Daily Archives: June 27, 2011

After the Fire: Orne Square

At the southern edge of the McIntire Historic District lies a mini-neighborhood of semi-detached English cottages, built of concrete in the early twentieth century rather than Cotswold limestone in the seventeenth.  This is Orne Square, laid out just after the great fire of 1914 under the auspices of the Salem Rebuilding Commission, with financing from the Salem Rebuilding and Phillips Trusts, and with inspiration from the dynamic Arts and Crafts and English  “Garden City” movements so popular at the time.

Each of the eight houses features two separate three-story townhouses with separate entrances and side and back gardens; there are common parking, lawn and garden areas as well.   The elbow-shaped Orne Square is a Salem public street, not a gated community, but  I don’t think there is a lot of cut-through traffic.  It’s a great little neighborhood.

Just around the corner from Orne Square is another English Arts and Crafts double cottage, a perfect example of the type of “reform housing” that the Boston architectural firm Kilham and Hopkins was proposing for other fire-ravaged areas of Salem.  This firm was waging a war on triple-deckers all over eastern Massachusetts, and their consultations and advocacy resulted in strict guidelines for the rebuilding of Salem and a strong preference for side-by-side double houses rather than multi-story buildings.  I’m not sure if Kilham and Hopkins are responsible for the Orne Square houses, but they did design and build a neighborhood of  “low rent brick cottages”   in North Salem, as well as the Woodbourne section of Jamaica Plain in Boston.

Architectural Forum 28 (1918)

Plans for Woodbourne

I’m reaching here for a bit more geographical and architectural context, but Orne Square seems like a smaller, less commercial version of the Hydrostone neighborhood of Halifax, Nova Scotia, constructed after the devastating 1917 explosion and fire following the collision of a French munitions ship and a Norwegian supply ship in the harbor during World War One.  I’m visiting there later in the summer, so I’ll see if the comparison stands.

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