“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, Sir Edmund Andros. Arguing that taxation without representation was unacceptable, the town became known as “The Birthplace of American Independence”.
The Ipswich Historical Commission supports creation of an architectural preservation district to preserve Ipswich’s historic heritage. It would include most of our 59 First Period houses in the town’s oldest neighborhoods on High Street, the area around Meetinghouse Green and South Green, East Street and the rest of the historic East End area near and along the river. An architectural district originates from the desire of residents to preserve their neighborhoods and streetscapes, and would have less strict regulations than the historic district proposals that failed in the past.
Under the proposal, an architectural preservation board would be set up to conduct both binding and non-binding reviews of houses in the district. A non-binding review would provide homeowners with guidelines and tools to preserve the architectural integrity of their homes. The review would be for work on the exterior that required a building permit including changing windows, entryways, or porches, but not the exterior paint color. A binding review would be required when a homeowner proposes demolishing all or part of a house or doing new construction. The Ipswich Historical Commission voted to lend its support to this proposal in early 2013. Read the 2010 draft APD bylaw. Email Ipswich Historical Commission chairman Gordon Harris to help support the APD working group as we gather support for preserving the four National Registry designated Historic Districts in the oldest parts of town.
Historic District Designations
The National Register of Historic Places is the official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that have been determined significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture. All National Register properties are automatically listed in the State Register of Historic Places. The Ipswich National Register (NR) program began in 1966 with the listing of the John Whipple House individually and as a National Historic Landmark (NHL). Other listings since 1980 account for a total of seven districts and 62 individual structures. The National Park Service maintains the Registry of Historic Places and lists the following seven historic districts in Ipswich. Read more about Registry of Historic Places listings.
Meetinghouse Green Historic District: Town Hill was the governmental center for early Ipswich. By order of the General Court, dwellings had to be within one half mile of the Meeting House at Meeting House Green. A meeting house was built here by 1636, surrounded by a high wall to protect them from the ever-present danger from Indian attacks. Several churches have stood at this same spot. The Meeting House Green District includes thirty houses, three churches and the town library which are sited around the steep, rocky Green itself and along Main Street. It encompasses a wide range of architectural styles with approximately half of the structures dating from the eighteenth century and half from the nineteenth. Continue reading. View interactive map
|East End Historic District: The seafaring portion of the original village of Ipswich and offers an architectural history of the town’s development. It was here that the first houses were built in this town where fishing and lumbering were prominent industries. When settlers arrived in the 1630′s, wigwams, huts and hovels were constructed between Town Hill and what is now Town Wharf. The Ipswich River was the town’s avenue to the Atlantic. The East End is bounded on the north and west by East Street. That street extends from the High-North Main Streets intersection on the west to Jeffrey’s Neck Road on the north, skirting Town Hill. The River and its eastern bank (Turkey Shore Road) form the eastern boundary of the district from Town Wharf to the Green Street Bridge. Green Street is the southern edge of the District, enclosing Water, Summer and Hovey Streets and Agawam Avenue, and a major portion of County Street. Continue reading. View interactive map|
High St. Historic District: High Street was the main residential and commercial street of the new community. The predominant character of the street is now residential, but several of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Century houses along High Street earlier served as taverns, stores, or craftsman’s shops. One of the most important was the inn. Ipswich was on the road to Boston and a constant stream of travel passed through the town. The High Street National Register Historic District boundaries define the area of earlier settlement and later growth. Two other districts, the East End and Meeting House Green, define the eastern border of High St. Running west the boundary lines follow back lots of both the north and south sides of the street. Lord’s Square has been omitted from the district as it no longer conforms to the character of the area. The boundary lines continue west to the High St. bridge, which is a distinct boundary, for beyond it were common pastures during the 17th and 18th centuries. Continue reading. View interactive map
|South Green Historic District: The South Green dates from 1686 when the town voted that the area be held in common, and it has fulfilled various community needs. Cattle were gathered here to be driven to outlying pastures. All adult men reported monthly to the Green for military training. Above all, the South Green was the educational center of Ipswich. In fact, it was first known as the School House Green. Though most 17th century houses originally in the area are now gone, the John Whipple House represents that era very well. Moved from a site across the Ipswich River to its present lot at the north end of the Green in the 1930′s, this mid-17th century house is a National Historic Landmark. The rest of the Green is bordered by Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian houses as well as a mid-18th century cemetery. The Nathaniel Wade House c.1727, John Heard House c. 1795, Locke’s Folly 1835-37 and “The Gables”, c. 1846 are among the most notable houses ringing the ancient training field. The Heard House marks the Northwest corner, then the boundary line runs south to Saltonstall Creek, crosses County Rd., then runs north to the Sweeney Tavern, which marks the northeast corner. Continue reading. View interactive map|
|Ipswich Mills and Brown Mills Historic Districts: The Ipswich Mills Historic District is the community in Ipswich MA west of EBSCO Publishing bordered by Union St., the MBTA commuter rail tracks and the Ipswich River. The former woolen and stocking mill buildings more recently housed Sylvania’s fluorescent lighting plant, and are where in 1942 Sylvania designed and assembled the proximity fuse for WWII bombs. The buildings now are the home of EBSCO Publishing. The Brown Stocking Mill Historic District is across Topsfield Road and includes mills and worker housing dating from 1906 at the Brown Stocking Mill on Brownville Ave. established by Harry Brown. Both districts were added to the National Park Services Registry of Historic Places in August of 1996 . That same year EBSCO Publishing moved into the old Ipswich Woolen Mills buildings. In 1868, Amos A. Lawrence established the original Ipswich Hosiery Mills in the old stone mill on County Street. By the turn of the 20th century the company had moved to the Ipswich Mills location and had become the largest stocking mill in the country. Continue reading|
|Castle Hill Historic District: Castle Hill is nationally significant as a major surviving example of a landscaped estate of the “Country Place Era”at the turn of the 20th century, when wealthy Americans constructed houses in the countryside as retreats from crowded, industrialized cities. It comprises an entire complex made up of a great house with spectacular formal landscaping, recreational and entertainment spaces, working farm and greenhouses, and other support buildings. It was the summer home of Richard T. Crane, Jr., the early 20th century plumbing magnate. Continue reading|
Covenants: In 1969, a combination of federal and local funds made it possible for the Ipswich Historical Commission to develop a demonstration project in the use of easements to secure voluntary binding Preservation Agreements that would be a partnership between the Commission and the homeowners to preserve the architecturally significant features of their home, both exterior and interior. The contracts are between the town of Ipswich represented by the Ipswich Historical Commission and owners / future owners until the year 2100. The Historical Committee urges current owners of other historical properties to consider creating such an agreement.A preservation restriction (PR) runs with the deed and is one of the strongest preservation strategies available. All properties which have preservation restrictions filed under the state statute are automatically listed in the State Register. Ipswich has the largest preservation restriction program in the Commonwealth with 36 properties protected in this fashion, primarily First Period buildings. View covenanted houses.