“If you went in that house you would feel, this is exactly how it felt 300 years ago,” Bruce said. “They’ve preserved things very much. It has that feeling of dark wood, big, heavy fireplace.”
But most of the houses have incorporated new technologies, while still maintaining a connection to history.
“In most cases, they do have to update their systems. A lot of the time, they aren’t well insulated, and need electrical work done, heating and plumbing,” Bruce said.
But the tasteful balance such homes display, between old forms and new functions, is what makes them so interesting to visit.
“One of these homes had bumped out the back and expanded the kitchen,” Bruce said. “They put all glass on the back wall, so it’s very light, all day long. There’s a marble bathroom off the kitchen and den that are very modern in feel.
“Then, you go into rooms they didn’t update, that feel like you’re in the early 1900s.”
In addition to ranging across time, the tour also covers a lot of ground and includes properties located all over Ipswich.
Bruce estimated it should take between two and three hours to see all 10 houses if a visitor drives between addresses and spends between 10 and 20 minutes inside each home, where access will be limited to the first floors.
Some people may want to dwell for a moment on the settings of these homes, which are often beautifully landscaped.
“One of the homes has spectacular gardens designed by a landscape architect named Arthur Shurtleff in the 1900s,” Bruce said.
Shurtleff worked with Frederick Law Olmsted — who designed Central Park in New York and the Emerald Necklace in Boston — and is often described as the father of American landscape architecture.
“Another home has extensive stonework, and the homeowner is a mason,” Bruce said. “There are walls around the yard, and he even has an in-earth oven.”