The Evolution of Architecture in Ipswich

1600: Agawam Longhouse: The Agawam Indians who lived here at the time of the settlers’ arrival often used a tepee as their summer home along the river and ocean but retreated to forests in the winter where they lived in longhouses, a common building of the Iroquois Nation. Often up to 80 feet long and 20 feet wide, longhouses had openings at both ends covered with animal skins to keep out the cold. Poles were set in the ground and connected to horizontal poles on which large pieces of bark were sewn in place like shingles. Smoke from the central fire pit escaped through holes in the roof. Villages were made up of several longhouses housing multiple generations of each family. The example on the left was built at the Cuvilly Earth Center on Jeffreys Neck Road in Ipswich. Ninety percent of native Americans in our area had died from the plague when the Puritans arrived. In some areas the settlers spent their first winters in abandoned Native American longhouses.
1632: First Cottages in Ipswich: The Alexander Knight House next to the Whipple House on South Green is a re-creation of an early, English-style timber frame house from 1657 as described in Ipswich town records. This exhibit was built with traditional tools, materials and construction methods of the First Period, complete with a stone foundation, timber frame, wattle and daub chimney, water-sawn white oak boards and thatched roof. Jowled posts, girts, and braces were fitted to form an end wall. after which plates, studs, joists, principal rafters and purlins were pegged in place to complete the frame.
First Period: 1625–1725: half houseMany of the first permanent homes in Ipswich were built as “half-houses”, one room wide, one room deep and one or two stories high with the fireplace and chimney on one side. As the colonists found more time and became more financially secure, they expanded their homes by building the other side. While no early Ipswich half-house remains in its original form, the Baker – Newman house at 14 East Street built in 1725 is typical of the style. Many similar homes exist in the historic neighborhoods of Ipswich, and the owners have retained the historic appearance by expanding to the rear.
First Period: 1625–1725: Expanded houseColonists completed their houses as their fortunes grew. In some cases a half house was simply doubled, but frequently another small structure was moved to the location and attached to the existing house. Many houses show multiple roof lines, indicating that the second floors were also a subsequent addition. The most prominent example in Ipswich is the Merchant Choate house at 103 High Street . The right section is the original structure built between 1639 and 1650 as a simple story and a half cottage The section on the left was later added later and has finer woodworking.
First Period: Old World Post and Beam: The early homes built as full-width houses started out as one room deep and two rooms wide with massive central chimneys, steeply pitched roofs and were clad in unpainted wood clapboards. Second floors and salt box extensions were usually added. Sometimes they featured a second story overhang with decorative pendants, Doors were batten (constructed of vertical boards). 7 Summer Street, the Thomas Knowlton house at 7 Summer Street is a First Period home built in 1688. The 2 story timber frame home has traditional English overhangs on the front and sides. Thomas Knowlton Sr. was a cordwainer and a master builder who emigrated from England.
Second Period: Georgian: 1725–1780: Similar in appearance to full-width First Period houses, Georgian houses can be distinguished by their perfect symmetrically, central chimneys, double-hung with nine or twelve lights (panes) per sash. The second story windows in most New England Georgian homes reached the cornice. Later Georgian homes added classical details including cornice decorations, dental molding, decorative crowns or pediments and pilasters surrounding the doorways. Paneled front doors featured a row of window panes at the top or in a transom above the door. After 1750, Georgian homes generally had two end chimneys instead of the one central chimney. The Georgian style Haskell – Lord House at 21 High Street was built circa 1750 by Mark Haskell, an Ipswich cabinet-maker.
Second Period: Gambrel: Gambrel roofs were fairly common on Second Period buildings, even on fine Georgian homes. This roof style offers more attic room for standing, allowing a one story building to serve as two. The Nathaniel Hodgkins House at 48 Turkey Shore Road was built in 1720.
Federal: 1780–1830: Federal (or Federalist) houses represent a clean break from English architectural influence after the Revolutionary War. Like Georgians, they can be side-gabled but the larger homes frequently are designed with a low-pitched hip roof and side chimneys rather than a single central chimney. Door surrounds were often elaborate with sidelights and transoms. Elliptical fanlights are found on almost all Federal homes and are a distinguishing characteristic. Entry porticoes, rarely seen on Georgian homes are common on Federal houses. Outside of New England, homes built during this period are often more elaborate and the style is called “Adam”. Three Adam brothers from Scotland elaborated on the more practical Georgian style, adding swags, garlands, urns, and Neoclassical details. The Heard house on South Main Street is a Federal style structure built in 1795 by wealthy John Heard. The Heard house was purchased in 1936 by the Ipswich Historical Society and now houses the Ipswich Museum.
Greek Revival: 1830–1860 : High Style: The Greek Revival style drew from the architecture of classic Greek temples and became known as the “National Style” in America between 1830 and 1850 because of its nationwide popularity. Massachusetts architect Benjamin Asher disseminated the Greek Revival style through his influential house plan books. A characteristic shared by virtually all Greek Revival buildings is the wide band of woodwork and trim below the cornice.. Many Greek Revival houses have pilasters to represent columns or paneled trim at the building corners. Full height sidelights are found on many Greek Revival houses versus the partial-height sidelights seen on Federal houses. Palladian windows are absent on Greek Revival buildings. At 2 Meeting house Green, the Joseph N. Farley ca 1842 has a Greek Revival portico and door frame, with horizontal flush boarding.
Cape Cod Colonial: While we associate the Cape style with simple homes of the 20th Century, the form has been with us for much longer. This elegant Cape Cod Colonial at 37 Summer Street was built in 1825. Like many capes from the Greek Revival era it features a balanced facade, centered door with entablature and corner pilasters, a wide frieze board at the roof line, dental molding and elaborate cornice returns. The form is often similar to Colonial Revival homes of the late 19th and early 20th Century.
Greek Revival: 1830–1860 : Gable to Street. An innovation of the Greek Revival period was building homes with the narrower front gable end facing the street to represent a temple-like façade. The houses were usually painted white and featured dark green shutters. This house at 24 Summer Street has faithfully retained its Greek Revival appearance.
Gothic Revival: By the 1840’s architects had begun drawing from the Picturesque, or Romantic literary movement and were inspired by medieval and non-classical themes instead of the classical Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival styles. Steeply pitched roofs, cross gables, and lacy vergeboards (gable trim, also called bargeboards) characterize Gothic Revival houses. The Gables on South Village Green behind the John Baker House is a fascinating Gothic Revival structure designed by mathematician David Baker in 1846 as an upscale lodging for lawyers in town for the Ipswich court. This was the first major architectural style to use balloon framing, which was a radical change in construction method from traditional post and beams.
Italianate: The Italianate style (sometimes called the “Bracketed Style”) was introduced in the United States by Alexander Jackson Davis as an alternative to Gothic or Greek Revival styles, and was popular in New England during the 1860’s and 70’s due to its suitability with newer building materials and the development of metal technology that made the mass-production of decorative elements possible. Loosely based on Italian countryside homes, Italianate houses were at least two stories and had low-pitched roofs with wide, overhanging eaves supported by ornamental brackets. Windows tend to be tall and narrow with elaborate crowns. paired and triple windows are common. Italianate was the most popular house style in America in the 1860s and 70s. The Ipswich Inn at the head of North Main was built in 1863, a fine example of Italianate / early Victorian architecture, has a “belvedere” on the main roof for ventilation and an open curved front stairway. The house originally had a wrap-around porch. The popularity of Italianate architecture waned as architectural styles became even more elaborate during the Victorian era.
1880: Second Empire (Victorian): The Theodore Cogswell House at 21 North Main Street was built in 1880 in the popular 2nd Empire style, which always included a Mansard roof. The roofs of many Federal homes and commercial buildings were replaced by the popular Mansard roofs, which allowed the addition of a third floor of living space within the roofed area. The Second Empire style is closely related to the Italianate style with its paired decorative brackets and paired windows and doors. Molded cornices and slate roofs are characteristic of the Second Empire style.
Painted Lady (Victorian / Greek Revival mix): The house at 59 Washington Street built in 1887 faces the street similarly to a Greek Revival house, has Palladian windows in the attic like an Italianate house and the elaborate cornices and multiple colors of paint define it as a “Painted Lady” of the Victorian era.
The following three Victorian styles tend to be blended in Ipswich homes:
Victorian: Stick (1860–1890) (Victorian)The Stick style was a transitional step from Gothic Revival to the Queen Anne style, with steeply pitched gable roofs and the decorative wood external woodwork that highlighted Queen Anne buildings. The William Russell house at 12 High Street built in 1890 was one of the first large elaborate Victorian homes in Ipswich and combines the linear woodwork of Stick with the colorful patterns of the Queen Anne style. Unlike the Shingle style of Victorian homes, the siding on this house is clapboard.
Victorian: Queen Anne (1880–1910): The Sadie Stockwell house at 7 East Street, built in 1888incorporates the Victorian”Shingle Style”of siding but has ornamental features and bold colors. High-style Queen Anne houses are the most intricately decorated Victorian style, featuring asymmetrical facades, a steeply pitched, irregularly shaped roofs with towers and turrets and multiple surface materials creating textured walls. Multi-colored paint schemes emphasized trim details. Ornamental corbels (brackets) provide support for the steep overhangs
Victorian: Shingle (1880–1900). The Shingle Style was the last of the elaborate Victorian architectural forms, and represented an interest in the whole house and the beginning of a return to traditional American practicality. Windows had no classical pediments and the Gingerbread cornice woodwork of earlier Victorian styles is absent. Rooflines tend to be softened in comparison to earlier Victorian styles. The large Victorian. Bailey House at 48 Market Street was built in 1901. The rounded towers soften the roofline, bringing the house into a softer harmony. Towers and turrets tend to blend into the house rather than be strictly defined. Shingle-style houses often use a single large roof, as opposed to the multiple gables of Queen Anne and Stick style Victorians. These houses have a more pronounced mass and thus emphasize more of a horizontal appearance than earlier Victorians.
Folk Victorian houses featured carved brackets under the eaves and porches with jigsaw trim. This style was less common in conservative New England and by the beginning of the 20th Century homes rarely had such elaborate woodwork.. The elegant yellow Victorian house at 14 Liberty Street in Ipswich was built about 1900 at the end of the Victorian period. The wider floor plan and shorter elevation suggests that the builders incorporated modern framing methods that were not available in the mid-1800′s when Victorian houses were still being built with post and beam construction. The house features a partial wrap-around porch and original woodwork and stairs inside. It features a cursory amount of Victorian trim under the gable.
Tudor Revival (1880–1940). The Tudor Revival style drew from medieval English architecture and was ignited by William Morris, a promoter of the British Arts and Crafts movement in the late nineteenth century. The form was based on broad reinterpretations of English manor houses. Enormously popular in the 1920s and 30s, it benefited from advances in masonry veneer technique that facilitated brick and stucco façades. Steeply pitched roofs, prominent cross gables, half-timbering, large chimneys with chimney pots and tall narrow windows are found in the Tudor Revival style. Entrance doorways are typically arched and elaborate. Few Tudor style homes exist in Ipswich, the most famous being Crane Castle. The Tudor home at 27 Kimball Avenue is an extraordinary example of this intricate form.
Colonial Revival (1880–1955). The Colonial Revival style is one of the longest lasting in American Architecture. Recapturing the feel of 18th century American homes, the Colonial Revival movement expressed a renewed interest in the history and culture of the east coast colonies. Reacting to rapid changes that came with industrialism and immigration, it served to strengthen traditional notions of patriotism, culture and moral responsibility. Colonial Revival homes range from well-built single story structures to elegant two story end-gable houses that draw heavily on Georgian and Federal architecture. Typical Colonial Revival buildings are rectangular, symmetrical structures with gable or hip roofs and dormers. Front doors are usually elaborated with a combination of pediment, pilasters, columns, fanlights or sidelights; windows are double hung and multi-pane, usually with six lights per sash. Palladian windows, broken pediments, and corner quoins are often seen as decorative accents. Cornices are embellished with dentils or modillions. The Jewett House at 4 Water Street was built in 1880 and has the characteristic extended boxed eave, 3 bay facade, symmetrical windows and centered door with entablature portico with pediment and pilasters on either side
The Ipswich Mills Historic District is the working class community. west of EBSCO Publishing , bordered by Union Street, the MBTA commuter rail tracks and the Ipswich River. The Brown Stocking Mill Historic District is across Topsfield Road and includes mills and worker housing dating from 1906. on Broadway,. Brownville and Burleigh Avenue. Due to their historic nature, the two Ipswich neighborhoods were each eligible for designation as a National Historic District. This house on Second Street is similar to many in the mills district. The modest Greek Revival style allowed the builders to build the houses closer together in rows along the street. The neighborhood has experienced a resurgence since the Recession of 2005, offering affordable and comfortable housing in a compact neighborhood with walking distance to downtown
Bungalow: The space-efficient floor plan of bungalow houses is designed to cluster the kitchen, dining area, bedrooms, and bathroom around a central living area. In North America a bungalow today is thought of as a small single story home with a low-rise roof and front porch, occasionally with a second floor that has dormer windows. In the early 20th Century the style included larger homes. A common feature of Bungalow style homes in New England is a large central hall with a living room on one side and dining room on the other. This home on Spring Street is an exceptionally large Bungalow and a gracious enclosed front porch.
The Craftsman style was born in California and drew inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement and its focus on natural materials. Widely disseminated through pattern books and magazines, it became the most prevalent style for small houses in the nation until the Depression. One and 1½ story Craftsman style houses are popularly known as bungalows. In common with the Prairie style, the hallmark of a Craftsman house is its roof. In this case it’s generally a shallow gable (versus hipped) roof with overhanging eaves and visible roof beams and rafters. Full or partial-width porches with tapered square supports, often of stone or concrete block, are typical. Characteristic bungalow windows are double-hung with rectangular divided lights in the top sash and a single light in the bottom sash. Two identical homes at 43 and 51 Turkey Shore Road are built in the Bungalow Porch Style, an eastern adaptation out of California’s Arts and Crafts movement. The expansive front porch opens the living room to the yard, forming a connection between the home and the scenic neighborhood. Prominent round columns and wide window casings on the porch make it a decorative extension of the interior. The style is very similar to folk style houses in the warmer U.S. south, and in New England many such porches were eventually enclosed.
The American Foursquare style was popular from the late 1800’s into the 1930’s. Its cubical shape generally enclosed four square rooms above 3 square rooms with the entry on one side of the front facade. These houses offered low-cost and fit on small lots. The roof is usually pyramidal or hipped. A porch and small dormer on the second floor are common. Foursquare houses are typically wood frame finished with wood, brick or stucco. This architectural form has a similarity to the Prairie style and dignified touch of the Arts and Crafts movement. The Foursquare home in this photo is located at 25 Woods Lane in Ipswich.
Neoclassical became a dominant style for public buildings nationwide in the 1930’s, inspired by the Beaux-Arts style and featuring classical symmetry, full height porches with columns and a temple front, and elaborate classical decorative ornaments such as dentil cornices. The Ipswich Town Hall on Green Street was built in 1936 as a high school and has many neoclassical features. The popularity of classical Greek architecture was renewed after the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair displayed historical European architectural styles in the Colombian Exposition. Memorial Hall at 33 Central Street also has a neoclassical facade with other interesting classical elements. It was constructed in 1921 to honor the Ipswich veterans of World War I.
The informal lifestyle associated with Mid-Century Modern style homes featured an open floor plan with adjacent living, dining and kitchen areas, and large sliding glass doors that open onto adjacent decks and patios, blending indoor and outdoor living areas. Frank Lloyd Wright embodied this form with his homes. The former home that now houses the Ipswich River Watershed Association at 143 County Road exemplifies this style, designed with openness to its surroundings and a view from the large deck of the river behind it.
The ranch style house became dominant in the post-WWII building explosion. Young couples were able to buy into the American dream cheaply with the GI bill guaranteeing up to 50% of the loan. The style was common in suburban tract housing built during this period. The popularity of these houses waned in the late 20th century in favor of more elaborate homes, but the aging baby boom generation and a newer generation that didn’t grow up in these homes are once again appreciating the advantages of single-floor living. This house at 17 Mill Road is the home of this author and is a modified ranch with changes in the roof line that help disguise the linear line configuration of ranch houses.
“Starter Mansion”.The large houses that popped up in late 20th Century developments are collectively known as “McMansions” and “Starter Castles.” Large openings accommodated the front doorways, opening to floor plans that featured a minimum of partitions, spacious living rooms and extensive kitchens. Bedrooms are on the second floor and garages are typically at the foundation level. As with the earlier Ranch developments, landscaping is not a primary consideration in placement. Ironically these large houses were built at the same time that American families were shrinking and both parents working to afford the mortgage. In the aftermath of the real estate bust prospective home-buyers are looking at more modest homes like this “Mini McMansion” on Leslie Road. The front entry on this house suggests the post-medieval cross style, while the dormers and “five over four” windows bear similarity to a Georgian home.