Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Walking around Historic Salem, Massachusetts

Hamilton Hall (1805),

See my post here

During my two week stay in Boston in August of 2009 I ventured off to Historic Salem for a day trip to see what I thought would be a few nice Federal style mansions. Little did I know that Salem has the greatest concentration of 17th and 18th century domestic structures in the U.S. I quickly fell in love with Salem and had to go back for another day. The history and architecture of this city is amazing. Salem was one of the first city's in America to have a high number of millionaires due to privateering and shipping. By 1790, Salem was the sixth largest city in the country, and a world famous seaport—particularly in the China trade. Codfish was exported to the West Indies and Europe. Sugar and molasses were imported from the West Indies, tea from China, and pepper from Sumatra. Salem ships also visited Africa, Russia, Japan and Australia.

Prosperity left the city with a wealth of fine architecture, including Federal style mansions designed by one of America's first architects Samuel McIntire, for whom the city's largest historic district is named. These homes and mansions from Colonial America now comprise the greatest concentrations of notable pre-1900 domestic structures in the United States.

This wealth of architecture in Salem can be directly attributed to the Old China Trade, which was ongoing for years with America and Great Britain. The neutrality of the United States was tested during the Napoleonic Wars. Both Britain and France imposed trade restrictions in order to weaken each others' economies. This also had the effect of disrupting American trade and testing the United States' neutrality. As time went on, harassment by the British of American ships increased by the British Navy. This included impressment and seizures of American men and goods. After the Chesapeake Leopard Affair, Thomas Jefferson was faced with a decision to make regarding the situation at hand. In the end, he chose an economic option: the Embargo Act of 1807 and Thomas Jefferson basically closed all the ports overnight, putting a little damper on the seaport town of Salem. The embargo of 1807 was the starting point on the path to the War of 1812 with Great Britain.

Old Town Hall is the earliest surviving municipal structure in Salem, Massachusetts (dating from 1816-17) and an outstanding Federal Style building. The second floor of the building, Great Hall, has always been used as a public hall, and contained Town offices until 1837. The first floor, originally designed as a public market, is now being used as a public art space, in conjunction with Artists Row in the Marketplace.

The building contains elements attributed to both Charles Bulfinch, the most influential Boston architect of the Federal period, and Samuel McIntire, Salem’s renowned architect and woodcarver. The structure was saved from demolition by Salem preservation architect Philip Horton Smith in the 1930s, and underwent a partial restoration in the 1970s.

1805 Customs House in Salem

Federal brick Townhouse

Witch Museum in a old brownstone church

The Derby-Beebe Summer House (1799)

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Gardiner-Pingree House The house was built in 1804 by Samuel McIntire in a Federal style

See my post about this house here

The John Tucker Daland House (1851–1852) is an imposing, Italianate house designed by architect Gridley James Fox Bryant.

Old Gothic Revival church

John Ward House The house was built in 1684 by John Ward

John Ward House The house was built in 1684 by John Ward

Gardner-Pingree Carriage House

The Crowninshield-Bentley House (circa 1727-1730)

The John Tucker Daland House (1851–1852) is an imposing, Italianate house designed by architect Gridley James Fox Bryant.

Built in 1818, the U.S. Custom House in Salem, Massachusetts, is typical of the Federal period style of building. During the early 19th century, between 8 and 12 percent of the nation's revenues were collected in this building.

However, the building is most famous because of one of its employees. Between 1847 and 1849 Nathaniel Hawthorne worked in this building as Customs Surveyor (apparently a plum patronage appointment). While in Salem, Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter. His Introduction to the book focuses on the Custom House, and includes an extended description of the building, its interior, and the people who worked there.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1841

In 1826, a wooden eagle was placed on the roof. It was carved by Salem craftsman Joseph True, and its original cost was $50.00. In 2004, the original eagle was replaced with a fiberglass replica. After several years of conservation work, the Joseph True eagle will be going on display in the Custom House in 2007.

U.S. Custom House in Salem has beautifully carved woodwork

U.S. Custom House in Salem

Fine Federal mansion

Gothic Revival church

1832 Greek Revival church

Federal house

Old church cemetery

Folk Art angel on old Tomb stone

Classical Cast-iron at the Gardiner-Pingree House

Gardiner-Pingree House Portico The house was built in 1804 by Samuel McIntire in a Federal style

The Pickering House (circa 1651) is a Colonial house, owned and occupied by ten successive generations of the Pickering family including Colonel Timothy Pickering. This house is believed to be the oldest house in the United States continuously occupied by one family. It is located at 18 Broad Street, In 1841 the front facade was reworked in the Gothic style, with the facade gables probably dating from this time. Many of the house's external features date from this alteration, including the roof finials, round windows in the gables, cornice brackets, and exterior entry porch. The Gothic-style fence with its cut-outs and obelisk finials was also added in this renovation.

The Ropes Mansion (late 1720s), also called Ropes Memorial, is a Georgian Colonial mansion located at 318 Essex Street,


  1. As always, I am speechless after viewing your post!

  2. Love the Houses, especially the ones with columns. Richard at

  3. Thanks Divine Theatre! Richard I could live in Salem.