Stories about historic places in Ipswich and the North Shore

Ipswich, Massachusetts is America’s best-preserved Puritan Town and is known as the “Birthplace of American Independence.” This interactive map features historic districts, structures, and bridges (blue walking icon) and historic buildings and houses (yellow icon). Click on the purple house icons to view all houses in each historic district.

Daniel Low, Salem Daniel Low’s Silver “Witch Spoons” among Salem’s First Souvenirs - By Helen Breen Daniel Low & Co. started on the bottom floor of the First Church, Unitarian, 231 Essex Street at the corner of Washington Street in Salem. The jewelry company purchased the church in 1923, elegantly refitting the structure as an appropriate setting for its luxurious merchandise. THE BUSINESS Daniel Low & Co. jewelry … Continue reading Daniel Low’s Silver “Witch Spoons” among Salem’s First Souvenirs
Marblehead is carved out of Salem Mass Marblehead is established, May 6, 1635 - A story at Mass Moments In May 1635 the General Court ordered “that there shall be a plantation at Marble Head” and gave the inhabitants the right to do whatever they pleased with the land, even though it was part of Salem. The move was meant to punish Salem for allowing Roger Williams to express his “dangerous opinions.” … Continue reading Marblehead is established, May 6, 1635
Cape Ann, Massachusetts Pigeon Cove 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.    
The Choate Bridge in Ipswich, photo by George Dexter 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 belligerent opposition to the earliest ones. The … Continue reading Battles of the bridges
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 changes that have taken place at the … Continue reading The Civil War Monument
The Ipswich River - The Ipswich River begins in Burlington, MA and passes through the towns of Wilmington, Reading, North Reading, Peabody, Middleton, Topsfield, Hamilton, and Ipswich, connecting with the Atlantic Ocean at Ipswich Bay. The river has been dammed since Colonial days, providing power for the Ipswich mills. In the days of sailing ships, ocean-going cargo vessels, fishing … Continue reading The Ipswich River
Ipswich Streets, Roads 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 shall choose two or three men who … Continue reading Ipswich Streets, Roads and Neighborhoods
Ipswich Mills Dam video - This video was taken last summer 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 removing the dam. Field work is complete, and a public … Continue reading Ipswich Mills Dam video
The Oceanside Hotel in Gloucester MA 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 its mission if in interesting you in … Continue reading The grand hotels of Gloucester and Cape Ann, 1905
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, most from Boston, attended the first camp … Continue reading Asbury Grove Methodist Camp Meeting, Hamilton MA
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 Ipswich River, 1860-1930 - Follow the Ipswich River, starting at the Willowdale Dam and continuing past all four stone arch bridges in Ipswich, then along Water Street to the Town Wharf and out to sea. Many of these photos were digitally developed by the Town Historian from original glass negatives taken by three early Ipswich photographers: Arthur Wesley Dow, the famous Ipswich … Continue reading The Ipswich River, 1860-1930
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. Caring for the poor in Ipswich became such an issue that the affluent remote … Continue reading The Ipswich Town Farm, 1817-1928
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 Dune, alas, is no more. Using Google Earth, … Continue reading The missing dunes at Castle Neck
William Jeffreys’ Neck - 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 French patent of November 8, 1603. For a … Continue reading William Jeffreys’ Neck
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 found the fascinating and often tragic story … Continue reading Hammers on Stone, the story of Cape Ann granite
Dow Brook and Bull Brook Reservoirs - Featured image: Dow-Bull Brook Trail, from the Essex County Trail Association site Harold Bowen wrote that two downtown fires in 1894 accomplished something that numerous Town Meetings had failed to agree upon. For several years the town had tried to provide a municipal water system, without success. “The farmers up in Linebrook fought it. It … Continue reading Dow Brook and Bull Brook Reservoirs
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary 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 15,000 years ago. View the location at Google … Continue reading An autumn walk in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
Choate Island and Rufus Choate - Featured image: Painting of the Choate homestead by E. Choate Kane, courtesy of Joyce Patton Choate Island was originally known as Hog Island. In the Records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it is recorded that keeping hogs on islands or in fenced enclosures during the planting season was the law from the 1630’s, and each … Continue reading Choate Island and Rufus Choate
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 lived in Walpole to his new sales … Continue reading Little Neck Nostalgia, by Gavin Keenan
Abraham Choate House, 16 Elm St. (Now at Smithsonian) - In 1963 Kay Thompson and Helen Lunt, two housewives, recognized that chapters of American history, written within the walls of a simple clapboard house slated for destruction in Ipswich, Massachusetts, were in peril. Through their efforts, the historic house was relocated to the Smithsonian where it still resides as the Museum’s largest single artifact on permanent display. … Continue reading Abraham Choate House, 16 Elm St. (Now at Smithsonian)
The sad story of Alexander Knight - The Alexander Knight House next to the Whipple House on South Green is a re-creation of an early, English-style timber frame house from 1657 as described in Ipswich town records. This exhibit was built with traditional tools, materials and construction methods of the First Period, complete with a stone foundation, timber frame, wattle and daub chimney, … Continue reading The sad story of Alexander Knight
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 soldier, carpenter and ship-caulker with the … Continue reading Bombshell from Louisbourg
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 at night by the light of torches … Continue reading A photographic history of the Ipswich Mills Dam
The steamship “Carlotta” - The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point Boar Yard at the end of Agawam Avenue, and sailed from the Town Wharf to points on the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. William J. Barton wrote about the Carlotta: “From Brown’s Wharf, the steamer Carlotta, a local steamboat owned by Nathaniel Burnham … Continue reading The steamship “Carlotta”
The Choate Bridge, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark - The Choate Bridge in Ipswich was constructed in 1764 and is the oldest documented surviving double stone arch bridge in North America. As part of Rt. 1A and Rt. 133 the Choate Bridge is estimated to carry between 10,000 and 20,000 vehicles each day! The town approved construction of the stone bridge on April 18, … Continue reading The Choate Bridge, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark
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.
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 in 1910. Many of the Glover family … Continue reading Glover’s Wharf and the Ipswich coal industry
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 House. Visit the Old South Cemetery and view … Continue reading The Old South Cemetery
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 inhabitants called Naumkeag. Endecott established a permanent … Continue reading An old pear tree grows in Danvers…
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 as the Bicentennial Pond) was renamed Sally’s … Continue reading Sally Weatherall Memorial Reservation
The Ice House - Lathrop Brothers Coal and Ice Company was located at “Tougas’ pit,” a small body of water that may have been an old channel of the Ipswich River. It can be accessed off of Hayward Street at “Ice House Crossing.” Photos courtesy of Bill George and archives. Susan Howard Boice wrote that it took three railroad cars full … Continue reading The Ice House
300 years on Grape Island - Featured image: The pier at Grape Island, by George Dexter, circa 1900. Grape Island is a part of the town of Ipswich, and was once a small, but thriving community of fishermen, farmers, and clam diggers. Jacob Perkins, Matthew Perkins, William Hubbard, Francis Wainwright, Thomas Hovey, Thomas Wade, Benedictus Pulsifer, Captain John Smith, Samuel Dutch, … Continue reading 300 years on Grape Island
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 previous buildings in the first block … Continue reading Views of rooftops from downtown Ipswich, circa 1900
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 establishment of a regular postal route. … Continue reading The Ipswich Post Offices
Kings Rook and Stonehenge Club: when Ipswich rocked! - Just beyond the Choate bridge on South Main Street was a funky building put together from pieces of other buildings by an antiques dealer named Ralph Burnham early in the 20th Century. In the 1960’sHoward Ferguson and Gardner Damon started the Kings Rook. Good coffee and cocoa were served, two fireplaces kept it warm in the … Continue reading Kings Rook and Stonehenge Club: when Ipswich rocked!
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. One of our favorite routes is go … Continue reading The Fox Creek Canal
Dr. Manning’s mills - In 1792 Dr. John Manning erected a factory at the corner of South Main and Market Streets beside the Choate Bridge, and began the manufacture of coarse cloths and blankets in 1794. The completed building was two stories high, 105 feet long and 32 feet wide. On the roof squatted a great octagonal tower, inside … Continue reading Dr. Manning’s mills
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, which advertised that it could use all parts of … Continue reading The Giles Firmin Park: from tannery to arboretum to playground
Saving the Rooster, 1915 - 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. It looks small from a distance but is said to weigh 40 pounds. The origin of roosters on church steeples comes from the Ninth Century A.D. The pope reportedly decreed … Continue reading Saving the Rooster, 1915
Play Ball! Bialek Park - Bialek Park was once the town’s semi-professional ballpark, used by our local teams. Baseball’s popularity grew quickly after the Civil War, and there was an Ipswich team in the last few decades of the 19th Century. The 1884 Ipswich Birdseye map shows the park as an empty lot with what appears to be the high fence … Continue reading Play Ball! Bialek Park
Castle Neck and the dunes - Crane Beach and all of Castle Neck are protected by the Trustees of Reservations. Warm winter days are the perfect time to hike the miles of dune trail, accessible from the Crane Beach parking lot. My loop usually begins at the green trail entrance on the far right side of the Crane Beach parking lot, first … Continue reading Castle Neck and the dunes
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 our early lives by the events we … Continue reading Memories of Quint’s Corner
The Town Wharf - In November, 1634, it was agreed that “the length of Ipswich should extend westward unto the buryinge place (Old North Burying Ground), and eastward unto a cove of the river, unto the planting ground of John Pirkings the Elder.” The cove mentioned here was where the Ipswich River lapped East street before Agawam Ave. In the 19th Century, … Continue reading The Town Wharf
Bull Brook boys, Ipswich MA The Bull Brook Discovery - Native Americans began moving into New England after the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier, around 12,000 BC. Artifacts discovered at Great Neck and along the riverbanks have been identified as belonging to the later Archaic period (8000-5000 years ago) and the Woodland period (2000 years ago). Evidence of a 3000-year old village was discovered along … Continue reading The Bull Brook Discovery
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 in 1954. The diner was moved from … Continue reading The Agawam Diner
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 contact with the whole country. The Atlantic cable … Continue reading A Chronology of Ipswich Public Works: Telegraph, Telephone, Gas, Water, Electricity, Trash, Sewer and Wind
“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 guests by turning the stone to let … Continue reading “Pivot Rock” at Crane Castle
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 house owned by Asa Brown was moved it to its current location on County Road in 1837 so that the South Congregational Church could … Continue reading South Congregational Church: only the Bell Remains
Hay straddle Ipswich MA Gathering Salt Marsh Hay - 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 salt hay and helps with the stacks on Rte 1. When greenheads get really bad he resorts to burying himself in … Continue reading Gathering Salt Marsh Hay
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 tracks to empty into the Ipswich River.
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 Mills Neighborhood - The Ipswich Mills and Brown Mills neighborhoods are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The houses in this late 20th Century aerial photograph were built in the early 1900’s by the Ipswich Mills Company to house the workers of their mill, located just east of this area. The company was the largest employer … Continue reading The Ipswich Mills Neighborhood
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 present site of the EBSCO parking … Continue reading The Ipswich Townie Test
The Fox Creek Canal - The Fox Creek Canal is the oldest man-made tidewater canal in the United States, dug in 1820. The following was written by Thomas Franklin Waters: “As early as 1652 a move was made toward cutting a passage way for boats through the marshes from Ipswich River to the River of Chebacco to avoid the long … Continue reading The Fox Creek Canal
The hills of Ipswich - The photo above is a view of Heartbreak Hill taken from the roof of a building onNorth Main Street in 1879. Mills line County Street on either side of the bridge which was only a few years old at that time. The mills are gone now, and Heartbreak Hill is covered with trees. Captain John … Continue reading The hills of Ipswich
The Glen Mill Stone Arch Bridge - The town of Rowley was “set off” from Ipswich in 1639, just 5 years after the founding of Ipswich. In 1642, a bridge and a dam were built on the Mill River in Rowley. A fulling mill was built the following year by Thomas Nelson, who had been granted ten acres of land “for encouragement … Continue reading The Glen Mill Stone Arch Bridge
The Buried House at Wigwam Hill - Much of the 1200 acres of dunes at Castle Neck along Crane Beach were forested with pitch pine in 1634 when European settlers arrived. The people of Ipswich realized that it was a special place, and the selectmen decreed that “The Neck of Land whereupon the great Hill standeth which is known by the name … Continue reading The Buried House at Wigwam Hill
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 in the area of Ipswich, Massachusetts. It … Continue reading The Missing Burial Ground