One Photograph and Three (?) Mantels

Today I am featuring another lost Salem house that we can only “see” in the form of its surviving pieces and photographs–only one photograph, really, which I presume was taken just before it was demolished in 1856 to make way for the Salem Athenaeum’s new Plummer Hall (now part of the Peabody Essex Museum). This is the Nathan Read House (1793), designed by Samuel McIntire for a man who was not a Salem merchant and/or shipowner but distinguished himself nonetheless, as an entrepreneur and the inventor of such diverse machines as a steamboat with paddles, a nail-cutter, a self-winding clock, and a coffee-huller, as well as a congressman and judge. Read’s house was McIntire-made but Bulfinch-inspired and it is reminiscent of another Essex Street house that is no longer with us: the Ezekiel Hersey Derby House further along Essex Street–Salem’s commercial “high” street was too dynamic and valuable for residences, even ones as lovely as these. It’s a miracle that the Gardner-Pingree House survived. The Read House was short-lived but pretty imposing while it lasted.

Read House Salem MA

The Nathan Read House (1793-1856).

In 1799, Read sold the house to Captain Joseph Peabody, a very wealthy Salem shipowner, and eventually decamped for Maine. For the rest of its existence, the Read House remained in the Peabody family, who eventually sold it to the shareholders of the Salem Athenaeum. Joseph’s son Francis dismantled several McIntire mantels from the house before its demolition, and installed them at his summer house in nearby Danvers, the eighteenth-century “King” Hooper mansion, better known as “The Lindens”. There they remained until the 1930s, when the Lindens itself was dismantled, shipped to Washington, D.C. in pieces, and reassembled in the Kalorama neighborhood of the District. The intermediary (and short-term owner of the Lindens) in this transaction was up-and-coming antiques dealer Israel Sack, who arranged for the house to be measured and photographed by HABS architects and also sold some parlor paneling to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Kansas City: the mantels appear in the HABS photographs (but looking quite different from previous photographs!) but not in the collections of the Nelson-Atkins museum, and they certainly don’t seem to be down in Washington (where the house is now for sale), so I’m not really sure where they are. The whole is demolished, but the parts are scattered: a not-uncommon Salem story!

McIntire Mantels Collage

McIntire Mantels HABS

Lindens Listingp

Lindens Living Room AD

Above: McIntire Mantels at the Peabody Essex Museum (upper right) and installed at the Lindens, Danvers, from Cousins’ and Riley’s Woodcarver of  Salem (1916) and Arthur Haskell photographs, 1934, Library of Congress. Below: the Lindens in its current Washington, DC location from its current listing, and its living room from January 2014 Architectural Digest. No McIntire mantel here!

See a related house story at the great blog Stories from Ipswich.


5 responses to “One Photograph and Three (?) Mantels

  • Nelson Dionne

    This posting brings forth question. exactly what year were the first photographs​ taken

    in Salem ( & by who ) ? I do know that stereo views can show scenes dating to the

    late 1860’s. To my knowledge, there has not been any attempt to research the history

    . ​ I have some really great material in Salem streetcars, too.

    late 1860’s. ​ The photo shown above was taken from a US Navy blimp in 1947.

    I provided a cropped version to the MBTA for use in the waiting area of the new

    depot/ parking garage. It looks like the funds for the “Artwork” have been held up

    due to the state’s ongoing financial problems’ I had a really nice batch of Salem

    railroad photos.

    I’ve been rather quiet lately due to a reoccurrence of some medical problems..

    However, really interesting bits of Salem history keep showing up in my mailbox.

    My collection is overdue to have a few show ‘n tell sessions. I’d really like to have the

    Chamber of Commerce tour. We need their membership to help us gather today’s

    history, while i’s available & free .

    Nelson Dionne

    On Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 11:07 AM, streetsofsalem wrote:

    > daseger posted: “Today I am featuring another lost Salem house that we can > only “see” in the form of its surviving pieces and photographs–only one > photograph, really, which I presume was taken just before it was demolished > in 1856 to make way for the Salem Athenaeum’s ne” >

    Like

  • Alan Lord

    I did a bit of digging and found that there was a “daguerrian” photographer at 224 Essex Street in Salem around this time (1856). His name was John Armstrong. He is noted as being active as a photographer in 1861, but moved to California in 1864(?). There is no evidence that he pursued photography in California. Naturally, too, there may have been someone at the Essex Historical Society (as it was known at the time) who would have been very interested in photography as a “preservation tool”.

    Not everybody was dabbling in photography in those days, as it was was a fairly “complicated affair” to do so.

    The photograph was obviously taken from an upstairs window, from across the street – or perhaps on a roof top.

    What was at 224 Essex Street at that time, I do not know (residential or commercial).

    Source: ” Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865″ by Peter E. Palmquist, Thomas R. Kailbourn

    Like

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