one house, five families, 200 years of history
New Owners, New Occupants
By the 1870s, the people who owned this house no longer Lived in it. The Heard family of Ipswich bought the house as an investment-the hosiery mill in Ipswich was booming, and all those workers needed housing near the mill.
Catherine and Mary Lynch rented the near side of the house from the Heards during the 1870s and 1880s. At least five different families moved in and out of rooms on the far side in the same time.
The Heard family of Ipswich bought this house in 1865 after the death of the previous owner, Josiah Caldwell. They were merchants who had grown prosperous importing goods from China and investing in the fledgling textile industry.
They rented out this house and several others they owned in the neighborhood, mainly to Irish immigrants such as Catherine Lynch.
For Catherine and Mary Lynch, renting meant sharing space with boarders, other renters, and probably relatives recently arrived from Ireland. They shared entryways and some other parts of the house. Everyone used the same privy, a shed with a wooden plank for a seat and two holes for a toilet.
The Lynches didn't have a separate room for entertaining or the privacy and comforts of a big house. The kitchen may have bee n the dining room, the laundry room, even a bedroom, depending on the number of people in the house and the time of day.
How could Catherine Lynch afford the rent for this house?
Catherine Lynch paid the Heard family $50 a year to rent this side of the house. In some years, she got a partial credit toward her rent payment by doing laundry for the Heards. The rest she paid in cash. What seems like a small sum today took much of Catherine's income as a laundress, her daughter's wages, and rent from boarders who lived with her.