27 East Street, the Widow Elizabeth Caldwell house (c.1740 / 1829)

27 East St., Ipswich MA
The Widow Caldwell house, 27 East St.

The house at 27 East Street in Ipswich is listed in the East End Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and is protected by inclusion in the Ipswich Architectural Preservation District.

A lot granted to John Baker in the area of 27-33 East St. was referred to in the early records of the town as the “clay pitts meadow.” John Baker sold this property to John Harris, and the meadow descended from John Harris to his sons. It was owned by John, then by John and William sons of John, and John sold his part of it to John Jr., Dec. 22, 1742. John Harris’ widow, Mary sold part of the lot to Joseph Wait (*a record of this sale has not been found).

Joseph Wait (1781-1864) sold a half acre lot for $175.00 to Elizabeth Caldwell, widow of Thomas Caldwell III, mariner, on May 6, 1829 (504:291). The widow moved a house from another site onto her property, but it is unstated what house(s) she moved nor the builder or its age. The house was inherited by her heirs, but the 1872 and 1884 maps show the owner’s name as Hovey.

The 4-bay front of the house at 27 East St. faces west instead of facing the street, and has a small entryway with winder stairs that is typical of earlier First Period houses. It sits on a stone foundation, and in one corner is a massive stone fireplace base, suggesting an earlier structure on that location. Basement beams under the front right bay have unused mortises indicating that they were reused from a previous structure, and that the right bay may have been added to a typical half-house before or after the house was moved. An examination of the attic would be indicative.

The rear two story ell along East St. sits on a brick foundation. The roof of the front structure was opened to connect the rear wing. Architectural features in both sections are modestly Georgian. An owner during the 1980s believed the ell is the older section. Based on observations, the two sections of the house date to about 1740; the west side was moved to the lot first, and then the ell attached to it. The fireplaces and chimney masonry sit on a brick arche in the basement and date to the time the houses were moved.

1832 Ipswich map shows the owner as “Wid. E. Caldwell”

Thomas and Elizabeth Caldwell

The Ipswich vital records lists two Thomas Caldwell born within a year of each other:

  • Thomas, son of Thomas and Elizabeth, was baptized Oct. 17, 1779.
  •  Thomas, son of Thomas, was baptized Sept. 17, 1780.

Thomas Caldwell, 3rd, age about 25 or 26, was the son of Thomas 2nd and Elisabeth Boardman. He married Elizabeth Sweet, Nov. 18, 1805, the daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Sweet, born Sept. 27, 1780. At the time she purchased the lot in 1829, she was 49 years old. Capt. Thomas Caldwell III owned the schooner Washington in 1806. As there is no gravestone for him, it is assumed he was lost at sea. Ipswich Vital Record show the death of Thomas Caldwell Jr., May 25, 1824, age 72, who would have been the father of Thomas III.

Gravestone inscriptions for two Thomas Caldwells at the Old North Burying Ground

  • E-212 Mr. Thomas Caldwell, Jr., obt. May 25, 1824, AEt. 73. Also, Mrs. Elizabeth, his first wife, obt. April 17, 1786, AEt. 39.
  • E-200 Sacred to the memory of Mr. Thomas Caldwell, who died Dec. 19, 1828, aged 81 years. My flesh shall slumber in the ground, till the last trumpet’s joyful sound; Then burst the chains with sweet surprise and in my Saviour’s image rise.

Lucy Caldwell, daughter of Thomas Caldwell and Elizabeth Sweet married Samuel Hunt, pub. Aug. 3, 1833. Their children were Mary Elisabeth, who married David Spiller; Abby; and Theodosia, who married Frederick Wilcomb.

Rafters and purlins at 27 East St. in Ipswich
Rafters and purlins at 27 East St. in Ipswich
fireplace at 27 East St., Ipswich
fireplace at 27 East St.
Indian shutters at 27 East St.
“Indian shutters” in the front wall at 27 East St.

*Research regarding the original location of the house at 27 East St: Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that the lot at 4 East St. was sold by the widow Mary Thorndike to John H. Dodge, April 9, 1814 (203: 77). This lot was acquired by James Staniford, whose heirs sold to Joseph Wait, June 16, 1830 (259: 235). (It is intriguing that James Staniford’s wife Mary Sweet was the aunt of the widow Elizabeth Sweet Caldwell. ) Joseph Wait and Committee for the Methodist Church built the house at 4 East St. with the intention that it be the Methodist Parsonage. Although there is no mention of an early house on the lot that was purchased from Mary Thorndike, it was the previous year that a house was moved to the Widow Caldwell’s lot at27 East St. When the lot at 6 East St. was sold to Daniel Russell by March in 1818 (220:234) the deed lists the heirs of Thomas Staniford as owners of the adjoining lot at 4 East St. But the Thomas Staniford house was a mansion built by Col. Francis Wainwright, and occupied 12 acres at the present location of the Ipswich Bed and Breakfast. The will of Thomas Staniford mentions only a “mansion house” and 12 acres. Capt. Staniford bequeathed his property to his four children, Mary, then the wife of Dummer Jewett, afterwards wife of Larkin Thorndike,) Those deeds mention a barn on the lot, but no other dwelling house than the mansion house. The possibility that Joseph Wait moved a house from 4 East St. to 27 East St. for the Widow Caldwell is not supported by available information.


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