The Choates' House

one house, five families, 200 years of history

In the 1760s, Abraham and Sarah Choate, eight children, and probably a servant or two lived here. This was a large, well-built house with 10 rooms, including the attic, six heated rooms, and some stylish details inside and out.

What would a visitor to Ipswich 250 years ago know about the Choates from the size, height, and style of this new house? The house gave clues that the Choates were wealthier than most colonists, but not among the most fashionable or powerful. In Ipswich, this house would have fit in well with those of the Choates' prosperous neighbors.

Large double-hung sash windows brought a good deal of light into this house. Large windows were also a sign of prosperity, because window glass was imported from England and expensive. The windows were placed to make the house look balanced and orderly to people outside. They were an alternative to smaller, but more economical, casement windows with smaller panes.

A Colonial Parlor

In the Choates' time, gentlemen's homes had at least one elegantly finished room for entertaining and for displaying fine furnishings. Few families in the 1760s could afford such a luxury. Most people lived in houses with only a few modest rooms for working, cooking, eating, and sleeping that offered little privacy.

The Choates would have considered this room comfortable and elegant. A visitor stepping back in time might be struck by the dimness of candle and window light, the odors and dust filling the air, and the meager warmth from the fireplace.

More Choices

When the Choates built this house, they joined a wave of housebuilding in colonial America. Prosperous families were building larger homes with some elegant features influenced by English styles.
 
Abraham Choate had to decide how he should spend his money, and how much his house should follow local tradition or the latest British architectural fashion. His decisions depended on income, personal taste, and community values. Some New Englanders still held older Puritan values that discouraged aristocratic taste.