Carriage Houses

I was getting a bit depressed with all the devastation and demolition of the last few posts, so I went searching for structures that have survived:  not too difficult a task in my neighborhood. The weather is odd here (for January):  quite warm, foggy, air filled with moisture but no rain or snow. Rather dreary, really, as you can tell from the photographs. On dark days like these in the midwinter the built landscape really stands out, with no natural landscape to frame or cloak it. For some reason, on my walk yesterday I was particularly noticing the outbuildings rather than the facades:  Salem has many great carriage houses, most in pretty good condition.  This is impressive to me:  it’s hard enough to preserve a big old house, but keeping an ancient ancillary building in good shape is a true commitment. We lost our carriage house long ago:  it is evident on the late nineteenth-century street atlases of Salem, but after the turn of the century, it’s gone.

I don’t have anything similar for Salem, so I want to start with an image of  the Valentine-Fuller house in Cambridge, Massachusetts:  Mr. and Mrs. Fuller are on horseback in their carriage-house courtyard, circa 1890:  this seems like the peak time for carriage houses to me.  After that, they would either come down or be preserved as storage structures or garages. This house, which was built in 1848 on Prospect Street, was demolished in 1937, along with its outbuildings (oh no, more demolition).

HABS, Library of Congress

Back in Salem, carriage houses can be found in several neighborhoods, so this is just a sampler, or part one.  On the street where I live, Chestnut Street, there are some amazing carriage houses, several of which are laid out a considerable distance from their main houses so you really don’t get the courtyard effect that you see above. On one side of the street, a completely new parallel street, Warren Street, was laid out as an access route to these buildings. The photographs below are all of Warren Street carriage houses that belong to mansions on Chestnut, but two of them appear quite capable of fulfilling an independent existence.

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Essex Street, which was the colonial (and remains the present) main street of Salem, runs parallel to Chestnut on the other side: because of its early settlement, it features many beautiful carriage houses–primarily wooden rather than brick. In the general vicinity of the Salem Public Library, stalwart structures peak out from behind the streetscape, particularly visible at this time of year.  Behind this trio of houses–Georgian, Colonial Revival built on the site of a pulled-down Federal at the turn of the century, and Federal–are some of my favorite carriage houses on the street and in Salem.

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And then just across the street from the library, there’s this wonderfully restored Greek Revival, with its NEW carriage house aligned perfectly with what I assume are later nineteenth-century additions, creating a nice sense of enclosure for its yard.  Just a little down the street, is a (nearly) matched pair of Federal houses dating from about 1800, both of which have great carriage houses.  As you can see, carriage-house cupolas abound on Essex Street!

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Essex Street LOC

Essex Street, circa 1910. Detroit Publishing Company/ Library of Congress

On my way across town to the Common, I stopped to take a photograph of a very controversial Federal Street carriage house.  It appears to belong to the very stately Victorian that was converted into condominiums a few decades ago, but actually is part of an adjacent property whose owner tried to do the very same thing with his carriage house at the same time (this was all before I came to Salem, so I’m not that clear on the details).  When he did not get approval, he moved out of his Federal Court house and let it and the carriage house rot. So this is the result, 20+ years later.

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As this is the birthday week of Salem’s famed architect Samuel McIntire, I’ve got to feature some McIntire carriage houses which, again, is not difficult to do. Everybody’s favorite McIntire house, the Gardner-Pingree house, has a charming carriage house in back which has a slightly smaller stature, in keeping with the general scale of the house.  There’s a restoration project going on there now, so I’m sorry that the pictures give a work-site impression, but you can still see how great this outbuilding is.

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Just next door, another house owned by the Peabody Essex Museum features one of the most prominent carriage houses in town:  the Andrew Safford House was built after McIntire’s in 1811, but you can see his influence in both the main house and the carriage house, both of which overlook Salem Common. When it was built in 1819, this was one of the most expensive houses in America, and it remains very impressive, nearly two centuries later.

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Safford House

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Safford Stable 1939

The Andrew Safford House and Carriage House, yesterday and in 1910 & 1939 photographs, Library of Congress.

Finally, my very favorite Salem carriage house.  The Clifford Crowninshield House (1806) is a McIntire house located on another corner of the Salem Common, just across from the Safford house. Behind the main house, almost hidden really, is a wooden carriage house with an elegant stature and very intricate details:  every time I pass by it makes me smile.

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12 responses to “Carriage Houses

  • markd60

    Ya know, I was thinking, in Ohio, near my Grandparents house, there are lots of old beautiful buildings still standing.


    Hi Donna, This is a great introduction to a part of Salem that many may not notice. I’ve always been captivated by carriage houses and thought they would be the perfect reno for a unique space. Thanks for the photos and info. All the Best, Terri

  • downeastdilettante

    Great minds, etc. I’ve been contemplating a carriage house post for some time (they’re dropping like flies here in Maine, or getting converted beyond recognition). Unlike you, I haven’t actually gotten to it.

    How wonderful is the simple one in photo eight, with 12 over 12 windows, and perfect arch?

    But all of them make me swoon…

    • daseger

      That one was an ice cream shop for quite a while–operated by the founder of Colombo’s yoghurt.

      • daseger

        Must correct myself: I thought you were referring to the Safford carriage house but now I see you were admiring an Essex street one–which was certainly never an ice cream shop. I agree; it’s charming and looks completely untouched. I could not get any closer as there was a big fence and I didn’t want to bother the owners.

  • Cotton Boll Conspiracy

    I love the simpler ones, made of red brick. Very elegant and durable. But they’re all superb structures. Thanks for posting.

  • Helen

    The carriage house behind the gold colored Greek Revivial across from the library is new! It was built by the current owner who is a steeple jack. Probably about 12 years old? I’m sure it’s his work shop. He take fabulous care of his entire property.

  • cavaliereattitude

    Thoroughly enjoyed your glimpse at Salem’s wonderful carriage houses. Particularly so as the house I lived in as a teenager (my parents’ house) was a converted, red-brick coach house (in the English home counties).
    I suspect living in the horses’ quarters may have had an effect on the rest of my life … !

  • downeastdilettante

    Glad you corrected yourself—you had me scratching my head for a moment—-as I remember getting frozen yogurt several times in the Safford house carriage house, but had no memory of the other every having offered cold delights. Both, but particularly the Essex st. one, typify everything I love about New England Federal buildings

  • Barbara

    wow..thank you. there is so many places to look at yesterday. Again than you.

  • dcp16

    Another great article! I found this while looking up the Andrew-Safford carriage house, as Goodnight Fatty will be setting up shop there. Thanks for the glimpse at these charming structures which are often rather hidden or overlooked. – Deb

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