SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 31, 2013

Repairs underway to stabilize Ipswich's Heard House

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — The courtyard at the Ipswich Museum’s Heard House is closed as construction is underway to fix serious structural issues in the more than 200-year-old building.

Walls, sills and clapboards near the ground have been rotting due to poor drainage, according to Stacey Fraser-deHaan, co-director of the museum.

“It is a much-needed project we’ve been trying to raise money for,” she said. “If this continued, it would compromise the stability of the building.”

The project will be done in five phases; this is the second. The first phase was an archaeological dig before any work started, a requirement of the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

Phase two is expected to cost $125,000. The museum is raising the money through grants and a capital campaign. The Massachusetts Cultural Council has agreed to fund a matching grant with amounts to about one-third of the cost. The organization is hoping to raise the full amount by the end of June 2014.

Most of the phase two work is being done to the rear of the original structure and around sections of the home added later in 19th century, including a carriage house.

As part of the project, the ground will be regraded and a drainage system installed to prevent further damage caused by water pooling in the courtyard, Fraser-deHaan said. Once the rotted boards and materials are replaced, the back side of the building will be painted.

Tougas Construction of Ipswich started the work this week. Plans were drawn by McGinley Kalsow & Associates of Somerville.

The Heard House was built between 1795 and 1800 as a summer home for John Heard and his family. Before the Revolutionary War, Heard invested in the rum distillery on Turkey Shore Road along the riverbank, according to the Ipswich Historical Commission.

Heard was a merchant who had regular dealings in the West Indies and China. Fraser-deHaan said the Heard family were large donors in town and helped to open the Ipswich Public Library.

The home was sold to the Ipswich Historical Society in 1936.

Future work to the Heard House will include replacing windows, restoring the garden and increasing handicapped accessibility.

The museum also owns the 1677 Whipple House across the street. Both properties have original architectural details and furnishings that show how early Ipswich residents lived, the organization’s website says.

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.