The venerable Christmas in Salem house tour, the major fundraiser of Historic Salem, Inc., returned to the McIntire District this year and featured homes and public buildings decorated around the theme of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. There were some absolutely amazing houses open this year, and a huge turnout, due both to the perennial appeal of Chestnut and Federal Streets as well as the unseasonably warm weather–people didn’t seem to mind waiting in line. Unlike past years, I don’t have a lot of interior shots for you this year, as I was scolded very nearly every time I took my camera out: photographs are not allowed in the houses! Having had several houses on this tour over the years, I can certainly understand the homeowners’ desire for privacy and security, but as official photographers and magazines and Salem Access Television were allowed to shoot, it does seem like a somewhat contradictory policy. In any case, I think you’ll get some sense of the spirit of the event from the exterior views, and I’ll tell you what you missed, in no particular order: 1) a dining room dressed up like a Tiffany box, complete with a Tiffany-ornamented tree; 2) TWO amazing conservatories, one which featured camellias, the particular favorite of Yankee bluebloods in the nineteenth century; 3) THREE period dollhouses: small, medium and large; 4) FOUR public buildings (the Phillips House, Hamilton Hall, the “Witch House”, and the Ropes Mansion–I was scolded here too, but there are plenty of pictures of these exteriors both here and elsewhere on the web; 5) I can’t make the numbers work anymore so I will simply say–a Rumford Roaster which I had never seen before! 6) the most beautiful study I have ever seen, with wooden swags adorning the windows; 7) a particularly clever, and aesthetically pleasing, device for hiding the television; 8) all different kinds of pantries; 9) lots of beautiful china patterns, including a nice collection of pink lustre which seemed to be the inspiration for an entire room; 10) many beautiful decorations tied to the theme of the tour–I especially liked the pears.
Our greeter at the Ropes Mansion and lots of decorated doors on Chestnut and Federal streets—sorry I can’t show you inside! The doorway of #37 Chestnut, the Nichols-Shattuck House, was included in Frank Cousins’ Colonial Architecture, Volume I: Fifty Salem Doorways in 1912 and is often referred to as a “Coffin door”, because it has an extra panel that (supposedly) can be opened to accommodate coffins. All the architectural historians whom I consulted, however, say this is mythology. The rear of #37 shows the evolution of the house and the conservatory addition on the right. Exceptional “China coin” cast iron railing added to #2 Chestnut in the 1880s; lines and crowds on a 6o-degree day yesterday.
This has nothing to do with the tour, but I was out and about so much this past weekend that I also really noticed something that everyone in Salem has been talking about for the past month or so: the inescapable sight of our new HUGE trash and recycling barrels. A new trash pick-up regimen went into effect just after Halloween, and we were all given these large toters which are hefty and awkward–we’re all struggling with a place to put them–I know I am! So a lot of people are just leaving them on the street–or near it. Unfortunately, many of the streets of Salem are black and blue (plastic).
I’ll link to interior shots as soon as they are up! 12/11/12 postcript: here’s the link to the official photographer’s interior images, which you can buy, of course: http://photo.vistaphotography.com/p384049441.