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. Mrs. Linehan, who lived in the “Philomen Dean house” next door, was a noted home economist and a graduate of the Fannie Farmer School of Cookery in Boston and Columbia University. She later moved to Gettysburg PA where she was a well-known cooking instructor.
As the women’s movements began to build strength in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, “tea rooms”emerged as places where women could meet and discuss issues. As women gained the freedom to go about on their own without breaking social taboos, tea rooms were places that women could visit freely with each other.
In the 1920’s Nellie Huckins purchased the Gables on the South Green and operated a tea room in the building. Her husband Joseph A. Huckins was superintendent of Highways.
The Wenham Tea House
On May 29, 1912, The Wenham Tea House opened in an unoccupied harness shop just off Main Street next to the church. The women who worked for several years to open the tea house envisioned it as a means for obtaining funds to pay for the town’s beautification programs. In 1916, a “commodious” cottage was built, and almost a century later it is the country’s oldest continually running tea house. American Cookery Magazine noted, “This picturesque tea house is rated by many traveled motorists as amongst the best in New England.”