3 Centuries of New England Life

One thing  that you will learn as you wander through the historic and vintage homes and buildings is that Salem likes to move their buildings around. They have a long-standing tradition that when a historic building is scheduled  for demolition someone seems to step up and with a twitch of a nose or a wave of a wand the building materializes in a new location.

Well, maybe not quite like that but there are certainly many examples of buildings being saved from the wrecking ball by being donated or otherwise acquired by a museum (The PEM) or attraction (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s house) on the grounds of the House of the 7 Gables.

The Peabody Essex Museum has been a pioneer in the acquisition, relocation, restoration, and interpretation of historic environments. One of the first examples was the Quaker Meeting House which was acquired in 1865 and reconstructed using what is thought to be the beams from the original First Church. This was followed in 1910 by the John Ward House.

The John Ward House was split in two and rolled on ox-drawn logs from its original site about 3 blocks to its present location. Restored and put back together, the building opened to the public in 1911. The building features typical 17 century furnishings.

The low ceilings, batten door and diamond-paned leaded glass casement windows typify the architecture of this period. This was the era of the Puritan, austerity was prized and money wasn’t everything. Life was simple and the functional emphasis of the building style and furnishings complimented the day-to-day living of these early settlers.

Moving on to the 18th century the housing style was more “English” and it was clear that a middle class was developing. In fact the architectural style is known as Georgian after King George. The old “batten” door is gone and the windows are now double hung sash windows that can be raised and lowered. Dormers or gables appeared in the gambrel roof.

Inside the furnishing are more advanced. Signs of wealth on display. Various classes were developing; the merchant class , the artisan, the farmer.

The last of the homes visited was by far the grandest. By this time in the 19th century the accumulation of wealth, as today had become of great importance and those who were succesful wanted all to know it. Newly independent and no longer colonies the building styles began to change. We were looking for our own identities and borrowed freely from other cultures. Greek revival with its columns or pilasters and ornate porticos became a popular style for the wealthy ship owners and merchants. Brick also came into fashion as a building material.

Inside the furnishing were much more lavish and ornate.

A tradition of adding an ivory button on the balustrade when the mortgage was paid developed so all of your neighbors would see when they came to visit.

Salem’s architectual heritage is rich and varied. These are just 3 of the many restored buildings that are spread throughout Salem. Look around and you’ll find examples of many other builing styles and architecture.

To take this 3 house tour through the centuries visit the Peabody/Essex museum.

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0 Responses to 3 Centuries of New England Life

  1. Nancy Centers says:

    The restoration of these buildings was done with particular attention to detail right down to the hand painted flooring, woodwork, display of antique furnishings, etc. The nice thing about the historic house tour is that it is included in the museum admission and they allow ample time to view each building. Having the tour organized the way it was gives visitors a real appreciation for the development of society across time. It also helps that the docent ( we had a really good one!) is well trained.

  2. Sandra says:

    Very nice. I love seeing older home and learn about their history. History is very interesting and I try to think about what it was like living in those times. Thanks.