Historic Ipswich, America’s First Period Town


 “A Priceless Reservoir of early American History”

The Whipple House on the South Green

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

Thomas Knowlton House, Summer St.( First Period)

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.

Friends of Historic Ipswich is a grass-roots effort to protect our most historic neighborhoods. We support establishment of an Architectural Preservation District (APD) that would include four historic areas of town listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Architectural Preservation District Proposal

George Farley House, North Main St. (Victorian)

What is an Architectural Preservation District (APD)?

Similar to a Neighborhood Conservation District, an APD is the product of a grassroots initiative by local residents to preserve an area with particular architectural or historical significance.

Doesn’t Ipswich have an Historic District?

Ipswich has six neighborhood districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This listing recognizes the historic and architectural significance of our community but has no local authority and does not provide protection from demolitions or inappropriate new construction.

Glazier-Sweet House, Water Street (late First Period)

What areas would be in the Architectural Preservation District?

The exact boundaries of the APD will be determined with input from town residents. Houses near Meeting House Green, the East End, South Green, and the High Street National Register Districts are among the oldest areas of Ipswich and could receive long-overdue protection.

Why do we need an APD?

For generations, Ipswich residents have taken care to preserve the historic quality of their properties. An APD will help  assure that future generations can enjoy our town’s unique historical and architectural heritage.

First Period houses on High Street

How would the APD affect me?

The proposed APD bylaw would provide a participatory process for protection and an educational means for providing architectural information. A preservation commission consisting of town residents would review applications for construction permits in the proposed district. Decisions regarding new construction or demolition would be binding, while reviews of other proposed alterations would be voluntary and are designed to help homeowners benefit from the expertise of the Commission. Interior work, paint colors, roofing and most repairs would be exempt from review.

David Giddings House, County Rd. (Federal)

What are the advantages of establishing an Architectural Preservation District in Ipswich? 

An APD protects the investments of owners and residents byl encouraging thoughtful design and community cohesion. Preservation of homes and streetscapes is an important part of a comprehensive environmental policy, and creating an APD preserves a timeline and record of our community. Preservation of local historic neighborhoods promotes economic growth, and important decisions about preserving our community are made through a structured participatory process.

Further Reading

1st and 2nd Period houses on County Street

Ways to help support creation of an Architectural Preservation District

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