19 North Main Street, Thomas Manning house (1799)

19 North Main Street, Thomas Manning house (1799)

Dr. Thomas Manning bought this lot from Robert Wallis in 1799 (171:65) and built the house at 19 North Main St. He married Margaret Heard, daughter of John Heard, May 24, 1807. Members of the Manning family lived in the house until 1858, when it became the First Church parsonage.

The Thomas Manning house in the 1800’s. The Ipswich Female Seminary is on the right.

Old Parsonage Ipswich MA, 19 North Main St.,

The Dr. Thomas Manning house in 1978, from the MACRIS site. The Christian Science Church is on the right.

Thomas Manning house brick arches

The massive basement of the house has several brick arches.

Thomas Franklin Waters described this house in the two-volume Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, published in 1905:

“The Arthur Abbott homestead was inherited by his son Philip Abbott,
who sold the house and land, to Robert Wallis, Jan. 17, 1799 (171: 65),
and he to Dr. Thomas Manning, who built the mansion, now used as the
Parsonage of the First Church, Jan. 17, 1799 (185: 146).” (Vol. 1)

“Mr. Augustine Heard conveyed to the Parish on June 11, 1858, the family mansion of the late Dr. Thomas Manning, which he had recently purchased from Joseph E. Manning, son of the deceased. He prescribed in the deed of conveyance that it should be used only as a Parsonage, and that there should never be any building erected “between the dwelling now standing thereon, and the said land of said Cowles and within seventy feet of said Main Street.'” (Vol. 2)

Front stairway in the entrace hall at the Thomas Manning house

Front stairway in the entrance hall at the Thomas Manning house

In the 1960’s Donald Fowser purchased this rundown Federalist period house and restored the house with authentic moldings and a curved veranda overlooking a beautiful garden.

Kitchen fireplace in the Thomas Manning House

Kitchen fireplace in the Thomas Manning House

Rumfords Roassters

A Rumford Roaster is on the right side of the fireplace above

Thomas Manning house room

A small room in the rear of the Thomas Manning house

The Rev. David Kimball of First Church became pastor in 1805 and served for over 40 years. He was a staunch abolitionist whom William Lloyd Garrison referred to as “zealously affected in our cause.” He built his home, still standing facing the north side of the church. The Thomas Manning house became the new parsonage after Rev. Kimball’s retirement.


A trap door in the floor of a small room in the rear of the house leads down to a secret chamber where fugitive slaves were hidden.

By 1838 the anti-slavery movement was gathering strength in Ipswich. The Anti-Slavery Society held its meetings in the Methodist vestry. The Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society met at Mrs. Jabez Farley’s house and at the home of Lucy Caldwell at 16 Elm Street, the house which is now featured at the Smithsonian. The Methodist Church allowed anti-slavery meetings but the more ardent Abolitionists split away to form the Methodist Wesleyan Church, meeting in Mr. Hammatt’s Hall on North Main street. The churches reunited several years later


The hidden fugitive slave chamber in the Thomas Manning house has a small opening to the outside .

The cellar of the Thomas Manning house is very large and includes a number of brick storerooms. A trap door in the floor of a small room in the rear of the house has a ladder where you can descend into a small chamber. A steel door opens into another small chamber, which has a small square opening in the foundation that leads to the back yard. Fugitive slaves were hidden from bounty hunters and would be taken after dark to the river behind the house, where they would float down to the wharf and board freight ships to Nova Scotia.


Map of the Underground Railroad by Wilbur H. Siebert

. “The Underground Railroad in Massachusetts” by Wilbur H. Siebert identified three underground routes starting from Salem and diverging northward: one through Danvers, Andover and South Lawrence; another through Danvers, Georgetown and Haverhill; and a third through Beverly, Ipswich, Newburyport and Amesbury. There are legends in Newburyport of “an intricate tunnel system” under the Old Burying Ground beneath the center of town to the wharf area, and indeed an old tunnel was discovered recently during an excavation.

Thomas Manning house hip roof framing

Hip roof timber framing in the Thomas Manning house

View of Ipswich from the Thomas Manning house roof

View of downtown Ipswich from the Thomas Manning house roof

This house is protected by a preservation agreement between the owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission. Protected elements include:

  • Exterior front and side facades
  • Central frame including primary and secondary members
  • Wooden architectural elements including stairway, doors, paneling and other elements of the front and rear halls and the first floor right rear room.

Further reading:


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