Parts of two early houses, The Ross Tavern on S. Main St. and the Lord-Collins house on High St. were disassembled and partially combined at Strawberry Hill on the former Wendel Estate on Jeffreys Neck Road.
The earliest part of the Ross Tavern was built in about 1690 in downtown Ipswich. In 1735 it was moved to the southeast side of the Choate Bridge where it remained until 1940 when it was disassembled and moved to its present location. The original timber frame was restored and reassembled. 17th Century fireplaces and 17th & 18th century woodwork are features inside the house. The house was restored to a high style First Period appearance by Daniel Wendel, an artist and the only son of the American Impressionist painter Theodore Wendel, on the basis of specific physical evidence. The clapboarded exterior has gables on the front and rear facades (restored from evidence of mortises in the plate.)
Daniel Wendel’s father Theodore Wendel painted many Ipswich Landscapes as well as scenes in Giverny, France and Venice, Italy.
Susan S. Nelson explains that the present Ross Tavern building located at Strawberry Hill is actually two combined buildings. One was known as the Ross Tavern and it was itself a compound structure with the left hand portion late First Period and the right hand part built about 1760 by Dr. Joshua Burnham. This building was located on the South side of Choate Bridge. It was acquired by Daniel Wendel and moved onto its present site. At that time he also acquired the Collins-Lord house which was located near the High St. Cemetery. It was attached to the rear of the Tavern. Also brought to the site was a small building being used as a hen-house located at the rear of 88-90 High St, found to contain First Period framing. The Shatswell Planters Cottage may in fact be Ipswich’s earliest building. Sue recommends that it should have dendrochronology testing to determine its age.
Ross Tavern – Lord Collins house 52 Jeffreys Neck Road Preservation Agreement
The Trust for Public Land has held a preservation agreement for this property since March of 2002. In 2017 the preservation agreement was assigned to the Ipswich Historical Commission.
Description from MACRIS
The evidence for exterior embellishment of the Ross Tavern is among the most significant surviving expressions of First Period architecture in New England. The cyma molded overhanging girt, the crease molded cover board, the crease molded dentils and the red point are prime expressions of what Cummings identified as the “distinctly elegant regional school” of architecture which developed in Ipswich at the end of the 17th century.
The Ross Tavern is, in its main body, 5 bays wide and one room deep. There is a wing to the right hand side and a large ell to the rear. The house is composed of two earlier houses moved on to the site and restored by Daniel S. Wendell. The main body of the house was dismantled and moved from an earlier Ipswich site abutting the Choate Bridge. The left-hand rooms and chimney bay comprised the original part of that structure. That single cell building was probably moved onto the Choate Bridge site between 1734 and 1736 and enlarged at that time by the addition of the right-hand rooms.
In the 19th century the building became known as the Ross Tavern. The rear ell, originally the Collins-Lord house on High Street (just south of 33 High Street), was also dismantled and moved by Wendell. In 1940, a kitchen wing was added to the right-hand side of the two reconstructed and restored 17th century houses and a small lean-to was built next to the ell at the left rear. The house was restored to a high style First Period appearance by Daniel Wendell on the basis of very specific physical evidence.
The clapboarded exterior has gables on the front and rear facades (restored from evidence of mortises in the plate), and a deep two story entrance porch originally was proven by mortises on the outer face of the framing). All the gables have molded verge boards (unweathered ends of the purlins on the exterior indicated an original verge board). There are elaborately embellished overhangs at the second story on three sides and in each of the gables. The second story overhang had been closed in for a number of years before the house was dismantled.
Wendell found three cyma molded overhanging girts, mitered at the corners (the posts above have a right angled tenon which helps to hold the mitered ends together). The girts are supported from beneath at the centers by the projecting rounded ends of the T shaped summer beams of the left-hand room. At the corners, the overhanging girts are supported by brackets (restored on the basis of impressions in the wood on the underside of the girts, but with conjectural profiles). A board with crease molded edge partly covers and extends above the girts (several original pieces of this cover board survive; one original piece of girt with cover board attached is in SPNEA‘s architectural museum). Halfway up the cover board was positioned a board crease molded on the edge and cut into dentils (a single piece of board with dentils survived in a reused position in the house, but the pattern of weathering and a faint remainder of red paint on the lower cover board made it clear where the dentiled board should be placed). Square blocks with incised patera-like designs are placed every 2 feet or so in the dentil course. The designs are conjectural, but paint and nail hole evidence on the cover board indicated the presence originally of square blocks in these location.
The final element in the assemblage of trim at the overhang is at the top. The molding profile is conjectural, but the pattern of weathering on the board below the molding suggested to Wendell the amount that the molding above must have projected. The nearly identical trim of the overhang in the gables was derived after similar reasoning.
The pilastered central chimney dates from 1940. Fenestration on the original part of the Ross Tavern is leaded glass casements, three part windows on the first and second floors; two-part windows on the porch and in the gables. The windows on the second floor were restored to their original central locations based on evidence of mortises in studs. On the first floor only the left-hand most window on the facade could be located from physical evidence, but since posts run up the center of the wall, either the windows were originally off-center, or there were two windows. The entrance door is a simply framed vertical board door.
The rear ell, originally the Collins-Lord house, retains its plainly-finished overhang on the rear wall. On the first floor, the ell has casement windows with rectangular panes, leaded glass and fixed transoms above. The presence of transoms was indicated by a fragment of stud or jamb Wendell found while dismantling the High Street house.
MAJOR FIRST PERIOD FEATURES
First Period features are visible in the left-hand room and chamber and in the rear ell. The left-hand room exhibits two unusual framing features: T shaped summer beams and two sets of joists at right angles to each other. The summer beams, T shaped in order to provide support for the overhanging girts on 3 sides, have flat chamfers and lamb’s tongue stops at the outer walls and where the summer beams join. (Wendell thinks originally the summer beams may have had quarter-round chamfers as does the summer tie beam upstairs, but that Ralph Burnham who restored the house in the 1920s may have shaved off the quarter-round).
The summer beams are supported by posts with bevel-molded heads. Joists in the room are slightly chamfered and are spaced 21 inches on centers. The second set of joists in the inner bay, needed to provide a structure onto which to nail floor boards, are shallower than the primary joists and are halved over the primary joists. As a further refinement to secure the floorboards, the inner edge of the overhanging girts are rabbetted to receive the edges of floorboards. The shadow-molded sheathing on the fireplace wall was replicated from fragments found elsewhere in the house.
In the left-hand chamber, the summer tie beam has quarter-round chamfers, flat collars and lamb’s tongue stops. The south window in the chamber retains an original jamb of plain, rectangular design. The rear ell, now 27 feet long by 18 feet wide, was originally a double cell, central chimney house. Currently the ell is composed of one large room with crossed summer beams. Clearly there have been alterations to the original structure including the removal of the central chimney. At the junction of the two crossed summer beams, the flat chamfered longer summer beam is finished with a triangular stop and two pips.
A small house on the property, known as the Shatswell Planters Cottage, is the frame of another Ipswich building of probable First-Period provenance which Wendell dismantled, moved to this site and re-erected. Wendell believes the building may have been clapboarded only on its upper portion and gable ends for the frame lower down is weathered. Wendell speculates that the building may have had plaster infill between the framing members where it was not clapboarded. The frame of the building has the unusual feature of purlins which are cambered upward in the middle so that where they are attached to the middle rafter in the two bay building, they more effectively resist the downward thrust of the rafters.
The house is associated with the early 20th century restoration movement, the subject of a very careful restoration by a highly competent amateur architectural historian. The restoration brought to light many distinctive features of the houses, several of which are unique extant examples of their form in New England. The crossed joist and the girts rabbeted for floor boards fall within that category. Rabbeted girts were known in English buildings of the period, however. The evidence for transoms found by Wendell in the Collins-Lord house provided one of two known examples of First Period transom window evidence for ALC.
Unfortunately, we do not know the identity of the wealthy client who commissioned the elaborately decorated Ross Tavern. The house is first mentioned in a deed of 1736 on a site near the Choate Bridge, but must have been constructed elsewhere by an unknown party and moved to the second site. The Collins-Lord house was built c. 1675-1700 by Robert Collins or Robert Lord Sr.
- Photos of “Proctor House” Library of Congress
- Download the full description at the MACRIS site
- View additional photos on this site of the Ross Tavern
- Susan Nelson
- Cummings, Massachusetts and its First Period Houses, Publication of the Colonial Society in Massachusetts 51:156-157 Abbott Lowell Cummings, Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1979: 127. t pp: 74, 76, 126, 127, 129,136, 137, 148, 150, 153, 162, 194.