The House of Seven Gables

What a nice day we are having in Salem but the afternoon is passing quickly. Following our lunch at Murphy’s we explored the waterfront with the replica Friendship,

 admired the Custom House with the fierce Eagle emblem glittering in gold.

 But there was one last place that we just had to check out before we turned our eyes back south and headed home. That was the House of Seven Gables.

We didn’t have time for the tour and having just finished one  “old House Tour” we opted for exterior views only. I have taken the tour in the past and it is interesting.  Maybe next trip  there will be time for that tour too.

The House of Seven Gables was a real house. Not just a construct for a novel. The opening lines of the novel are the perfect description of the ancient mansion.

The novel begins:

“Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. The street is Pyncheon Street; the house is the old Pyncheon House; and an elm-tree, of wide circumference, rooted before the door, is familiar to every town-born child by the title of the Pyncheon Elm.”

The Pyncheon family actually existed and were ancestors of American novelist Thomas Pyncheon.

At the time the novel was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the House  was owned by his cousin Susanna Ingersoll whose  ancestors were involved in the persecutions of the innocents during the Salem Witch Trials. Hawthorne was plagued by guilt over the part his family played in those terrible years and some believe this to be the reason for the tone of the novel. His novel explores land fraud, depression, ghosts and by innuendo, witchcraft.

At the time that I toured the mansion many years ago, the novel was fresh in my mind so I could appreciate the references made by the tour guides. One thing that really stands out in my memory is the secret staircase. At the time that I took the tour this tiny secret passage was open to the public via the tours. Since we didn’t take the tour this time I don’t know if that is still the case. I think I will re-read the novel before I go back for a return tour.

Also on the grounds and visible from the street is another period home that has been restored. Not as grand as the Seven Gables, which was considered a mansion, Hawthorne’s boyhood home sits were it can view the building he immortalized. This is another example of the traveling buildings of Salem. His home was relocated to this spot to preserve it for its historical value.

I can just imagine touring the 2 buildings on a gloomy, rainy day. Throw in a little thunder and lightning and I bet we could all become believers in ghosts and witches.

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