“A priceless reservoir of early American history”

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Ipswich, Massachusetts was settled in 1633 in an area the native Americans called “Agawam.” Ipswich is America’s best-preserved Puritan town, with more “First Period” houses (1625-1725) 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, an act for which the town became known as “The Birthplace of American Independence.”

The Ipswich Historical Commission was established in 1964 to support the preservation of historical properties, advise property owners, and implement the town’s Demolition Delay Bylaw when necessary. At Town Meeting in 2014, voters approved creation of an Architectural Preservation District.

Choate Bridge, Ipswich MA

Ipswich Historical Commission

The Ipswich Historical Commission 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 Commission works with the Ipswich Planning Commission and in cooperation with the Building Department. The Ipswich Historical Commission meets in the Mary P. Conley Room (bottom floor) at Ipswich Town […]

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Ipswich Architectural Preservation District

The  2014 Fall Town Meeting on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 established an Architectural Preservation District (APD) for the most historic areas of the town. Architectural Preservation District Bylaw Architectural Preservation District Map The bylaw was adopted at Town Meeting under the Home Rule Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution and will be administered by an Architectural Preservation District […]

Agawam Inn, Ipswich MA

Town Historian’s blog, “Stories from Ipswich”

Gordon Harris is the official town historian and vice-chairman of the Ipswich Historical Commission. He publishes a blog, Stories from Ipswich, with hundreds of local legends and stories about the town’s historic houses and the people who lived in them. Gordon’s other sites include: Ipswich Historical Commission Memento Mori, the Old North Burying Ground Bike New England Ipswich Trails […]

John Fiske

Archived articles

Articles on this site by John Fiske, chairman of the Ipswich Historical Commission; Gordon Harris, Town Historian, and other Ipswich residents.

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Historic Plaques for Houses

Many historic buildings have Ipswich Historical Commission plaques on their front façade. The sign shape and design is unique to our town. Step 1: Find your house name and date of construction Inventories of historic buildings are maintained by the Ipswich Historical Commission. All buildings 75 years or older are considered to be historic. High priority […]

South Main St., Ipswich MA

Historic Districts

 Visitors to Ipswich are able to see “streetscapes” of First and Second Period houses (1625-1725) and truly feel transported to an authentic colonial town of the 17th century. These early American streetscapes were built along trails used by the Agawam Indians, following the natural landscape. When the community grew around the Ipswich River and Meetinghouse […]

John Kimball house, 77 High St., Ipswich

First Period Houses

The First Period of colonial American architecture was approximately 1626 through 1725. There are more remaining first Period houses in Essex County, MA than anywhere else in the country, and Ipswich has more surviving First Period homes than any other town. First Period houses have steeply pitched roofs, are asymmetrical due to having been built in phases, […]

Phillip Call house, Ipswich MA

Preservation agreements (“Covenanted Houses”)

The Phillip Call house on High Street was among the first houses in Ipswich to have a preservation agreement. Since 1969 the Ipswich Historical Commission has been responsible for a voluntary program of binding Preservation Agreements between the Commission and homeowners to preserve the structure’s architecturally significant features. Under the voluntary Agreement’s provisions, the homeowner […]

Perkins-Hodgkins house, Ipswich MA

Historic Houses of Ipswich

Ipswich has 59 First Period houses, more than any other town in America. First Period houses  in New England were built by the English settlers, and  date from approximately 1630 to approximately 1725. They were often built as single rooms or “half- houses” with the entry and chimney on one side. These houses were often […]

MACRIS Ipswich MA

Ipswich at MACRIS

MACRIS is the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System. The following houses are from a search of Ipswich structures in the collected files. Go to MACRIS to view the complete list of structures.

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Historic Demolition Delay

The Historical Buildings Partial List of 760 historic buildings in Ipswich MA was created by Susan Nelson in 2006 for use by the Historical Commission and Building Inspector in implementing the Demolition Delay By-Law. The list is not complete and should not be used as a final guide. Download as PDF *Note: the Architectural Preservation District […]

Old North Burying Ground, Ipswich MA

The Old North Burying Ground

The Old North Burying Ground was established in 1634 upon the founding of the town of Ipswich. It is located at the intersection of High Street and Rt 133/1A. The first people known to be buried in the cemetery were the wife and child of John Winthrop, Jr., who led the settlement of the town. There are gravestones […]

Entrance to the South Cemetery, Ipswich MA

Ipswich Cemeteries

Memento Mori: the Old North Burying Ground (view and read on this site) Alphabetical listing of graves at the Old North Burying Ground Visit the new Memento Mori website View a complete one page listing of all burials in the book Memento Mori Read the book Memento Mori online Download Bruce Laing’s database of graves at the Old […]

Crane Castle, Ipswich MA

The Great Estates Bylaw

During the Gilded Age of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries Ipswich became home to several “Great Estates” including: The Proctor Estate: The mansion and outbuildings were built in 1908 for the Proctor family where they lived until the 1940’s. Now owned by New England Biolabs Crane Estate (Castle Hill, Crane Castle, Crane Beach, Castle […]

Thomas Dennis house, Ipswich MA

Preservation Resources

Preservation Preservation Briefs Affirmative Maintenance Bylaws MA Historical Commission MHC listserv Historic New England Preservation through Bylaws and Ordinances Preservation Massachusetts Community Preservation Act DCR Curators Easements for Protecting Historic Properties Guidelines for adding dormers Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) Preservation Tax Incentives Rehabilitation Tax Credit Time & […]

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350 Years of Ipswich History

Over Three Hundred & Fifty Years of Ipswich History was compiled by Elizabeth H. Newton, Alice Keenan and Mary P. Conley for the 350th Anniversary Committee of the Town of Ipswich Massachusetts in 1984.  It was revised  by Lee and William Nelson and reprinted in 2001. Foreword This history to honor our 350th anniversary began […]

Waldingfield Rd., Ipswich

Ipswich Scenic Byways

Ipswich has designated 23 roads throughout town identified as scenic under the Scenic Roads Bylaw in accordance with M.G.L. Chapter 40-15C. The town of Ipswich has produced a study called the “Green Ring Report” that documents goals for preserving the nature of the outlying areas of the town. Many of these are the most historic streets […]

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Streetscapes and Open Spaces

Visitors to Ipswich see “streetscapes” of First and Second Period houses (1625-1725) and truly feel transported to an authentic 17th Century town. The contiguous historic neighborhoods of Meeting House Green, High Street, East Street, County Street, Summer Street, South Green and along the Ipswich River are well-preserved streetscapes of centuries-old private residences. A comparison of today’s village with […]

Town Reports Ipswich MA

Town Reports

Most Ipswich town reports for the 20th Century are available online. Click on any date, then in the left column of the Archive page choose which format to use for viewing.

Something to Preserve, Ipswich MA

Something to Preserve

Something To Preserve was published by the Ipswich Historical Society in 1975 and is a report on historic preservation by protective agreements with owners of homes in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The town of Ipswich began to preserve at-risk historic homes after the town rejected efforts to set up a legal historic district. 

Online books about Ipswich , Massachusetts

Online books, documents and genealogy

Dozens of books and a wealth of information have been written about Ipswich, Massachusetts over the past 380 years. The Ipswich library and other sources make them available to read online at the site Archive.org. Many reprints and originals are available at Ipswich Greetings and Gifts on Market St., and through Amazon.com.

1856 map of Ipswich, MA

Maps of old Ipswich

1641 map from Ipswich in the Masssachusetts Bay Colony 1717 Ipswich village map 1795 Ipswich village map 1832 Philander map of Ipswich village 1832 Philander Ipswich town map 1856 Ipswich town map 1856 Ipswich village map 1872 Ipswich town map 1872 Ipswich village map 1872 Ipswich village map at Ward maps (zoom in for details) high […]