27 Summer Street, the Thomas Knowlton house (1688)

The Thomas Knowlton house

The Thomas Knowlton house at 27 Summer Street is one of over 50 First Period houses still standing in Ipswich, and was built about 1688. The 2-story timber frame home has traditional English overhangs on the front and sides that were popular during New England’s post-medieval revival from about 1680 to 1710.

The lot on the corner of Summer St. and County St. was granted originally to Humphrey Bradstreet. He sold his house and land to Deacon Thomas Knowlton in 1646.

Deacon Thomas Knowlton Sr. (1607-1692) was a cordwainer who arrived in Ipswich about 1639 during the Great Migration from from Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, near London, accompanying his older brothers John and William. John Knowlton, also a cordwainer, died in 1654, and left his house and land to his wife Margery. Their children were John, Abraham and Elizabeth. William’s occupation was “bricklayer,” and he died one year after John, 1655. The children of William and Elizabeth Knowlton were Mary, Thomas, William, John, Samuel, Benjamin and Joseph.

Deacon Thomas Knowlton’s first wife was named Susannah, the family name unknown. He married second, Mary Kimball, daughter of Richard and Ursulla Scott Kimball who lived until 1686, but had no children by either marriage. Consequently, the latter Knowltons in Ipswich are descendants of one of Thomas Sr.’s brothers.

Deacon Thomas Knowlton was an educated man who, well into old age, was deeply involved in the early civic affairs of the town of Ipswich. He served as constable, tithingman, committee man, and administrator of many estates. In 1688 Thomas Knowlton Sr. passed his house and land at 27 Summer St. to his grand nephew Nathaniel Knowlton (1658-1726), also a cordwainer and a deacon, in a bond with the proviso that Nathaniel and his wife care for him for the rest of his life, which they did until his death in 1692.

abraham_knowlton house
The Thomas Knowlton house, 27 Summer St.

During the time that Deacon Thomas Knowlton was planning and carrying out provisions for his old age, he had a new house erected on the property, and it is this house that survives today. Nathaniel and his family were already living with Thomas when the bond was made. His uncle Thomas Knowlton died in 1692. As the senior Thomas Knowlton was now 80 years old, the builder of this house was probably Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton’s brother (also named Thomas Knowlton, 1662-1750), a skilled carpenter.

An ecclesiastical history of Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton of Ipswich describes him as “a man of great distinction.” Upon his death in 1726, Nathaniel’s home passed at 27 Summer St. went to his widow Deborah and youngest son David (1707-1737). Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton is buried in the Ipswich Old North Burying Ground. In 1725 Deacon Nathaniel had gift-deeded part of his property to his son Abraham (1698-1751), on which the latter built his house still standing on County Street.

Sources:

Summer beam at 27 Summer St. in Ipswich
Summer beam with chamfer at 27 Summer Street. The chamfer stop, sometimes referred to as a “lambs’s tongue” closely resembles the chamfer stops in the Whipple House.
First Period roof framing
Summer beams in the Knowlton house
Summer beam and exposed framing in the Knowlton house

The Knowlton houses of Ipswich

27 Summer Street, the Thomas Knowlton house (1688) - Humphrey Bradstreet. sold his house and land to Deacon Thomas Knowlton in 1646. In 1688 Knowlton passed his house and land to his grand nephew Nathaniel Knowlton with a new house erected on the property, and it is this house that survives today.
16 County Street, the Abraham Knowlton house (1726) 16 County Street, the Abraham Knowlton house (1726) - The original house is believed to have been constructed between 1725 and 1740. The house was in poor condition and in 2003 was restored by Ipswich architect Matthew Cummings. It is identical in construction to the Dennis-Dodge house a few doors away.

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