Alexander Knight House

At first glance, the story of Alexander Knight and his family’s rise and fall in the Ipswich Massachusetts Bay Colony is perhaps not one of the more intriguing and significant in the Town’s historical register.  However, the dwelling – a one-room house - in which Knight and his family resided at Meetinghouse Green, represents what many of the Town’s First Period homes looked like during the 17th century.

The significance and existence of a one-room house in this respect can be traced and found in almost every First and some Second Period homes that still stand today in this distinguished and thriving seaside community. According to a few select published historical and genealogical accounts, there is a healthy curiosity in the minds of local historians who believe portions of the original Alexander Knight House may be incorporated in the John Kimball House. 

In 1635, Knight came over perhaps in the Defence with wife Anne (Hannah) Tuttie, daughter of William Tuttie of London although there is no definite license of such.  We know from historical accounts Knight previously owned an inn at Chelmsford, England and was reported to have had significant land holdings in Ipswich by 1636.

Knight, a man of some prominence, soon befell a rapid decline in fortunes both material and personal around 1641—including some mystery shrouding the death of an infant son during an unattended kitchen fire.  The Town, in a somewhat unprecedented move--after much ado concerning the perceived negligence of his son, Nathaniel Knight, and other arguments before the court-- grants Knight a parcel of land and a house to be built at the present day location of 2 Meetinghouse Green just a stones throw from the Whipple House.

"secure a house to be built for Alexander Knight of 16 foote long & twelve foote wyde & 7 or 8 foote stud upon his ground & to pryd thatching & other things nesasary for it."
(Town Register April 1657)

Historians believe this favorable treatment was perhaps in light of the fact that Knight’s former status as an innkeeper and early settler of Ipswich played trump.  Further, the house they built for him, “should be considered an ordinary house, neither a ‘hovel’ nor a ‘cabin’,” according to historian Sue Nelson. Usually the poor were farmed out to residents as indentured servants as Knight had been to Aron Pengry in 1656.  Here begins our team’s and the Ipswich Historical Society’s re-creation of the Knight House as we know from Town records, and the retracing of how settlers including Alexander Knight lived in the earliest days of one of our nation’s first colonies.

A Re-Creation First Period Timber Frame House

"The Ipswich Alexander Knight House recreation represents what many of the Town's First Period homes looked like during the early 17th century," remarks Mat Cummings. "It is the first authentic and only recreation in Ipswich's history and will have a permanent home located next to the Whipple House, sited by Sally's Pond on the South Green." Cummings further adds, "According to our knowledge, our one-room home will offer the only opportunity for one to see and experience how the common person lived in one of Mass Bay Colonies' settlements."

James Whidden adds, "Many of the First Period homes in Ipswich were only one room. As we entered the Second Period, add-ons were incorporated into the historic homes--particularly downtown-- and the original one room house became part of a larger home existing with Georgian or Federal style embellishments."

Whipple House geese

Early visitors at the Whipple House

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Updated 23 October 2010