Ipswich, Massachusetts is America’s best-preserved Puritan Town and is known as the “Birthplace of American Independence.”
Historic Districts and Neighborhoods - The contiguous historic neighborhoods of Meeting House Green, High Street, the East End, and the South Green present the town's original settlement pattern and offer well-preserved streetscapes of 17th to 19th-century private residences.
300 years on Grape Island - Grape Island is a part of Ipswich that was once a small but thriving community, and briefly a popular summer resort. In 1941, 3000 acres of Plum Island including Grape Island were purchased by the U.S. government to establish the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Lewis Kilborn, the island's last resident, was allowed to continue living in the family home, where he died in 1984.
The Jewel Mill and Stone Arch Bridge - In 1642, a dam and fulling mill were built on the Mill River in Rowley. The stone arch bridge on this property was constructed between 1850 and 1870.
The Town Wharf - The Ipswich Town Landing is one of several locations along the River where wharves were located over the centuries.
Nancy’s Corner - Google Maps used to show "Nancy's Corner" at the intersection of Highland Street and Cutler Road in Hamilton. I wondered who Nancy was and discovered an amazing story.
The Fox Creek Canal - The Fox Creek Canal is the oldest man-made tidewater canal in the United States, dug in 1820. In 1938 it was dredged to accommodate ship-building at Robinson's Boatyard, where small minesweepers were constructed for World War II.
Choate Island and Rufus Choate - Choate Island was originally known as Hog Island, and is the largest island in the Crane Wildlife Refuge and is the site of the Choate family homestead, the Proctor Barn, the White Cottage, and the final resting place of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Crane. There are great views from the island summit of the Castle Neck dunes and Plum Island Mount Agamenticus in Maine.
The sad story of Alexander Knight - In 1648, Alexander Knight was charged with the death of his chiled whose clothes caught on fire. A jury fined him for carelessness after being warned. The town took mercy and voted to provide him a piece of land "whereas Alexander Knight is altogether destitute, his wife alsoe neare her tyme."
Castle Neck and the dunes - Crane Beach and all of Castle Neck are protected by the Trustees of Reservations. Pitch pine and scrub oak rise from the masses of marsh grass, sage green hudsonia and dune lichen lining the trails that wind through the dunes.
Kings Rook and the Stonehenge Club, when Ipswich rocked! - In the 1960's, music could be heard in Ipswich at the King's Rook. In 1969, Phil Cole purchased the business and renamed it Stonehenge, Tom Rush, Judy Collins. the Paul Butterfield Band. Bo Didley, Al Kooper, Bonnie Rait and many other famous musicians played there before it closed in 1972.
The Ice House - Lathrop Brothers Coal and Ice Company harvested on the Ipswich River between Upper River Road and Haywood Street. Lines were drawn on the ice and horses dragged "groovers" along the line, cutting the ice about 6 to 8 inches deep. The ice was then floated to the ice house, where it was cut into blocks.
South Congregational Church: Only the Bell Remains - The South Congregational church burned on December 10, 1977. The lot is now a small park with two benches and the bell which survived the fire, surrounded by the old foundation.
The Buried House at Wigwam Hill - Symonds Epes bought a large tract in 1726 and built a substantial farm and orchards at Wigwam Hill, named for a group of destitute Indians who briefly camped there. The husband of one of his descendants cut the protecting scrub pines for lumber. Without the protection of the trees and grass, the farm quickly fell victim to the drifting sand.
Manning’s Neck - The first settlers of Ipswich were given rights to use of the Common land. Unfenced tillage lots beyond the residential area were assigned in areas set apart for this use, including the area of Newmarch Street which was known as Manning's Neck.
The Old North Burying Ground - The Old North Burying Ground on High Street in Ipswich was established in 1634 upon the founding of the town, and is one of the oldest cemeteries in North America. View at Google maps. Alphabetical index of graves Index of graves by map location Section maps key chart […]
Diamond Stage - In 1673, two fishermen from the Isles of Shoals, Andrew Diamond and Harry Maine, arrived together in Ipswich. Mr. Diamond built a platform for salting and shipping fish, and became quite successful. The location is still known today as Diamond Stage.
Along the Ipswich River - Historic photos of the Ipswich River from original glass negatives taken by early Ipswich photographers Arthur Wesley Dow, George Dexter and Edward L. Darling.
Saving the Rooster - The gilded weathercock at the First Church in Ipswich has graced the steeple of every church at that location since the middle of the 18th Century.
View of Ipswich from a roof - The Thomas Manning house on North Main Street has a fugitive slave hiding place in the basement, and a door to the roof, providing this colorful fall view of downtown Ipswich. Read the history of the Thomas Manning house and view more photos
How do we name a Green? - A mild controversy has arisen in the town of Ipswich about what to name the grassy lawn between the Old Town Hall and the Ipswich Museum. Depending on who you ask, it's the Middle Green, Memorial Green, Veterans Green, or the Visitor Center Lawn, and I'll add "Augustine Heard's back yard" just to add to the confusion.
Pingrey’s Plain, the Gallows Lot - Long before the corner of Mile Lane and High Street became famous for the Clam Box, it was known as Pingrey’s Plain, where the wicked were hung. The story was written by Alice Keenan in Ipswich Yesterday: “Pingrey’s Plain was where the local hangman plied his macabre trade and […]
Sketches of Cape Ann - From Gloucester and Cape Ann by S. G. W. Benjamin, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1875
High Spirits on Town Hill - Standing 14′ high and about 12′ wide, the new bronze sculpture by Chris Williams on North Main St. in Ipswich honors the town’s creative community. It was conceived and funded by Ipswich resident Richard Silverman as a tribute to his late wife Robin Silverman.
Battles of the bridges - Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters The stone bridges which span the Ipswich river with their graceful arches are picturesque and interesting, but the readiness with which the Town proceeded to build the latter two stone bridges is in singular contrast with […]
The Civil War Monument - Photograph by George Dexter, circa 1900; story by Harold Bowen, “Tales of Old Ipswich,” 1975 Each Memorial Day for the last 15 years it has been my job to decorate the different monuments in town early in the morning. This year, I couldn’t help but think of the many […]
The Ipswich River - The 35-mile Ipswich River flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Ipswich Bay. The Ipswich River Water Association works to protect the river and its watershed. Foote Brothers Canoes on Topsfield Rd provides rentals and shuttle service from April to October.
Ipswich Mills Dam video - This video was taken in the summer of 2016 during the Ipswich Mill Dam drawdown, which coincidentally occurred duirng the worst part of the summer drought. The video describes the investigation that was conducted at that time of the dam’s structure, and a study of the feasibility of […]
The grand hotels of Gloucester and Cape Ann, 1905 - At the beginning of the 20th Century, Cape Ann was a popular destination for tourists. Gloucester’s grand hotels were the subject of “The Summer Hotel Guide,” published in 1905. Images and text are available through Archive.org: “This little book will rejoice in the thought that it has accomplished […]
Asbury Grove Methodist Camp Meeting, Hamilton MA - The Asbury Grove Methodist Camp Meeting on Asbury St. in Hamilton is listed in the National Register of Historic Districts, and has a collection of historic buildings that were built between 1870 and 1960. The land is owned by the Association, while the houses owned individually by the residents. 12,000 people, […]
View of Ipswich Bluff - Lithography by Edward Burrill, 1835-1913, from Nature & on Stone, printed by Meisel Brothers, Boston. Digital image from original print, courtesy of Bill Barton.
The last cottage on Plum Island - (This article was written by Beverly Perna before the cottage was torn down, and has been updated.) An iconic Ipswich landmark, the last privately owned cottage on the Ipswich end of Plum Island, was turned over to the Fish and Wildlife Service and was taken down in 2016. Boaters and […]
The Ipswich Town Farm, 1817-1928 - Ipswich established its first poorhouse in 1717, and until then the poor and incapacitated were simply let out to the lowest bidder. There was a growing movement in Massachusetts during the early 19th century for establishing rural working town farms for the poor. In 1817 the town voted to buy the farm owned by John Lummus, on what is now Town Farm Road.
The missing dunes at Castle Neck - When Google maps first went online, it showed a couple of large dunes at the tip of Crane Beach, one labelled “The Great Dune.” It was the tallest of the newer dunes, comparable in size to Wigwam Hill, which is an older well-established dune in the middle of Castle Neck. The Great […]
Jeffreys’ Neck Road - This history of Jeffreys Neck is from the Agawam Manual and Directory by M.V.B. Perley, published in 1888. The business of fur-trading and fishing along the New England coast received a new impetus about the beginning of the seventeenth century. In 1604 Agawam was the center of Arcadia, so-called in the […]
Hammers on Stone, the story of Cape Ann granite - Kitty Robertson’s book The Orchard includes a sorrowful tale by old Mr. Patch about Mr. Brown and his team of horses who drowned in Ipswich Bay as he dragged a sled loaded with Rockport granite across the frozen surface. Whether itr happened, we may never know, but in searching for more information, I […]
Dow Brook and Bull Brook - Featured image: Dow-Bull Brook Trail, from the Essex County Trail Association site. Remnants of the old grist mill and saw mill dam on the Egypt River, originally constructed by Nehemiah Jewett, are behind the Ipswich power plant transformer station on High St. Jewett’s Grist mill on the Egypt River […]
An autumn walk in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary - These photos are from one of my favorite hikes in Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Sanctuary at 87 Perkins Row in Topsfield. Twelve miles of trails weave through an amazing mix of forests, meadows and wetlands, with great views of the Ipswich River from the central drumlin and two eskers that were left by retreating glaciers only […]
Little Neck Nostalgia, by Gavin Keenan - We moved to Ipswich when Ike was President and Elvis crossed over from Gospel to Rock and Roll. My father worked for Grossman’s and got a transfer from the Braintree store to the new one in Ipswich on Washington Street. For a while, he commuted from where we […]
Choate-Caldwell House, 16 Elm St. (Now at Smithsonian) - In 1963 this house was slated for destruction, but through the efforts of local preservationists was relocated to the Smithsonian where it resides as the Museum’s largest artifact on permanent display.
Samuel Goodhue’s pier - In the early 20th Century, Samuel Goodhue operated a canoe rental business on the Ipswich River at the end of Peatfield St in the area known as Pole Alley.
Bombshell from Louisbourg - Mounted securely to a stone post at the corner of Middle and Independent Streets in Newburyport, there was for many years a large cast-iron bombshell, thrown from a mortar at the Second Siege of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia in 1758. It was brought to Newbury by Nathaniel Knapp, who served as […]
A photographic history of the Ipswich Mills Dam - Until 350 years ago, the Ipswich River ran unencumbered from its origin 35 miles upstream, carving its way through a 148-square-mile watershed. Herring, shad, salmon and alewife swam upstream to spawn. Thomas Franklin Waters noted that, “Great shoals of alewives came up the river in the Spring and were seined […]
The Choate Bridge - The American Society of Civil Engineers cites the Choate Bridge in Ipswich as the oldest documented two-span masonry arch bridge in the U.S., and the oldest extant bridge in Massachusetts.
Essex shipyards and the age of the Gloucester schooners - Over 4000 wooden vessels were launched from Essex, including many schooners that sailed from nearby Gloucester, once the largest fishing port in the United States. View below, “Legacy: Shipbuilders, Fishermen and the Age of the Gloucester Schooners” (58 minutes).
Joppa Flats, Newburyport - In the late 19th Century, clam shacks proliferated along a stretch of the Merrimack River in Newburyport known as Joppa Flats, providing clams to the Boston area. Photos in this slideshow were provided by Laurie Jarvis Short. Visit her Joppa Flats page on Facebook.
Newburyport and its Neighborhoods, 1874, by Harriet Prescott Spofford - Excerpt from “Newburyport and its Neighborhood” by Harriet Prescott Spofford, July 1875, the New Harper’s Monthly Magazine. “The history of Newburyport, and of her mother Newbury, much of which has become incorporated with herself, is replete with striking facts and marvels. She had not only the first of […]
Gorton’s becomes the largest fishing business on the Atlantic coast, March 31, 1906 - On March 31, 1906, the people of Cape Ann were stunned by the news that Gorton’s would merge with three other Gloucester fish companies.
Glover’s Wharf and the Ipswich coal industry - John S. Glover opened a wharf on Water St. in 1847, receiving shipments of coal and cement, along with maritime salvage. His wharf was a short distance from the home be built on East St. around 1872 across from the present-day Town Wharf, which was demolished recently. The business was sold to Charles Lovell […]
Barton Stone, end of an era - Barton Stone and Monuments on Brown Square, was the oldest business in Ipswich . A.J. Barton & Son Inc. was started in 1889 by August Barton Sr., and continued under his son Augustus Barton Jr., known as “Gus.” Gordon Player, Phillip Lepage and Scott Kershaw each owned the company […]
Dogtown, its history and legends - Dogtown is an area in central Gloucester of about five square miles, or 3600 acres, stretching from the Riverdale section of the city, north of Route 128, into Rockport, and including the Goose Cove and the Babson Reservoirs. Development is banned in this protected municipal watershed.
1893 Birdseye map of Ipswich - Click on the map to zoom in and find your house!
The Old South Cemetery - The Old South Cemetery in Ipswich, MA was used from 1756 till 1939, with a few more recent burials. It sits at the southwestern end of the South Green, and has about 1000 interments. A walking trail extends down the slope to the River, continuing downstream to Sallys Pond near the Whipple […]
History of Gloucester, MA - The History of the town and city of Gloucester, Cape Ann, Massachusetts was written by James Pringle in 1892 and is online at Archive.org.
An old pear tree grows in Danvers… - A History of the Endecott Pear Tree by Richard B. Trask The 375-year-old Endecott Pear Tree in Danvers was planted under the direction of the first Massachusetts Governor, English Puritan John Endecott (c 1588-1665). Endecott sailed from England to the New World aboard the ship Abigail in 1628, landing at a small peninsula the native […]
Sally Weatherall Memorial Reservation - The Sally Weatherall Memorial Reservation on Little Neck Road is dedicated to Greenbelt’s first executive director. The property is primarily salt marsh–a trail through a small section of wooded upland leads to a viewing area and an osprey perch. In addition, the pond next to the Whipple House (formerly known […]
Building and launching the schooner Ardelle in Essex - The 55-foot pinky schooner Ardelle was designed and built by Harold Burnham of Burnham Boat Building in Essex MA using locally harvested wood and hand tools and similar techniques to those that Colonial-era shipbuilders used. Hundreds of spectators watched from the Essex Shipbuilding Museum in 2011 for the launching of the Ardelle into […]
Views of rooftops from downtown Ipswich, circa 1900 - The photo below is a panoramic made of two views from the roof of the old Hayes Hotel at the corner of Depot Square and Hammatt Street, which had a flat-roof wing on the back. The photos were;taken several years after the 1894 fire, which;destroyed all of […]
The Ipswich Post Offices - The first known post office in Ipswich was on North Main Street in the small red building across from First Church. It was built in 1763, probably as a barn or warehouse. In 1775, a committee from Ipswich began meeting with other towns, from Newburyport to Danvers, regarding […]
The Fox Creek Canal - This article is by John Fiske, chairman of the Ipswich Historical Commission. Memorial Day, 2014: 76º, humid, hazy clouds, and the end of a long spell of unseasonably cool weather. Just the day for our first cruise of the season, puttering among the salt marshes in our little boat. […]
The Giles Firmin Park: from tannery to arboretum to playground - In 1762 Benjamin Lamson set up a tannery on County Road along Saltonstall Brook, which starts in a wetland between the Public Works facility and the YMCA, crosses County Road and empties into the Ipswich River behind the brick Verizon building. View Google map. The old building continued for many years as Farley’s Tannery, […]
Play Ball! Bialek Park - Baseball's popularity grew quickly after the Civil War, and Bialek Park was once the town's semi-professional ballpark, In 1912 the town purchased two private lots that had been the ballpark, constructed a public playground, and removed the fence. In 1977 the park was named to honor the late John S. Bialek, who co-founded the Ipswich Little League.
Memories of Quint’s Corner - This is a 1967 photo of Quint’s Corner (The Tyler block) in Ipswich which Robert Swan shared with the “I Grew Up in Ipswich” Facebook group. Buddy Riel commented, “Quints Corner had an effect on so many Ipswich people. A lot of us can mark the stages of […]
The Bull Brook Discovery - in the early 1950's, a group of young amateur archeologists men discovered one of the largest Paleo-Indian sites in North America along the banks of Bull Brook and the Egypt River in Ipswich, with over 6,000 artifacts uncovered.
The Agawam Diner - The Agawam Diner on Rt. 1 in Rowley was built by the Fodero Dining Car Company in 1954. An earlier Agawam Diner was opened by the Galanis Family at Depot Square in Ipswich in 1940, and was replaced by a larger diner, and then by the current one […]
A Chronology of Ipswich Public Works: Telegraph, Telephone, Gas, Water, Electricity, Trash, Sewer and Wind - 1847: Telegraph Samuel Morse obtained a patent for his telegraph invention in 1838. It came into practical use about 1843. The first use of the telegraph was to coordinate the arrival and departure of trains. The Boston line was extended to Portland in 1847 and brought Ipswich into faster […]
“Pivot Rock” at Crane Castle - After living here for almost 10 years, two people told me separately yesterday about a huge rock that acts as a pivoting gate on a trail that runs between the old Rose Garden and the former Casino at the Crane Estate. Mr. Richard Crane liked to surprise his […]
Gathering Salt Marsh Hay - (Featured photo from a glass plate negative taken by Ipswich photographer George Dexter (1862-1927).) Salt marsh hay is still gathered on the North Shore today. Eva Jackman replied to this post: “My husband’s family has been harvesting salt hay on the same Newbury land as in 1643. He cuts […]
View from Bayberry Hill - This is a wonderful photo of the Ipswich River taken by Ipswich photographer George Dexter in 1906. He was standing on Bayberry Hill near the top of Spring Street where Arthur Wesley Dow had a studio.
A beautiful little bridge - Bob Foote took this photo of a small bridge just beyond the EBSCO building that is along the tracks beyond the train station. Kimball Brook is a small stream that originates at Scott Hill off of Topsfield road, curves around Bush Hill and then crosses Topsfield Road and the […]
Building a ship in Essex - This very entertaining mid-20th Century documentary is shown at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, just a short drive from Ipswich. Viewing time: 12 minutes.
The Ipswich Townie Test - In 2008 the Ipswich Chronicle ran a series of articles called “The Townie Test”. Readers responded with their answers. Q1: Name the successful Ipswich retail merchant known as “Taffy.” A: Howard “Taffy” Hill Q2: What was the name of the dry cleaning business that was once located on […]
The Missing Burial Ground - The Case of the Missing Burial Ground Lesslie Road Burial Ground Linebrook Parish, Old Ipswich, Massachusetts Story by: Bruce Laing Toward a comprehensive documentation of the greater Ipswich burial grounds In 1935 Arthur Warren Johnson and Ralph Elbridge Ladd jr. wrote Momento Mori, a map and transcription of tombstones […]
Ipswich Streets and Neighborhoods - The first roads in Ipswich followed ancient paths of the Native Americans who called this place “Agawam.” The English settlers built their homes in a half-mile radius of the Meeting House. In the year 1639, the General Court instructed that “all highways shall be laid out beforeth the next General Court. Every town […]
Plum Island - The General Court on October 17, 1649 divided Plum Island among three towns, granted to Ipswich 2/5, Newbury 2/5, and Rowley 1/5. The salt marsh hay, sand, and wildlife were valuable assets to the towns. In the late 1800’s summer and resort communities sprung up at the northern […]
History of Plum Island - The General Court took action on October 17th 1649: "Upon the petition of Newbury, this Court thinketh meete to give & grant Plum Island to Ipswich two parts, Newbury two parts & Rowley to have one fifth part."
The Early History of Plum Island - Nancy Virginia Weare spent 33 years at her family’s summer camp was at Plum Island. After the Parker River Wildlife Refuge was established, she moved to a home on Great Neck in Ipswich overlooking Plum Island. Nancy was a member of The Ipswich Historical Society, The Museum of Old […]