27 Summer Street, the Thomas Knowlton house (1688)

The Thomas Knowlton house

27 Summer Street, the Thomas Knowlton house, First Period, was built in 1688. The 2-story timber frame home has traditional English overhangs on the front and sides.

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, another cordwainer, and William, a brick mason.

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. He married twice but had no children. Consequently, in 1688 Thomas passed his house and land at 27 Summer St. to his grand nephew Nathaniel Knowlton (1658-1726), also 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.


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. Because Nathaniel and his family were already living with Thomas when the bond was made, the house may have been built earlier. The builder is unknown, but it could have been another family member, Thomas Knowlton (1662-1750), a skilled carpenter and the brother of Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton.

The second owner of the home, Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton was also a cordwainer. An ecclesiastical history of Ipswich describes him as “a man of great distinction.” Upon his death in 1726, Nathaniel’s 27 Summer St. home passed 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 he latter built a house that also still stands, facing County Street.

Note: There was another Thomas Knowlton born in 1662, who was a grand nephew of Deacon Thomas (the first owner) and a brother of Deacon Nathaniel (the second owner). The Thomas born in 1662 was a housewright, and it is possible that he built the house.

Thanks to Elizabeth Knowlton for infomation in this article.


  • Waters, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony
  • The Hammatt Papers: Early Inhabitants of Ipswich, Massachusetts
  • The Christening Records of St. Margaret Parish, Uxbridge, Middlesex, England
  • Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988
  • Essex County, Massachusetts, Depositions Volume 1-8
  • A Sketch of the Ecclesiastical History of Ipswich
  • The Will, Bond and Agreement of Deacon Thomas Knowlton dated December 5, 1688
  • The Will of Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton dated July 25, 1726
  • The History and Genealogy of the Knowltons of England and America by Charles H. Stocking, 1897
  • Errata And Addenda to The History and Genealogy of the Knowltons by George H. Knowlton, 1903
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 beam and exposed framing in the Knowlton house

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