one house, five families, 200 years of history

The House

For 200 years, this two-and-a-half story house stood at 16 Elm Street in the center of Ipswich, Massachusetts, 30 miles north of Boston.

The house was built in the 1760s. During the construction, a section of an older house built around 1710 was joined to the rear of the house to create more space. A two-story addition and one-story sheds were added in the 1800s.

When the house was built, it was a fashionable home for a fairly well-to-do family. A little more than a century later, a busy industrial district had grown up around the house, and it was divided into apartments, mainly for workers at the town's hosiery mill. Several families moved in and out in the first half of the 20th century.

By the end of 1961, the house stood empty.

In 1963, two years had passed since the last resident, Roy Scott, moved out of the house at 16 Elm Street. The town of Ipswich planned to replace the house with a parking lot. But members of the local historical society thought the old place must have some value and called the Smithsonian.

Smithsonian staff decided to collect the building as an example of early New England building practices. As the house was dismantled, a specialist in historic restoration made careful measurements and drawings, took photographs, and marked the pieces. The house was trucked to Washington and, in 1966, reassembled in the National Museum of American History.

Saving this one house saved more than a dozen family stories and 200 years of American history.

The house, 1963

The house, 1963