Daily Archives: September 27, 2012

“English” Houses in Salem

Thankfully, I really do believe that Salem is nearly as well-known for its Federal architecture as its witch trials, but Salem is not just a Federal city. There are a vast variety of architectural styles in evidence around town, and some of the later (post 1870) styles get short shrift, I think. Even for a layman such as myself, Colonial, Federal , Greek Revival, and Gothic Revival structures are fairly easy to identify, but once you get into the myriad Victorian styles, it gets a bit more confusing, and then the amorphous Colonial Revival provides even more confusion. What is “Victorian Eclectic” (all Victorian houses seem rather eclectic to me)?  Are Stick and Shingle houses Victorian or Colonial Revival? Do Craftsman and Arts & Crafts houses fall under the umbrella of Colonial Revival or are they completely different styles?  Or are they the same style?  And where does the Cottage style fit in–there seem to be so many different types of cottages!  I could go on and on with the questions, but until I figure out all the later nineteenth and early twentieth-century styles I just go with my own labels and classifications based on impressions.

That said, there are several houses in Salem which I always think of as English. They have a certain detail, or presence, or situation, that just conjures up England for me, even though they are all (for the most part) wooden, American houses.  I’m really not sure precisely when these houses were built, or for whom:  while downtown pre-1850 houses are quite well-documented in Salem, later houses in more outlying neighborhoods (where most of my English houses are located) do not seem to have (written) histories.  I welcome all estimates of dates and proper styles:  to my untrained eye, they look like a little bit Cottage, a bit Tudor Revival (another easily identifiable style), a bit Shingle, and a bit Arts & Crafts.  Hence my confusion!

South Salem, on the side streets off Lafayette:  a really cute English cottage very near Salem State with lots of neat details, a twin-gabled house, a sprawling two-story Tudor Revival, and two houses, wooden and stucco, that were built on land devastated by the great Salem Fire of 1914 that read “English” to me.

Off the Common:  a very English craftsman cottage, and a house that has a very distinguished, English presence.

All of these houses could probably be labelled Shingle, or perhaps Colonial Revival, and none of them rise to the level of the more strident English country houses built in America after the turn of the last century found in the pages of periodicals like The American Architect and Building News, but I still think of them as old “English” houses in New England.

English-American houses in the American Architect and Building News (1917) and The Pageant of America, Volume 13:  The American Spirit of Architecture (1926).

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