Having landed in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and trying to understand this very old house we bought…

Here is a view into an ancient brick hearth. Was it a brick oven? Or a root cellar? It was built in the 17th century, in North America, on land that was deeded only ten years after the Pilgrims arrived.

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And next to it, another one:

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And another.

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This is a story about this house, our house. It is hard to know where to begin. It is hard to know when our house began.  It was built in a settlement called Agawam, part of the original Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1634, Agawam was incorporated as Ipswich, Massachusetts.  We have been told our house was built in the latter part of the 17th century.

In September, 2014, my husband John and I purchased this house, this land, and all its associated risks. We have become caretakers of this home and its history.

This story is a work in progress. I do not know how it will progress. But we’ve come far enough that I’m ready to begin to blog.

To begin, I’ll transcribe notes from my journals about our process of purchasing and restoring the house, which, I should probably mention, is actually half a house. We own the northern half, which we understand to be the oldest section. It was probably built for two families (or perhaps more) and old photographs confirm that in the past it was, in fact, two separate properties. Apparently, over time, it has been one house, then divided, then one house, then divided. The other half of the house is actually now a rental property containing a number of units. But this blog, this story, concerns the half we own, and our discoveries.

The town of Ipswich seems to have made its weaknesses its strengths over the years. So many old houses. So many working class families, without the means to upgrade or to renovate resulted in the largest number of preserved 17th century homes in America.

September 24, 2014

Today we bought a house in Ipswich, Massachusetts. A house so old it was built before the advent of reliable record-keeping. The real estate listing showed a date of 1634, but we understand that to be the date of the original land deed; not the date of construction.

I am sitting here listening to cars go by. Like many historical homes in this town, the house is on a main street, close to traffic.

I am enamored of the 18th century Georgian paneling in the bedrooms. These panels speak of the value inherent in this place, and the nature of physics.

The walls slope. By nature, over time, since before the Revolutionary War, these walls have stood, but the molecular structure appears to have changed. These walls were not created to hang at an angle, but they do. They’ve adapted. Like all things that have withstood the pressure of time, these walls have made the decision to adapt.

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