Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ipswich Alexander Knight House: Groundbreaking Ceremonies this Saturday 10 a.m.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Lisa-Marie Cashman

Groundbreaking Ceremonies for the Alexander Knight House on Whipple House Green July 25th
An authentic re-creation of a First Period Timber Frame House

Ipswich, Massachusetts. July 23, 2009 –Groundbreaking ceremonies on Saturday, July 25th at 10:00 a.m. on the Whipple House Green will set the stage for a momentous re-creation of the first authentic, live, on-going exhibit of a First Period Timber Frame House in the South Green District of Ipswich.

The re-creation of the Alexander Knight House is the brainchild of a team of professionals practicing the art of recreating American Colonial historic structures in conjunction with the Ipswich Historical Society and Museum. These five published, award-winning and peer-reviewed professionals will collaborate to re-create the story and building of the Alexander Knight House. Together with a blended team of award-winning writers, journalists, broadcast producers, graphic artists, a renown folk artist and a photographer with over 50 years cumulative experience. A year in concept, now this project emerges from the meeting room huddles and design plans to spring into action.

The core team includes: Mat Cummings, Cummings Architects; James D. Whidden, Woodright, LLC; Richard Irons, Restoration Masons; Sue Nelson, Architectural Historian; and Tim Chouinard, landscape specialist.

“If originally built as planned, the house would have been a modest 16x12 single-story building, possibly with only one room and probably with a loft space for storage,” notes Mat Cummings.

Construction will take place throughout the year and into next. Visitors can partake in some of the building activities during Olde Ipswich Days July 24-26 and during 17th Century Saturdays. Plans for lectures and a photo journalistic gallery showing are underway. Once completed, the Alexander Knight House will be donated by the team to the Ipswich Historical Society and reside as a permanent structure to be used for furthering the education of how early settlers may have lived and built their homes.

“Some examples of live demonstrations may include open hearth cooking and re-creating First Period furniture and children’s toys,” says James D. Whidden, a master joiner for over 20 years.

Members of the board of directors and the executive director will have a direct link on the Ipswich Historical Society website ( ) to the project website ( ) as well as the blog where team will blog about the progress of the project ( ). Johanne Cassia, renowned folk artist, ( generously donated her time and talent to portraying the Alexander Knight House in an original rendering which exemplifies incredible detail of the thatched roof and clamshell walkways and mortar on the chimney.

“We are excited and pleased to work with the Ipswich Knight House team, says Fred Hale, executive director of the Ipswich Historical Society and Museum. “Our goal is to expand upon the opportunities for our community and visitors to learn as much about the largest collection of First Period artifacts, artwork, and buildings in Ipswich. This is a natural extension of our collection since there were once many homes on the Meeting House Green where a thriving community of prosperous settlers made Ipswich famous.”

About the Ipswich Knight House Team
The Ipswich Knight House team represents some of the finest craftsmen, award winning designers, Emmy-award winning producers, writers, branding and graphic artists, photographers and a noted folk artist. All time, labor and materials are generously donated (approximately $50,000) to make this re-creation a local and national treasure for years to come. For more information, please contact Lisa-Marie Cashman at 978-233-2885 or email at

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Alexander Knight House – Groundbreaking Ceremony
Page Two/ July 23, 2009

To become a supporter for this live on-going exhibit, log-on to: All contributions will go towards continuing education programs and sustaining maintenance so all can enjoy for years to come.

About the Ipswich Historical Society and Museum
Organized in 1890 and chartered in 1898 by Reverend Thomas Franklin Waters and joined by preservationist George Francis Dow, the gentleman’s society housed and collected many First and Second Period Ipswich historic artifacts, famous paintings (including Arthur Wesley Dow) and documents—quite notably the largest collection in the country. Today these treasures showcasing Ipswich’s rich and diverse history can be viewed at both the Heard and Whipple houses in South Green District. For more information contact Wendy Evans at or call at 978-356-2811.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

The George B. Brown House is seeking its new owner

In the dawn, it towers above the rest of the roof tops in its majestic and magical way. Dew gently wraps itself around the wood finials spiring to the heavens. At dusk, one can see the various shadows dancing on the gables and in the peaks and valleys of the slate hip roof. Living in-town down the street from the George B. Brown House (circa 1898) gives one pause and standing in awe, I sometimes wonder what it might have been like during Ipswich's industrial hey day visiting or dining with the Brown's in one of only two of our Town's most majestic ladies.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Brief History of Alexander Knight

Sue Nelson and I put together from Town records and other historical data a brief accounting of the life and significance of one our earliest settlers to the Ipswich colony:

The story of Alexander Knight’s rise and fall in Ipswich, Massachusetts is truly intriguing and significant in the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s history. Knight, thought to be a prosperous innkeeper from Chelmsford, England, probably immigrated to Boston in the Defence with wife Anne (Hannah) Tuttie, daughter of William Tuttie of London. He was one of Ipswich’s first settlers, residing in Town by February of 1635. Knight received multiple grants of land comprising significant acreage and had his first home close to the meetinghouse on Meeting House Green near many of Ipswich’s most prominent residents.

In 1648, however, Knight experienced a rapid decline in his fortunes. While there is some mystery surrounding the incident, we know that Knight’s infant son Nathaniel burned to death when his clothes caught on fire. The Essex County Quarterly Courts Fined Knight heavily in March of 1654 for “carelessness in not preventing fire after warning.” It is possible that Knight himself was injured in the fire and probable that his house was lost.

By January 1656 Aron Pengry, who had been paid for boarding Knight and his family for an undetermined length of time, asked the Town to end the arrangement. Ipswich Selectmen gave Knight notice to quit Pengry’s house by May 1st(1657). Alexander struggled to find a way to support his family, leasing his land to Thomas Rowell and Robert Collins in February 1656, in exchange for firewood and clay for his chimney. However, this exchange was apparently not sufficient to support the Knight family. At the April Town Meeting of 1657, an intense discussion ensued about how to help Knight. After proposing another boarding situation for the family, the Town, in an extraordinary move, voted that “whereas Alexander Knight…is altogether destitute, his wife alsoe neare her tyme” .

The significance of this record is two-fold. Firstly, it was an unprecedented move for a Town to provide a dwelling house for a pauper.

Secondly, this unique Town Record gives us a glimpse of what the ordinary houses of the first half of the seventeenth century must have been like.

If originally built as planned, the house would have been a modest 16 x 12 single-story building, possibly with only one room and probably with a loft space for storage. Its chimney, based on the contract with Rowell and Collins, was probably of wattle-and-daub and not of brick, since Knight planned on needing two loads of clay a year to re-parge it. Town deeds suggest that the new house was built in Lord Square, rather than on Meetinghouse Green.

With the exception of his new home, Knight’s death records in 1664 indicate a man with few possessions. Most of his estate comprised the land grants made to him when he arrived in Ipswich, flush with youth and opportunity.

Here begins our team’s and the Ipswich Historical Society’s re-creation of the Knight House. Join us as we retrace how ordinary settlers, including Alexander Knight, may have built their homes during the nascent days of one of our nation’s first colonies.

Ipswich Knight House groundbreaking ceremony July 25, 2009

Check out: for more information on the project.