Ipswich MA APD map

Historic districts & neighborhoods

Ipswich Massachusetts was founded in 1633 in an area the native Americans called “Agawam”. The oldest part of town has remained to an exceptional degree intact, with more “First Period” houses (1625-1725) still standing than any other community in America. The contiguous historic neighborhoods of Meeting House Green, High Street, the East End, and the South Green are well-preserved streetscapes of 17th to 19th century private residences. A comparison of today’s village with historic photos shows that much of the village retains its historic buildings, roads, bridges and settlement pattern. The mill district neighborhoods of “Pole Alley” and Brownville Avenue were added in 1996 for their significance as some of the mill worker housing in the country. The National Park Service maintains the Registry of Historic Places listings. which includes 31 historic districts, houses and structures in Ipswich.

Architectural Preservation District

The 2014 Fall Town Meeting on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 established an Architectural Preservation District (APD) for the most historic areas of the town.

The bylaw was adopted at Town Meeting under the Home Rule Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution and is administered by an Architectural Preservation District Commission. The Architectural Preservation District proposal was revised through a series of open meetings of the Historical Commission, The APD encompasses an area roughly defined as 220 acres beginning at the South Green, continuing along the river to the Town Wharf, East and High Streets to the High Street Bridge, North Main Street and Meeting House Green.

The Ipswich Architectural Preservation District (APD) protects the most historic areas of the town, beginning at the South Green, continuing along the river to the Town Wharf, East and High Streets to the High Street Bridge, North Main Street and Meeting House Green. No building within the Architectural Preservation District constructed before 1900 may be demolished, constructed or substantially altered without consent of the APD Commission, which also provides advisory design guidelines.

Meetinghouse Green Historic District

View of North Main Street from Market Square

Town Hill was the governmental center for early Ipswich. By order of the General Court, dwellings had to be within one half mile of the Meeting House at Meeting House Green. A meeting house was built here by 1636, surrounded by a high wall to protect them from the ever-present danger from Indian attacks. Several churches have stood at this same spot. The Meeting House Green District includes thirty houses, three churches and the town library which are sited around the steep, rocky Green itself and along Main Street. It encompasses a wide range of architectural styles with approximately half of the structures dating from the eighteenth century and half from the nineteenth. Continue reading

East End Historic District

Summer St. and the Ipswich River

The seafaring portion of the original village of Ipswich and offers an architectural history of the town’s development. It was here that the first houses were built in this town where fishing and lumbering were prominent industries. When settlers arrived in the 1630′s, wigwams, huts and hovels were constructed between Town Hill and what is now Town Wharf. The Ipswich River was the town’s avenue to the Atlantic. The East End is bounded on the north and west by East Street. That street extends from the High-North Main Streets intersection on the west to Jeffrey’s Neck Road on the north, skirting Town Hill. The River and its eastern bank (Turkey Shore Road) form the eastern boundary of the district from Town Wharf to the Green Street Bridge. Green Street is the southern edge of the District, enclosing Water, Summer and Hovey Streets and Agawam Avenue, and a major portion of County Street. Continue reading.

High St. Historic District

High Street, looking north toward Lord Square

High Street was the main residential and commercial street of the new community. The predominant character of the street is now residential, but several of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Century houses along High Street earlier served as taverns, stores, or craftsman’s shops. One of the most important was the inn. Ipswich was on the road to Boston and a constant stream of travel passed through the town. The High Street National Register Historic District boundaries define the area of earlier settlement and later growth. Two other districts, the East End and Meeting House Green, define the eastern border of High St. Running west the boundary lines follow back lots of both the north and south sides of the street. Lord’s Square has been omitted from the district as it no longer conforms to the character of the area. The boundary lines continue west to the High St. bridge, which is a distinct boundary, for beyond it were common pastures during the 17th and 18th centuries. Continue reading

South Green Historic District

The South Green, looking north

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. Though most 17th century houses originally in the area are now gone, the John Whipple House represents that era very well. Moved from a site across the Ipswich River to its present lot at the north end of the Green in the 1930′s, this mid-17th century house is a National Historic Landmark. The rest of the Green is bordered by Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian houses as well as a mid-18th century cemetery. The Nathaniel Wade House c.1727, John Heard House c. 1795, Locke’s Folly 1835-37 and “The Gables”, c. 1846 are among the most notable houses ringing the ancient training field. 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. Continue reading

Ipswich Mills and Brown Mills Historic Districts

Ipswich Pole Alley
The Ipswich Mill neighborhood, aka “Pole Alley”

The Ipswich Mills Historic District is the community in Ipswich MA west of EBSCO Publishing bordered by Union St., the MBTA commuter rail tracks and the Ipswich River. The former woolen and stocking mill buildings more recently housed Sylvania’s fluorescent lighting plant, and are where in 1942 Sylvania designed and assembled the proximity fuse for WWII bombs. The buildings now are the home of EBSCO Publishing. The Brown Stocking Mill Historic District is across Topsfield Road and includes mills and worker housing dating from 1906 at the Brown Stocking Mill on Brownville Ave. established by Harry Brown. Both districts were added to the National Park Services Registry of Historic Places in August of 1996 . That same year EBSCO Publishing moved into the old Ipswich Woolen Mills buildings. In 1868, Amos A. Lawrence established the original Ipswich Hosiery Mills in the old stone mill on County Street. By the turn of the 20th century the company had moved to the Ipswich Mills location and had become the largest stocking mill in the country. Continue reading

Sketch of Summer Street in Ipswich
View of Water Street and Summer Street from Turkey Shore

Ipswich Streets and Neighborhoods

The 19th and 20th Century saw the size of the town grow greatly as foreign-born workers arrived to work in the flourishing mills. New neighborhoods quickly arose west of the tracks, and are known as Pole Alley, Brownville and Mount Pleasant. They are the newest Ipswich neighborhoods in the National Register of Historic Places, joining Meeting House Green Historic District, the East End Historic District, High Street Historic District, and the South Green Historic District.

Continue Reading to view streets and neighborhoods, or click on the links below

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