A Very Merry House Tour

I felt a lovely spirit among the volunteers and tour-goers at this year’s Christmas in Salem tour yesterday: a clear and sunny 40ish day which made every open house shine. There were proud owners, dedicated stewards, enthusiastic guides and curious visitors everywhere in attendance. As I emphasized in my preview, it was particularly impressive to see such strong collaboration between Salem’s heritage and civic groups, not only between the tour sponsor, Historic Salem, Inc., and this year’s focus and host, the House of the Seven Gables, but also the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, two churches—Salem’s first Catholic Church, Immaculate Conception, which is now part of the amalgamated Mary, Queen of the Apostles parish, and the amazing Russian Orthodox church, St. Nicholas—-as well as the beautiful Brookhouse Home, a residence for senior women since 1861. There was of course the conspicuous absence of that elephant on Essex Street, the Peabody Essex Museum, but special compensatory recognition should be given to the relatively new Salem Historical Society, a group of young historians who formed during the prolonged closure—now apparently permanent—of the PEM’s Phillips Library. The SHS has no archives, of course, because the bulk of Salem’s archival history belongs to the PEM and is now housed in the relocated Phillips Library 40 minutes north on Route One, but they have goals: and chief among them is to get more recognition for Nathaniel Hawthorne. This tour was a means to that end, and a very material measure of their success is a brand new sign marking the sight of Hawthorne’s birthplace on Union Street, installed just in time for this “Vey Hawthorne Holiday” tour. The actual house, which was moved to the House of the Seven Gables campus in 1958, was on the tour as well, along with the storied mansion itself, the Custom House where Hawthorne (reluctantly) worked, and his least-favorite residence in Salem, his very own “Castle Dismal” (which is neither a castle or dismal).

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CIS Christmas

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CIS collageFrom the brand new Hawthorne’s birthplace sign to the House of the Seven Gables, and then back to Herbert Street and “the house that Hawthorne hated” via Derby Street and the Custom House.

There were so many lovely houses on the tour interspersed among these Hawthorne sites: mostly early nineteenth-century, some eighteenth, with different degrees of detail and scale. There is a great range of houses along Derby Street, encompassing everything from the stately mansions alongside the Custom House and facing Derby Wharf, to simple Georgian cottages further along the street. I appreciated the diversity of structures, their number (this tour is an obvious bargain when compared to all the house tours I have attended this year!), and the mix between public and private buildings. It’s always a very personal commitment for a homeowner to open their doors for a house tour—and consequently it is an intimate experience for those that step within, and a privilege. But the public buildings have an intimate feel too, because the people that care for the House of the Seven Gables, the Brookhouse Home, the Custom House, and the churches, are so very committed to their preservation and interpretation. I ran out of time (because of a long lunch, another holiday tradition) and couldn’t quite make the Immaculate Conception by the end of the day, but several members of the congregation as well as the pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church were on hand to share their beautiful parish church, which was established in 1901. Beautiful day, great tour: if you couldn’t make it yesterday, it’s also on today: the weather may be a bit frightful but I assure you the interiors will be all that more delightful!

Just a sampling here: there was so much to see.

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CIS StairwayThe Captain William Lane House (with such a cheery laundry/mudroom! and decorated by Mr. Frank Bergmann who trims (other meaning) all my shrubs and trees; the Josiah Getchell House and the Thomas Magoun House along Derby Street–all absolutely charming.

 

CIS staircase collage

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CIS Crush

CIS CHAMBERLAINI’m just obsessed with the staircases now–two very different ones, from the Brookhouse Home (1810-11) and the Ives-Webb-Whipple House (by 1760). More from the latter–one of my favorite houses in Salem which is now for sale. The Captain John Hodges House on Essex (c. 1750), whose owners have some very compelling ancestors! I never take pictures of recent family photographs, but ancestors from 100+ years ago are fair game: I could not resist this remarkably handsome man, plus I am a Maine girl so must show you Joshua Chamberlain (center, dark suit, hat in hand), the hero of Gettysburg, at his 1912 family reunion.

 

CIS Brookhouse

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CIS Church interiorThe very festive Brookhouse Home and very serene St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, on Forrester Street.


11 responses to “A Very Merry House Tour

  • Laura

    Beautiful and a lovely introduction there. I posted on the Library’s chat and I know folks will really enjoy looking at it tomorrow, Monday morning. A perfect way to start the workweek!

    Liked by 1 person

  • az1407t

    Fabulous photos, Donna! The interior views in particular have great color and lighting. You have a great camera. I did not know that Salem now has a Historical Society until this posting. Glad to know that.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Kathleen Caron

    Thank you so much for this posting and all previous postings. Your observations and insights are essential to preservation and public access to historical treasures. Thank you.

    Like

  • Helen Breen

    Hi Donna,

    Thank you for such a great tour through those Salem houses dressed in their holiday garb. Salem is such a unique place. I was pleased to hear that so many civic groups and churches supported this wonderful tour.

    And kudos to the newly formed Salem Historical Society. I applaud their efforts “to get more recognition for Nathaniel Hawthorne.” A neighbor of mine in Lynnfield told me once that when she was first married many years ago, she and her husband lived (owned?) the house in Salem where Hawthorne lived when he wrote THE SCARLET LETTER. I forget what street that was, and perhaps he lived in several homes over the years – not sure.

    In any case, I just joined the Salem Historical Society thanks to your link. Donna, I would wish you Merry Christmas, but I am sure you will have more holiday goodies for us before the big day.

    Like

    • daseger

      Hi Helen, truly a great tour–this is just a snippet of it! That house would be on Mall Street–it’s a federal house with its side to the street, which is now condominiums.

      Like

  • Almquist Nanny

    Thanks for this festive blog post. I wish I could have been there. Perhaps next year. Meanwhile, further thanks for mentioning the new Salem Historical Society. This was my first hearing of them and I’ve become a member.

    Like

  • dcp16

    Nice summary and wonderful shots! I took 145 myself, and your ‘perspective’ is completely different, even with similar subjects. Thank you!

    Like

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