Lynde Street Variety

Walking to and from my polling place on a bright November election day, I was struck, not for the first time, by the architectural diversity that is Lynde (rhymes with blind) Street, a downtown cross street between Salem’s major commercial thoroughfare, Washington Street, and one of it major entrance corridors, North Street. Lynde Street is one of those old-city streets that had no preservation protections until relatively late in its development, so it features structures that date from the 1750s to the 1950s, and everything in between. The 1750s house is the Georgian Colonial James Barr House, with expansive additions in back, and across the street is the 1950s house, which is one of the more unprepossessing structures in Salem, in my opinion, though now that I’m looking at pictures of it and the Barr house side by side, I’m wondering if its builders were going for a 1950s version of a gambrel roof?

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Lynde Street 109

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In the middle of Lynde Street are three structures that further testify to its architectural diversity: adjacent to each other on one side of the street are the former East Church Chapel and Christian Scientist Church (1897), now the Witch Dungeon Museum, and the Rufus Choate House (1787), while on the other side is Temple Court, a brick apartment complex built in 1910. The red line that runs along Lynde Street’s brick sidewalk was no doubt bought and paid for by the owners of the Witch Dungeon Museum, who also purchased the sign that was affixed to a structure situated on the site of the original jail building over on Federal Street in the early 1980s—not until a decade or so later were they called to task for this and compelled to put up a second plaque informing tourists that their Victorian structure was not in fact Salem’s seventeenth-century “gaol”.

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Lynde Steet Church

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The red line, bringing tourists to “heritage” sites, the Witch Dungeon Museum and Rufus Choate House, the former in the early 1980s, Massachusetts Historical Commission, the two plaques.

The Rufus Choate house is named after the famous congressman, senator, and lawyer who resided on Lynde Street from 1828-1834. Choate (1799-1859) spend considerable time in Washington after his elections, but he is more famous for his Salem and Boston displays of courtroom tactics, including the origination of a successful “sleepwalking defense” for one of his clients. The Lynde Street house in which he lived experienced considerable deterioration in the twentieth century, and at one point was apparently condemned by the city of Salem before it was purchased and restored in the 1980s.

Choate House 1891

Lynde Street Choate House MACRIS

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The Choate House in photographs from 1891 (Frank Cousins), 1981 (Massachusetts Historical Commission), and yesterday.

And finally we come to the comparatively massive Temple Court, an apartment complex built in 1910 almost opposite the Choate House. I wonder what was here before! This seems like an unusual structure for Salem:  you see these turn-of-the century courtyard complexes on Commonwealth Avenue as it extends westward out of Boston into Brookline, but they are more rare in the outer suburbs. Perhaps its existence indicates that Salem did not think of itself as a “suburb” in 1910.

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9 responses to “Lynde Street Variety

  • michellenmoon

    When I first moved here, I actually looked at an apartment in the 50s house. Though on the outside it is fairly awkward, I do think I detect an attempt to make it sympathetic with the surrounding architecture -the raised first floor with steps, the pediment over the door, and the suggestion of quoins at the corners of the facade. But despite its outer clunkiness, the apartment inside was beautiful and well appointed, and I was sorry that another tenant beat me to it. The landlord is also a lovely person who cares for a lot of Salem’s historic properties as rentals. Thankfully, a book doesn’t always match its cover!

  • Rob Moses Photography

    Looks awesome around there! I love old buildings and neighbourhoods like that 🙂

    • daseger

      Liz and Rob, I agree, Salem has some beautiful buildings–some are on absolutely pristinely preserved streets. This street is a bit more of a realistic mix. Thanks for your comments.

  • The Greenockian

    Your town has some beautiful buildings.

  • Brian Bixby

    Indeed, here in Cambridge just around the corner on Magazine Street is an apartment complex that looks much like your Temple Court, though not as large!

  • jane

    Nice post –
    I was dating the houses by their proportions, rhythms, and detail as I scrolled down – fun to see how each ‘speaks’ to its time. Even with asbestos siding and its 2nd fl. bay the Choate House is clearly Federal. I wonder what the church/museum looked like when it was built….

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