The South Green Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The proposal was submitted by Margaret E. Welden for the Ipswich Historical Commission and is copied below.
The South Green dates from 1686, when the town voted that the area be held in common, and it has fulfilled various community needs. Cattle were gathered here to be driven to outlying pastures. All adult men reported monthly to the Green for military training. Above all, the South Green was the educational center of Ipswich. In fact, it was first known as the School House Green.
As early as 1636 a Grammar School was established in Town. Ezekiel Cheever, famous New England educator, came to Ipswich in 1650 as schoolmaster. The first schoolhouse was built on the corner of Poplar and County Road. by 1652 and Cheever taught there until 1660. The Grammar School remained in this location until 1704, when it was moved to the new Town House on Meeting-House Green. In the mid-18th century Madam Rogers, wife of Samuel Rogers, kept a school for young ladies in her home at the north end of South Green. In 1794 the Grammar School moved back to the area into a new building on the corner of County and Argilla Roads. From 1828, the South District of town shared the building for its own school, and in 1836 the Grammar School merged with a new English High School. That merger brought radical changes in the scope and purpose of the Grammar School, and many residents marked that date as the passing of the ancient school. The second district school moved to a new building nearby at Payne and Poplar Streets about 1850, and the High School left the old South Green building in 1874.
Today the South Green is no longer the educational center of Ipswich. The boundaries of the South Green essentially ware determined when the Green was set aside by the town 300 years ago, and today they remain nearly the same. The Heard House marks the Northwest corner, then the boundary line runs south to Saltonstall Creek, crosses County Rd., then runs north to the Sweeney Tavern, which marks the northeast corner. The line then runs east to the northwest starting point. The boundaries were predetermined by the structures in the area.
The following is from Ipswich Yesterday by Alice Keenan, written in 1982:
“The South Green is a most fascinating microcosm, the people who lived there and the structures that ring it — 17th Century, Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival — a fragile link to the Ipswich that was — and a nagging and constant reminder of the precious heritage that we have inherited and more times than not, use so carelessly.
We remember seeing a picture of the Green, painted about 1840, and being struck by the beauty and complete serenity of the scene. Two riders canter by the house, the lady, ramrod straight in her side-saddle, her feathered hat and elegant skirted riding habit reminding us of a time romantic. Her gentleman companion, faultlessly turned out, wears his fawn riding suit with an air of careless elegance. Down the street, in front of the Giddings house and store on the corner of Argilla Road, two ladies walk arm in arm, deep in conversation. Five enormous elm trees line up on the western side of the Green, and underneath a chaise is being drawn by two sleek horses.
The Colonel Baker house looks much the same as it does today, minus of course, the office addition built by Dr. Pallotta. Next door one can glimpse the Aaron Smith house, and further down the old Walley-Dana manse that many of us can still remember. Across the Green stands the old Swasey Tavern, three storied, and looking as elegant as only a Georgian mansion can — this before it was so sadly “Victorianized.”
And, gleaming ghostily in the background, the focus of the picture — The South Parish House — newly built, columned and pristine, and now gone forever. Here near the Green lived the Rev. Nathaniel Ward, author of “The Body of Liberties” and “The Simpler Cobbler of Agawam,” his house on the east side of the Green. Cotton Mather tells us that Ward had inscribed over his fireplace, “Sobrie, juste, pie,” (soberly, justly, piously) and afterwards added “Laete” (gladly). Close by lived his son-in-law, Dr. Giles Firmin.
Across the way lived the Honorable Worshipful Richard Saltonstall, son of Sir Richard, whom on his arrival, was immediately honored with public office. Deputy to the General Court in 1636, and although one of the elite establishment, disagreed violently with his peers, standing alone in his opposition to such important and controversial items as life tenure for “a certain number of magistrates” and “single-handed and alone lifted his voice like a great trumpet in the Great and General Court” against the stealing of slaves “as contrary to the law of God and Country,” and demanding the imprisonment of the officers of the ship that had stolen them. The brook that halved his generous grant was known for generations as “Norton’s,” but is now and forevermore “Saltonstall’s Brook.”
That famous schoolmaster, Ezekiel Cheever, lived near the corner of Poplar street and kept the school-house nearby. He labored here between 1650 and 1661 before moving on to Boston and its Latin School. The Rev. Nathaniel Rogers, pastor of the First Church from 1638 to 1655, the first of the long line of Rogers to shepherd the Puritan flock, lived to the rear of the Colonel Baker house, “sundry remains” being found when a water line was dug to “the Gables” in 1846.
As time passed, more houses were built, the mansion of John Heard in 1799, and the tone of the South Green already established, remained. Augustine Heard always had his eye out to acquire, move or tear down those houses surrounding the Green, already perhaps crumbling, in an effort to enhance and preserve. the park-like setting he so admired. He bought the property of Daniel Cogswell when that 1816 house and store was partially destroyed by fire, moved the store-house from the area adjacent to the present location of the Whipple House, and set it up next to the South Side Cemetery where he put it to use as a barn.
The old Crompton Inn, built in 1693, the favorite stopping off place of Judge Sewall for a helping of “roast fowle”—and later the home of Colonel Choate, the builder of the bridge, was torn down in 1836 and the land sold to Heard. Its neighbor, the 1740 Walley-Dana House that used to sit in front of the Whipple House was bought by the Heritage Trust in the mid-1950’s and taken down. The old house, weak with age, had been eyed by the telephone company as perfect site for a new office building. Thankfully, the Trust came to the rescue and the area was opened up to reveal the Whipple House in all its glory. The telephone company had to be content with buying another old house further down County Road, moving it to the back of the property and erecting the present telephone building.
The Whipple House has been around, too. Originally it stood down on Depot Square, close by Saltonstall street, and in 1927 it was moved to its present location — the land the generous gift of the Crane family. A delightful picture of the 17th century structure, squarely in the middle of the Choate Bridge, looking for all the world like it was wedged in to stay, is a particular favorite.
It was the building of the second Meeting House of the South Parish in 1837 that pulled the South Green into focus and finally opened up a clear view down the Green and the old Bay road. The old Meetinghouse that stood directly in front of the new was pulled down, the old Rust House moved down County Road and the 1727 Colonel Nathaniel Wade House that stood guard on the southern end of the old “trayning field” could be plainly seen.
Across the way from the Wade Manse, the South Side burying ground, owned jointly by the First and South Parishes stood silent sentinel on the land conveyed by Dr. John Manning in 1773 and again in 1795. The civic minded Dr. Manning sold the town more land for widening the road and extending the training field. In time, in 1859, the town would acquire ownership of all the church owned burial grounds, “their conditions often in deplorable neglect and a notable improvement in the cemeteries resulted.”
It seems everybody was improvement minded. In 1892, a civic minded group, and we rather suspect that the Rev. Waters and the Appletons were among its leaders, prevailed upon the town to fill and grade the South Green ‘where a fine lawn was established.” Flower beds were planted and maintained “by the South Side people, and bordered by the splendid elms became a thing of beauty.” Eventually the town assumed the care of the Green and for many long years it remained “a thing of beauty.”
Today, alas, things are sadly different. The South Green or School House Green or trayning Field–all part of “that microcosm of social and architectural history of the town” seems rather lost and forlorn–coming to life once a year for a carnival-like affair–and forgotten until the next. Let’s hope that when we’re handing out birthday gifts during our 350th celebration we don’t forget the South Green–and maybe, once more, it will become “a thing of beauty” that it deserves.”
Houses in the South Green Historic District
Below is a comprehensive list of houses included in the proposal the South Green National Historic District. The Year Built column is based on the most current research by the Ipswich Historical Commission. The Name field links to pages about each house.
|Address||Historic name of house||Year Built|
|68 County Rd||Calvin Locke’s Folly||1835|
|72 County Rd||David Giddings||1828|
|76 County Rd||Asa Wade||1831|
|78 County Rd||Samuel Wade||1831|
|82 County Rd||Brown – Manning||1835|
|83 County Rd||Rust-Rogers-Brown||1665|
|84 County Rd||Rev. Moses Welch||1829|
|85 County Rd||John Wade||1810|
|86 County Rd||Brown-Burnham||1775|
|88 County Rd||Nathaniel Wade||1727|
|90 County Rd||Capt. William Wade||1822|
|96 County Rd||2nd Church Parsonage||1860|
|2 Poplar St||Swasey Tavern||1700|
|5-7 Poplar St||Dr. John Calef||1671|
|30 South Main||Old Town Hall||1833|
|36 South Main||Hall Haskell||1795|
|59 South Main .||Philomen Dean||1716|
|54 South Main||Heard Museum||1800|
|69 South Main||Samuel Dutch||1723|
|1 S Village Green||John Whipple||1653|
|3 S Village Green||Aaron Smith||1776|
|7 S Village Green||Colonel John Baker||1761|
|11 S. Village Green||The Gables||1838|
Map of the South Green Historic District
The Choate Bridge in Ipswich was constructed in 1764 and is the oldest documented surviving double stone arch bridge in North America. As part of Rt. 1A and Rt. 133 the Choate Bridge is estimated to carry between 10,000 and 20,000 vehicles each day! The town approved construction of the stone bridge on April 18,…
The Shoreborne Wilson House at 6 South Main Street was built in 1685 and is listed in the National Historic Register of Historic Places. The name is occasionally spelled Sherborne. Wilson apprenticed as a carpenter and made a living as a cooper.
Just past the Choate Bridge on South Main Street The Ipswich Visitor Center is located in the Hall – Haskell House, sometimes called the “Little Red House.” Earlier structures stood at this site before mariner Charles Hall and his wife bought the property in 1819. In 1820 they built this house, where they lived upstairs and operated a shop downstairs.
The former Baker’s Clothing Store at 37 South Main Street in Ipswich was built in 1828 and has a combination of Italianate and Greek Revival elements. The other Baker’s Store building next to the Choate Bridge burned after the Mother’s Day storm of 2006.
In exploring the history of this building, I uncovered a tale of two families, one most fortunate, and the other less so. Ownership of the store at 31 South Main Street can be traced back to Isaac Fitts, a hatter, who petitioned for forty feet on the River bank in 1726, that he might set a dwelling near the bridge.
Ipswich Riverwalk Footbridge
The river bank from the mill dam to where the Choate bridge stands today was marshy past Blacksmith Samuel Ordway’s shop, so early settlers forded the river here, and later the first of several foot bridges was built. A plaque tells the story of the mills and the river
In the early 20th Century, Madeline Linehan operated the Ipswich Mills Tea House in the former Ipswich Mills boarding house at 57 Main Street. The Tea House was popular with tourists who came there to hear about the history of the town.
The Philomen Dean house, 59 South Main is on the right after crossing the footbridge. Philemon Dean was a constable of Ipswich, served under Maj. Samuel Appleton in King Philips War, and died in 1716 long after the death of his wife and one of his twin sons. The family name is alternatively spelled Deane or Dane
This 3 story hipped roof house along the Ipswich River and across from the Heard House on South Main St. in Ipswich has a substantial rear ell with a symmetrical front. Built in 1723 it is from the Georgian period but is more Federal in appearance.
Like Lord’s Square, the South Green also had a grocery store for many years. The building at 66 County Road across from the South Green was originally the Goodhue Grocery, built in 1835. The store was successful, and a wing was added in 1856.
The Heard house on South Main Street is a Federal-style structure built in 1795 by wealthy John Heard. Before the Revolutionary War he had invested in the rum factory on Turkey Shore Road along the river bank where they unloaded barrels of West Indies molasses, and he later helped start the Ipswich Mills. His son Augustine Heard expanded the family business.
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.
The 1677 Whipple house is a National Historic Landmark owned by the Ipswich museum, and is one of the finest examples of “first period” American architecture (1625-1725). The oldest part of the house dates to 1677 when the military officer and entrepreneur Captain John Whipple constructed a townhouse near the center of Ipswich.
Aaron Smith was a clockmaker who apprenticed to Richard Manning, an early pioneer in the trade. Aaron Smith was engaged in his business before the American Revolution and was therefore prevented from joining the battle at Bunker Hill, since his services as a blacksmith were needed for the manufacture of bayonets.
The following is taken from “A Walking Tour and Brief History of Early Ipswich Massachusetts“ produced by the Ipswich Visitors Center, Marjorie Robie and William Varrell. The Col. John Baker House was built in 1761.
The Calvin Locke House at 68 County Road was built in 1836. The size of the house and the tall Greek columns on the front exceeded his resources such that the house came to be called “Locke’s Folly.” Locke was an overseer in Augustine Heard’s lace factory, the Ipswich Manufacturing Company.
The David Giddings house at 72 County Road is right on the corner with Argilla Rd. Built in 1828, it has been used in the past as a general store and currently as a single family home. It has four fireplaces, authentic moulding, pumpkin pine floors, and Norwich door handles.
The Asa Wade House at 76 County Road in Ipswich was built between 1831 and 1836. Like the Samuel Wade house next door it has the gable end facing the street in the Greek Revival style. Several members of the Wade family on County Rd. were housewrights.
In 1831, Samuel Wade purchased a lot and built this house as his home. The bay windows in the front and rear are the only external reminder of the early Victorian features that Wade incorporated into the facade of the structure.
The widow Judith Manning and the single woman Mary Brown had this house built for them in 1835. The house continued in the family line for over 100 years.
The Rogers and Brown House (also known as the Nathaniel Rust House) at 83 County Road is a 2 1/2 story end-gable structure with twin rear wall chimneys, heavy timber frame and wood clapboards. The main part of the house was built before 1750, abutting the Heard House across from South Green.
The house at 84 County Road was built in 1829 by neighbor Samuel Wade. The house was apparently used as a joint residence by Rev. Moses Welch, who assumed the pastorate of Linebrook Church in 1831, and the Rev. Daniel Fitz, who assumed the pastorate of the nearby South Church in 1827 upon the death of the Rev. Joseph Dana.
The John Wade house was built at the far end of South Green in 1810, but was moved further down County Road in 1948 to the corner of Lanes End to make room for the South Green Burial Ground expansion. The Wade family owned and built many of the houses along County Rd.
The Burnham – Nathan Brown house at 86 County Road is a 1775 Second Period Colonial. The house was moved to its present location in 1824.
The Nathaniel Wade House at 88 County Road in Ipswich is one of the original 16 houses that have preservation agreements (“covenants”) with the Ipswich Historical Commission. The house was built in 1727 by Captain Thomas Wade.
The charming small two-story house at 96 County Road with elaborate Italianate trim was built in 1860 as the parsonage for the South Congregational Church, which was at the head of the South Green. The Rev. Thomas Franklin Waters and his family lived in this home.
The Old South Cemetery was used from 1756 till 1939. It sits between the South Green and the Ipswich River and is an easy walk from downtown. A walking trail extends down the slope to the River and continues downstream to Sally’s Pond near the Whipple House. It has approximately 1000 interments.