Over the several years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been trying to ascertain both the history and the imagery of as many seventeenth-century Salem houses as possible in a rather sporadic manner. All the famous houses (the House of the Seven Gables, the Jonathan Corwin “Witch” House, the Pickering House) are easy: well-documented in terms of both literary and photographic evidence. Other houses–both those that still stand and those that are long-lost–are more elusive, so when I run into obstacles I leave them alone for a while. I’m interested in these houses for several reasons beyond basic appreciation: as an early modern English historian walking around this New English city the seventeenth-century structures are an accessible window into the past that I study, I’ve been rereading (and reading for the first time in many cases) Hawthorne over the past few years, and I like to imagine the Salem of his time, when there were far more standing first-period buildings, and lastly, I like photographs that show architectural and urban transition, and those that show leaning wooden multi-gabled buildings adjacent to stalwart stone multi-storied structures are particularly striking.
One very elusive house that I’ve been chasing for some time is (or was) the Deliverance Parkman House, which was built near what is now the corner of North and Essex Streets (right across from the Witch House) around 1673 and taken down by 1835, according to Cousins’ and Riley’s Colonial Architecture of Salem: long enough for Hawthorne to see it, but not quite long enough for it to be photographed, so no striking contrast picture. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of this lack of realistic imagery, the house–or any remaining perception of it–is cast in a rather romantic light: Hawthorne refers to it twice (in his “Notes” and the short story “Peter Goldthwaite’s Treasure”) in relation to the practice of alchemy and buried treasure within: what could be more alluring than that? The only image that I can find of the Parkman House was made by Salem illustrator J.L. Bridgman about 1900–and clearly based on Hawthorne’s characterization. As in the case of the House of the Seven Gables, the Deliverance Parkman house seems to have inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to “create” a storied house.
L.J. Bridgman sketch of the Deliverance Parkman House, individually and in stereo (NYPL Digital Collections); one block of Essex Street in 1915, long after the Parkman House was razed, to be replaced by the brick Greek Revival Shepard block, rear right.
April 25th, 2015 at 6:43 am
Reblogged this on rennydiokno.com.
April 25th, 2015 at 10:28 am
Are you also keeping a paper journal of your documentation? It would be a splendid volume, esp with anecdotal notes and references and pictures jammed in. c
April 25th, 2015 at 4:14 pm
I’m not, Celi–I don’t think I put anything on paper anymore! But perhaps I should. Some of the houses that I’ve researched on the blog have not been documented before–others have been written about quite a bit.
April 25th, 2015 at 6:29 pm
I think you are collating a very impressive collection.. The thing that worries me is that the internet as we know it cannot survive right through to our grandchildrens time. How are we going to ensure that the information will be still be accessible to them.? when we have allowed it to be stored in such a radical format. Having said that i have been thinking for hours now how you could collect this work into a book. It needs to be fluid in a way, as you have often followed each house through time.. using the internet to find the images.. so each chapter would have to have piles of blank pages for your protegee to keep on with the work.. anyway.. I love what you do.. one day i may even get to salem and i am going to be one of the most informed tourists ever.. and no.. I will not come at halloween!! c
April 26th, 2015 at 7:29 am
Thank you, Celie, for spending hours thinking about me and my houses: far too long! Unlike your amazing blog, mine really reflects a sideline life rather than a front-and-center one, so I don’t know how much additional time I would like to extend to its topics. BUT, you are absolutely correct–the ephemeral nature of the internet is a real concern.
April 26th, 2015 at 11:54 am
They are notoriously hard to get, but the Homes of our Forefathers series, by Edin Whitefield, has lots of great sketches of demolished buildings. I know Salem is featured in one of them. Late 19th century books.
April 26th, 2015 at 12:54 pm
Thanks Sean–they are great books and wonderful sketches. I think I’ve posted about Whitefield somewhere before (I need an index badly)–but I’m not sure I checked if he did the Parkman House, so I will do so.
April 28th, 2015 at 11:54 am
I actually thought of another book that I have, that I forgot about. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have the Parkman house in it, though it does have the only images I’ve seen of some building in Salem. Some are usual suspects, but some are really cool. Like a Tontine Block in Salem, for example. Love the blog, by the way.
April 28th, 2015 at 12:01 pm
Oh, Sean thanks–I don’t know this book: super excited!!!
July 28th, 2016 at 2:20 pm
[…] A Storied Salem House […]
July 28th, 2016 at 2:24 pm
Thanks for the post. FYI there are quite a few 17th century houses still standing from our families: http://www.ParkmanGenealogy.wordpress.com and http://www.ParkmanReunions.wordpress.com Daniel M. Parkman, Sr. DMParkman@gmail.com