About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Thursday, February 6, 2014



This post will be in two parts beginning with the earliest Warner house in Ipswich and then following the family as they take up residence in Gloucester on Cape Ann where they continued to be blacksmiths and built more houses.

The Town of Ipswich refers to this house as the Ephraim B. Harris house, named after the man who moved the ancient house to his land in the 19th century and added onto it. For this post, focusing on the Warner family, we will refer back to its beginnings on Market Street and call it the Warner house.

The Warner family was a family of blacksmiths.  In the 17th century they made their home in Ipswich. Their house was located on what is now Market Street just about where Bank Ipswich is located today.  It was probably a one cell house, having one room down and one chamber above with a big chimney at one end with a small entry.  It was probably a typically modest house for the period like many others.  This very early house stood at this site until the 19th century.  Some say it was built in 1696.  This may well be correct.  

At this time the house was moved by a builder, Ephraim B. Harris, to the corner of Mineral and Central Streets. Central Street had not been laid out so that the address of the house was on Mineral Street, an early street originally called Baker's Lane, and remains so today at 22 Mineral Street. The gable end of the house faces Mineral Street with the formal front door facing High Street and the back door facing Central Street.  Actually I believe Abner Harris located the house in his own back yard as the house he lived in was on the corner High Street and Mineral Street.   Newer houses now separate Abner Harris's homestead from this house.
Original back of the Warner house faces Central St. with the more formal Greek Revival front door on the other side facing the newer infill houses. The door
itself is Victorian

In the new location  an addition was made to the old house with a Greek Revival front door and staircase. To the left of the new front entry were two new rooms, one up and one down with fireplaces in a new chimney for a total of four fireplaces in the house.  The rooms in the early part of the house were very large, a clue to the age of the house.

Across the ceilings in the early side of the house was a huge summer bean with a flat chamfer and lamb's tongue chamfer stop.  There was evidence that the summer beam had even been wallpapered to make it disappear at a time when it was not fashionable to have exposed beams showing in the more refined rooms of the later period.

Here is the great early summer beam with a flat chamfer and lamb's tongue
chamfer stop.  Notice the heavy framing in the corner,
Holes in the old plaster offered a peek at early riven laths...short strips of oak attached with handmade rose head nails.

This photo shows just a little of the early riven lath holding the original plaster.
Riven lath is short strips of oak attached with rose head nails. The summer
beam is rough with bits of wallpaper, whitewash and old paint.
Many years passed until the house entered the 20th century.  At this time a family consisting of a widow with children, lived in the house until eventually only one member of that family was left living here.  She had very limited means and the house became run down. This lone occupant lived on the second floor.  The house was an eyesore surrounded by chain link fencing. Behind the house, almost on the property line, was an enormous tree.  It was a really huge tree.

In 1997 when everyone thought spring was just around the corner there was a surprise April Fool's Day snowstorm.  At the height of the storm down came the big tree right on top of the house threatening to sever the house into two parts.  The occupant was sitting in her second floor kitchen.  Her life was only spared by the huge oak frame, specifically the summer beam, of the old house which stopped the downward momentum  of the great tree right over her head, saving her life.  Rescue crews carried her out without even her slippers on her feet never to return as an occupant.  I regret that I do not have a photo of the huge tree hanging over the house.  It was an unforgettable sight.

This is the upper side of the house facing High Street with a formal Greek
Revival door and surround and crushed roof.
Now I, the old house Realtor in town, inherited the tough assignment of selling the crushed house. It took a long time to clean out the house.  Some of the neighbors demanded that it be razed.

Happily, that never happened.  A builder bought it and put the old house back together. The roof on the house had been replaced by Ephraim Harris and was not as steep as it should have been for a first period house.  With that in mind the new owner decided to gain more living space from the new attic by creating a much steeper roof. The roof had to be replaced anyway.  The pitch is now higher than it ever was but it made the small house much more livable.  After the almost demolition of the house it sold for a mere $68,000, an unheard of low price in a high priced marketplace.  After restoration it sold for $345,000 and later for $395,000 as it has been transformed from a crushed derelict to an attractive first period house.

Here  is what Massachusetts Historical Commission wrote about the house in 1978. This photo was taken at that time.

The house in 1978.  Frequently houses that are moved are placed on a
higher foundation than in their original settings.

Richard Sutton and others sold to housewright, Ephraim B. Harris, a house and land on December 30. 1820. (Book 233, Page 148).  Harris built two more houses on this land, one of which survives situated on the corner of Mineral and Central Streets.

Originally the front facade faced north, but today the principal entrance is on the south facade.  The north entry has a Greek Revival door frame, including corner blocks, recessed panels and sidelights.

This door frame is very similar to an Asher Benjamin design found in his pattern book, The Practice of Architecture, published in 1833.  The design was described by Benjamin as "suitable for a house of moderate size, or where the story is not sufficiently high to admit a fanlight over it or where a fanlight is not desired.

Harris may have been familiar with Benjamin's pattern book, and seems to have used it as a model when decorating his own house.

A definite slope in the roof and the uneven bay arrangement suggest that the house was built in two sections and Waters supports this theory.  Evidently Harris was commissioned by  Capt. Robert Kimball to build a new house on his market Street lot.  The lot was already occupied by an old dwelling house built by Daniel Warner prior to 1666.  Harris removed a portion (if not all)  of this house to his own land on Mineral Street, and enlarged it with a new Greek Revival section.  A summer beam running from girt to girt with a chamfer is a remaining first period feature in the earliest, western half of the house.  Simple Greek Revival details include the northern side."

It is not uncommon to arrive at an incorrect construction date.  The deeds follow the land and the mention of a dwelling house on a piece of land does not necessarily mean that it the same house that is on the land at a later date.  There may well have been a very early house on Market Street in 1666 but most likely not this house.

This is the Central Street side of the house which I believe was the front
in its original configuration on Market Street.

Meanwhile, the Warners made a move to Gloucester where they continued to be blacksmiths living right in the heart of the Harbor Village as the neighborhood around the harbor was referred to in the 18th century.

The Warner crest

In my next post you will read the story of their houses in Gloucester.  You are not going to believe what happened in Gloucester!  Drama surrounds the old houses of the Warner family.

Thanks for reading.


The former owner of this house after restoration, Al Boynton, has kindly left a link to his photos.  Here is the link. I think you will enjoy them.



  1. This was our house. We purchased it in 2001/2002 and had the previous owner finish the work. Below is a link to a flickr set that show what it looked like before we sold the house to do the restoration of the Daniel Lummus house around the conrner on High Street. http://www.flickr.com/photos/snowlight/sets/72157615000254804/

  2. Thank you for the link to your photos. I have added the link to my post. The house is a huge success story! I'm sure readers will be amazed.

  3. It is so nice to see a house on the edge of extinction come to life with a family living in it. Thank you Mr Boynton for allowing readers to view the pictures of you previous home. They really add to the story and helps the reader appreciate all the hard work that went into preserving this home.