The ancient houses of Essex County

The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725

By Abbott Lowell Cummings, 1979

Abbott Lowell Cummings was Executive Director of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (aka Historic New England) and a member of the faculty at Antioch College, Boston University, and Yale University. This richly illustrated and highly detailed book describes how settlers in the new world drew from architectural techniques used in their native England. Well-authenticated structures that span the first century of settlement at Massachusetts Bay are identified within Suffolk, Essex and Middlesex counties.

Over two hundred First Period houses are still standing in Massachusetts. Ipswich is believed to have 59 First Period houses, more than any other town or city in the country.

View Historic houses in Essex County. To request or add information, please contact Ipswich town historian Gordon Harris at

View Also: 

North Shore First Period and Colonial Houses

Photos, histories and descriptions

summer_27_deacon_knowlton_1688Ipswich: Every House has a story: Information from the detailed listing for the Ipswich Historical Commission.

Ipswich First and Second Period houses: Featuring 139 Ipswich First Period and Second Period houses, their stories, and new high-resolution photos

First Period houses of Essex County - A list of houses designated "First Period" by local historic organizations. Most houses have dates based on deeds, historical records or tradition and have not been dated by dendrochronology.
The Holyoke-French house Colonial houses of Boxford - Houses built during the Colonial era in Boxford, Massachusetts. Listings and images provided by the MACRIS site of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and by Vision Properties for the Town of Boxford, with additional historical information from The Dwellings of Boxford, by Sidney Perley BOX.48, Dr. William Hale, Rev. William P. […]
Groveland Colonial-era houses - Groveland, MA was settled as the East Parish of Bradford, a part of the town of Rowley. Before Bradford was separated from Rowley in 1672, it was called "Rowley on the Merrimack."
West Newbuy Massachusetts Colonial houses of West Newbury MA - West Newbury’s history as a town began in 1635 when 23 men and their families, all from England, sailed through Plum Island Sound and up the Parker River, landing in Newbury. As more settlers arrived and families increased, land in Newbury became scarce, and some people moved westward to the “upper woods” beyond the Artichoke River.
Deacon Thomas Stevens house Colonial-era houses of Merrimac Massachusetts - Merrimac sits on the Merrimack river abutting the southeastern border of New Hampshire. Settled by the English in 1638 as a part of Salisbury and later as a part of Amesbury around the village of Merrimacport, it was known throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as an agricultural and […]
The John Ward house in Salem MA First Period houses of Salem, Massachusetts - Salem, MA has about 18 First Period houses (built during the first century of English settlement, approximately 116-20-1720). In his landmark studies, “Massachusetts and its First Period Buildings” (1979) and The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725 (1979), architectural historian Abbott Lowell Cummings demonstrated that eastern Massachusetts contains […]
The oldest houses in Gloucester, MA - Houses in Gloucester constructed before the Revolutionary War that retain their early integrity of appearance. Gloucester shares the Cape Ann peninsula with Rockport.
Claflin–Richards Hous Antique houses of Wenham, Massachusetts - In September 1643, the General Court of Massachusetts granted that Wenham should be a town in its own right and send a representative to the General Court. It was the first town to be set off from Salem. Because many of its early settlers came from Suffolk County […]
The John Balch house Beverly MA Colonial-era houses of Beverly, Massachusetts - Featured image: the John Balch house by Daderot The area of the Massachusetts that is now the town of Beverly wast settled in 1626 by Roger Conant. Originally part of Salem and the Naumkeag Territory, Beverly was set off in 1668, and incorporated as a city in 1894. This page […]
Historic New England house Newbury MA Colonial houses of old Newbury, Massachusetts - Newbury Plantation was settled and incorporated in 1635. The Rev. Thomas Parker led a group of about 100 pioneers from Wiltshire, England aboard the ship Mary and John, first landing in Ipswich in 1634 and settling the next spring at the Parker River.
View of Rowley Common woodsketch, 1839 The ancient houses of Rowley, Massachusetts - Colonial and other historic houses in Ipswich MA. Information is from the MACRIS database.
17th and 18th Century houses of Topsfield, Massachusetts - Topsfield originally was part of the 17th-century coastal plantations of Salem and Ipswich, with large tracts of its territory granted to residents of Ipswich between 1634 and 1642. At first known as the “newe medowes at Ipswich,” but was given its present name in 1648. In 1650, it had enough […]
Historic Ipswich in black and white - These monochrome photos of historic houses in Ipswich were taken in the 1980's for MACRIS, the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System. Click on any photo to view the listing for the house.
Newburyport colonial houses Newburyport Colonial homes - Newburyport, MA was settled in 1635 as part of the town of Newbury. In 1764, the General Court of Massachusetts passed "An act for erecting part of the town of Newbury into a new town by the name of Newburyport."
Colonial houses of Hamilton, Massachusetts - The part of Ipswich known as the Hamlet (now Hamilton) was “set off” as a separate parish (church) in 1714-15. The Hamlet was incorporated by the name of Hamilton on June 21, 1793.
John Wise house, Essex MA Historic houses of Essex, Massachusetts - The inhabitants of the part of Ipswich known as Chebacco established their own parish in 1679, but were still residents of the town of Ipswich. In 1818, two hundred and six men of Chebacco petitioned the Legislature for incorporation, and the town came into existence on Feb. 5, 1819.
The old houses of Danvers, Massachusetts - Danvers, MA  was settled in 1636 as Salem Village, and was the home of many of the accusers and the accused during the Salem witch trials.  The Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers is a historical landmark. According to legend, the King rejected the town’s petition for its own charter, with the […]
Old Town, Marblehead Massachusetts Old Town, a colonial neighborhood in Marblehead - This is a partial list of houses in Marblehead, Massachusetts constructed before the Revolutionary War. The streets of "Old Town" in Marblehead are lined with colorful early 18th Century homes and a few dating to the 17th Century.

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