Located on a proprty of 25 acres of fields, pasture and woods at 149 Pine Street in Danvers is the Rebecca Nurse Homestead. The house was mostly likely built in 1678, when Francis Nurse, a skilled maker of wooden household items, began renting the property from owner James Allen. Nurse would eventually purchase the house, where he lived with his wife Rebecca and eight children. In 1692, during the Salem Witch Trials, the 71-year-old Rebecca Nurse was accused of practicing witchcraft. Initially found not guilty at her trial, her young accusers went into convulsive fits which led the jury to return with a guilty verdict. Rebecca Nurse was hanged and her family secretly buried her on the Homestead land. In 1885, the family dedicated a granite memorial in her honor in the Nurse family graveyard. The monument is inscribed with a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. Francis Nurse died in 1695 and the Homestead remained in the Nurse family into the eighteenth century. Rebecca’s great-grandson, Francis, lived in the house and, as a sergeant in the Danvers Alarm Company, responded to the Lexington Alarm in 1775. The Homestead was owned by the Putnam family from 1784 to 1908. Purchased and restored by the Rebecca Nurse Memorial Asociation, the property was given to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities in 1926 and, since 1981, has been a museum owned by the Danvers Alarm List Company.
The Judge Samuel Holten House in Danvers was built in 1670 by Benjamin Holten in what was then known as Salem Village. In the house resided Sarah Holten, who testified against Rebecca Nurse during the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692. From a much smaller initial core, the house, which served as a tavern, was expanded six different times over the years, making it a prime example of the development in stages of a Colonial house. In the later eighteenth century, Judge Samuel Holten lived in the house. He was a physician and statesman who served as a member of the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1780 and again from 1782 to 1787. In 1778, he was a signer of the Articles of Confederation. Since 1921, the house been owned and restored by the General Israel Putnam Chapter of the Daughter of the American Revolution.
Describing Danversport, a section of Danvers, the 1916 Handbook of New England mentions that, “opposite the Baptist Church and facing the square is the Samuel Fowler house, a square brick structure built in 1809 and since 1912 the property of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. It is a fine old house in perfect preservation and occupied by the Misses Fowler, who are very liberal in the privileges they grant to callers who wish to inspect the house.” The two unmarried Fowlers had been granted life occupancy of the house, even as it was converted into a museum. Fowler was a local industrialist. As SPNEA founder, William Sumner Appleton, explained in the Society’s Bulletin, vol. III no. 1 (1912):
In 1799 he bought the land on which the house stands, and began investing in mills, two corn mills and a saw mill. His holdings of real estate were frequently added to, and he became interested in a total of five mills. He was the first to start the tanning industry in this part of Danvers, and with seven others shared the cost of building the bridge now known as Liberty Bridge. He was public-spirited and ever ready to aid financially such enterprises as tended to improve the village and town.
As might be expected, the Fowler home reflects the simple tastes of its owner. As seen from the square the house is as severely simple as it could be. It depends for its effect on its very simplicity and admirable proportions. […] The principal features of the house may be said to be simplicity, good taste, solid construction, splendid preservation, and homogeneity.
In a letter of May 1, 1923, writer H. P. Lovecraft described his visit to the house. Led by “Sibylline wraiths of decay’d gentry,” he was even able to try a coat and Capt. Fowler’s cap from the War of 1812! The house, no longer owned by the SPNEA, is now a private residence.
The Derby Summer House, also known as the McIntire Tea-house is a garden house, built in 1793 to plans by Samuel McIntire, for wealthy merchant Elias Hasket Derby‘s farm in Salem. In 1901, the Summer House was moved to Glen Magna Farms, the Danvers estate then owned by Ellen Peabody Endicott. Her son, William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr., was instrumental in bringing the Summer House to the property, where it now opens onto a walled rose garden designed by Herbert W. C. Browne. The two sculpted figures on the roof are reproductions of the originals. William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr.‘s wife, Louise Thoron Endicott, willed the Summer House to the Danvers Historical Society in 1958. In 1963, the Society purchased the central eleven acres of the estate and has restored the historic early twentieth-century gardens.
The house at 18 Park Street in Danvers was built in 1843 for Elias Putnam, a shoe manufacturer and first president of the Danvers Village Bank. After his death in 1847, his daughter lived on in the house. It was later purchased by Harvey Hughes Pillsbury, who operated a harness factory in town. In 1901, a corporation was formed to establish the “Danvers Home for the Aged.” In 1905, Harvey Pillsbury’s will provided an endowment and left his residence on Park Street to the Home, which was a favorite cause of his wife Clara. Over the years, the Home’s policy changed from providing full care for residents to operating as a boarding house, which by the start of the current century was empty for several years. Eventually, the Pillsbury Foundation successfully appealed to the courts to sell the house, with the proceeds going into the Foundation to support various programs for the elderly. Structural changes to the house in the twentieth century have included the addition of a front porch with an attached belvedere/gazebo.
The Page House in Danvers was built in 1754 by Jeremiah Page, a brick maker, who also fought in the Revolutionary War. During the tea embargo in 1770, Page declared that “no tea would be drunk in his house.” As related in Lucy Larcom‘s poem, “A Gambrel Roof,” Page’s wife invited her lady friends to gather for tea on the roof, since it was “Upon a house is not within it.” In 1774, a room in the house was used as an office by General Thomas Gage, who was then the British military governor of Massachusetts. Jeremiah’s son, John Page, and then his granddaughter, Ann Lemist Page, later lived in the house. In 1850, a grandson of Jeremiah Page attempted to break into the Village Bank next to the house and was shot and killed by a night guard. Various additions were made in the nineteenth century. The building, as explained by Mary H. Northend in Colonial Homes and their Furnishings (1912), originally “consisted of four rooms, but these were later moved back and a new front added, the ell being replaced by a larger one.” Ann Lemist Page, who lived in the home until her death in 1913, was a pioneer in the kindergarten movement and, for a time, she ran a school in her home. In her will, she requested that the house be demolished to prevent its falling into disrepair. The Danvers Historical Society challenged the will in court and was able to purchase the property and move it from Elm Street to Page Street to serve as their headquarters.
The Greek Revival Town Hall of Danvers was built in 1855, the same year South Danvers, now Peabody, broke away to become a separate town. The building, which originally contained the town’s high school as well as town offices, went through major expansions and renovations in the 1880s, 1899, and late 1940s. The the most recent renovation, in 2009-2010, has focused repairing the exterior and replacing mechanical systems. While this work was being done, the roof was damaged by a 3-alarm fire, sparked when wood sheathing was ignited from a contractor’s soldering of copper flashing.