Green Street Bridge | Arthur Wesley Dow’s Ipswich Summer School of Art

Green Street Bridge | Arthur Wesley Dow’s Ipswich Summer School of Art

The Green Street Bridge and Howard House in Ipswich, Massachusetts is the subject of this cyanotype. It is consistent with a known view taken by Ipswich commercial photographer George G. Dexter. (1862-1927) Also called the Emerson-Howard House, it was once famously owned by the American artist Arthur Wesley Dow and used as his Ipswich Summer School of Art between 1891-1906.

In a variant image of this postcard taken by Dexter around ca. 1900 or later, the bridge itself becomes a massive and central feature of the photo, with the vantage point being the shoreline looking up. The work may have been referenced a short time later when photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn photographed the bridge from a similar vantage point in a brooding pictorialist work he titled The Bridge, Ipswich, taken in 1903. This photograph was later reproduced as a photogravure in Camera Work VI, 1904.

At the time the photo was taken, the artist and Ipswich native Arthur Wesley Dow owned the Emerson-Howard home, and it seems possible Dexter may have worked at the school in some capacity as evidenced by the handwriting on the lower margin of this cyanotype. An intriguing connection is a surviving glass plate negative taken by him of an artwork by Dow titled Water St. Sketch owned by Robert Cronin and shown as part of a grouping of Dexter photographs on the Old Ipswich website.  You can see the slideshow here. Dexter is known to have published tourist postcards with some of his images, including a whimsical exaggeration view showing an outrageously large clam taking up an entire luggage cart parked outside the Ipswich Railroad station published around the turn of the 20th century. In the 1896 edition of the Directory of the The Town of Ipswich, he took out an advertisement (p. 52) proclaiming himself “Dexter The Photographer”, with the following copy:

The facts that we always guarantee perfect satisfaction, are willing to devote enough time to each sitting; to secure the best results; have one of the most throughly (sic) equipped studios in the state and are always Up-to-Date with new styles, account for our continued increase of work.

In the volume of cyanotypes taken by Dow titled Ipswich Days- Arthur Wesley Dow and his Hometown, (Trevor Fairbrother: 2007- Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover Massachusetts) citation #39 discusses Dow’s photographic circle in Ipswich:

The photographers in Dow’s circle there included his brother, Dana; Everett Hubbard; George Dexter (a successful commercial photographer in Ipswich); and the amateur ornithologist Dr. Charles Wendell Townsend. I am grateful to Stephanie Gaskins for her thoughts on this subject.”

With this information, it would be interesting to know if Dow was assisted in the making of his cyanotypes as this work showing the Green Street bridge by Dexter was taken ca. 1900 or slightly later-around the same time Dow was experimenting with the process.

Dexter built a Queen Ann style home in 1893 which still stands at 15 Argilla Road in Ipswich. The home is said to feature a separate outbuilding that was used by him as a photo studio.

From the Historic Ipswich website, we learn:

Arthur Wesley Dow was born in Ipswich in On April 6, 1857. After studying art in Worcester and Boston, he enrolled at the Academie Julian in Paris. From 1891 to 1906 he and his wife Minnie Pearson ran the Ipswich Summer School of Art from his home (the 1680 Emerson-Howard house) on Turkey Shore Road. He is said to have saved the house from destruction.


The site gives a detailed history of the Emerson-Howard home, built in 1680, and still standing today:

The Emerson-Howard house on Turkey Shore Road across from the intersection with Green Street was built in 1680 by William Howard on land that he purchased from Thomas Emerson. (Read The Ipswich Emersons. A.D. 1636-1900 : a genealogy of the descendants of Thomas Emerson of Ipswich, Mass., with some account of his English ancestry (1900) by Benjamin Kendall Emerson.)

Print notes: in black ink script along lower margin recto: Emerson House, where G. works-; engraved Private Mailing Card on verso postmarked Fall River JUL  13 (1904); addressed-perhaps by the photographer’s spouse to:

Mrs. Walter Dow
92 New Boston Road
Fall River,


Posted perhaps by Mabelle Ordway Dexter (1863-1950), the photographer’s wife, the addressee was Mary T. Dow, born around 1871, whose husband Walter E. Dow is listed as being in charge of the printing department at The American Printing Co. in Fall River in the January, 1907 issue of the Textile American, a trade journal. (p.43) (unknown at this time if Walter E. Dow and Arthur Wesley Dow were related in any way)

Green Street Bridge | Arthur Wesley Dow’s Ipswich Summer School of Art

Support Dimensions8.2 x 13.9 cm