At 3 Summer Street is the Benjamin Kimball House, a 1720 two-story, end gable building with a center chimney.  The core of this house, probably a 2 room cape, is believed to have been moved to this location in 1803 and expanded at that time. The Benjamin Kimball house is first period but has been altered with Georgian and Federal influences. The walls and roof are constructed of huge beams with mortise and tenon joinery, and the first floor outside corners have gunstock posts, evidence that they once supported the roof.

When the large lot at the corner of North Main Street and Summer Street was divided after the death of its owner, Dr. Francis Holmes in the 1760’s, mention was made of a house lot that had been staked off at the lower end of the lot on Annable’s Lane (Summer Street). This is the lot on which the Benjamin Kimball house stands. The lot remained in possession of the Holmes heirs, and on June 10, 1803, Sarah Holmes, widow of John, sold it to Benjamin Kimball Jr. He built this house, and sold land and house on Sept. 5, 1803, to Elisha Gould. Gould sold to Daniel Lakeman 8 years later, and after 1836 it stayed in the family of James Staniford, into the 20th Century.

The Benjamin Kimball house in 1980, from the MACRIS site

Records indicate that Benjamin Kimball did not build a new house, but instead moved an existing cape-style house from further down Summer Street and added a full second floor to it. The identity of that house is unknown, but the structural elements are indicative of a first period or early second period building.

This house was Harold Bowen‘s home, and in 1976 he wrote about it in Tales of Olde Ipswich:

“My father bought this old home in 1918 and I have lived here ever since–58 years to be exact. Abbot Lowell Cummings of the Masachusetts Society for the preservation of Antiquites (SPNEA, now Historic New England) came here to look at my home. When he came in, Cummings first became interested in the gunstock posts. These are upright corner beams which are narrow at the bottom and wider at the top, and resemble the butt of a gun. Thusthe name. He couldn’t understand why they were on the first floor instead of the second story because the beams were so designed to carry the weight of the roof. He also noticed that the handrail on the second floor was different from that below.Right off, he said, “I want to see the attic chimney.” Right there on the chimney was the mark where the old roof had been. Originally, my house was a two-room one-story house.”

Harold Bowen (left), his parents and twin brother, in front of this house
Harold Bowen (left) with this twin brother (right) and their parents Henry S. and Mattie, in front of the Bowen residence, sometime in the 1920‘s
Mattie and Henry S. Bowen, who operated a print shop in the building behind the home.

This house is located in the Ipswich Architectural Preservation District and is additionally protected by a preservation agreement between its owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission.  Protected elements include:

  • Front and side facades of the original four room dwelling
  • Central frame including primary and secondary members
  • Central chimney
  • Wooden architectural elements in the front hall, including stairway, paneling, molding, and doors.

Information from the MACRIS site:

Benjamin Kimball jr. bought this house lot on June 10, 1803 (172:48) and”three months later he sold the lot with a dwelling to Elisha Gould (174:172). As detailed below, structural evidence suggests Kimball moved a mid-18th century, 1_ story house to the lot, and modified it extensively. At first glance, the two front rooms indicate a typical center chimney floor plan of the late 18th century, with an ell added later to the rear. But the stairway to the cellar reveals the end of a huge wooden lintel beam that spans a hidden fireplace. This large fireplace in the left front room, first floor, stands behind a smaller fireplace now visible in this room. In addition, the vertical cornerposts in the front two rooms of the first floor were shouldered at the first floor ceiling level, indicating that at one time a roof began at this point; hence the building was formerly a story-anda-half Cape instead of the present two story house. Further evidence supporting this theory may be seen in the change of stair detail: a simple heavy first-quarter-18th-century hand rail ending at the first floor ceiling is continued by a more delicate balustrade of the Federal period at the second story level. This was probably added by Kimball in 1803.

The Benjamin Kimball house over the years

The Bowen residence
The Bowen residence, 1940’s.
Harold Bowen's house
The Benjamin Kimball house, late Twentieth Century
Click To Enlarge
The Benjamin Kimball house at the beginning of the 21st Century