A White Robe of Roofs

Every time I was in range of a radio yesterday there was a story about collapsing roofs.  Of course, most were flat roofs (I keep wanting to write rooves, but apparently that is not done anymore), covering modern commercial structures.  Our colonial predecessors had other ideas, and their steep, sloping roofs seem to be bearing up pretty well under all the snow—now and for the past 350 years or so.  Here are some pictures I took over the past few snowy days of some of Salem’s first period houses:  the Narbonne House, the so-called “Witch House” (more accurately designated the Jonathan Corwin House), the Peabody Essex Museum’s John Ward House, and the House of the Seven Gables (also known as the Turner-Ingersoll House).

For the sake of comparison (of both season and era), the same houses are featured below in a series of photographs from the Historic American Building Survey, a New Deal project in which photographers, architects, and draftsmen were put  to work documenting historic structures  for the National Park Service.  While the Narbonne house and the Gables look quite similar, the Jonathan Corwin house would be unrecognizable without its Old Witch house sign, as this was more than a decade before Historic Salem, Inc. removed the attached storefront in the process of a comprehensive restoration. In a turn-of-the-century photography by the Detroit Publishing Company, the John Ward house is pictured in its original location (St. Peter’s Street) just before its move to its present site.

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