Water St. and the Green St. bridge
Water St. and the Green St. bridge

In the book, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Volume I, Thomas Franklin Waters recorded the history of Water Street, which is part of an early public right-of-way that extended from the wharf to the Green Street Bridge, then cotinued along the Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk to County St.

“Close by the river bank, on either side, a public way was sedulously preserved from any encroachment. On the north side of the river it still remains in Water Street, and originally it seems to have continued near the river, through the present County lands. On the south side it skirted the river, followed Turkey Shore, and continued round the cove to the saw-mill. There were ways to the Labour-in-vain fields, and to the Heartbreak Hill lands, “Old England,” as we call it now.”

Clam shacks on Water St.
Clam shacks on Water St. Photo by George Dexter, circa 1890. Notice that at that time, Water St. was just a  wide dirt path.
The 1872 Ipswich map shows a section of Water Street missing. Between Summer Street and Hovey Street it was an unimproved dirt path.
The 1872 Ipswich map shows a section of Water Street missing. Between Summer Street and Hovey Street, Water St. was still an unimproved dirt pathway.

Water Street and Summer Street were the town’s first adopted “Ways,” and in the early years were known collectively as “The Way to the Meeting House,” and “The Way to the River.” The two streets host many of the town’s surviving First Period houses. Shown below are historic photos and postcards of the Ipswich River and Water Street, which were the seafaring areas of the village of Ipswich, and are the heart of the East End Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Water Street, Ipswich MA
Water Street at the foot of Summer Street.
The Ipswich River looking upstream
The Ipswich River looking upstream from the Green Street bridge.
Water St. at Town Wharf. The small building on the right may have been the old Customs House.
Water St. approaching the Town Wharf. The small building may have been the old Customs House.
The Ipswich River, running alongside Water St.
The Ipswich River, running alongside Water St.
The pirate Harry Maine's house on Water St.
The pirate Harry Maine’s house on Water St.
Water St at the foot of Hovey St.
The B. Ellsworth house at the foot of Hovey St. Glover’s Coal Wharf is on the far right.
Boats at Rest by Arthur Wesley Dow
“Boats at Rest” by Arthur Wesley Dow
Water Street near the Green Street bridge.
Water Street near the Green Street bridge.
Watercolor of the Glazier-Sweet house by Arthur Wesley Dow, who lived across the river.
Watercolor by Arthur Wesley Dow, who lived across the river.
Water Street and the Ipswich River from the Green Street bridge.
Looking toward the Green Street bridge.
Water Street at the foot of Summer Street
Water Street at the foot of Summer Street

Low tide on Water St.

Sunset by Arthur Wesley Dow
Sunset over town, by Arthur Wesley Dow
Block print by Arthur Wesley Dow of houses on Water Street.
Postcard of the Town Wharf, with Water St. in the background.
Postcard of the Town Wharf, with Water St. in the background on the right and the Green St. Bridge in the distance.
Postcard of the river at the Town Wharf
Looking downstream from the Town Wharf
wharf_river_east_st
Water Street is on the left in this photograph of the Town Wharf in the 19th Century.
A coal schooner at Brown's Wharf.
A coal schooner at Brown’s Wharf.
Glover’s Wharf was on Water St. near the Town Wharf.
The wharf area at the far end of Water St. in 1910.
The wharf area at the far end of Water St. in 1910.
The intersection of East and Water Streets at the Town Wharf
Water Street 1909, view from the current Ipswich Yacht Club site. In the background is Fall’s Coal Barn, which burned in the 1920’s.. Mr. fall delivered coal door to door with a horse-drawn wagon.
Water Street 1909, view from the current Ipswich Yacht Club site. In the background is Fall’s Coal Barn, which burned in the 1920’s.. Mr. fall delivered coal door to door with a horse-drawn wagon.

Herman Melanson’s Boatyard on Water Street burned in a spectacular fire on August 7, 2009.The boathouse was constructed by Herman Melanson’s father in 1954 and was also his residence. The entire building, three boats and several vehicles were destroyed. In previous years, Melanson’s boathouse had been an active boat-building facility. Mr. Melanson and his health-care worker managed to escape. This video was posted on Youtube by Donald Freyleue.

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