Tag Archives: Samuel McIntire

Searching for the Hunt House

I get fixated on houses which once occupied a prominent place in Salem but no longer exist: there are so many, unfortunately. It seems like much of last year was devoted to commemorating the Great Salem Fire of 1914 which swept away so many houses in one night, but individual demolitions have been a continuous factor in this ever-changing, ever-developing little “historic” city. I took advantage of my snow days to look into the history of a first-period house that occupied a very prominent place, on one of Salem’s main streets, for over 150 years, only to be demolished during the Civil War. It lasted long enough to be photographed, however, and perhaps to provide additional inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne in the form of yet another mossy, many-gabled house. The Lewis Hunt house was built between 1698 and 1700 by a first-generation Salem sea-captain, and descended in his family almost up to the time it was taken down in 1863.

Hunt House Cousins and Riley

Hunt House Perley illustration

Frank Cousins’ photograph of the Lewis Hunt house shortly before its demolition; illustration from Sidney Perley’s History of Salem, Volume III (1928).

I first “saw” this house when I found a charming painting of an adjacent mansion, the Pickman-Derby-Brookhouse-Rogers house, by one of its inhabitants, Mary Jane Derby. The image was painted in 1825, so the Hunt House probably looked far more dilapidated than portrayed by Miss Derby in her rather romantic picture, but it still provided a sharp contrast to her strident Federal mansion. Both buildings were threatened by their situation on busy Washington Street (Mary Jane’s house was taken down in 1915), but this same location would ensure that they were “captured” again and again by a succession of Salem views. The view of Salem in the 1760s by Joseph Orne–when Washington Street was School Street–somewhat obscures the Hunt House, but once the new McIntire Court House was built everything around it comes more sharply into view. I’m assuming the bright red color of the house in the last image below, a fireboard painted by George Washington Felt about 1820, is an example of artistic license, but maybe not.

mary-jane-derby-pickman-house-70-washington1

Hunt House holyokediaries Orne 1765

Hunt House Washington Street Salem 1760s HNE

Hunt House print

Hunt House Court and Town House Square Salem MA 1820

Mary Jane Derby, The Pickman Derby House, 1825, Detroit Institute of Arts; Two views of School Street/ Washington Street based on a painting by Dr. Joseph Orne, 1765: Holyoke Diaries and Historic New England Collections; George Washington Felt, Fireboard View of Court House Square, 1820, Peabody Essex Museum.

As its days were numbered, depictions of the Hunt House increase, and continue even after it is gone: my favorite is a sketch from the later nineteenth century in the vast collections of Historic New England: it seems wistful in its simplicity. The artist (or perhaps someone later–it looks like a different hand) has added additional location information–on Lynde Street–in the right-hand corner just so we know where the house once was. In this time, the commercial “Odell Block” filled out the corner of Lynde and Washington Streets in Salem, as it does today.

Hunt House on Washington and Lynde Streets Salem HNE

Odell Block Salem

The Lewis Hunt House in an 1890s (?) sketch, collections of Historic New England; the Odell Block on the same site today (or a few days ago, before our big snowstorm).


The Eagle has Flown

I woke up Tuesday morning to a cherry picker just outside my bedroom window. This is nothing new–I live right next door to Hamilton Hall, which is regularly the site of either events or renovations which might require such equipment. This particular cherry picker was there for a very special reason, however: to facilitate the removal of the wooden eagle affixed to the hall’s facade which is attributed to Samuel McIntire, Salem’s renown Federal-era architect and woodcutter. The Hamilton Hall eagle is–or was– in fact the only in situ exterior McIntire carving, and therefore one incredibly valuable bird. But it has been exposed to the elements for two centuries now, and requires restoration and preservation, which can only happen off the wall. (A replica will eventually be installed in its place). So that’s what the men in the cherry picker were doing, very carefully. I had to run to class, so I wasn’t able to capture the exact moment when the eagle was “liberated”, but from the vantage point of my third-floor guest bedroom I did manage to get some good befores-and when I returned later that afternoon I got the after: bricks that haven’t seen the light of day in several centuries!

Eagle 022

Eagle 027

Eagle 032

Eagle 036

Eagle 051

Eagle 101

A few more McIntire eagles, (obviously) detached from their original perches and consequently preserved for posterity: the (first) Custom House eagle, now at the Peabody Essex Museum, a beautiful eagle that was made for the cupola of the Pickman-Derby-Brookhouse house on Washington Street by McIntire between 1786 and 1799 and removed prior to that structure’s demolition in 1915 (now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), and an eagle carved by McIntire for the cupola of the Lynn Academy in Lynn Massachusetts, circa 1804.

Eagle PEM

Eagle MFA

Eagle from the cupola of Lynn Academy, 1804

 

Sign for U.S. Custom House, 1805. Carved by Samuel McIntire, painted and gilded pine. Peabody Essex Museum, 100754, gift of Joseph F. Tucker, 1907. Photograph by Dennis Helmar; Gilt white pine eagle, Museum purchase with funds donated by a Friends of the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture, The Estate of Gilbert L. Steward, Sr., Mrs. Ichabod F. Atwood and Mrs. Elaine Wilde,  The French Foundation in memory of Edward V. French, The Seminarians, and an anonymous donor, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;  Eagle from the cupola of Lynn Academy, 1804, Carved by Samuel McIntire, Lynn, Massachusetts, painted pine, Courtesy of Lynn Museum and Historical Society.


 


The Redcoat Next Door

There is always something interesting going on in Salem. Yesterday my over-the-fence neighbor, a museum interpreter turned screenwriter turned romance novelist, was shooting some six-second Vine videos next door at Hamilton Hall to publicize her forthcoming book, The Rebel Pirate (2nd in the Renegades of the Revolution series).  She graciously allowed me to pop over and see the action. As one of the central characters in the novel is a British naval commander, the redcoats are in the picture and it was fun to see one running around the Hall–especially in sneakers (the floor was a little slippery for swordplay). The conceit of the scenes was a romance reader sitting amidst the characters of the novel come to life, and so they were played out, again and again–including a last bit where the characters creep in and turn the pages for her! (Really cute but hard to photograph from afar–look at the Vine). Observing how much effort goes into a six-second film certainly gives one an appreciation for how long it must take to produce a full-length feature! Despite some ongoing window restoration (inside and out), the Hall looked great and provided the perfect romantic setting.

Redcoat First

Redcoat Second

Redcoat Third

Redcoat Fourth

Redcoat Fifth

Redcoat Sixth

Redcoat 2 145

P.S. This was not the only Salem “set” I visited this past year: now that it is beginning to get accolades, I do want to remind everyone that several scenes of American Hustle were filmed in Salem last spring—see my post Filming on Federal.


Mansion of the Moment

The Derby Family were Salem’s golden-age “royalty”, bequeathing their name to a major street, a long wharf, and many, many houses–some which have survived, and others long lost. Of all the Derby houses, the most legendary is the most fleeting: the Derby Mansion designed successively (and somewhat collaboratively, I think) by the new nation’s most prominent architects Charles Bulfinch and Samuel McIntire for “King” Elias Hasket Derby and his wife Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby. Elias and Elizabeth both died within a year of its completion in 1799, and given its prime location between Salem’s main street and the waterfront, it was torn down less than two decades later, to be replaced by the new (now old) Town Hall in the midst of what came to be known (and still is) as Derby Square. The Derby Mansion lives on in legend (and in the form of the furnishings that were made for it) but survives only on paper: narrative descriptions, book illustrations, and most importantly, architectural drawings.

The most influential image of the idealized house in the nineteenth century seems to have been based on a 1795 Bulfinch perspective drawing produced for the Derbys before they handed the commission over to McIntire. This is preserved in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, and it was reproduced in two popular histories of Salem’s commercial heyday as well as Fiske Kimball’s Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and of the Early Republic (1922).

Lost Derby Mansion Bulfinch

Lost Derby Mansion Old Naumkeag

Lost Mansion Old Shipmasters of Salem

Charles Bulfinch’s perspective drawing of the Derby Mansion, 1795, via Hugh Howard’s Dr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson: Rediscovering the Founding Fathers of American Architecture  (2006) and the Peabody Essex Museum; illustrations from C.H. Webber and W.S. Nevins, Old Naumkeag. A Historical Sketch of the City of Salem, etc.. (1877) and Charles E. Trow, Old Shipmasters of Salem (1905).

But the Bulfinch drawing does not represent the completed McIntire structure: for that we have to turn to archival evidence. Fortunately, the Essex Institute (now incorporated into the international art and culture museum that is the Peabody Essex Museum, but previously the zealous historical society for Essex County in general and Salem in particular) acquired a portfolio of Samuel McIntire’s plans and papers in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, including drawings of the Derby Mansion. Even more fortunately, the PEM is digitizing some of the McIntire materials:  what a pleasure and a privilege to see these annotated elevations of the mansion and its outbuildings–I especially love the drawings for a wrought iron fence, even though I have no idea if it ended up encircling this momentary mansion.

Lost Derby Mansion

Lost Mansion Derby Outbuildings

Lost Mansion Derby Greenhouse

Lost Mansion Derby Ironwork

PEM Phillips Library MSS 264: Samuel McIntire Papers 1749-1822; below, Derby Square today.

Lost Derby Square sketch


Pendle and Salem

While weeding in front of my house yesterday I encountered a group of tourists who had come to Salem for the “witches” but were surprised to find so many nice buildings too. Poor people! Once we started chatting I couldn’t stop myself from subjecting them to a lecture, well, several really: first I told them all about Samuel McIntire and the merchants and sea captains who built Chestnut Street and then we got into the witch trials. They did ask questions, but clearly it’s a good thing that the semester is about to start.

One thing became clear in our “discussion”: they thought Salem was the only place in the world that prosecuted accused witches, at least after the “Dark Ages”. Even after fifteen years of teaching a popular course on the thousands of witch trials that occurred in early modern Europe, I was surprised. The singularity of Salem always bothers me; “our” trials are so seldom placed in western or global context, at least outside of academia.

There are important parallels between the Salem trials and the largest and most notorious English witchcraft prosecution, the Lancashire (“Pendle”) trials in northern England in 1612. The Pendle trials were held 401 years ago this week, and their 400th anniversary was commemorated last year. Salem and Pendle were both (relatively speaking) “frontier” communities, with the Pendle district of Lancashire located in the “dark corners of the north” of England, where various types of nonconformity still reigned. Salem cast a much wider net (185 accusations, 59 trials, 31 convictions, 19 executions, one death by torture/interrogation) than Pendle (16 trials and 10 executions, with one death in prison), but both were notoriously collective, conspiratorial episodes–unusual in the history of English prosecutions for witchcraft. Both trials were well-publicized, with the Pendle “source”, (more of a personal reflection really), clerk of the Lancashire court Thomas Potter’s Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster (1613) being particularly influential.

Pendle and Salem 1

Potts_Thomas-The_vvonderfull_discouerie_of_witches-STC-20138-1554_24-p8

Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster. London, 1613. STC 20138.

But the most important comparison/connection between Pendle and Salem was the admission of legal testimony by a minor in the former trials, which set the precedent for the latter. Before the Pendle trials, the testimony of children under the age of fourteen was inadmissible in English courts, but nine-year-old Jennet Device was the star witness of the 1612 trials, offering up testimony that implicated her entire family as well as others. Jennet’s family would have been vulnerable anyway–they were a marginalized family led by a “cunning” matriarch, and probably represented the lethal mixture of nuisance and nonconformity to the community–but her vivid testimony was key to their conviction. Jennet was the informer at what became a sensationalistic show trial. Like Salem, the Lancashire trials seem to have become a somewhat self-generating process, engulfing the accusations of the “Pendle Hill” witches as well as so-called “Samlesbury Witches” who were also implicated by the testimony of an adolescent girl. The Salem girls most definitely had their forerunners, and perhaps their inspiration.

Then, of course, there is the cultural aftermath, theatrical and fictional accounts based on Pendle and Salem, tourism, commemorations. Several decades after Pendle, Thomas Heywood brought his comedy to the London stage, while several centuries after Salem, The Crucible transformed the American trials into an ongoing allegory. Salem has, of course, transformed itself into “Witch City”, and in the Pendle district there is a Witch Way bus service with individual buses named after the officials and victims of the Lancashire trials. There are statues in both places, although Pendle’s is of a real victim, Alice Nutter of the village of Roughlee, and ours is of Samantha Stevens, a fictional television character! (Of course we have the beautiful and meaningful 1992 Witch Trials Memorial, but I am afraid that more tourists see Samantha). There are also logos galore, on both sides of the Atlantic, official and otherwise, with just a sampling below.

Witchcraft Plays

witchwayrh3

Witchcraft Statues

PicMonkey Collage


Two Churches and a Park

Apologies for posting multiple pictures of the park across from my house in the space of a few weeks, but the flowering trees have been particularly beautiful this year. Since this space is constantly within my view, I am always trying to picture what it looked like in the past, when not just one but two churches successively occupied the space. Even though I’m a great admirer of the built landscape (when it is well-built), I think I prefer the empty space, especially in the midst of densely-settled Salem. Although if Samuel McIntire’s majestic first South Congregational Church was still standing, I might change my mind—but its 166-foot-high steeple would certainly dwarf my house! That’s the main effect that I’m constantly trying to conjure up–I may ask my husband to make a rendering one day.

The park today and the two churches: Samuel McIntire’s Church was built in 1804-5 and destroyed by fire in 1903, and quickly replaced by the Gothic Revival structure that you see below, which itself burned down in 1950. Quite the contrast! The word on the street is that there were hopes of erecting a third church on the site (this time by a Greek Orthodox congregation), but one prominent resident foiled those plans by purchasing it himself and donating it to the neighborhood association. All the householders on Chestnut Street now pay dues to maintain the park, which is open to everyone.

McIntire Park 2 006

McIntire Park South Church 1891

McIntire Park South Congregational Church 1910

McIntire Park 014

McIntire Park 004

I think I’ve shown these images of the churches as well (The amazing Frank Cousins photograph is from 1891; the postcard of the “new” church is from 1910) before as well (I’m nearly reblogging here!), but I do have some interior shots of both churches which I just found, and a salvaged capital from McIntire’s church:  can you imagine the struggle to salvage precious pieces of wood while the fire raged? It might have been someone from my house that ran over there and grabbed this! That’s a moment (not so pleasant) that I try to imagine: what it must have been like to wake up in the middle of the night and see this blazing inferno just outside my bedroom window; no doubt there was real fear that the fire would spread and the famous spire would collapse onto the house–my house. What a scary, horrible night that must have been. 110 years later, all is calm over there this morning.

McIntire Park interior of South Church Peabody & Tilton

McIntire Park Urn

McIntire Park South Congregational Church interior 1920s

McIntire Park 2 010

All historic photographs from the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, with the exception of the last one, which is from the Estey Organ Company in Vermont, which maintains a virtual museum and an archive of all of its organs.


Rumford Roasters

We live right next door to Hamilton Hall, an elegant Federal-era assembly hall attributed to Salem’s famous architect and woodcarver Samuel McIntire. I wake up every morning and look out my bedroom window at McIntire’s carved eagle and swags on the exterior, and I’ve posted about most of its interior spaces here as well.  The Hall’s grand ballroom, with its spring dance floor, Palladian windows, gilt mirrors, and musician’s balcony, always gets a lot of attention, but today I want to feature a more utilitarian room below the stairs:  the “brick hearth room” with its Rumford Roaster, the cutting-edge culinary technology of the early nineteenth century. Here it is, built into the large hearth that dominates the room, in my photographs and a doctored drawing from the very charming 1947 Hamilton Hall Cook Book (containing recipes for “Afternoon Tea Dainties”, “Shrimp Wiggle”, and many puddings).

Rumford Roaster 4

Rumford Roaster Drawing

Rumford Roaster 5

The Rumford Roaster transferred cooking from the open fire to an enclosed oven (the round opening, lined with metal inside), which was heated by the small square firebox directly below. There are openings in the sides of the oven to control the temperature, and the entire device was vented through the central chimney. The Rumford Roaster at Hamilton Hall is characteristic of the earliest examples in that it was built into the hearth (also see the roasters at the Gardner-Pingree House here in Salem and the Rundlet-May House in Portsmouth, below) but freestanding models developed a bit later. Its evolution seems to run parallel to the evolution of the American kitchen.

Rumford Roaster Gardner Pingree Salem

Rumford Roaster NE Home 2009 Geoffrey Gross photo Rundlett-May House

Rumford Roasters in the kitchens of the Gardner-Pingree House, Salem (Peabody Essex Museum) and the Rundlet-May House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire (Historic New England).

The Roaster was invented and named after Count Rumford (1753-1814), an absolutely extraordinary man whose biography reads like a (really bad) dime novel. Born plain old Benjamin Thompson in what was then the small village of Woburn, twelve miles northwest of Boston, he transformed himself into quite the continental Count through a combination of scientific genius and what can euphemistically be called “adventuring”. His biographical details can be found elsewhere (this account was good yet succinct; I think his life, work and times demand a larger volume), so I’m going to summarize as much as I can:  Thompson was apprenticed to merchants in both Salem and Boston in his adolescence, and then he obtained a position as a schoolmaster in Rumford (now Concord), New Hampshire. There he met and married a wealthy and well-connected widow about ten years his senior. Through her, he made all sorts of useful connections and became a commissioned officer in the New Hampshire militia by the mid-1770s, but it turns out that he was at best a Loyalist and at worst a spy: he fled to London in 1776, abandoning his wife and child, after accusations of  “being unfriendly to the cause of liberty”.

From a British perspective, Thompson distinguished himself in both public service and scientific experimentation during the American Revolution, serving in the British Colonial Office while simultaneously conducting experiments in ballistics and munitions: these lessons in military combustion would later be applied to more domestic mechanisms. He was knighted by King George III in 1784, but somehow was at the same time under suspicion of spying for the French !!! and so made his way to the Continent and wound up in the service of one of the most powerful German princes, Karl Theodor, Prince-Elector, Count Palatine and Duke of Bavaria. He remained in Bavaria for over a decade, working on such diverse projects as poorhouse reform and urban planning (including the creation of the Englischer Garten in Munich) while continuing to conduct experiments on the nature and applications of heat. In 1791, Sir Benjamin Thompson was made a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, and he chose the title “Rumford”, in reference to his New England origins. This, and the fact that he left a good part of his fortune to Harvard University to establish a Rumford professorship, indicates that there were some misgivings about betraying his native country. During the last phase of the Count’s life, there is something of a “man without a country” air about him; despite his honors there were whispers of spying (AGAIN–this time for Britain), which forced him to leave Bavaria. His last decade was spent traveling back and forth between England and France, where he died in 1814, “the spy who conquered the cold”.

Rumford Portrait 1801

Gillray Scientific Researches BM

Count Rumford was certainly a household name by 1800, inspiring both portraits and caricatures. Above, a mezzotint portrait by John Raphael Smith (1801) and a caricature which is poking fun at Rumford’s fashionable Royal Society lectures:  he is the man who is “producing” steam in James Gillray’s 1802 print, Scientific Researches! New Discoveries in Pneumaticks! Or, an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air, both British Museum.  And look at these companion satires below!

Gillray Comforts 1800

Rumpford Caricature BM

James Gillray, The Comforts of a Rumford Stove, 1800; Charles Williams, Luxury, or the Comforts of a RUMPFORD, 1801, British Museum.

Well, back to the rather less racy Rumford stove at Hamilton Hall!  A couple of more shots are below, including open views of the oven (with the arm of a helpful Hall trustee) and the ash box below. There are great records of the administration and maintenance of the Hall in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, so we know that this Roaster was supplied by Elijah Fuller of Neptune Street in Salem; I searched through the Salem Register for references to Fuller’s shop and found the notice below, from July 1803. Rumford was clearly a recognizable name–and product–over on this side of the Atlantic as well.

Rumford Roaster at Hamilton Hall Salem

Rumford Roaster Hamilton Hall interior

Rumford Roaster Ash Box

Rumford Cooking Utensils 1803

Hamilton Hall has been the setting for countless “assemblies” over its two hundred + years, including large dinners for such dignitaries as the Marquis de Lafayette, Nathaniel Bowditch, and Martin Van Buren in the first phase of its history; I imagine that the catering of these events was greatly facilitated by the presence of Count Rumford’s Roaster.

In the Spotlight:  a photograph of Hamilton Hall taken last week, during the dawn-to-dusk production of a music video.

Hamilton Hall


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,320 other followers

%d bloggers like this: