Storybook Style in Salem

Salem has much more than Federal houses to offer architecture aficionados.  The house below is located on a side street off Lafayette Street, which I walk down every other day to get to class.  I always “check in”  because it makes me happy just to look at it, so I’m not surprised to hear from my architect friends (including my husband) that this is an example of Storybook style, one of several variants of the Tudor Revival style that was so popular across the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s.

I probably should have waited until after the snow melts to showcase this house, but who knows when that will happen?  Unfortunately, its most striking feature, a sloping faux thatched roof with rolled edges, is almost completely obscured by the snow.  Its singular windows (actually an eyebrow dormer and an octagonal window), however, are almost highlighted by the winter setting.

This area of Salem was devastated by the great Salem Fire of 1914 (much more on that later), so there are lots of houses that were built in the interwar architectural styles, including Craftsman, English Cottage, and Colonial Revival examples, but none quite as fanciful as this storybook house.  This is a rare style for Salem and New England; according to the sources I consulted (the great book below, published in 2001, and the storybookers website) storybook houses are much more common on the west coast (particularly California, of course).

Below is the house that everyone cites as the ultimate (or most whimsical) Storybook house, which is ironically called the “Witch’s House”!  More formally known as the Spadena house, it was built in 1921 and moved to its present location in Beverly Hills a decade later.

Photograph courtesy Christopher Wolff Photography

The “storybook architect” was a Californian named William Raymond Yelland, and I can’t ascertain whether he might have had anything to do with the creation of our Salem house.  Perhaps indirectly; the 1920s and 1930s seem to have been a golden age of sorts for homebuilding magazines and mail-order house plans, and the examples below look vaguely similar to the house off Lafayette Street, though clearly not as special.

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