Thursday, April 7, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 111: Ipswich, Mass. - Trip 2

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 111:  Ipswich, Massachusetts
March 9, 2011

            Yet another amazing jewel of the North Shore of Massachusetts the town of Ipswich is bursting at the seams with history.  This was not my first time visiting Ipswich though I will admit that my first trip and article were subpar for me.  I did not get the chance to see a lot of what I wanted to due to time constraints.  This time I made certain that all of the sites of Ipswich passed before my eyes and were captured by my camera.
John Whipple House c. 1677
            Originally called ‘Agawam’ by the local Native Americans Ipswich got its name from the corresponding town in Suffolk, England in 1634.  The first European settlers became farmers, fishermen, and shipbuilders while the Ipswich River provided water power for mills.  At the turn of the 20th century however it was stockings, made by the Ipswich Hosiery Mills, which became the town’s greatest export.
            The sheer number of historic homes in Ipswich is mind boggling, though it shouldn’t have surprised me that much since the town has nearly 400 years of history.  Rather than try to shoot all of these homes as I tend to try in other towns I chose to concentrate solely on the 17th century homes which are so rare to still be standing.  I photographed nine homes built before 1700 in Ipswich, there might be more I am not sure but that is an unbelievable amount of houses from that era.  Each home has the date it was built as well as the original occupant.  I don’t believe that any of them had historical significance, I suppose just the fact that they still stand is significant enough.
Choate Bridge
            One of the 17th century homes that has historic significance is the John Whipple House on South Main Street.  The first thing I noticed about this home was the fact that the year it was built has been changed on the sign.  The year 1677 is in bright paint yet underneath can clearly be seen the year 1655.  I have since discovered that the reason for this change in the established year is due to a dendrochronology test in 2005.  This is the process of tree-ring dating.  This test proved the earliest part of the house was built in 1677.  John Whipple was a British soldier and entrepreneur.  It was restored and has been a museum since 1899.
            The last time I visited Ipswich I missed out on a few awesome places located a short walk from the Whipple House.  This time I was able to check them out and it was so rewarding.  One spot is the Choate Bridge which crosses over the Ipswich River.  The bridge is the oldest surviving double arch bridge in the United States having been erected in 1764.  The ‘Choate’ name comes from Col. John Choate, local treasurer who supervised the construction and was also the first person to cross over the completed bridge, by horse.  There is a great view of the river from the bridge but the best view comes from taking a tour on the Ipswich Historic Riverwalk.
Part of the mural along the Ipswich Riverwalk.
            The Riverwalk was recently completed in 2005 with a twelve-foot wide bridge crossing over the Ipswich River just below the old hosiery mill dam.  The water rushes underneath you and is mesmerizing.  Once you get across to the other side there is a stunning mural painted along the side of the EBSCO Publishing parking deck building.  The mural basically shows the history of Ipswich as well as America from the beginning up to now.  I say up to now because in the final section of the mural there is a modern cookout going on with one of the people wearing a Tom Brady jersey.
The Inn at Castle Hill
            Once again I ended my time in Ipswich with one of my favorite places I have been to thus far: Castle Hill.  It was a spot well known to the local Native Americans for centuries and became farmland when John Winthrop Jr., son of the first governor of Massachusetts, laid claim to the land in 1637.  It is on the way to Crane Beach, which can be accessed from this property along the walking trails.  I cannot explain the majesty of this area, not only the natural beauty but the amazing architecture of The Great House. 
The Great House sits atop the actual Castle Hill.  It was built in 1928 and includes fifty-nine rooms.  There are concerts on the property during the summer but even visiting now at the end of winter it was a great time.  The lawn is at the rear of the property is incredible.  It was not so much anything about the grass, but more of the spaciousness of it.  I can only describe it as a hundred foot wide swath of green which starts at the back of the Great House and slopes down for as far as the eye can see.  I was in awe of the scope of this landscaping marvel.  There are trails which encircle the property and I found out beforehand that much of The Next Karate Kid and The Witches of Eastwick were filmed on the grounds. 
The enormous rear lawn at Castle Hill.
A lot of the garden areas along the sides of the mansion are in disarray and inaccessible but I was able to see enough to imagine what it must have looked like when it was brand new.  Even on a raw and windy day I took my time and enjoyed the sights until my hands were too numb to shoot anymore photos.  I highly recommend taking the time to fully engross yourself in the natural and architectural wonder of Castle Hill.
Whether strolling the grounds at Castle Hill, crossing the Ipswich River on the Riverwalk, or simply going on the hunt for 17th century homes the beautiful North Shore town of Ipswich is something to behold.  I am so glad I went back and visited the right way, that’s the only real way to do it!  Have fun and happy traveling!

For a video showcasing Castle Hill check out - Castle Hill.

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DirectionsCastle Hill:  From Rt. 128 North take Exit 20A, take Rt. 1A North for 8 mi. to Ipswich. Turn right onto Rt. 133 East and follow for 1.5 mi. Turn left onto Northgate Rd. and follow for 0.5 mi. Turn right onto Argilla Rd. and follow for 2.3 mi. to entrance.
            Whipple House:  From Rt. 1 north take a right at Ipswich Rd., continue onto Topsfield Rd.  Continue onto Market Street, turn right at S. Main Street.  Turn sharply right at S. Village Green where Whipple House is.  Choate Bridge and Ipswich Riverwalk are a short walk away back down S. Main St.

            The - Castle Hill

1 comment:

Gordon Harris said...

Visit the Ipswich Historical Commission site at