Christmas on the Common

I am very excited about the 37th annual Christmas in Salem tour, which returns to the Salem Common neighborhood this year. The major fundraiser for Salem’s venerable preservation organization, Historic Salem, Incorporated, the walking tour of decorated homes and buildings rotates from the McIntire Historic District to the Common quite regularly and has also been centered on both North and South Salem, Derby Street, and the Willows. Each and every tour is great, but I’ve always liked the Common tours particularly for a variety of reasons: the mix of very stately and smaller, cozier homes, the focal point of the Common (no s!), and the ability to pop easily into the Hawthorne Hotel’s Tavern for a drink (you can also get your tickets at the Hotel on Saturday and Sunday). In any case, the Common deserves to be showcased this particular year: much restoration work has been done on its cast iron fence, its reproduction McIntire Washington Arch is looking good, and there have been several notable restorations in the neighborhood. Having gone through this myself several times, I am so very grateful to all the homeowners who are opening their doors: it is a generous gesture worthy of all of our support and praise.With the spotlight on the Common, I thought I’d take this opportunity to showcase some of my recent stereoview discoveries as well, so we can have a past-and-present perspective on a great public space: scene of militia drills and musters, hot-air balloon demonstrations, circuses, athletic competitions, concerts, rallies, demonstrations, bike races, Sunday strolls and Christmas walking tours.


Common CHristmas.jpg




Salem Common yesterday, in a 1920s (doctored) Maynard Workshop postcard, and in two later-nineteenth-century stereocards showcasing the cast iron fence, built in 1850, from two directions. The bottom card, showing the Andrew Safford House at right, is by G.M. Whipple & A.A. Smith, and courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society. Fence details today below, and the newly-restored Washington Arch.





Overlooking the Common, one of my very favorite doorways in all of Salem, belonging to the White-Lord House at the corner of Washington Square and Oliver Streets. Frank Cousins loved to photograph it, and I do too (not to raise myself to his photographic level, but just so we can appreciate its constant ability to captivate!)


Look at this new-to-me stereoview! (No, I do not think that is President Lincoln on the Common). It was published by Charles G. Fogg and I do not have a date.


Returning to the present, just some of the decorations from yesterday; no doubt more will be on display this weekend, both outdoors and behind doors.




Christmas in Salem: Carol on the Common, a Christmas walking tour to benefit Historic Salem, Inc., Dec. 2-4: more information here

9 responses to “Christmas on the Common

  • helenbreen01

    Donna, wonderful piece as usual. Sounds like a lovely time. You are a treasure to the city of Salem. Best for the holiday season…

  • Matt

    We have Rich Laperchia and Boy Scout Troop 24 to thank for the restored Washington Arch. All that is missing are the scrolls that used to adorn the top, but that will take a considerable amount of fund raising to make happen.

  • Donna Thorland

    That ribbon is a brilliant idea for barren window boxes!

  • az1407t

    I miss those wonderful elm trees that died mostly in the 1960s. I thought by now, a cure would have been found. The replica of the arch on the common looks dull. It needs a contrast of color. I think the original had some embellishment near the top, but I’m not positive. Very nice article and photos.

    • daseger

      There’s a bit more embellishment work to come for the arch–by the Boy Scouts (see Matt’s comment below). I know, elms, what a loss. Every single picture from the past makes me ache for them!

  • artandarchitecturemainly

    I think that a Christmas walking tour of houses and buildings will not only benefit Historic Salem… it will also link the Common with the surrounding homes. If the Common was surrounded by empty farm land, or by smelly factories, it would not have been so attractive.

    The homeowners who are opening their doors are both generous and proud of their area.

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