Something to Presume

Let’s take another look inside that ancient beehive oven.

beehive 2

As previously noted, I’d always thought these alcoves along the stairs to the basement looked like beehive ovens but I’ve only recently confirmed this. (That is, the middle alcove, in the photo above, was definitely built as a beehive oven.)

Can you see those black speckles and spattered spots? We must be looking at carbon from cooking. What would carbon-dating tell us? Could we figure out exactly what they were cooking in that oven? Goat meat, perhaps? Or wild boar?

And then there’s this, which showed up in a digital image. What is this? Could it be the remains of some monstrous arachnid known only to the Puritan colonists? Or perhaps it is a mysterious rhizome, growing with impunity between the bricks? But then again, it could be some kind of alien life form that decided to attach itself to the oldest oven in North America, hoping to get the attention it deserves:


In previous posts I explained that this hearth was clearly sealed before the stairs – to the second floor – and to the basement – were built.

The amazing thing about this is that the second floor was built about three hundred years ago; perhaps more than three hundred years ago. (I’m basing this assessment on the hand-hewn beams, gunstock posts, and early Georgian paneling throughout the second floor. I’ll talk more about that later.)

Also, my husband John feels it is important to clarify that the second story Georgian paneling was installed after the second story beams had settled, because the paneling was cut with strong horizontal and vertical shapes, which, when joined to the beams, were cut diagonally to accommodate the skew of the settled beams. This dates the construction of the beams to a time well before the installation of the old Georgian paneling.

This means that the hearth (with the beehive oven picture above), which must have been in use for many, many years, was sealed and deactivated about three hundred years ago, or perhaps even earlier than three hundred years ago.

In other words, around three hundred years ago, that hearth was already old and obsolete. Therefore, that hearth must be pretty old.

My presumption is, therefore, that our house dates to the very, very early first period.

Rant Du Jour

The purpose of these rants has been to raise consciousness around the serious risks to the historic homes on our street (including our home), and to the pedestrians, including the many, many children who walk this route to and from school.

These risks have come from heavy high-speed traffic and especially from the super-heavy trucks that travel this street. By state regulation, these trucks can weigh as much as 127,400 pounds each.

All these factors are potentially disastrous to us because our front door is approximately 12 feet from that traffic.

Yet I’m happy to say that we’ve recently experienced a breakthrough. The speed limit on our street has been lowered to 25 miles per hour. (It should be lower than that, but this is a start.)

We are very grateful to the state representative, town select board, and town manager for lowering the speed limit.

However, while most of the traffic seems to be slowing down, much of the truck traffic still appears to be speeding (we’re not the only people in the neighborhood who’ve noticed this). Therefore, the street needs to be patrolled to ensure that all vehicles, especially the trucks, are obeying the speed limit.

I’ve also been asking that the following safety measures be implemented:

  • super-heavy trucks should be prohibited from this street
  • we need stop signs at both ends of this street
  • protective barriers should be installed along the sidewalks

I’ve not yet received a response to these requests, but at least there is finally a glimmer of hope.

We bought this house about four and a half years ago. So we are still outsider newcomers in a very old town.

There are several sides to Ipswich but, being idiosyncratic artists, we don’t exactly know where we fit in the grand scheme of things.

My perception is that because the truckers have had their way with this street for a long time, they may be reluctant to slow down. And the affluent residents from the tony parts of town have long seemed indifferent to the truckers having their way with our street, which suggests that they may be overlooking the historical significance of our neighborhood.

So although there is clearly a dichotomy – a schism if you will – between the two delineated socioeconomic town factions, there does seem to be some agreement (albeit tacit) between them, in that both factions seem to believe that the historical aspects of the homes where we live are insignificant and expendable.

Enter those idiosyncratic artists who disagree with all of that, with this assertion: despite previous assumptions and presumptions about the historic homes on our section of High Street, new information must be recognized – and valued – whenever – and wherever – there is truly something to preserve.

Addendum at 1:23 PM, February 10, 2019

If you’ve been following my blog, you may get the sense that I’m pretty passionate about saving our historic house and the other historic houses in my neighborhood from a constant threat. The tractor trailer trucks that drive through are so big and they travel so close to these homes that a slight, accidental turn of the wheel could instantly demolish any of them. The importance of conveying this to others seems obvious to me, but I’m not certain I’ve yet been able to make this all clear.

After publishing my most recent post, I received an email saying, “Please don’t disparage other people in the community” and, “alienating the people you ask to help you is not a good strategy.”

My intention has not been to disparage anyone in the community. My intention has been to raise awareness of the dangers to our neighborhood.

I think this may be the passage that he finds upsetting: “And the affluent residents from the tony parts of town have long seemed indifferent to the truckers having their way with our street, which suggests that they may be overlooking the historical significance of our neighborhood.”

The words “affluent” and “tony” were not meant as disparaging descriptions; they were meant to characterize the parts of Ipswich where the owners have preserved their historic homes so well and where there is no high-volume traffic and no tractor trailer traffic.

I love those parts of town! They are beautiful! The residents there clearly care about their homes, which reflect deep respect for their historical features.

However, it is my impression that few people understand the historical significance of our neighborhood.

Many people in our neighborhood have also worked enthusiastically with sustained effort, and at great expense, to preserve their historic houses. But the fact that our neighborhood is used as a route for maximum-weight heavy tractor trailer trucks makes it appear to have little value or historical significance. In reality, however, our little neighborhood is actually one of the most important historic locations in this country, and this is what I’ve been trying to help everyone understand.

Here is a section from my memo to the Select Board, about a year ago. (The entire memo is included in my blog post “Wrought through Time.”):

Ipswich has some wonderful assets. The Crane estate is awesome, but it is a reproduction. The beach is awesome, but there are many beaches in New England. This largest section of village, however, is unique; unique in this entire country. In reality, it is Ipswich’s greatest land asset.

Maybe I’m tilting at windmills and seeing gold in shaving basins. But to me, our neighborhood is like a yard sale da Vinci. It has enormous value. In fact, it is priceless. Don’t dismiss it because it is dusty with a broken frame. Don’t dismiss it because it has high-volume traffic or because maximum-weight heavy tractor trailer trucks run through it day and night.

It is difficult to keep up appearances of your home, and to maintain your equanimity, when you know your home can be accidentally demolished at any moment by a maximum-weight tractor trailer truck that is simply passing through. It is difficult to have a beautiful front lawn when the heavy-volume traffic results in strangers repeatedly tossing their trash onto it as they pass through.

I’m not attempting to disparage the beautiful parts of town that have little traffic.

But in our neighborhood, along with seeking some safety for the pedestrians, I’m only trying to help save some national treasures.




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