Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Sanctuary from Salem,1693

On Monday, yet another sparkling summer day, I drove over to Framingham to look at an old house which has a direct connection to Salem, having been built by refugees from the Witch Trials of 1692. The Peter and Sarah Clayes House, appropriately situated on Salem End Road, has been in a state of decline for quite some time, and there is an ongoing and apparently intensifying effort to save it and attain placement on the National Register of Historic Places. Both of my parents grew up in Framingham, my father very close to the Clayes house, but I don’t remember ever visiting it or even hearing about it when I went to visit my grandparents: it was only later–after I moved to Salem and became curious about all things Salem–that I first became aware of it. And when I first saw it a few decades ago it looked a lot better than it does now.

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Even in its present dilapidated state, the house doesn’t look very First Period: it has been extensively remodeled in several phases over its 300 year history (oddly there is no HABS report at the Library of Congress, but there is an inventory at MACRIS). As originally built by the Clayes after they fled Salem, it was a much smaller saltbox–and the center of a community of Salem exiles that came to include some 15 families in what was first known as “Salem Plain” and later as “Salem End”. For reasons that are a bit murky, Sarah Towne Bridges Clayes (or Cloyce, as she was known in Salem) managed to escape the fates of her sisters Rebecca Nurse and Mary Easty, who were among the 19 “witches” hanged on Gallows Hill in 1692. She too was arrested and imprisoned (in Ipswich, rather than Salem) but ultimately liberated through the combined efforts of her husband Peter and Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth, who had served as a magistrate in the early phase of the trials but apparently had serious regrets afterwards. Danforth had acquired large grants of land in the region west of Boston over the years, comprising what came to be known first as “Danforth’s  Farm” and later as Framingham, and presumably he offered the Clayes and their fellow refugees sanctuary from Salem. So even before the official pardons, public apologies, and the legislative restitution that were decreed in the aftermath of 1692, the Clayes House stands as physical symbol of all of the above–and hopefully will for quite some time.

The Sarah and Peter Clayes House Preservation Project

 


“Burglarious Tools”

The police blotter headline caught by eye–Salem Police Nab Alleged Copper Thief on Flint Street–because, frankly, copper downspouts are far too vulnerable in Salem (and I have one right on the street!), but as I read the details, one particular phrase really captured my attention: At 10:18 a.m., police responded to a report of stolen copper down spouts on Flint Street. [The alleged thief] was arrested on charges of larceny over $250, malicious destruction of property valued above $250 and possessing burglarious tools. Burglarious!!! Is that really a word? Burglarious tools!!! I can only imagine. Is there a precise definition–lots of things could be considered “burglarious tools”, I should think. And is there really a law against possessing them apart from using them?

Well I went right to my legal history colleague who directed me to the statute to answer these questions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (along with several other states) does indeed have a statute regarding burglarious tools among its General Laws (Chapter 266, Section 49):

Whoever makes or mends, or begins to make or mend, or knowingly has in his possession, an engine, machine, tool or implement adapted and designed for cutting through, forcing or breaking open a building, room, vault, safe or other depository, in order to steal therefrom money or other property, or to commit any other crime, knowing the same to be adapted and designed for the purpose aforesaid, with intent to use or employ or allow the same to be used or employed for such purpose, or whoever knowingly has in his possession a master key designed to fit more than one motor vehicle, with intent to use or employ the same to steal a motor vehicle or other property therefrom, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than ten years or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars and imprisonment in jail for not more than two and one half years.

I’m no lawyer, but the key words here must be “knowing”, “knowingly” and “with intent”: you can’t just arrest someone for having a toolbox in their possession. I know that Massachusetts has long taken theft seriously (it was a capital crime from 1715 to 1839) but I presume that the “burglarious tool” law came later, maybe in the late nineteenth century, when there seems to have been a preoccupation with more deliberate, strategic, involved crimes, requiring some serious tools. I found an interesting article in the May 1874 issue of  Manufacturer and Builder on “Burglar’s Tools” which seems to present their manufacture as the dark side of the industrial revolution, and there are several other contemporary publications which seem to be a less preoccupied with the perpetrators than their paraphernalia (and, as several commentators have pointed out, more prescriptive than preventative!)

Burglarious Tools 1874 manufacturer and builder

Burglarious Tools 1875 Montreal NYPL

Burglarious Tools

Manufacturer and Builder, 1874; Aftermath of a Bank Robbery in Montreal, New York Graphic, January 9, 1875 (New York Public Library Digital Gallery);“Bank Burglars’ Outfit”, from George Washington Walling, Recollections of a New York Chief of Police. New York: Caxton Book Concern, 1887.


Schoolgirl Maps

For some time I’ve been developing an interest in schoolgirl art–typically examples of painting and embroidery–and I’ve always been interested in cartography, so when I read a recent post on one schoolgirl’s hand-drawn maps at the Vault, Slate’s history blog, I was immediately enchanted. I began searching for more, and this post is the result of my intermittent efforts. The maps featured in the Vault’s post were drawn by Vermont schoolgirl Frances Henshaw in 1823:  the entire collection of  her 19 (out of then 24) state maps can be accessed at the David Rumsey Map Collection’s website, along with their beautiful calligraphic descriptions.

Schoolgirl map Henshaw Massachusetts

Schoolgirl map Henshaw Maine

Schoolgirl map Henshaw Maine description

Maps and description drawn by Frances Henshaw of Middlebury Female Academy, 1823. Courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection, © Cartography Associates.

It  turns out that Frances was at a very progressive school, receiving instruction in a “reformed” curriculum advocated by its former principle, Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) whose 1819 Plan for Improving Female Education established her reputation as the dean of girls’ education and led to her placement at what became her namesake school. Mrs. Willard believed that young women should be instructed in topics that were previously beyond, or outside, their reach:  mathematics, philosophy, history, geography. And so we see the creation of these charming annotated maps, I think I have a new collection obsession, but if all of the sold lots below are any indication, I fear that I might be a bit late to the party.

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Schoolgirl map Quakers 1835 Skinner

Northeast Schoolgirl map

Schoolgirl map of Latin America

Detail of pen-and-ink map of Massachusetts drawn by Maria C. Butler of Utica, NY in 1815 (before Mrs. Willard’s plan–maybe she gets too much credit?), sold by Andrew Spindler Antiques, a great shop up in Essex; Quaker map of the United States by Anna A. Wilbur of the Friends School, Providence, 1835, Skinner Auctions; Watercolor map of  the western and eastern hemispheres by Ann E. Colson and Laura Northrop, Athens, NY, 1809 (also before Emma), Northeast Auctions; Map of South America by Massachusetts schoolgirl Tirzah Bearse, 1831, Joan R. Brownstein Art and Antiques.


In Praise of Massachusetts Chairs

Aficionados of antiques, decorative arts, and furniture, or simply admirers of artistry and design, can find plenty to see and learn at all of the events and exhibitions associated with Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture , a collaboration of eleven institutions designed to put the spotlight on Bay State craftsmanship. You may not have been aware that this past Tuesday, September 17th, was declared Massachusetts Furniture Day by our own Governor Deval Patrick!  The announcement was made at the State House with the chair of John Endecott, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, sitting prominently in the background–I assume this is a Salem chair as that is where Endecott landed and lived (it certainly couldn’t be the English chair which accompanied his successor John Winthrop on the Arbella  which is the subject and device of Hawthorne’s story “Grandfather’s Chair”).

Chair of Endecott at MSH

©Andrea Shea/WBUR

It’s really all about chairs for me, as even a casual reader of this blog would know. Just in my head, without going to Four Centuries’ great website or any of its events, I can immediately think of a chronological succession of great Massachusetts-made chairs–up to about 1830 or so:  after that, I’m lost. The nice thing about this initiative is its incredible time span, which must accommodate colonial craftsmen and Federal superstars like Samuel McIntire of Salem as well as industrial manufacturers in central and western Massachusetts, After all, Worcester held the title of “chair capital of the country” a century ago and Gardner is still proudly “the chair city”.

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Gardner’s Big Chair, c. 1910

So here we go:  my own Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture, taken from a variety of sources and certainly informed by the collections showcased on the Four Centuries’ sitea particular discovery for me is Boston furniture-maker Samuel Gragg–amazing!  Obviously there’s a bias here in favor of the early nineteenth century, but it was hard to choose favorites in general:  Massachusetts really produced a lot of great chairs (more than all of the other original 12 colonies put together apparently) and continues to do so.

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Chair Chippendale Boston MFA

Chair Lolling Skinner

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Salem Fancy Chair

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Richardson Chair

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Chair Plycraft

Char by Jay Stanger 1994 Fuller Craft

Made in Massachusetts:  Leather “Great Chair“, 1665-80, Boston (a near-contemporary of the Endecott chair), and Chippendale side chair, about 1770, Boston, both Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Federal “Lolling” Chair made by Joseph Short of Newburyport, c. 1795; Federal armchairs made by Samuel McIntire for the Peirce-Nichols House in Salem, 1801, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in situ; “Fancy” side chair, probably Salem, c. 1800-1820, American Folk Art Museum, New York; Pair of decorated fancy chairs, attributed to Samuel Gragg, Boston, c. 1825, Skinner Auctions; Boston “Grecian” side chair, c. 1815-25, Winterthur Museum, Gallery & Library; Armchair designed by H.H. Richardson for the Woburn Public Library, Boston, 1878, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Shaker chairs at the Hancock Shaker Village near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, courtesy of Apartment Therapy; Armchair by Norman Lerner for Plycraft, Lawrence, Massachusetts, c. 1955, Skinner Auctions; “Arched and Animated” chair by Jay Stanger, Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts.

Mass Furniture Haverhill Chairs

Another great line-up:  chairs in the snow, c. 1910, Haverhill, Massachusetts. Smithsonian Institution.


Views, but no Rooms

Yesterday, a perfectly sparkling September Sunday, we hiked around the Coolidge Reservation in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, encompassing 66 acres on the Atlantic on a point that looks back (south, west) on both Salem and Boston, and Cape Cod beyond. Owned, operated, and opened to the public by the venerable Trustees of Reservations, the reservation encompasses two parcels of land:  Bungalow Hill, offering woodland and vista, and the expanse of “Ocean Lawn” on Coolidge Point, where the Coolidge family’s grand mansion once stood, facing the sea. In between there is Clarke Pond, once stagnant but now re-opened to the sea (and stocked with mosquito-eating fish called mummichog–why don’t we have them in every body of water?) by the Trustees.

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From the pond it is an easy walk to the point, which was acquired by Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, the great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson, in 1871 for the site of a summer residence. His son replaced the first Coolidge summer house, apparently a simple clapboard structure, with a “Marble Palace”, designed by Charles McKim and completed in 1904. Not to be confused with the Vanderbilt’s Marble House in Newport (much less the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg), Marble Palace was a brick Georgian structure embellished with marble foundation and columns–it was visited by such luminaries as Presidents Taft, Roosevelt (Teddy), and Wilson and Prince Olav of Norway, but replaced (again) by a smaller building after World War II. This house was torn down in the late 1980s, leaving Ocean Lawn free of human constructions (except for an old fire hydrant): the Coolidge Family donated the property to the Trustees in the early 1990s, though at least one member lives nearby and the family’s presence is also maintained by the adjacent Thomas Jefferson Memorial Center.

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Ocean Lawn, Coolidge Point, with only the surviving fire hydrant and an outline of the Marble Palace foundation. The front (seaside) and back entrance of Marble Palace, remains on the rocks, the view of Kettle Island, the modern house next door, looking north (east), the view to the south (west).


Essex County Seats

Salem is the county seat of Essex County, which extends from north of Boston to the New Hampshire border, encompassing a great marsh, a rocky coastline, the Merrimack River,and what used to be fertile farmland in between. Now much,but not all, of it is residential, but because of its early development (just after Plymouth, to the south of Boston), the marsh, and some early conservation and preservation efforts there remains a seemingly-eternal landscape that is both natural and man-made. The county is full of long-established towns with clearly-defined centers and commons, even though progressive sprawl has blurred the lines of distinction among them. There are seventeenth-century, “First Period” houses in several Essex County towns (with Ipswich claiming the most) and eighteenth-century houses everywhere. When I was a teenager and in my early 20s, Essex County was just a place to drive through, between Boston and my hometown in southern Maine, but then I began turning off route 95 and exploring a little: first the old seaports, Salem, Gloucester, Newburyport, then the smaller coastal and inland towns between the ports and the highway, and then the Merrimack Valley, still bearing the structures of its early industrial revolution. Now that I live here, I still go exploring, and find new (old) houses, roads, and landmarks every time.

Over a century ago, Boston lithographer and publisher George H. Walker encouraged the exploration of Essex (and other) counties by issuing a series of  “driving maps”, birds’ eye views, and lithographs of the notable structures of the region: “stately” homes, factories, educational establishments, public buildings. A large collection of his Essex County lithographs was donated to the Archives of Salem State University earlier this summer, and they are now online, with great descriptions written by a former student of mine. Published in 1884, in the midst of an age of dynamic growth and industrialization, these images seem to harken back to an earlier Arcadian age. They are beautiful in a very idealized way: prancing horses dance about and even the factories are pristine. But as you can see below (in just a sampling of the entire collection), where I’ve managed to contrast a Walker lithograph with a standing structure, the architectural details are quite delineated.

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Essex County Kimball

Silsbee House, Salem

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John Bertram House, Salem

Walker’s Salem Lithographs: the Kernwood Estate in North Salem (now radically reconstructed as the clubhouse of the Kernwood Country Club), the Kimball House (built by Nathaniel Silsbee and now the Knights of Columbus) & the George Peabody House (now the John Bertram House, a senior living community).

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Two long-lost houses in nearby Peabody: the very eclectic Appleton estate, and Samuel McIntire’s “Oak Hill” shown in Victorian guise–now the site of the Northshore Shopping Center!

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Essex County Danvers

St. John's Prep administrative building

Another Peabody (family, not town) house: the summer residence at Light House Point in Beverly, where President Taft summered, and the Spring residence in Danvers, now the administrative building of St. John’s Preparatory School.

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Essex County Moulton Hill

The very charming Elm Vale Cottage in North Andover (I don’t know if this is still standing; I’ll have to go exploring), and the long-gone Moulton Castle in Newburyport, situated on the Castle Hill that is now part of Maudslay State Park.


Most Endangered 2013

My affection for history was fostered by places and buildings; it’s very material. And while I appreciate and am often awed by nature, I find the built landscape more accessible–and instructive. I’ve been an ardent preservationist since my teens, and am just passionate (geeky) enough to actually anticipate the release of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual Most Endangered Places list every year. Yesterday brought the big announcement of this year’s list, which includes two New England properties with which I am familiar and nine more which I’m eager to see (most of them anyway, before they disappear). I have helped to create similar lists for our local preservation organization, Historic Salem, Inc., and if our deliberations are any indication, this list is the result of an intensive process:  you have to choose places that are threatened but are not too far gone, that possess the potential for recovery, there are always political factors involved, and historical and/or cultural significance has to be readily apparent. I’m sure the National Trust also has to take into account regional representation, as their Most Endangered Places are generally spread all over the U.S. map.

New England Most Endangered Places: Gay Head Lighthouse, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and the Abyssinian Meeting House, Portland Maine.

Most Endangered

The Gay Head Light, Aquinnah, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is threatened by erosion: it’s about 10 feet away from falling over the cliff. It’s wooden predecessor was faced with the same threat in 1844, and this brick structure, outfitted with a first-order Fresnel lens, dates from the 1850s.

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The Abyssinian Meeting House in Portland, Maine was built in 1828 to serve as a school and assembly house for Portland’s African-American community, and it also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It is the third oldest African-American meeting house in the country, which is amazing to me given its northern location. If you visit the Abyssinian Restoration Project website, you will see that an intensive preservation effort is ongoing; all they lack is resources.

Properties threatened by Development: The Village of Mariemont, Ohio, and the James River, Virginia.

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The Village of Mariemont  in Ohio, a Tudor Revival planned community built in the 1920s, is threatened by highway construction. Of all the threats to historic structures, infrastructure development bothers me the most, because it is often short-sighted. Salem was faced with the threat of a road running down its historic center in the 1960s which was fortunately averted; I thought Urban Renewal had ended.

Most Endangered

The historic places that line its shores–Jamestown, Williamsburg, and a host of plantations–have given the James River the name “America’s Founding River”. Apparently “inappropriate development” threatens this region now. I’ll take the National Trust’s word on this, but I wish they were a bit more specific about the threat.

Most of the places on the list are quite modern, including Houston’s Astrodome, the Worldport at JFK Airport in New York, and several mid-twentieth-century buildings–all of which face demolition. By contrast, the oldest building on the list and one of the oldest buildings in North America, the San José Church (1523) in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is threatened by the deterioration that comes with time. The notes on its Historic American Buildings Survey record indicate that it was “in need of extensive repairs” in 1935, so you can imagine its condition now.

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The Church of San José in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, built by the Dominican Order in 1523. Black and white photographs from the Historic American Buildings Survey (1935), Library of Congress.


Storybook Structures 3.0

My preference for classical American architecture does not stop me from seeking out more whimsical structures: the “storybook” style of the interwar years is a particular obsession, though there are not many examples in our region. One of my very favorite Salem houses, which I wrote about here and check in on often, is classic storybook, as is Santarella in western Massachusetts. Most of the houses below would probably be classified more as Arts and Crafts or “eclectic” houses by architectural historians, but it’s all in the details for me: a few fanciful touches makes the grade. The first house, which is situated on a street that runs parallel to ours here in Salem, has long fascinated me. It was built on a swath of land that was devastated by the great Salem fire of 1914, I think shortly afterwards, both because it was the city’s policy to rebuild as soon as possible, and the appearance of similar (but not identical) structures in building periodicals from the World War One era.

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Storybook Low Cost Homes

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A Salem cottage, and its inspiration? Rendering from Richardson Little Wright’s Low Cost Suburban Homes; a Book of Suggestions for the Man with the Moderate Purse (1916).

This next house is right around the corner in the same Salem neighborhood, but it fortunately survived the fire. The main structure dates from the 1840s, but a very fanciful wing was added at some point after the turn of the century. The entire composition is really charming, as you can see:  even the fence.

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The towns that line the coast just south of Salem, heading towards Boston, have rich inventories of older houses, many with whimsical details. These next two houses definitely date from before the storybook era (if indeed there is one): they are essentially and eclectically Victorian. But how can I resist including Moorish and Norman “castles” in this company?

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Storybook Victorians in Swampscott (top) and Lynn (bottom), Massachusetts.

Storybook intersects with all of the other architectural styles of the first decades of the twentieth century: Arts and Crafts, Cottage, Tudor Revival, among others. These last two houses, in Swampscott and Nahant respectively, illustrate this assimilation. The first house, with its spectacular slate-tiled roof, looks like an embellished bungalow, while the second is (unmistakably) an all-American Tudor. But  both have that fairy-tale feel, accentuated by their settings.

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Swampscott and Nahant cottages, and a photograph from Wright’s Low Cost Suburban Homes (1916).


Double Houses

Our house is part of a double house, in which a central party wall divides two autonomous units, a not-uncommon configuration in historic urban areas, large and small.  Though, as you will see in my pictures below, double houses are not exclusively urban constructions. I love living in our half of the double house, primarily because we have great neighbors, but also because there are no restrictions on privacy and lots of economic benefits which derive from the common wall:  I am certain that the heating bills for my very large house would be a lot higher without it!  Our particular property has very private spaces out back as well, as the previous owners of my house (several previous owners ago) extended an addition to my neighbors’ barn, creating separate courtyard gardens on each side. While our houses started out as mirror images of each other, many changes have been made over the nearly 2 centuries of the building’s existence, mostly to my side. Even though they are semi-detached (to use the British term), we could even paint our houses different colors if we wanted to (but we don’t).

It seems that every double house has its own story:  many were built by and for family members, but not all.  Here in Salem, there are several instances of fathers constructing double houses for their marrying daughters (in one case, daughters who are marrying brothers!). There are also business partnerships behind the construction of double houses.  Here on Chestnut Street and in the surrounding McIntire Historic District, I think builders were running out of land on which to build, and double-house construction offered an economic way to build two houses in a fashionable neighborhood.  I know that’s the story with our house, which was built by the distiller-developer Deacon John Stone who lived across the street:  he bought the lot as an investment, and constructed our house as an investment property, to be let out on both sides.  Quite soon after its erection, both sides of the house were sold to different families, and then its separate-but-connected history began. Some double houses were converted from single houses; some single houses were extended to become double houses.

My favorite double house (besides my own, of course) is not in an urban setting or even in Salem:  it is in Byfield, Massachusetts, on a rural country road.  I don’t know anything about its construction, but the fact it is built in the midst of isolated farm/marshland leads me to believe there was a family connection; I can’t imagine strangers living side by side but maybe its dwellers were looking for close comfort.  On the day before the big snowstorm a couple of weeks ago, I was up in that part of Essex County, so I took some pictures of the Byfield house and some other double houses in nearby Newburyport, Newbury and Essex.

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Double House Newburyport

Double House Newburyport entrance

Double House Historic New England

Double House Blue Anchor Tavern Newbury MA HABS 1940 bw

Double House Ipswich

Double House on the Marsh, Byfield, Massachusetts, the former Newburyport Academy on High Street in Newburyport, converted into a double house in 1842; the Swett-Ilsley House (Historic New England), which began its life as a single house in 1670 and then was extended (HABS photograph from 1940, Library of Congress); a double house in Ipswich.

Double houses in Salem are for the most part more straightforward constructions, but as is the case with our house, changes to the exterior on one side or another over time distort the mirror image, but usually in a relatively graceful way. There are lots of added bay windows and rear and side additions. I’ve don’t have any interior images today, but the comparative interiors of a double house often provide an interesting lesson in architectural history; generally one side is a bit more pristine and the other a bit more “modern”. There are lots of double houses in Salem, in every area of the downtown, so I chose a chronological sampling of those in my immediate neighborhood, and I’m picturing them in chronological order, starting with the Pickering-Mack-Stone double house on Chestnut Street, which was built in 1814-15 for two Pickering brothers. The western (right-hand) half of this house is currently for sale: it has absolutely beautiful “bones”, a Federal carriage house out back, and, according to Bryant Tolles’ Architecture in Salem, Andrew Jackson was entertained there in 1833 on a presidential visit to Salem.

Double Houses Salem 1807

Double House Cousins 1890s NYPL

Frank Cousins photograph of Chestnut Street in the 1890s, New York Public Library.

Next are two great Greek Revival double houses, the Thompson-West double house, built in 1845-46 on Chestnut Street (note the entrance bay window added to the left-hand side later in the nineteenth century), and the Nancy Courtis double house, built in the following year on Federal Street. Miss Courtis was a “singlewoman” who built the house and lived on one side her entire life while leasing out the other, no doubt a convenient arrangement for her. It’s a striking house, made all the more so because of its paint scheme.

Double Houses Salem 1840s

Double House Salem 1846-47

And last but certainly not least, two Victorian double houses in the same general area.  I’m really not sure about the date of this first house, which is further along Federal Street from the Courtis house:  it looks like it was built in the 1850s or 1860s to me, but I could be wrong. I wanted to include it because of its doorways, which are not located adjacent to each other but at opposite ends of the building.  This seems a bit unusual to me, especially for a town house.  Both sides of the house have their addition wings off the side,and matching dormer windows as well. The paint color (a very dark purple with salmon-orange doors) makes this house really stand out on the street. The last house, on Hamilton Street, was built in 1890 for the Reverend James Potter Franks, long-time rector at Grace Episcopal Church around the corner, and his daughters. The gabled entrance really stands out on this house; it is clearly the result of deliberate design rather than organic evolution.

Double House Victorian Salem

Double House Salem 1890


Carriage Houses

I was getting a bit depressed with all the devastation and demolition of the last few posts, so I went searching for structures that have survived:  not too difficult a task in my neighborhood. The weather is odd here (for January):  quite warm, foggy, air filled with moisture but no rain or snow. Rather dreary, really, as you can tell from the photographs. On dark days like these in the midwinter the built landscape really stands out, with no natural landscape to frame or cloak it. For some reason, on my walk yesterday I was particularly noticing the outbuildings rather than the facades:  Salem has many great carriage houses, most in pretty good condition.  This is impressive to me:  it’s hard enough to preserve a big old house, but keeping an ancient ancillary building in good shape is a true commitment. We lost our carriage house long ago:  it is evident on the late nineteenth-century street atlases of Salem, but after the turn of the century, it’s gone.

I don’t have anything similar for Salem, so I want to start with an image of  the Valentine-Fuller house in Cambridge, Massachusetts:  Mr. and Mrs. Fuller are on horseback in their carriage-house courtyard, circa 1890:  this seems like the peak time for carriage houses to me.  After that, they would either come down or be preserved as storage structures or garages. This house, which was built in 1848 on Prospect Street, was demolished in 1937, along with its outbuildings (oh no, more demolition).

HABS, Library of Congress

Back in Salem, carriage houses can be found in several neighborhoods, so this is just a sampler, or part one.  On the street where I live, Chestnut Street, there are some amazing carriage houses, several of which are laid out a considerable distance from their main houses so you really don’t get the courtyard effect that you see above. On one side of the street, a completely new parallel street, Warren Street, was laid out as an access route to these buildings. The photographs below are all of Warren Street carriage houses that belong to mansions on Chestnut, but two of them appear quite capable of fulfilling an independent existence.

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Essex Street, which was the colonial (and remains the present) main street of Salem, runs parallel to Chestnut on the other side: because of its early settlement, it features many beautiful carriage houses–primarily wooden rather than brick. In the general vicinity of the Salem Public Library, stalwart structures peak out from behind the streetscape, particularly visible at this time of year.  Behind this trio of houses–Georgian, Colonial Revival built on the site of a pulled-down Federal at the turn of the century, and Federal–are some of my favorite carriage houses on the street and in Salem.

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And then just across the street from the library, there’s this wonderfully restored Greek Revival, with its NEW carriage house aligned perfectly with what I assume are later nineteenth-century additions, creating a nice sense of enclosure for its yard.  Just a little down the street, is a (nearly) matched pair of Federal houses dating from about 1800, both of which have great carriage houses.  As you can see, carriage-house cupolas abound on Essex Street!

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Essex Street, circa 1910. Detroit Publishing Company/ Library of Congress

On my way across town to the Common, I stopped to take a photograph of a very controversial Federal Street carriage house.  It appears to belong to the very stately Victorian that was converted into condominiums a few decades ago, but actually is part of an adjacent property whose owner tried to do the very same thing with his carriage house at the same time (this was all before I came to Salem, so I’m not that clear on the details).  When he did not get approval, he moved out of his Federal Court house and let it and the carriage house rot. So this is the result, 20+ years later.

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As this is the birthday week of Salem’s famed architect Samuel McIntire, I’ve got to feature some McIntire carriage houses which, again, is not difficult to do. Everybody’s favorite McIntire house, the Gardner-Pingree house, has a charming carriage house in back which has a slightly smaller stature, in keeping with the general scale of the house.  There’s a restoration project going on there now, so I’m sorry that the pictures give a work-site impression, but you can still see how great this outbuilding is.

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Just next door, another house owned by the Peabody Essex Museum features one of the most prominent carriage houses in town:  the Andrew Safford House was built after McIntire’s in 1811, but you can see his influence in both the main house and the carriage house, both of which overlook Salem Common. When it was built in 1819, this was one of the most expensive houses in America, and it remains very impressive, nearly two centuries later.

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Safford House

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Safford Stable 1939

The Andrew Safford House and Carriage House, yesterday and in 1910 & 1939 photographs, Library of Congress.

Finally, my very favorite Salem carriage house.  The Clifford Crowninshield House (1806) is a McIntire house located on another corner of the Salem Common, just across from the Safford house. Behind the main house, almost hidden really, is a wooden carriage house with an elegant stature and very intricate details:  every time I pass by it makes me smile.

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