“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.
History of Historic Preservation in Ipswich
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), whereby a town may elect to establish an historic district administered by a commission “to promote the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the preservation and protection of the distinctive characteristics of buildings and places significant in the history of the commonwealth and its cities and towns or their architecture, and through the maintenance and improvement of settings for such buildings and places and the encouragement of design compatible therewith.”
Mission of the Ipswich Historical Commission
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
- Historic Plaques: Instructions for purchasing and installing an historic plaque on your home.
- Preservation Agreements: The Historical Commission acts as an agent for arranging and overseeing preservation agreements (aka covenants) between owners and the Town of Ipswich.
- Mary Conley Award: An annual award for historic preservation in honor of Mary Conley.
- Demolition Delay Bylaw: An Ipswich town meeting authorized the Historical Commission to implement a one year demolition delay for buildings over 75 years in age that are deemed to be architecturally or historically significant.
- Building Permits: The Historical Commission may be asked voluntarily by owners to review construction permits for buildings deemed historical, fall under the demolition delay bylaw, or are within National Registor historic districts. Ipswich does not have a local historic district
- Massachusetts Historic RehabilitationTax Credit Program: Approval by the local historical commission is one step in the application process
- Powers and responsibilities of the Ipswich Historical Commission are prescribed in the town Administrative Manual and in accordance with Section 8D of Chapter 40 of the General Laws of Massachusetts.
- Commission History
- Members & Contacts
- Application form for appointment to the Ipswich Historical Commission. Forms should be submitted to the town manager’s office along with a letter of introduction.