One of the first few things you might notice during a visit to Salem, MA, is the architecture. As you head toward the center of town and toward the seaport, you'll see many old homes: large square Federalist-style structures, some houses with gables - including the one made famous by writer Nathaniel Hawthorne - and a few colonial-era structures that have been preserved over the centuries.
Many of Salem's historic homes are in the McIntire Historic District, an area a few blocks wide that is a short walk from the Salem Visitors Center in the downtown area. The district is named after 18th and 19th century architect Samuel McIntire, who designed several homes for Salem's wealthy shipping industry families.
McIntire Historic District includes a mix of Federalist style (1780-1825), Georgian (1725-1780), and First Period (1630-1730) homes. Most are privately owned, but a few are open for tours. One of the district's roadways, Chestnut Street, has developed a reputation for its beauty and stately homes and is a National Historic Landmark. Another, Essex Street, was once known as Salem's Main Street.
On a self-guided tour of the district, several markers on the homes that stated names and occupations of the previous owners caught my eye. One described a scene I would have loved to have witnessed - it described the 1818 move of the house by 60 oxen.
McIntire District Highlights
The so-called "Witch House," a.k.a., the Jonathan Corwin House, was built in the 17th century and was owned by one of the judges in the Salem Witch Trials. It is located at 310 Essex Street and is open for tours May through October.
Another noteworthy home is the Pickering House (pictured above), 18 Broad Street, an interesting looking Gothic Revival-style structure with gables and pointed gate posts. The house has been occupied for more than 350 years by the Pickering family, including Timothy Pickering, secretary of state from 1795 to 1800 and George Washington's secretary of war.
The Phillips House (pictured to the right), once owned by a wealth sea merchant, includes a carriage house out back. The organization Historic New England runs tours of the property on certain days year round.
Hamilton Hall, at 9 Chestnut Street, was designed by McIntire and is a Registered National Historic Landmark. The public hall is currently is used as a site for weddings and other functions.
Information on guided and self-guided tours of the area can be obtained at the Salem Visitors Center at 2 New Liberty Street. You can also download the self-guided tour brochure at the National Park Service's website.
Salem, MA 01970