Ipswich Wharf early 20th Century

Along the Ipswich River

Follow the Ipswich River, starting at the Willowdale Dam and continuing past all four stone arch bridges in Ipswich, then along Water Street to the Town Wharf and out to sea. Many of these photos were digitally developed from original glass negatives taken by three early Ipswich photographers, and others generously shared from private collections and the Ipswich Museum .

  • Arthur Wesley Dow, the famous Ipswich artist who operated a summer art school at the Howard House on Turkey Shore Rd. Dow and George Dexter were friends and were photography enthusiasts.
  • George Dexter, early Ipswich photographer. These glass plate negatives are from the collection of the late Robert Cronin, Ipswich native. Dexter left his collection of glass plates in the barn owned by Cronin’s father. Robert wrote about working at his father’s store on the wharf.
  • Edward L. Darling, glass plate negatives courtesy of Bill Barton, from the collection of Bill’s late grandfather William J. Barton. In the 1960s, William J. Barton wrote his memories of these locations on the back of his framed collection of Darling photographs.

More photos and additional information:

The Ipswich River: The 35-mile Ipswich River flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Ipswich Bay. The Ipswich River Water Association works to protect the river and its watershed. Foote Brothers Canoes on Topsfield Rd provides rentals and shuttle service from April to October.

The Industrial History of the Ipswich River: The Industrial History of the Ipswich River was produced for the Ipswich 375th Anniversary by John Stump, volunteer for the Ipswich Museum, and Alan Pearsall, who produced the Ipswich Mural with funding from EBSCO.

The Choate Bridge: The American Society of Civil Engineers cites the Choate Bridge in Ipswich as the oldest documented two-span masonry arch bridge in the U.S., and the oldest extant bridge in Massachusetts.

The Old Town Landings and Wharfs: Many a pleasant sail down the river are in the memories of William J. Barton. “These were the names of the places and flats along the Ipswich River before my time, and familiar to me during my time. They were used by the fishermen and clammers. I know. I was one of them. It was the happiest time of my life.”

When Herring Were Caught by Torchlight: In the late 19th Century, most of the men around the river would look forward to “herringing” when fall arrived. The foot of Summer Street was the best landing. One year so many herring were caught, they were dumped in the Parker River, and Herring did not return for many years.

County Street, Sawmill Point, and bare hills: The town voted in 1861 to build County Street and its stone arch bridge, connecting Cross and Mill Streets. A Woolen mill, saw mill, blacksmith shop and veneer mill operated near the bridge.

The Town Wharf: The Ipswich Town Landing is one of several locations along the River where wharves were located over the centuries.

Diamond Stage: In 1673, two fishermen from the Isles of Shoals, Andrew Diamond and Harry Maine, arrived together in Ipswich. Mr. Diamond built a platform for salting and shipping fish, and became quite successful. The location is still known today as Diamond Stage.

Water Street: In the book, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Volume I, Thomas Franklin Waters recorded the history of Water Street, which is part of an early public right-of-way that extended from the wharf to the Green Street Bridge, then cotinued along the Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk to County St.

Visit the Ipswich River Watershed Association site

Clicking on a photo opens a slideshow. Exit the slideshow by clicking on the small X in the upper left corner.

3 thoughts on “Along the Ipswich River”

  1. Lovely pictures – especially of Choate and Country Street arched bridges. Delightful reminiscences.

    Re the steamer Charlotta – “It was always high tide at eleven o’clock on a full moon, so they would start the return trip home. There was no music on the return trip. Every one would cuddle up to someone on the steamer as it was cold in the early morning, and enjoy the full moon. After all, that was what this excursion was run for.” Sounds wonderful.

    Ipswich has such an interesting topography which these old photos really capture. Thank you!

  2. This was really wonderful. Thank you. I do hope you’re considering putting together a book of these photos and that you preserve the wonderful tones and coloring . It would be great to see this published in print with all the captions you’ve provided. Let me know if it’s ever published it would be great to have a copy. My earliest North American ancestor spent part of his boyhood hear back in the 1600s I’d love to have this to look at. Sam. NYC

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