In my last post I showed pictures of the barren and brown (white this morning!) garden of the perfectly-preserved and well-protected Ropes Mansion in downtown Salem, but yesterday also brought sad news of another Ropes Mansion in Salem, presently in imminent danger of demolition. This is the Ropes house in North Salem, which has belonged to another branch of that eminent Salem family (original seventeenth-century land grantees) since its construction in the later nineteenth century.
Here is the house and its outbuildings yesterday afternoon, before the dusting of snow that arrived last night. The cupola-topped carriage house–also threatened–is particularly charming, so I took another photograph from the vantage point of a neighbor’s well-manicured lawn.
As many of the older houses in North Salem (Northfields) once were, the Ropes house is situated on a large lot with mature trees, including the magnificent copper beech you see above. The wrap-around porch on the house evokes the earlier era of the “garden estate”, when prosperous Salem families established “rural” residences (both year-round and seasonal) across the North River from the busy city center. The 1820 map below, drawn by Jonathan Saunders based on late eighteenth-century census materials, illustrates the relationship between North Salem and Salem proper in the nineteenth century–I placed a big star on the present location of the Ropes house.
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.
For as long as I’ve lived in Salem, everyone has had their eye on this house, coveting its graceful presence and large lot. It remained in the Ropes family until this past fall, when it suddenly appeared on the market and sold relatively quickly despite the fact that the city of Salem had revoked an occupancy permit a while ago. Now the present owners have put forward plans to demolish the buildings and build three houses on the lot, but perhaps save some of the trees. These plans are now before the Historic Commission, so we’ll see what happens.