SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 18, 2012

Ipswich opens its doors

House tour features blend of historic and modern homes

By Will Broaddus Staff writer
The Salem News

---- — IPSWICH — There may be one Ipswich on local maps, but three versions of the town will appear on the 2012 Open Doors of Ipswich Tour.

That’s because the event, which benefits the Ipswich Visitor Center at the Hall-Haskell House, will showcase houses in each of three distinct areas of town — the downtown, the waterfront and the countryside.

“The committee chose distinctive, historic and interesting homes across the breadth — north, east, south and west — of Ipswich,” said Cathy Bruce, who along with her husband, Al Boynton, is helping organize the tour. “It’s to bring attention to the fact that the town is so large.”

Twelve homes will be featured on the tour.

“The downtown homes are all historic,” Bruce said. In this area are many of the town’s First Period homes, built between 1626 and 1725.

Those on the tour include the Daniel Lummus House on High Street, which was built in 1686 and belonged to the parcel of houses where America’s first poet, Anne Bradstreet, lived and wrote. The house was recently restored and includes many First Period features, including feather-edge panels, beehive ovens and a built-in inglenook seat (a seat in the recessed fireplace area) that may be the last of its kind in the United States.

The Treadwell Hale House, which stands on North Main Street and dates from 1740, is joined in this part of the tour by a house on Town Hill that dates from 1876, along with the Capt. Israel Pulcifer House on Meetinghouse Green, which was built 200 years ago.

In addition to possessing more First Period and Second Period houses than any other town in the country, Ipswich also contains contemporary homes that are cutting-edge in their use of green technology.

“One of the homes, a fairly new home on Heartbreak Road, is all green, with solar energy and green building materials,” Bruce said. “It’s very strategically planned as far as light and heating and its cooling system go. It’s an interesting home, and hopefully will appeal to folks.”

The Heartbreak Road house is in the group of countryside homes, which also includes an equestrian property on Candlewood Road that combined two properties and which is home now to 11 horses, Bruce said.

There is also a home with two kitchens on this part of the tour, proving that “even kitchens become a story,” she said.

In the third category are four houses with ocean views, three on Great Neck and one off Jeffreys Neck.

“They all have ocean or marsh views,” Bruce said. “They’re all very distinctive.”

The tour was last offered in 2009 and ran every other year for more than a decade before lapsing, Bruce said.

She and her husband, who recently restored their own First Period home, joined forces with other local volunteers to revive the tour.

Sales of brochures, which also serve as tickets, will help fund programs at the Hall-Haskell House, which is also one of several places in town where brochures can be purchased.

Hall-Haskell is a living embodiment of Ipswich history, dating back through a series of incarnations and owners to 1691, making it an ideal setting in which to introduce visitors to the town.

As a special bonus, visitors can get a look inside the recently completed Alexander Knight House, a re-creation of a First Period timber frame house. Built on the grounds of the Ipswich Museum over a period of three years, it was created by a team led by Ipswich architect Mat Cummings and drew on their extensive experience restoring old homes in Ipswich.

“It dawned on me that I was working with all these people who specialize in this work,” Cummings said. “We preserve these First Period homes. We just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to build a brand-new house?’”

The home features a thatched roof, a wooden chimney lined with clay, and boards made with old-growth pine that Yale University donated to the project.

As Cummings points out, almost all of the First Period homes that survive are mansions that belonged to affluent people. In contrast, the house that he and his co-workers built with authentic methods and materials reflects a more typical product of its day.

“If anyone wants to see how a common person lived,” Cummings said, “this is what it would be like.”