Category Archives: Houses

Colonial and Colonial Revival

Over the years I have encountered people who were opposed to historic districts for a variety of reasons, prominently property rights and the sense that such building restrictions created homogeneous “museum neighborhoods”. I appreciate both arguments: I’m a bit of a libertarian myself and I have lived in historic districts since my 20s primarily because I like to look out the window when I get up every morning and look at historic buildings. But when I walk around Salem’s historic districts, I don’t see homogeneity, I see diversity: of building materials, of size, and even of style. Though Salem is renowned for its Federal architecture, there are many buildings in the downtown historic districts that pre-date and post-date this era, and I am always struck by how many houses were built in the later nineteenth century in styles that are far from “Victorian”: these are Colonial Revival structures melding into the streetscape, for the most part. You definitely notice the differences when you view “Colonial” and “Colonial Revival” side by side–and there are many opportunities to do this in Salem. Everything is a little bigger and bolder in the later houses: windows, window panes, dormers, especially entrances. Of course, the Colonial Revival era is long (most authorities seem to date if from 1880 to 1955) and encompasses several sub-styles (Classical Revival, Georgian Revival, Dutch Colonial), but one particular feature I notice in several of Salem’s more prominent houses built in the last decade of the nineteenth century are semi-circular projecting bays on the front facade–these houses are literally bursting out of line–but still complementary to the older structures surrounding them.

Colonial and Colonial Revival 014

Colonial and Colonial Revival 016

Colonial and Colonial Revival 029

Colonial and Colonial Revival 017

ABOVE: On upper Essex Street in Salem, the Clarence Clark House (built 1894) stands side by side the Captain Nehemiah Buffington House (built 1785) and across the street, the David P. Ives House features a very detailed Colonial Revival facade adhered to a much older (c. 1764) building.

BELOW: just a little further down (or up) Essex Street, I think the Emery P. Johnson house was the inspiration for all these bow fronts! It was built slightly earlier (1853) and thus is more Italianate than Colonial Revival, and was raised up on its mound in the early 20th century. It contrasts quite a bit with its colonial neighbors, but in a good way, I think.

Colonial and Colonial Revival 028

Colonial and Colonial Revival 026

Beckford Street below: the section of Beckford Street between Federal and Essex is a real mash-up of Colonial and Colonial Revival! I love the juxtaposition of the very old and charming Joseph Cook House (c. 1700-1733) with the very high-style Georgian Revival William Jelly House (c. 1905) right behind it–and then the George Beckford House (c. 1764) next to the Jelly House. And there was a cat in a window, too.

Colonial and Colonial Revival 031

Colonial and Colonial Revival 035

Colonial and Colonial Revival 040

And at the end of Chestnut Street, my favorite contrast of Colonial and Colonial Revival:  William Rantoul’s Colonial Revival adaptation of the Georgian Richard Derby House on Derby Street and the Kimball-Fogg House on Flint.

Colonial and Colonial Revival 047

What I difference a year makes! It was a warm day yesterday, nearly 60 degrees when I was taking these pictures. By sharp contrast, this is the same Chestnut-Flint Street corner a year ago:

frozen-february-014

 

 


White on White

We had our first major snowstorm of 2016 yesterday, which paled in comparison with those of last year. I mocked those decision-makers who declared snow emergencies and canceled classes yesterday morning when the streets were merely wet, but by mid-afternoon I had to admit that they were correct: a wet, heavy, continuous snow had developed that would have caused numerous problems if everyone was on the road. Later in the afternoon I heard a sharp crack, and one of the the heavy, long branches of a tree across the street fell into my neighbors’ driveway. There was a strange white sky all afternoon which you will see in the pictures below (some of which I doctored just a bit), so contrast was rather elusive, but our bright yellow house was a perfect background for the broken branch. At the end of the day the white sky turned a beautiful pink, a moment which I completely failed to catch but fortunately my neighbor Bill did–and it looks like blue is back this morning.

White 016

White 018

White 019

White 033

White 035

White 044White 052

Chestnut Street Pink Bill Raye

Chestnut Street February 2016 and below, a similar winter’s day on the street in the 1890s–when McIntire’s South Church was still there.

Chestnut Street in Winter 1890s


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.


A Shilling for Samuel

Today is the birthday of the man who literally made Golden Age Salem, expanding his woodcarving skills into architecture and interior decoration exemplifying the Federal style: Samuel McIntire (1757-1811). Frankly, I’m not sure Salem is McIntire-esque anymore but my corner of it is still McIntire world, and for that I am very, very grateful. My house is in the McIntire Historic District and every morning I look out my bedroom window at two McIntire structures: Hamilton Hall and the (recently sold) Captain Jonathan Hodges House at 12 Chestnut Street. Just around the corner on Cambridge Street is one of my favorite McIntire houses, the Thomas Butman House at #14. The microsite for the Samuel McIntire: Carving an American Style (2007-2008) exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum is still up, so you can check out “his” Salem for yourself, but I am featuring another introduction on this day: a children’s book titled A Shilling for Samuel (1957) written and illustrated by Virginia Grilley.

McIntire Covers

Grilley seems to have been a well-known children’s book author in the 1950s and 1960s, and she also wrote and illustrated several books about the Salem of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the great “scribe” and “romancer”. She liked to conjure up historical places, in both words and pictures. A Shilling for Samuel is very much in the tradition of another example of mid-century Salem juvenile fiction, Carry on, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham, which was published just the year before. In both books, Salem boys are inspired by the bustling, cosmopolitan environment all around them as well as their innate interests and talents to develop their specialized skills and make their way in the American way. In Grilley’s story, Samuel grows up along the water (in a house on Mill Street–could it be this one? I’m just not sure) and learns about carpentry and carving from his father, but his family wants a different life for him:  go to sea, young man, that’s where fortunes are made. Nevertheless he loves to carve and look at the  “strangely-shaped roofs” of his native town and seeks to replicate everything he sees around him in wood. The first shilling he receives for a carving, combined with the pattern books he spots in Mr. Shillaber’s bookshop, propel him on his life’s path. The rest is history–outside my window.

Shilling 6

Shilling 30

McIntire Bench Christies

Pages from Virginia Grilley’s A Shilling for Samuel; a mahogany McIntire window bench coming up in a Christie’s auction next week–certain to fetch many, many shillings!


Salem as Source

I’ve been fascinated by architectural drawings for as long as I can remember; actually I do remember the moment I was “caught”: I was in the attic at York Harbor, in my adolescence or early teens, when I encountered some very fundamental sketches made by my uncle Jeff, an aspiring architect. I never really knew him, and he never realized his ambition, as he died in a car crash on the Cape just after his graduation, at age 21. He was always a mystery to me, so when I saw these sketches they seemed like a clue. They drew me in, literally, and over time my appreciation for architectural studies evolved, through total immersion into the Renaissance in college and graduate school, historic preservation work, old house ownership, and marriage to an architect. Since I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve become increasingly aware of just how important Salem was to the burgeoning architectural profession in the later nineteenth century in general, and to the Colonial Revival movement in particular. The literary references are there, and the drawings, though mainly they are the work of New England architects. Just recently I’ve found a few more digital archives that contain sketches of Salem structures drawn by architects from other parts of the country. Today I am featuring the sketchbooks of two southern architects, William Martin Aiken and  Joseph Mordecai Hirschmann, who came to Salem for inspiration, forty years apart, in 1883 and 1923 respectively. William Martin Aiken was born in Charleston, South Carolina, but he studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked in Cincinnati and later Washington, D.C., as the Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department. Joseph Mordecai Hirschmann was also a Charleston native, but spent most of his professional life working at the New York architectural firm of Walter and Gillette. Their professional papers, which include many drawings, are in the College of Charleston’s library and included in the Lowcountry Digital Library, a surprising sources for anything to do with Salem! But as institutions across the nation and around the globe digitize their collections, new sources of information pop up every single day.

SS Savannah Sketch SS Rockland Chapel

Before he came to Salem, Aiken sketched houses in Savannah, and after: Rockland, Maine.

While in Salem, Aiken sketched the interior of the Pickman House on Essex Street, a famous Georgian house (then), now long gone, the first-period Narbonne House, also on Essex, a Derby Street door and an obviously early house which I can’t quite identify. The note reads “Temple Hardy”? Hardy Street? Help! (see what I mean about sketches being clues).

SS Pickman House

SS Narbonne House

SS 106 Derby SS Salem Hardy St

Where is/was this early Salem house?

His sketches indicate that Hirschmann wasn’t particularly interested in early architecture when he came to Salem: he went right to the McIntire District, where he sketched details: wrought iron fences, garden arches, classical columns. He was more of a note-taker than Aiken, and I particularly love his notation on the column sketch:  “very beautiful”.

SS Hirschmann Fences Sketch

SS Hirschmann Arch Chestnut Street Salem

SS Hirschmann Columns Sketch

The Architectural Sketches of William Martin Aiken and Joseph Mordecai Hirschmann, Lowcountry Digital Library.


Christmas in Salem 2015

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.

Christmas in Salem 2015 156

Christmas in Salem 2015 109

Nichols House Collage

Christmas in Salem 2015 099

Christmas in Salem 2015 118

Christmas in Salem 2015 142

Christmas in Salem 2 Chestnut

Christmas in Salem 2015 162

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).

Christmas in Salem Trashcan Collage

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.


A Closer Look: Salem 1854

I’m following up on a post from a couple of years ago on urban “bird’s eye” maps from the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, which included a lithograph map of Salem from 1854 published by Endicott & Company and the Smith Brothers and based on an original aquatint by British born American artist John William Hill (1812-1879). I was impressed by this map at the time, but I didn’t really do it justice. Here’s what I said:  Here is a map that defies categorization:  it’s part panorama, part rendering.  The detail, perhaps a bit idealized, is amazing, especially if you view it with a zoom feature.  Yet the people are stick figures; it’s all about buildings and streets. Thanks to some close cropping by the folks at Princeton University’s Graphic Arts Collection blog, I now want to revise that view: Hill’s view of Salem in 1854 is far more humanistic than I thought. Now I’m more impressed than ever by this amazing artist, whose skills are on flagrant display in this map, and others. It’s that combination of aerial perspective and architectural detail that draws me in, very evident in the close-ups provided by Princeton.

salem-mass

salem-mass3

salem-mass4

Lithograph map of Salem, Mass., 1854 by J. H. Colen after John William Hill (1812-1879). Published by the Smith Brothers, 59 Beekman Street, New York. Graphic Arts Collection, Firestone Library, Princeton University.

Yes, the people are still a bit stickish and it is certainly an idealistic impression, but the material world on display still draws you (at least me) in: 6 over 6 window panes, 8 over 8 window panes, dormers, chimneys, laundry on the line. This is a city that seems to be in transition in its orientation, from water to land, as a lot of effort seems to have been spent on those wide (clean! far more clean than they would have been in actuality) streets, home to a few stray carriages now but later to be clogged with cars. Hill’s depiction of Charleston from a few years earlier displays the alternate water-to-land perspective. Moving out of the realm of street view maps (but still encompassing people) is his beautiful watercolor of Boston Harbor, from the same era and the same collection at Princeton, and the stunning New York from Brooklyn Heights, which was issued in several variant genres in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Hill Charleston 1851

Hill Boston Harbor 1853

Hill NY from Brooklyn Heights 1850s

Bennett Hill Brooklyn Heights

John William Hill’s Charleston, 1851 (hand-colored lithograph, Historic Charleston Collection); Boston, 1853, Graphic Arts Collection, Princeton University, and New York from Brooklyn Heights, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on deposit at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Aquatint with engraving and etching of the latter by William James Bennett, 1837, New York Public Library.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,177 other followers

%d bloggers like this: