hill was the governmental center for early Ipswich. By order of the General Court, dwellings had to be within one half mile of the Meeting House at Meeting House Green. A meeting house was built here by 1636, surrounded by a high wall to protect them from the ever-present danger from Indian attacks. Several churches have stood at this same spot.
In 1636, a court was located near the present site of the Public Library, and lawyers stayed across the Green at the Treadwell Inn. During the seventeenth century, a meeting house, jail, fort, town pound and stocks were located here. Later the Post Office, Probate Court, Ipswich Female Seminary, Agawam Hotel and several commercial structures surrounded the Green.
As is the case with many New England greens, this one is associated with a number of historic events. The earliest and perhaps most important was the Revolution of 1687. Led by Dr. John Wise, the citizens of Ipswich denounced the levy of taxes by the arbitrary government of Sir Edmund Andros, and hence Ipswich has been christened by some as the birthplace of American Independence.
The boundaries of Meeting House Green were determined over 300 years ago and have remained nearly the same to this day. Commencing south from High St., the boundary line runs to the corner of Central Street and North Main, west to the corner of North and South Mains, and north to High St., thus encircling the Green and North Main Street. The Meeting House Green District includes thirty houses, three churches and the town library which are sited around the steep, rocky Green itself and along Main Street. It encompasses a wide range of architectural styles with approximately half of the structures dating from the eighteenth century and half from the nineteenth.
View an interactive map of Meeting House Green below the individual house listings.
Houses and Structures in the Meeting House Green Historic District
A complete list of houses in the Meeting House Green Historic District is included with the 1980 National Registry of Historic Places Meetinghouse Green submission form.
Below is a comprehensive list of houses included in the Meeting House Green National Historic District.
Walking Tour of Meeting House Green and North Main Street
This walking tour of the Meeting House Green National Historic District starts at the foot of North Main Street (known as Five Corners or Marketplace Square). Walk up the hill past the Library, around the back of the Congregational Church and down the right side of North Main Street. When you reach East Street cross to the other side of North Main Street and continue the tour in the opposite direction back toward downtown Ipswich
Meetinghouse Green on Town Hill was the governmental center for early Ipswich. By order of the General Court, dwellings had to be within one half mile of the Meeting house. In just a dozen years after 12 men led by John Winthrop landed, 146 families made their homes in this vicinity. On this green Minute Men prepared for the war that was then regarded as inevitable. A brick powder house was constructed nearby, which also served as a recruiting center for the Civil War. Meeting at or near the Green in 1687, the Rev. John Wise and selectmen were arrested and imprisoned for defying the levy of taxes by the government of Sir Edmund Andros
A monument dedicated to the unknown dead who served during the Civil War was erected in the small green that splits North Main Street at Marketplace Square by General James Appleton and the Women’s Relief Corps in 1897 as a tribute of gratitude to those union soldiers and sailors whose last resting place is unknown. The land behind this sign was once occupied by a house. In 1733 John Stacey, being infirm, petitioned the Town “that there is a convenience on the northerly side of the Rock for setting an house upon” for selling cakes and ale etc. for his livelihood. This singular request was granted.
The Christian Science Church was built in 1932 and sits near the site of the former Ipswich Female Seminary, which operated from 1828 to 1876. The last witchcraft trial in the United States was brought by a Christian Science follower from Ipswich. Lucretia Brown was a 50-year-old spinster invalid who believed she had been healed through Christian Science but suffered a relapse. In 1878 she accused excommunicated Christian Scientist Daniel H. Spofford from Newburyport of attempting to harm her through his “mesmeric” mental powers. Even though Mary Baker Eddy herself appeared as a witness, the judge at the trial in Salem dismissed the case.
21 North Main, the Theodore Cogswell house was built in 1880 in the popular 2nd Empire style, indicated by the Mansard roof. Cogswell was a grocer as well as clerk and treasurer of the Ipswich Savings Bank. He also built the Victorian “painted lady” on North Main Street for his daughter after demolishing a First Period home on that site.
19 North Main the Thomas Manning house was built in 1799 by John Heard for his daughter and her husband Dr. Thomas Manning, who built the Willowdale Mill and co-established the lace factory on High Street. He bequeathed the greater part of his estate to the town for the purpose of building the Manning School on the site of the current Winthrop School. In 1858 this house became a parsonage for First Church. The cellar of the house is very large. According to oral histories the house was a stop on the underground railroad, and slaves slipped out through a tunnel leading downhill to the Ipswich River. This house is protected by a preservation agreement between the owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission. It was John and Thomas Manning from a previous generation who were charged in 1669 with dropping a calf down farmhand Mark Quilater’s chimney.
First Congregational Church. When the Winthrop group of thirteen settlers came to Ipswich, “upon ascending the hill above the river they found an outcropping ledge of goodly extent, forming a sort of natural platform, and upon this rock they built their church.” This is the fifth church on this spot. The previous historic Gothic Revival church was hit by lightning in 1965, burned and had to be torn down. This green has always been the religious and governmental heart of Ipswich. A meeting house was built here by 1636. The original church was surrounded by a high wall to protect them from the ever-present danger of Indian attacks. Nearby were the stocks and whipping post.
The Devil’s Footprint: In front of the church imprinted into the rocks is the hoof print of the devil, which in 1740 was chased up the church steeple by the Reverend Whitefield, visiting minister from England during the “Great Awakening”. They wrestled like maniacs, pushed and shoved each other back and forth until they were face to face at the pinnacle of the steeple, with the horrified congregation watching below. Whitefield uttered forth with his commanding voice accompanied with a mighty push. The devil was hurled to the rocks below, landing like a cat on his feet and scrambled down the hill in terrified leaps and bounds, never to return.
25 North Main, the Public Library is an 1869 Greek Revival building. The library and the first books were a gift to the town from Augustine Heard. The wings on either side were added later. Augustine Heard and Company grew to become the largest American firm trading along the China Coast. He is said to have increased the family fortune in the opium trade. In 1828 Heard co-founded the Ipswich Manufacturing Company with George Farley and built a new dam to power machinery for the manufacture of cotton hosiery. Difficulties arose, Farley sold his interest to Heard, and the business was bought by Dane Manufacturing in 1846.
The Odd Fellows Building at 29 North Main Street was built in 1817 as a Probate Court and Registry. By 1884 a second floor had been added and it housed the Odd Fellows, Blake’s Drug Store and the Post Office. Court was held at the Green from early times under harsh Puritan law. Preliminary hearings for the Salem witch trials in 1692 were conducted here. Twenty Ipswich citizens sent a letter to the governor supporting John and Elizabeth Proctor, who were nonetheless found guilty, and he was executed. Women and men accused of witchcraft were held in the Ipswich jail before being hauled off to trial in chains; all but one were found guilty and executed. The Supreme Court convened its last trial in Ipswich in 1693 to try persons charged with witchcraft, all of whom were cleared.
31 North Main, the Methodist Church was built in 1859. The new steeple is a reproduction of the original damaged in the 1974 hurricane. The original bell now rings out from the new steeple, which also hosts a cell tower. The steeple is visible for some miles out to sea and was often used by mariners as a navigation landmark. The steeple is in the middle of the Ipswich town seal drawn by Ipswich artist Arthur Wesley Dow in the 1800’s.
The Nathaniel R. Wait house at 33 North Main Street was built between 1859 and 1872. Wide roof rakes supported by corbels and dental molding are typical of the late Greek Revival era with Italianate influence. Wait was apparently a cobbler, having placed on exhibit at the Essex County Fair a pair of fishing boots judged excellent for their new pattern that had no seam inside which might hurt the foot.
At 2 Green Street is the Perkins house an 1860 home that demonstrates early Victorian era influences on the prevailing Federal and Greek Revival architecture of the 19th Century.
Built in 1832, the Old Meeting House at 12 Meeting House Green was deeded to the First Church in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1838 by George W. Heard, Esquire and has served First church and the community of Ipswich as a Chapel and Meeting House.The historic building was recently restored.
8 Meetinghouse Green, the Rev. David Kimball house. The leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony located their second jail in Ipswich here in 1652. In 1808 the site was sold to Reverend David Tenny Kimball. The old jail was moved down High Street and he built this house. He was highly respected for his ministry and for his character. Kimball was a staunch abolitionist so it wasn’t surprising that many important people were entertained here, including Lyman Beecher, Daniel Webster, and the founders of the Ipswich Female Seminary, Zilpah Grant and Mary Lyon.
6 Meetinghouse Green, the Capt. Israel Pulcifer house was rebuilt in 1812 on the foundation of his existing house which had burned. A child sleeping in the house was forgotten until the last moment, but lived to a ripe old age. Originally a hip-roof Federal style house, restoration in the 1870’s added a Second Empire mansard roof. During the 1960’s the house was divided into apartments. The present owners returned it to a single-family residence in 1996. Miraculously, all original woodwork, wainscoting, molding, ornamental trim, a Samuel McIntire inspired carved mantle and Vermont slate roof all survived these changes and have been renovated to their original condition
2 Meeting house Green, Joseph N. Farley (mariner) ca 1842. The symmetrical 5 bay facade has a Greek Revival portico and door frame, horizontal flush boarding and clapboards. Nathaniel Farley’s Mills ground the grist for many years. Joseph Farley his son was moved to more ambitious employment, and in 1827 built a new dam and the old stone mill for the manufacture of cotton cloth. By 1832 it had 3000 spindles and 60 looms. It spun No 30 to 32 yarn, used 80,000 lbs. of cotton, and made 450,000 yards of cloth a year. It employed on an average 18 males and 63 females
*Turn right on North Main Street
45 North Main, Isaac Flitchner: This house sits on the location of the former Captain John Lord house. In 1825 Isaac Flitchner moved that house to Washington Street and built this Greek Revival house. This was also the home of Justice Charles Augustus Sayward who tried the 18 defendants in the 1913 Ipswich Mills riot. The industrial reputation of Ipswich was vigorously defended by Judge Sayward, and he stated as untrue the testimony of a Greek girl Poulitsa Bizou who claimed she was paid $2 /week, but was actually paid 5 1/2 cents for each dozen pairs of stockings produced. Another Greek girl Nicoletta Paudelopoulous was shot and killed in the riot. The building now houses Morris Funeral Home.
47 North Main, the George Farley House: In 1888 Theodore Cogswell bought the ancient Dodge house built in 1660 and tore it down to build this large Victorian home for his daughter and her husband George Farley, owner of the Farley and Daniels shoe company. George and Joseph Farley on this street were descendants of General Michael Farley, representative from 1766 to 1774 to the Provincial Congress. When Lafayette came to Ipswich, he was met by General Farley, who in taking off his hat to salute the French nobleman, accidentally removed his wig as well. When Lafayette returned to the States for a visit in 1824 he alluded to this unusual form of courtesy.
49 North Main, the John Chapman house was built in 1770. John Chapman was a “leather breeches maker,” the only one of that trade in the town, so far as known, and he felt his business warranted building a spacious home. Breeches were a standard item of 18th Century gentlemen’s clothing with separate coverings for each leg stopping below the knee or to the ankles. They were fastened about the leg by buttons, draw-strings, straps, buckles or brooches. They fell out of use by the early 19th Century in favor of pantaloons and trousers.
The Greek Revival Sarah Lord house at 51 North Main was built in 1849. She was the wife of A. P. Lord, a storekeeper but contracted the house herself. The Asa Lord general merchandise store existed at Lords Square for 100 years. An earlier Sarah Lord born to Ipswich town clerk Robert Lord married Joseph Wilson of Andover. In 1692 she and her daughter also named Sarah were accused of witchcraft by that town’s own “afflicted girls”. Taken from their homes without warning, they and other women were carted off to Salem prison. Dudley Bradstreet, son of the former Governor issued the warrants as Justice of Peace. When a dog barked at his brother John the girls pointed John out as a witch as well. John fled to New York, and the dog was hung as a witch.
The Day-Dodge house at the corner of North Main and East Streets was built in 1737. This unusual double house has two entrances and two asymmetrical fronts joined at a greater than 90 degree corner. The two halves of the house came to be owned by several members of the same family. The name comes from Nathaniel Day, who owned the property in 1737, and Isaac Dodge, who bought the other section of the house in 1762. The connection between the two men the widow of Nathaniel who married Isaac.
Reaching the intersection of North Main, High and East Streets, reverse direction and return on the other side of North Main Street.
The Capt. Richard Rogers house at 58 North Main Street was built in 1728. A fine Georgian central hallway with a closed string-course balustrade and two chimneys suggest an early high-style Georgian influence. The front room has exquisite original paneling while the rear fireplace wall has very fine shell cupboards in bolection molding with fluted pilasters. The house is said to have been moved back from the edge of the sidewalk.
The Nathaniel Treadwell house, 52 North Main Street was built between 1740 and 1796. The building has been used in the past as a general store and currently as a single family home. Treadwell was a captain in the militia known as “Landlord Treadwell” because he ran an inn farther down this street. He and other town selectmen were called to court in Boston for their opposition to Governor Andros. His wife Hannah was known as “Landlady Treadwell. The recently renovated house has many details from the Georgian period of architecture, a rare hip roof, a “summer kitchen” fireplace in the basement as well as four other fireplaces.
50 North Main, the James Brown house, 1720 1st / 2nd Period. This 3/4 acre property had two houses and came to be owned by two families at the same until a petition to the town to divide the property was accepted. The long house on the property adjacent to the James Brown house was sold to Thomas Morley and to James Damon. Morley cut off his end of the house, turned it end to the street and made it into a separate dwelling at 48 North Main. Mr. Damon took down the remainder of the old dwelling and built the fine house at 46 North Main. Thus one lot became three, explaining why the houses sit close together.
46 North Main, the James Damon house was built in 1866. Damon was a businessman who built the County Street Mill on Falls Island at Sawmill Point, as well as the “Damon Block” downtown in Ipswich. The 2 1/2 story wood frame house has a balanced 5 bay facade with Italianate window hoods, entry porch, quoins, bracketed and decorated cornice
Harry K. Dodge bought the 44 North Main Street homestead of the widow Margaret S. Kendall, in 1886. He tore down the old house and erected this Victorian home.
42 North Main: John A. Johnson was a shoemaker who built this fine house in 1871. It has Italianate window surrounds and bracketed cornices. The 10 room house has 4 bedrooms and 2 formal living rooms with ceiling medallions, a butler’s pantry, 2 kitchens and 4 artisan-crafted marble fireplaces. The Johnson shoe store was down the hill on Market Street.
40 North Main, The Captain James Brewer house built in 1825 across from Meetinghouse Green. It has served as a general store and now is residential.
38 North Main, the Old Post Office was built in 1763, is part of the John Manning property and served as the shop of Daniel Rogers, a master silversmith who later moved to Newport RI. Silver spoons in a collection attributed to Smith have been sold for $400 each. The building was also the post office at one time.
36 North Main: Dr. John Manning built this Federal style house in 1765. He encountered great resistance from town people when he pioneered the development of a smallpox vaccine. When he drove his chaise to Boston to bring his sister-in-law back to the safety of Ipswich on the day of the Battle of Bunker Hill, he was allowed to enter Boston by first agreeing to treat British casualties of the battle. After returning to Ipswich with his sister-in-law, he spent that evening collecting medical supplies from Ipswich residents and then returned to treat casualties from both sides for seven weeks. Doctor Manning also built an unsuccessful wind-driven woolen mill on the site of the present Caldwell Block.
34 North Main: William Pulcifer a dry goods storekeeper built this Federal-era house / storefront in 1836. It is the only brick residence in the Meetinghouse Green historic District.
26 North Main the Agawam house.Nathaniel Treadwell built the second Treadwell Inn here in 1806 and kept his tavern until 1818, after which Moses Treadwell continued the business. For over one hundred years it was the town’s first-class hotel. President Monroe was a guest; Daniel Webster often stayed there while in town for sessions of the local court. In the late 1800′s it was modernized with a mansard roof and other Victorian embellishments and renamed the Agawam house. It closed in the 1920′s and is now an apartment housing.
The Colonial Building at 22 North Main Street was built in 1904 as a failed commercial attempt by the Feoffees of the Little Neck Trust. One floor of the building was rented by the School Board in 1907 to accommodate the 9th grade.
18 North Main, the Charles Kimball house was built in1834. Kimball attained honor as a colonel of the militia, a distinguished probate lawyer, and deacon of the Church. He was one of the original trustees of the Ipswich Female Seminary. The house shares a subdued Greek Revival style with the Stephen Coburn house next door. It is remembered as the home of the Manning School master.
The Civil War Monument in the middle of this small triangular green was dedicated in 1871. 375 Ipswich soldiers served in the war, and inscribed on the monument are the names of the 54 who died.
16 North Main the Stephen Coburn house, was built in 1845 in a Greek Revival style by postmaster Stephen Coburn. After the death of his widow it became the Lucy B. Coburn Home for the Elderly, a benevolent institution. In 1997 the house received an honorable mention for the Margaret Conley Historic Preservation award.
12 North Main, the Christian Wainwright house built in 1741. This house may be the first Treadwell’s Tavern, opened in 1727 by Captain Nathaniel Treadwell. John Adams visited Ipswich frequently during the 1770’s in his capacity as a lawyer. The actual Christian Wainwright house was moved by a subsequent owner of this house to Market Street and later demolished. She was the widow of John Wainwright, son of the rich and influential Colonel John Wainwright. The family fortune had been reduced and she sold the family estate on East Street and Jeffreys Neck to pay for the children’s’ education. Thus the senior Wainwright’s intent to retain the land forever in the family name came to an en
8 North Main, the Ebenezer Stanwood house built in 1747. Ebenezer Stanwood was a peruke – maker (the wigs worn by 17th century gentlemen). The building was once a pharmacy and a tavern. The house has been the most neglected First Period house in the Meetinghouse Green Historic District but is in the early stages of restoration
The John Appleton house, 2 North Main Street. Colonel John Appleton was the son of settler Samuel Appleton and built this First Period house in 1707 after commanding a regiment in the expedition against the French at Port Royal. He was a leader in the “Andros Rebellion” for which Colonel Appleton and Major Samuel Appleton among others were jailed in Boston. In the1960’s, the Appleton house was purchased by Exxon so they could build a gas station on the site. The Ipswich Heritage Trust was formed and after intensive efforts saved the house, which is now protected by a covenant. This laid the ground for future covenants and the Ipswich Historical Commission.
* End of Tour