Ipswich Historical Commission


“A Priceless Reservoir of early American History”

Ipswich Massachusetts was founded in 1633 in an area the native Americans called “Agawam.” The oldest part of town has remained to an exceptional degree intact, and the town has more “First Period” houses (1625-1725) still standing than any other community in America.

In 1687 Ipswich residents were arrested and imprisoned for protesting a tax imposed by the new crown-appointed governor, and act for which the town became known as “The Birthplace of American Independence.” Ipswich is known as the best-preserved Puritan town in America, and the credit goes to generations of citizens in our town. The Ipswich Historical Commission (IHC) was established in 1964 to support the preservation of historical properties, advise property owners, and implement the town’s Demolition Delay Bylaw when necessary. The Historical Commission works with the Ipswich Planning Commission and in cooperation with the Building Department.

Ipswich Historical Commission Links

Nathaniel Wade House, South Green, Ipswich MA

Nathaniel Wade House near South GreenHistory of the Ipswich Historical Commission History

Contact Information

Questions and Answers

State of Massachusetts Links

History of Historic Preservation in Ipswich

Capt. John Appleton House, North Main St. (Georgian)

In 1962 a major oil company purchased the historic Appleton House at the corner of North Main Street and Central Street, intending to demolish and replace it with a service station. The Ipswich Heritage Trust was organized under the aegis of the Ipswich Historical Society (now the Ipswich Museum) to save this house. A year later the Selectmen established the Ipswich Historical Commission, which has helped over 30 owners of historic homes establish preservation covenants for their properties.

The Ipswich Historical Commission (IHC) was established on March 2,1964 to aid the Ipswich Historical Society and the Town in discouraging the demolition or inappropriate renovation of historically significant homes. IHC’s aegis stems from the Historic Districts Act, Chapter 40C of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MLG)

Mission of the  Ipswich Historical Commission

The Howard-Emerson House on Turkey Shore, former home of artist Arthur Wesley Dow

Emerson – Howard House, Turkey Shore Road, circa 1680

The  Historical Commission acts to serve, protect, and develop the historical and archaeological assets of the Town. The Commission consists of seven members appointed by the Town Manager with the approval of the Selectmen for staggered three-year terms.  

The mission of the Ipswich Historical Commission is to support the preservation of historical properties, advise property owners, and implement the town’s Demolition Delay Bylaw when necessary. Historical structures deemed “at-risk” are subject to a one year demolition delay. Read the full powers and duties of the Ipswich Historical Commission as dictated by the Ipswich Administrative Manual and Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40 Section 8D.

Responsibilities of the Historical Commission 

  • Meet monthly and advise the Selectmen on policies and legislation concerning the preservation, protection and development of historical or archaeological assets in the Town
  • Keep accurate records of its meetings and actions and file an annual report which shall be printed in the annual town report.
  • Survey and compile a listing of all historical sites and buildings within the Town.
  • Report to the state archaeologist and/or the State Historical Commission the existence of any archaeological, paleontological or historical site or object discovered.
  • Assist the Town in preservation of historic documents.
  • Make recommendations that places be certified as an historical or archaeological landmark.
  • Recommend that the Town acquire property of significant historical value, and may manage the same.
  • Hold hearings furthering the objectives of the Commission’s program.
  • Promote the awareness and preservation of historical buildings and places in the town through publications and a website.
  • Arrange historical preservation agreements (“covenants”) with individuals, organizations, and institutions.
  • Act as the agent for the Selectmen in the oversight of town buildings with covenants.
  • Determine the requirements for repair, reconstruction, and protection of historical landmarks.
  • Administer and enforce provisions of “The Demolition Delay By-Law.”
  • Receive administrative support through the Planning and Development Department, the Building Inspector and Town Manager.
  • Interact with the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Public Works Department, the Conservation Commission, and the Board of Health when those boards are considering properties of historical or archaeological value.
  • Issue historic plaques for homeowners and conduct research necessary to authenticate the dates.
  • Make the annual Mary P. Conley Award for preservation of historic buildings.
  • Approval by the local historical commission is one step in the application process for the Massachusetts Historic RehabilitationTax Credit Program

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