Phillip Call house, 26 High Street, built in 1659
Phillip Call house, 26 High Street, built in 1659

The Phillip Call House at 26 High St. in Ipswich is a 2 story timber-frame First Period house built by cordwainer Philip Call about 1659, enlarged around 1725. It was probably at first a one over one “half house” with the front door on the right side. The evolution of this property to its current twelve rooms is an outstanding example of careful adaptions of various periods over four generations. Pleasant surprises were awaiting when the house was purchased by the current owners in 1967. Its careful restoration uncovered a chamfered 17th century summer beam and 17th century field paneling behind newer walls. The Victorian paneling which covered these earlier panels was removed and is still in storage.

Paul and Kathleen McGinley removed Victorian-era wall panels and found that the hand-made paneling underneath was well-preserved. They also exposed the First Period summer beam that supports the ceiling and floors above.

An unusually placed cross girt receives the main summer beam at its west end, indicating that the girt once served two small rooms. This would suggest an original three-room floor plan of early English style construction. Due to the fine framing, the house is believed to have been of high-ranking for its time and endures as a splendid specimen today. The rear yard features a three-hole privy (now used as a potting shed) and a boxwood garden.

After Phillip Call’s death in 1662 his widow, Mary married Henry Bennet, and she at that time also owned the adjoining lot that has the home of Joseph Bolles, still standing. Phillip Call’s son inherited his cattle, etc., and their daughter continued to live in the house into the 1700’s.

Far left, 2nd fl, small room, corner post, window frame
Gunstock post and beams in the Phillip Call house

The Preservation Agreement (“covenant”) for the Philip Call House does not permit any alterations to be made to the front and side exterior of the building, the central frame, the wooden architectural elements, paneling, mantelpieces, doors and other molded detail on the first and second floor inner walls of the original (one over one) 1659 dwelling.

Original 17th Century hall: This is the main room of the house, circa 1658, with a harmonious integration of 17th, 18th, and 19th Century architecture, woodwork and paneling. The original mid-17th Century frame, including a rare T summer beam construction. The summer beam is chamfered with outstanding lambs tongue molding at both ends. Eighteenth Century raised field paneling was covered over in 1858 by a lath and plaster wall. Daniel P. Norse, carpenter, conveniently left his name over the fireplace, and the date when he covered the wall. The chimney dates to about 1725. The original fireplace would have been much larger, but contains an interesting smoke chamber.East Ante-Room: Owner’s office. This original component of the 17th Century house features all of the Victorian detailing and woodwork when the owner purchased the house in 1966.

Keeping Room (south addition): A two-story addition was attached to the rear of the original house, circa 1725. This includes the construction of the fireplace as shown in this room with bake ovens. To the south was added a second stairway to the upper level with hand-planed paneling and various residents’ carvings, sketches and inscriptions. This has been uncovered, stripped of paint and refinished to preserve its integrity.

Master bedroom: A 17th Century frame and summer beam with early 18th Century raised field paneling and fireplace. Abbott Cummings felt it is some of the most significant paneling of this era. Two hand-made wood doors, circa 1725 on the east wall are very significant. Two adjacent east rooms feature early 17th Century wood gunstock corner posts and end beams.

Early history of the Phillip Call House

from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters

Philip Call owned a house on this lot in 1659, and, by the deed of Woodam to Brown of the adjoining lot, in 1663, he was still in possession. Brown’s deed of the abutting lot to Paine, gives the owner of this lot as Philip Call’s widow, Mary, then the wife of Henry Bennet. Nathaniel Lord sold this lot to his son-in-law, Joseph Bolles, March 29, 1710. Bolles also bought of Joseph Fowler, owner of the abutting lot, a house and an acre of land, March 5, 1722. Charles Bolles sold his grandson, John Manning 3d, surgeon, an acre and house, bounded by Nathaniel Lord east, and Capt. Ebenezer Lord west, the estate of his deceased father, Jan 16, 1786. Dr. Manning sold the western part of the lot with a house,that he probably built, to Daniel Lord 3d, April 23, 1798, and the heirs of Lord sold to Abraham Caldwell, whose heirs still own the property. Dr. Manning sold the eastern part and house to Ammi R. Smith, April 25, 1798. Smith bought a small pieceof Nathaniel Lord 3d on the east of his lot, Dec. 9, 1820 Abby H. Smith, the executor of Samuel R. Smith sold this estate to John G. Caldwell, being the same conveyed to him by Zenas Cushing in 1850, July 25, 1876. The Caldwell heirs still owned in 1900.

Owner description of the Phillip Call house

Phillip Call House
26 High St., Ipswich MA
ca. 1658

Original house: 2 ½ story frame house, built as a half house, with the door on the right, a winding staircase and chimney (to provide for future expansion to the right of the front door, which is typical in Ipswich.

First Floor

Front Entry: 17th Century oak frame. The vestibule contains a framed original 1852 plan of the property with the house at the time, along with the outbuildings, trees and site facilities. At the base of the staircase are four framed late 19th Century photographs that show the house, streetscape and surrounding houses at that time. The vestibule and present main stairway to the 2nd floor were added to the house during the Victorian era.

Original 17th Century hall: This is the main room of the house, circa 1658, with a harmonious integration of 17th, 18th, and 19th Century architecture, woodwork and paneling. The original mid-17th Century frame, including a rare T summer beam construction. The summer beam is chamfered with outstanding lambs tongue molding at both ends. Eighteenth Century raised field paneling was covered over in 1858 by a lath and plaster wall. Daniel P. Norse, carpenter, conveniently left his name over the fireplace, and the date when he covered the wall. The chimney dates to about 1725. The original fireplace would have been much larger, but contains an interesting smoke chamber.

The windows and wainscoting date to the 19th Century. The front wall contains Indian shutters, but not for protection from Indians; they were really for privacy from the street. The front wall was applied over an earlier plastered wall with brick corbeling.

On the back of the east wall was found an early piece of American-made wallpaper. The discovery was made by Abbot Cummings, Director of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) in 1970. The pattern of the paper could not be determined since it was applied to poor quality paper, but on the back contained the maker’s name and stamp, Moses Grant who had his shop on Union Street in Boston between 1789-1816. This paper was dated between 1811 and 1813, and is now in the collection of Historic New England.

East Ante-Room: Owner’s office. This original component of the 17th Century house features all of the Victorian detailing and woodwork when the owner purchased the house in 1966.

Keeping Room (south addition): A two-story addition was attached to the rear of the original house, circa 1725. This includes the construction of the fireplace as shown in this room with bake ovens. To the south was added a second stairway to the upper level with hand-planed paneling and various residents’ carvings, sketches and inscriptions. This has been uncovered, stripped of paint and refinished to preserve its integrity.

The keeping room serves as a comfortable family room throughout the seasons with wood paneling, framing, pine ceiling, fireplace with wainscoting, early plaster, doorway to the rear deck and a large opening to the modern kitchen and rear staircase.

Modern Kitchen: When the owners purchased the property in 1966, this was the dining room with a dumbwaiter to the kitchen, which is still intact in the basement. The owners converted the old dining room into a modern eat-in kitchen which now contains large Marvin windows which face south and overlook the unique landscaped yard of ancient boxwoods, grape arbors, perennial gardens and herb gardens. During warm months, the 3rd story overhand above the kitchen allows these windows to remain open for fresh air, even during rainy days, to enjoy meals while overlooking the historic landscape of the fenced-in private yard.

The framed Garden Plan to the right of the Marvin windows is a historic plan of the rear yard, which shows all of the boxwood, trees, grape arbors and shrubbery which existed circa 1950. This plan was drawn by Sidney Shurcliff, an Ipswich resident and a nationally recognized landscape architect for a group of local women (including one of the owners) who inventoried the gardens at that time. The current residents preserved all of the remaining healthy landscape components, and have developed the period gardens in accordance with a plan developed by Louise Jewett, a noted historic garden designer.

Second Floor
Master bedroom: A 17th Century frame and summer beam with early 18th Century raised field paneling and fireplace. Abbott Cummings felt it is some of the most significant paneling of this era. Two hand-made wood doors, circa 1725 on the east wall are very significant. Two adjacent east rooms feature early 17th Century wood gunstock corner posts and end beams. One of the east rooms could serve as a new master bathroom, while the rear room could serve a an ancillary bedroom.

Northwest bedroom: Just above the front stairway, this early bedroom includes a tile-faced fireplace with mantel and circa 1725 wood flooring with direct access to the rear paneled hallway and down stairway.

South bedroom: A late 18th Century raising of the rear ell incorporated a southern-facing bedroom adjacent to the upstairs early bathroom.

Upstairs bathroom: An early intact indoor bathroom, with fine 19th Century wood wainscoting and modern sinks and cabinets, and a new heated tile floor. A significant feature in the bathroom’s southern facing windows is a diamond etching, “Abbie S. Smith,” dated October 9, 1870, as a member of the graduating class of the Ipswich Female Seminary, 1869. She was a daughter of Captain Ammi Ruhamah Smith, a found of the Seminary, a selectman of the town and a prominent owner of the town wharves.

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