Despite it’s name as the 1640 Hart house, the oldest parts of the building at 51 Linebrook Rd. were apparently constructed in 1678-80 by Samuel Hart, the son of Thomas Hart.

An Irish tanner named Thomas Hart arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony on the ship Desire from Baddow, Essex County, England.  He was briefly indentured to tailor John Brown in Boston. After ending his servitude in 1637, Thomas Hart settled in Ipswich and by 1639 had become a proprietor. In 1640 he built a one-room starter home, and gradually expanded it. Thomas Hart was widely respected and was one of the town’s first selectmen and a town clerk. Thomas Hart, senior died in 1673 and is buried in the Old Burying Ground along with his wife Alice who lived until 1682. They had two daughters Sara and Mary, and two sons, Samuel and Thomas.

In 1678, the younger brother Samuel Hart and his wife began a new house on the land he inherited from Thomas senior. Until recently historians believed that Thomas Hart’s original two room structure was the oldest section of Samuel Hart’s house, but recent tree ring dating indicates that the timbers were cut around 1680, and thus the name of the restaurant “1640 Hart House” in this building is no longer factual. Samuel’s house was probably similar to the post-medieval one built by his father, a one room first-floor hall (the “Keeper Room”) with an upstairs hall-chamber. Over the years additional rooms were added. In the 20th Century, the one of the two oldest rooms of the Hart House was moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The other room is at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. The Keeper Room and the one above it at the Hart House are exact duplicates of those original rooms.

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Hart House, 51 Linebrook Road, earliest sections built in 1650
Hart House, 51 Linebrook Road, earliest sections built in 1650
The Hart house was long known as the Burnham house
The Hart house was long known as the Burnham house
The 1640 Hart House restaurant on Linebrook rd. in Ipswich. The original section of the building is on the right.
The 1640 Hart House restaurant on Linebrook Rd. in Ipswich. The original section of the building is on the left.

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The Hart House before the gambrel-roof barn-like addition was added on the right siide
The Hart House before the gambrel-roof barn-like addition was added on the right side

It may be surmised that the junior Thomas continued residence in his father’s home and cared for the family. He was a corporal, then lieutenant in the Ipswich Company of Foot, a representative from 1693-4 and a selectman of the town. He continued his father’s business as a tanner. By the provision of his father’s will in 1674 he received a third of his father’s tannery as well as land about the house and six acres on “Muddy River.” Deeds show that in 1686 John Gaines conveyed six acres in “West Meadow” to Samuel and Thomas Hart, and 5 more acres to Thomas Hart in 1688.

In 1902 Ralph W. Burnham purchased the property, restored some of the oldest sections, and  fitted the original west room with shadow-molded sheathing and a lintel cover board from the Saltonstall-Merrifield House in Ipswich.  In 1920, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York replicated the original west room for an exhibit in the newly-established American Wing.  In 1936, the museum purchased and dismantled the original room and chamber in Ipswich including the outer wall framing.  The Keepers room replaced the earlier Hart room exhibit in the American Wing.  The upper chamber and its framing were acquired by the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Delaware. The reproductions of the room and chamber were installed in the Hart House, and the original rafters were put back in their original positions.

Dendrochronology report by the Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory, 2006-7

IPSWICH, the Hart House, 51 Linebrook Road

  • Felling dates:> Summer 1678, Winter 1678/9, Summer 1680
  • Mantelbeam 1679(11½C)
  • End girt/tie 1678(8C);
  • Chimney rafter 1678(12C);
  • Chimney girt 1677(14½C);
  • Centre rafter 1667
  • Chimney tie 1676(9);
  • Chimney post 1674(3);
  • Summer beam (0/1).
  • Site Master> 1679

The earliest part of the Hart House, a single room plan house, two-and-one half stories in height with chimney bay on the east end, was built in 1680 or shortly thereafter by Samuel Hart.  Samuel was the son of Thomas Hart, who had settled in Ipswich by 1639.  When an addition was built on the opposite side of the chimney by c. 1725 or later (Cummings 1979), the new structure was positioned half a story above the original house and was only one-and-one-half stories in height because of the land loped up sharply to the east.  Subsequently the house was further enlarged on the east side and rear.

The Old Wishing Well in front of the Burnham (Hart) house
Thomas Hart's tombstone at the Old North Burial Ground in Ipswich
Thomas Hart’s tombstone at the Old North Burial Ground in Ipswich
Mary Hart's tombstone at the Old North Burial Ground
Mary Hart’s tombstone at the Old North Burial Ground.


Alice Hart's tombstone at the Old North Burying Ground.
Alice Hart’s tombstone at the Old North Burying Ground.
Room from the Hart house at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Room from the Hart house at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

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Before the Keepers Room was moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the museum had already created an exact duplicate. Elements of the duplicate room may have been used to restore the room at the Hart House in Ipswich.

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