Alexander Knight House banner

Alexander Knight House Raising

Raising Scheduled for
Saturday, September 4th, 2011
10:AM at the Ipswich Museum
(rain date following Saturday, September 11th 2010)

Intricate and Exacting Work Continues on Alexander Knight House.

A work in progress at Jim Whidden’s shop will soon unfold as the Alexander Knight House at the Ipswich Museum. We invite you to come and watch the raising of an authentic reproduction, 17th century house.

The frame raising is scheduled for Saturday, September 4th, beginning at 10:00 AM, at the Ipswich Museum, on the lawn beside the Whipple House. Baroque violinist John Schnelle and viol players Sarah McManaway and Michael Hamill will be playing seventeenth century consort music under the tree in front of the Whipple Garden from 11:00 to 1:00, food and refreshment will be available for purchase.

The Alexander Knight House project is a re-creation of an early, English-style timber frame house dating to 1657 as described in Ipswich town records. It represents what many of the Town's First Period homes looked like during the early 17th century, many of which were only one room. The project is presently: an on-going, live exhibit of building with traditional tools, and construction methods and permanently: an exhibit offering a chance to see and experience how an ordinary person lived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with hands on opportunities and open hearth cooking demonstrations.

Who was Alexander Knight? In 1635, Knight arrived from London with his wife and daughter. Historical accounts show Knight previously owned an inn in Chelmsford, England and was reported to have had significant land holdings in Ipswich by 1636. A man of some prominence, Knight 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, granted Knight a parcel of land and a house to be built for him with this description: "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). The Alexander Knight House should be considered an ordinary house of the early settlement period. The Whipple House, by contrast, was the mansion of a wealthy family. More History

The original concept for the project developed when Mat Cummings and Jim Whidden decided to combine their love of history and building to create a lasting contribution to the Town of Ipswich and the Ipswich Museum. The core Alexander Knight House Team includes:

The AKH Team, along with others and a generous donation (for materials only) are working to provide this gift of the past to the Ipswich Museum for present and future citizens.

Constant questioning, discussion and research guide the various processes. Examining and researching early houses in town and investigating historic town records, the team strives to be accurate. Acquiring the original materials, white oak, unseasoned or “green” and in the appropriate sizes, once abundant, is scarce in Ipswich today; white pine, of course, is still readily available. To date the AKH Team have collaborated with the Plimoth Plantation Interpretive Artisans, had white oak and pine logs authentically sash sawn at both the Taylor Sawmill in Derry, NH and at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA. Consultations with the East Anglian Master Thatchers (UK) have taken place over the past year. Thatch has been harvested in the local marshes yet more is needed. The cellar hole dug, the foundation laid, the sills await the rest of the frame.

Whidden, the woodwright artisan for the Alexander Knight House project says, “Right now we are focusing on the heart of the project, the frame. The joinery is challenging to lay out and the execution is critical. The joints must be true to each other as the timbers are handmade, or hewn. Time and care must be taken to accurately scribe them.”

The entire frame is of white oak, the choice wood of the Englishman. Scribe rule is the method used for the joinery; each mortise and tenon joint must be individually fitted. The joints are hand-sawn or chiseled. The most recognizable feature of English framing is the jowl post which is wider at the top to accommodate the plate and tie beam. Each intersection of timbers is labeled with “marriage marks”, a system of roman numerals matching each piece. Hand shaved pegs or “trunnels” hold the mortise and tenon joints in place. The scribed and pegged joinery create a solid and square framework.

More about Methods and Tools

More about the Process

For more information about the event, please contact the Ipswich Museum, 54 South Main Street, Ipswich, MA 01938 at 978-356-2811 or visit (rain date September 11th 2010). For more information on the project please explore our site.





Updated23 October 2010