Abraham Choate House, 16 Elm St. (Now at Smithsonian)


For 200 years, this Georgian-style,  4200 sf 2 ½ – story timber-framed house stood at 16 Elm Street in Ipswich. Abraham Choate built the fashionable main section of the house in the 1760’s, and attached part of an older structure, built around 1710, to the rear of the house to create more space for his eight children.

Josiah and Lucy Caldwell bought the house in 1822 after Dodge’s death, and hosted meetings of the Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society in the home. The house was purchased as an investment in 1865 by the wealthy Heard family and divided into rental apartments for workers at the town’s hosiery mill.

In 1942 Mary Scott and her family lived owned the home, and in In 1961,Mary’s son Roy Scott moved out.The house stood empty and in 1963, the town of Ipswich planned to replace the house with a parking lot, but members of the Ipswich historical society saved it from the bulldozer on the day it was scheduled for demolition. When a backhoe arrived at the site to begin tearing down the house, they paid the crew chief to hold off while they called  the Smithsonian.The Smithsonian agreed to take the house and the contractor, A. B. C. Mulholland, donated it to the museum. The house was dismantled, trucked to Washington and reassembled in the National Museum of American History and became the centerpiece of an exhibition on two hundred years of American home-building technology.

Today, the house is the centerpiece of  “Within These Walls”, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC.  In  1963 Kay Thompson and Helen Lunt, two housewives recognized that chapters of American history, written within the walls of a simple clapboard house slated for destruction inIpswich, Massachusetts, were in peril. Through their efforts, the historic house was relocated to the Smithsonian where it still resides as the Museum’s largest single artifact on permanent display.

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