Remember a while back when I profiled the oldest wood frame house in North America? Well this one is almost as old (within a year or two, or ten). It is also notable because it was the subject of some of the earliest attempts at historic preservation of colonial era homes. In fact, The John Whipple House has been open to the public as an old house museum since the year 1899!!
Located in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the John Whipple House has been dated back to the year 1650, and possibly as early as 1638, though that has not been scientifically verified. John Whipple “the Edler” was not the original owner but once he purchased the Ipswich house a few years after it was built, the home stayed in his family for generations.
The house also grew with the Whipple family. Originally built as a “village townhouse”, a large addition was made in 1670 which more than doubled the size of the house. The next generation of Whipples saw another sizeable addition to the back of the house, purportedly for use as slave quarters (this was circa 1725 when, yes, there was slavery in Massachusetts).
As mentioned above, the house was first opened for public tours way back in 1899 and has been operated as an old house museum ever since. It was also one of the earliest properties to receive National Historic Landmark status.
The site you see the house on today, was NOT the home’s original location. The entire house was picked up and moved in the year 1927 because it was in the path of a new railroad being built.
Below you see the Ipswich Whipple House before being moved from its original location on Saltonstall Street:
And here is an old newspaper article with photos of the 1927 move:
I bet there were some serious creaks and groans when they jacked that thing up!
The house in its new location on a large rural lot soutside of Ipswich:
At some point over the preceding centuries, the original gables and casement windows were removed. In 1953 the historical society undertook another extensive restoration project and re-added the current gables and casement windows.
Before the dormers were restored prior to 1953:
And after, as the house appears today:
I could only find a couple of very old photos of the interior. Old as in, 1899 – the year the house became a museum!
Any other photos I could find of the interior were few and far between and were seriously copyrighted. We will all just have to go visit in person!
I did read that the interior features oak, pine and chestnut framework, and original plaster work.
The John Whipple House is property of the Ipswich Museum and Historical Society and is open seasonally for tours.
I gather that means they don’t try to heat it in the winter months. Because, ouch, that could get costly!