Choate Bridge Pub in Ipswich to host Updike event

John Updike made Ipswich internationally famous, and the small north shore town near Boston will acknowledge his impact on April 28, 2023 with a plaque and celebration.

When John Updike first moved to Ipswich he wrote in a home office at the Polly Dole House, but then found an office above The Dolphin restaurant. There he composed many of his acclaimed literary works, including Of the Farm, Rabbit Redux, “A & P,” “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” The Centaur, Couples, Midpoint, A Month of Sundays, and Bech: A Book.

While in Ipswich, Updike also helped write Something to Preserve: A report on Historic Preservation in America’s best-preserved Puritan town, Ipswich, Massachusetts—published in 1975 by the Ipswich Historical Commission, of which he was a member. Now that same commission will erect a plaque commemorating Updike’s literary impact and contributions to the community.

According to the Ipswich Local News story “Ipswich finally gives Updike his due” by Trevor Meek (Feb. 24, 2023), on Friday, April 28, the commission will unveil a commemorative plaque on the Caldwell Building at 15 South Main St., where Updike wrote in “the now-vacant suite #5 on the second floor” in a “smoky office.” Michael Updike told Meek, “We’d visit him often, in the days when you could still walk around town unsupervised as a six year old. A lot of times, we’d go there as he was about to have lunch at the Dolphin restaurant.”

The Dolphin closed down many years ago, but in its place is the Choate Bridge Pub, “located directly below suite #5.” The pub will host the celebratory event, which will feature a reading of “A & P” (a store no more, but a building still to be seen in Ipswich). In addition, a special menu will include Updike’s preferred lunch, which Michael said was “a pastrami sandwich with a side of pea soup.”

Rachel Meyer, treasurer of the IHC, said that there might even be an Updike cocktail available for the event, one named after Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick. But the IHC is “still negotiating the finer points of the event with the pub.”

The April 28 event will give Updike fans an excuse to travel to Ipswich and also enjoy seeing the exterior of the Polly Dole House, the old A & P, the setting for “The Hillies,” and the site of the first church in Ipswich that featured so prominently in Couples.

“Updike’s work defines this town,” Meyer said. “It’s part of a greater literary legacy too. This is one of the places that Anne Bradstreet—America’s first published poet—lived.”

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