The house at 1 Brown Street in Salem, which has been vacant for several years and has an unsafe building mark on its door, was built in 1776 for Daniel Bray. A master mariner who sailed as ship’s master on several vessels owned by merchant John Derby, Bray built the house on land owned by his family, which he later purchased in 1770. After retiring from the sea, Bray managed Derby Wharf in Salem. The house remained in Bray’s family after his death in 1798 until 1856 and was then owned by the Kelley family until 1901. It was probably around 1902 that the front of the house was converted for shop space, serving first as a grocery store and then, at different times, as gift shops or for offices. Since 1983, it has been owned and rented out by the Peabody Essex Museum, which is currently investigating the architectural history of the house and will determine how best to use the structure in the future.
Yin Yu Tang (“Hall of Plentiful Shelter”) is a Qing Dynasty Chinese merchant’s house, built around 1800, which was moved to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem and reconstructed there in 1997-2002. The house was first built by a merchant of the Huang family in the village of Huang Cun, located in Xiuning County of the Huangshan Prefecture (a region traditionally known as Huizhou) in Anhui Province. Eight generations of the family lived in the house for nearly two centuries. By the 1980s, the house stood empty, as Huang family members had moved to other parts of the country. In 1996, family members decided to sell the house and the following year, Chinese authorities approved Yin Yu Tang’s move to the United States as part of a cultural exchange helping to protect and promote the architecture of the Huizhou region. It is now open to the public and contains original family furnishings. Also check out my post on the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden.
Another renowned three-story residence in Salem is the Peirce-Nichols House, a transitional Georgian/Federal structure at 80 Federal Street. The work of Samuel McIntire, the house was constructed in the Georgian style in 1792, with McIntire also remodeling several interior rooms in the Federal style in 1801. It was built for Jerathmiel Peirce, partner of Aaron Waite in the merchant firm of Peirce and Waite, owners of the East Indiaman Friendship. Behind the house and its stables, a terraced lawn extends back to a small arbor. The property originally extended to the North River, where Capt. Peirce docked his ships. The 1801 remodeling of the house was occasioned by the marriage of Sarah Peirce to George Nichols. At that time, McIntire also crafted the front fence, which has decorative urns. The house passed to John H. Johonnot in 1827, but it was inherited by George Nichols in 1840. The Essex Institute (now the Peabody Essex Museum) purchased the house by subscription in 1917.
Impressively sited on the west side of Salem Common (though often obscured by tour buses!) is the Andrew-Safford House, built in 1818-1819. Regarded as one of New England’s great Federal-era houses, it was built for John Andrew, a wealthy merchant of Russian furs. In the 1860s, the house was owned by the Smith and Creamer families and in 1871 was purchased by John Osborne Safford, a leather merchant. His family gave the home to Essex Institute, now the Peabody Essex Museum, in 1947. Since the picture above obscures the house’s striking Federal entryway, click below to see an image of it… Read More
In 1782, Salem Federalists erected the Assembly House, also known as the Cotting-Smith Assembly House, at 138 Federal Street to serve as a gathering place for social and cultural events. Lafayette and Washington were both entertained there in the 1780s. The original building was most likely quite plain, but it was significantly altered around 1798 by Samuel McIntire, who added elaborate Federal style ornamentation to the front facade. By that time, the building had ceased to be used as an assembly place and was converted into a residence. Jonathan Waldo, an original funder of the Assembly House, had become sole owner in 1796 and sold it to Samuel Putnam, a local judge, two years later. Around that time, Waldo and his partners, William Stearns and Col. William Pickering, built the Stearns Block on Washington Street, which included their own new assembly space called Washington Hall, intended to supercede the Assembly House. In 1919, the Old Assembly House was acquired by Joseph Newton Smith, whose daughter, Mary Silver Smith, gave the house to the Essex Institute, now the Peabody Essex Museum, in 1965. Read More
The 350th post at Historic Buildings of Massachusetts is the Gardner-Pingree House in Salem, which is considered to be New England’s greatest example of a Federal-style (or Adamesque) town house. It was erected in 1804-1805 at 128 Essex Street for merchant John Gardner, Jr. and is generally considered to be the work of Samuel McIntire, who certainly did create the mansion‘s exterior ornamentation and interior wood carving. In 1811, financial difficulties forced Gardner to sell his house to Nathaniel West, who then sold it three years later to Captain Joseph White. In 1830, Capt. White was murdered in the house, an event that shook Salem and was followed by a sensational trial with a famed oration by Daniel Webster. The story would have an influence on Poe and Hawthorne. In 1834, the house was sold to David Pingree and remained in the Pingree family until 1933. The house was donated in that year to the Essex Institute, now the Peabody Essex Museum. The restored house is open to the public for tours, usually in conjunction with the museum’s nearby John Ward and Crowninshield-Bentley houses.
Built on Essex Street in Salem around 1727, the Ropes Mansion has been open to the public since 1912. It was built by merchant Samuel Barnard of Deerfield and sold by Barnard’s heirs to Judge Nathaniel Ropes II in 1768. He was a loyalist and died of smallpox as his house was being attacked by a mob of Patriots in 1774. His family went into exile, but reclaimed the house after the Revolutionary War. It remained in the Ropes family until 1907, when sisters Mary and Eliza Ropes bequeathed it as the Ropes Memorial. Various alterations have been made to the interior of the house over the years, most dramatically in 1894, when Colonial Revival modifications were made and the structure was moved back from the street. The building‘s current entryway dates to the 1830s and was inspired by Asher Benjamin‘s American Builder’s Companion (1827). The house also has formal gardens dating to 1912. The house has had several fires: Abigail Ropes burned to death after her dress caught fire in 1839; a disgruntled worker is believed to have started a fire which gutted an addition in 1894; and the third floor attic was damaged in a fire in 2009. Today, the Ropes Mansion is owned by the Peabody Essex Museum.