2 Poplar Street, Swasey Tavern (1718)

2 Poplar Street, Swasey Tavern (1718)

Despite the early ownership records, there are no indications of First Period construction in this house at 2 Poplar Street. A Federal-era hip roof was replaced by a Mansard roof in the mid-1800s to give it a third floor. The building is known as Swasey’s Tavern, after the town moderator General Swasey who famously fell dead at Town Meeting in 1816. The Swasey Tavern in the 19th Century was a dormitory for the Ipswich Female Seminary, one of the early schools which provided young women with a rigorous academic education.

In 1725 Increase How purchased “a good mansion house” at the corner of County Street and Poplar Street from John Whipple, who did extensive alterations in 1718 after purchasing the house from John Ayres in 1705. Ayres built the original structure in 1693, but the only indication of its age are beams in the basement under one area. How kept an inn in the house, and after he died in 1754 at the age of 74 his daughter Susanna (who had married Captain Richard Homan) ran the inn. She appears to have been open-minded. In 1756 she received and took in three Catholic families from French-speaking Acadia whose arrival had been anticipated and debated by the Ipswich people for several months.

Swasey Tavern, Poplar St. in Ipswich
Swasey’s Tavern, 2 Poplar Street, in 1980. Photo by the Ipswich Historical Commission

In the fall of 1789 just four months after he took the oath of office, President George Washington visited Ipswich and dined at Susanna Homan’s Inn. Crowds awaited him at the South Green where he was welcomed by the Selectmen and a regiment of the militia. At the Inn he partook of a meal and proceeded on to Newburyport. Susanna Homan, whose tombstone describes her as “fair and good” died three years later at age 66.

Cogswell School Ipswich
The Cogswell School was nearby on Payne St.
Washington visit to Ipswich tercentennary
Tercentenary reenactment of Washington’s visit to Ipswich


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