John Gaines House

The John Gaines house in Ipswich, Mass., was built in 1725, and as it turns out, his family was responsible for putting butts in seats.

The family was composed of several famous chairmakers: John Gaines II (1677-1748); John II’s younger son, Thomas (1712-1761), who worked with his father in Ipswich; and Thomas’ brother, John Gaines III (1704-1743), who moved to Portsmouth, NH around 1724.

3 High Street, Ipswich

It was John III who opened a shop that made the Gaines chairs famous. The family produced loads of chairs commonly found in colonial New England, but what set them apart were the carved feet, yoke-shaped cresting and designs on the front and back.

(A 2009 episode of PBS’ Antiques Roadshow valued a pair of John Gaines side chairs circa 1725 at $30-$50K.)

The Gaines house also served as the Episcopal rectory, and was home to horticulturist and educator, William Oakes, too.

Oakes died in 1848, allegedly after committing suicide by jumping off the east Boston railroad ferry. His widow then operated a boarding house here for Ipswich Female Seminary students.

The following text is from the book, “Something to Preserve” by the Ipswich Historical Commission:

“The left hand first-floor front room has an outstanding Mcintire-type mantelpiece with ropework molding. The rest of the room reveals rosettes and reeded detail in the wainscoting, arched doorways with reeded trim, recessed paneled windows and dentil-molded cornices. The exterior rear wall has a fine molded arched window. The roof is pitched in the front, with a hipped roof to the rear, a curious formation that gives evidence of a Federalized house of considerably earlier date. The building’s existing trim ranks with the best in New England.”

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