Down (eastward) Derby Street from the Salem Maritime National Historic Site is the House of the Seven Gables, built by a rich sea captain, John Turner, in 1668 and made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel as the home of the doomed Pyncheon clan. It is one of the oldest houses still standing in America.
When Hawthorne was a guest of Miss Ingersoll, it was still a house with only three gables. A writing desk of his is in the house. The flat surface extending out above the drawers seemed quite high to me, perhaps six inches higher than the keyboard of the pianoforte in the same room. Perhaps he had a higher seat than the one in front of the desk now. There is a portrait of him at age 56 (in 1858) above it.
Aside from Hawthorne memorabilia, the house includes Chinese rugs and a dinner service from Canton. It is unusual in having a closet. Since closets were taxed as rooms, this and the high ceilings above the main floor where the servants toiled were extravaganzas.
The House of the Seven Gables (other than the Hawthorne room), has been restored as it might have appeared in 1808 with some original furnishings and a penny shop like the one imagined in the book, the desperate remedy of the impoverished gentlewoman who was imagined as the house’s owner in Hawthorne’s novel. (This is catering to tourists imitating art–there was not a store in the house before the late 20th century.)
The house in which Hawthorne was born (on the 4th of July 1804, as Nathaniel Hathorne), was moved from Unions Street next to the House of Seven Gables that he made famous-just past the well that is frequently mentioned in the novel. Its furnishings include a caned Windsor chair that was his and a wooden box in which the pages of the manuscript of The Scarlet Letter were piled as he penned them. The house and rooms are smaller than those in the Turner house, though it has an interesting two-piece desk that was hauled onto ships and back and has lots of pigeonholes.
Both houses (and a cozy counting house on the harbor front) are open, for guided tours only; starting every half hour. (The house faces on Turner Street and the address is 54 Turner Street.)
The Hawthorne birthplace is painted red and the house of seven gables, supposedly is burnt umber (it looked more dark gray to me). It would not have been painted at all when it was built, though by Hawthorne’s time painting wooden houses had become common. The interior walls would have been painted and wallpaper has been removed in both houses.
Do I need to say that there is a gift shop? Or that books do not take up much of the display space in it?
The House of the Seven Gables (complex) is open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday p.m and noon to 5:00 p.m. Sundays between November 5th and June 29,. Between June 30th and November 4th, it is open 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10-5 Sundays.
Admission charges are Adults $12, Seniors and AAA members (with card) $11, ages 6-17 $7.25. Advance reservations may be made at 978-744-0991 extension.104 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The complex has its own parking lot.
Some stray notes on the rest of Salem
Salem has various kitschy attempts to capitalize on the 17th-century witch trials as well as the vintage houses that are open to the public.
The best reason to visit Salem, Massachusetts is to go to the Peabody-Essex Museum (open daily April through October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays until 9:00 p.m.; closed Mondays from November 1 through March 31. Admission: Adults $12; seniors $10; students $8; children 16 and under free.). It contains much New England maritime stuff, American decorative art, Native American art, African art; and Asian export art. Admission includes tours of the Gardner-Pingree (1804), John Ward (ca. 1684), and Crowninshield-Bentley houses (ca. 1727).
Tours of other colonial and federal-era buildings can be arranged at the headquarters of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, the 1762 Derby House being the most historically important one. It is the oldest brick house in Salem, but the importance is more that the Derbys were the richest of the Salem mercantile families. For more on the historic site run by the National Park Service and the history of Salem’s prosperity during the colonial era, see http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/391669/the_salem_maritime_national_historic.html.