House of the Seven Gables, Salem, Mass

The House of the Seven Gables, seen from Turner Street in Salem, around 1890-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house in 2017:

This house is best known for being the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables, but it is also one of the oldest houses in the state, as well as one of the finest surviving 17th century homes in New England. The house has seen considerable changes over the past 350 years, and today the exterior bears little resemblance to the house that Hawthorne would have known, but it was originally built in 1668 as the home of John Turner. At first, the house consisted of just the central portion of the present-day structure. However, like many other colonial-era houses, it steadily expanded over the years, giving the house its distinctive appearance.

Born in Boston in 1644, John Turner moved to Salem as a child, after his father died and his mother remarried to a wealthy Salem merchant. Turner likewise became a merchant as well as a mariner, with a career that coincided with Salem’s rise to prominence as a major seaport. He built the first section of this house around the same time as his marriage to Elizabeth Roberts, but over the years the house was expanded as both the family and Turner’s fortune grew.

The southern part of the house, seen on the left side of the photos, was added in 1677. This wing included a parlor, and increased the size of the house by nearly two thirds. By this point, Turner was among the wealthiest men in Essex County. He owned five ships, with ownership interests in eight others, and had a net worth of nearly 7,000 pounds. However, he died in 1680, when he was only about 36 years old.

Turner’s son, John Turner II, was only about nine years old at the time of his father’s death, but he later inherited the house. He was also a merchant, and eventually accumulated an even larger fortune than his father, with an estate of over 10,000  pounds when he died in 1742. Along with this, he held the rank of colonel in the militia, and served on the Governor’s Council from 1720 to 1740. He made his own changes to the house, including remodeling the interior to reflect the Georgian style of the early 18th century. The house had 14 rooms at the time, and the highly complex roofline featured eight gables, as opposed to the seven that the house is best known for.

As a young man, Turner also played a role in the Salem Witch Trials, which occurred in 1692. He did not make any accusations himself, but one of the accusers, John Proctor’s servant Mary Warren, claimed that the elderly widow Ann Pudeator had bewitched Turner, causing him to fall from a cherry tree. This was one of several accusations made against Pudeator – including a claim that she had turned herself into a bird and flew around her house – and she was subsequently convicted of witchcraft and hanged.

After John Turner’s death in 1742, the house was inherited by his son, John Turner III. However, he evidently did not inherit the business acumen of his father and grandfather, and over the years he squandered the family fortune. Believing the family home was too old-fashioned, he built a modern house near the center of Salem. However, he eventually fell into debt, and in 1782 was forced to sell all of his property, including the House of the Seven Gables, in order to pay off his creditors. He died four years later, leaving an estate of just 59 pounds.

Turner sold this house to Samuel Ingersoll, a ship captain who lived here with his wife Susanna and their children. One of the eight gables had already been removed at this point, and Captain Ingersoll proceeded to remove four more, leaving the house with just the three gables that are shown in the first photo. He lived here for the rest of his life, although he was frequently away on long sea voyages. In 1804, during one of these voyages, both he and his oldest son died of a fever aboard ship. Susanna died seven years later, and the house was inherited by their only surviving child, a daughter who was also named Susanna.

Susanna never married, and went on to live in this house for the rest of her life. She was a second cousin of fellow Salem native Nathaniel Hawthorne, who had been born a short walk from here on Union Street in 1804. The extent to which she and the house served to inspire Hawthorne is still debated, but he did occasionally visit Susanna here, where she told him stories about the house’s history. She also showed him the attic, where there was still visible evidence of the long-removed gables.

Hawthorne never explicitly stated that this house was the basis for The House of the Seven Gables, but it seems likely that he drew inspiration from its history and from Susanna herself. The novel traces the history of the fictitious Pyncheon family, whose founder, Colonel Pyncheon, had acquired the land after the previous owner, Matthew Maule, had been executed for practicing witchcraft. Before his death, though, Maule had placed a curse on the Pyncheon family, and the Colonel died suddenly on the day that the house was completed. In the present day of the novel, the house was owned by one of his descendants, the impoverished Hepzibah Pyncheon. She was an older unmarried woman, likely based on Susanna Ingersoll, and she opened a shop on the ground floor of the old house in order to supplement her income.

The novel was published in 1851, and Susanna continued to live here in the real-life house until her death in 1858. She had no biological heirs, but she left the house to her adopted son, Horace Connolly. He sold it in 1879, and the house changed hands several different times before being purchased by Henry Orlando Upton in 1883. He and his family were living here when the first photo was taken around the end of the 19th century, and by this point the house had become a popular tourist attraction, even though its exterior bore little resemblance to the house described in Hawthorne’s novel.

In 1908, Upton sold the house to Caroline O. Emmerton, a philanthropist who wanted the house returned to its original appearance and preserved as a museum. She hired noted architect Joseph Everett Chandler for the restoration, which lasted from 1909 to 1910. The second photo shows the completed work, which included the reconstruction of the missing gables, as well as a new chimney on the right side that was based on the original 1668 chimney. The exterior was restored to what the house supposedly looked like during the ownership of John Turner II in the 1720s, although some of the changes were made to match Hawthorne’s novel, rather than its actual historic appearance.

Today, the exterior of the house looks essentially the same as it did when Chandler finished his restoration over a century ago. It remains in use as a museum, and has since been joined by several other historic buildings that were moved to the property, including Hawthorne’s birthplace. These buildings now comprise the House of the Seven Gables Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark district in 2007.

North Bridge, Salem, Mass

Looking north across the bridge over the North River in Salem, around 1895-1905. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

More than a century before the first photo was taken, this scene on North Street in Salem was the site of Leslie’s Retreat, a confrontation that is said to have been the first armed resistance to British rule in the American colonies. The event occurred on February 26, 1775, less than two months before the more famous battles at Lexington and Concord, and was the result of a British effort to seize cannons that were stored in a blacksmith’s shop on the north side of the river.

On that day, some 240 British soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Leslie, landed in Marblehead and subsequently marched through Salem on their way to the North Bridge. However, by the time they arrived at the south side of the river, the town’s militia had already assembled here, and the drawbridge span had been raised to obstruct their path. Colonel Leslie demanded that it be lowered, and even threatened to open fire if it was not, but the militia stood their ground, their ranks swelled by a growing crowd that shouted insults at the British soldiers.

At one point during the long standoff, the British made an attempt to seize several boats in the river. However, the locals noticed this, and began smashing the bottoms of the boats before the British could reach them. During the ensuing struggle, the soldiers threatened the men with bayonets, but one Salem man, Joseph Whicher, opened his shirt and dared them to stab him. One soldier obliged, lightly pricking him in the chest with his bayonet. It was enough to draw blood, making it arguably the first American blood spilled during the Revolution.

As dusk approached, Leslie realized that the situation was hopeless. He finally reached a compromise with the militia, and was allowed to cross the bridge if he agreed to proceed no further than the blacksmith shop. Everyone on both sides knew that the cannons were long gone by this point, having been removed to a more secure location, but the deal allowed Leslie to save face by technically carrying out his orders. He duly performed a cursory search of the blacksmith shop, found no cannons, and then he and his men marched back to their ship in Marblehead, escorted by local militiamen from all of the surrounding towns.

Although little-known today, this confrontation was an important test of American resolve, and also demonstrated the colonists’ ability to summon large numbers of militiamen at short notice. These same factors were present, on a much larger and bloodier scale, less than two months later, when the British made a similar move to seize military supplies in Concord. Coincidentally, the subsequent battle in Concord also occurred at a bridge known as the North Bridge, and it is that one, as opposed to the North Bridge here in Salem, that has been immortalized as “the rude bridge that arched the flood” where the embattled farmer “fired the shot heard round the world.”

By the time the first photo was taken, the scene had changed significantly from its 18th century appearance. Salem was no longer the prosperous seaport that it had been in the years immediately after the American Revolution, and much of this area along the North River had been developed for industrial use. A few of these industries are visible on the right side of the photo, including the Locke Brothers company, which produced steam fittings in the large three-story building near the foreground. In front of this building is a one-story building that housed the offices of the Collins Brothers coal company, and the coal shed is partially visible on the far right side of the photo.

Today, this scene is essentially unrecognizable from the first photo. Not only are most of the 19th century buildings gone, but the road itself has been completely rebuilt. The river, once been an impassable barrier for the British soldiers, is now hardly even noticeable for modern drivers. However, there are several buildings that appear to survive from the first photo, including one that was likely standing during the events of February 26, 1775. Located at 98 North Street, directly opposite Mason Street, this three-story gambrel-roofed house is barely visible in the distance of both photos, at the point where the road curves out of view. It is now heavily modified from its original appearance, with a storefront occupying part of the ground floor, but it was probably built between 1750 and 1770, making it old enough to have been here when the Leslie’s Retreat occurred.

First Congregational Church of Indian Orchard, Springfield, Mass

The First Congregational Church of Indian Orchard, at the corner of Myrtle and Berkshire Streets in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

This is the third oldest surviving church building in Springfield, after Old First Church (1819) and St. Michael’s Cathedral (1861), and was built in 1863 for the First Congregational Church of Indian Orchard. The church had been established in 1848, back when Indian Orchard was just starting to be developed as a factory village, and at the time the congregation consisted of just 15 members. Worship services were originally held in a nearby schoolhouse, and the church lacked a permanent home until 1863, when this wood-frame, Gothic Revival-style building was completed at the corner of Berkshire Street and Myrtle Street.

However, the new building failed to grow the church, and the congregation was soon dissolved. It was replaced in 1865 by a new church, the Evangelical Religious Society of Indian Orchard, which worshipped here in this building. The church began with just 11 members, but were soon joined by former members of the congregational church, and by 1884 the membership had grown to 150 people. The first photo was taken less than a decade later, and shows the church as it appeared around the time when Indian Orchard was at its peak as a manufacturing center.

Today, around 125 years after the first photo was taken, the church is still in active use. It is the home of the Orchard Covenant Church, which traces its history back to the 1848 founding of the congregational church, although it is now affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination. The building itself has been expanded over the years, with a large wing on the right side of the tower, but the original section has not seen many changes, aside from losing some of the Gothic ornamentation on the tower and on the front of the building.

Myrtle Street School, Indian Orchard, Springfield, Mass

The Myrtle Street School in the Springfield neighborhood of Indian Orchard, seen from Worcester Street near the corner of Myrtle Street, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Prior to the Civil War, Springfield lacked a strong centralized school system. The city was divided into 12 school districts, each of which was responsible for taxing residents, hiring teachers, setting curriculum, and maintaining schools. However, this proved inefficient, in part because these school districts tended to focus more on lowering taxes than improving education, and by the late 1860s school committee member Josiah Hooker had led a large-scale reform of the city’s public schools.

The result of these reforms was a new high school building on State Street, plus six new grammar schools around the city. All were located in or near the downtown area except for the Indian Orchard school, which was located here at the corner of Worcester and Myrtle Streets. Located in the far northeastern corner of the city, Indian Orchard developed as a factory village in the mid-19th century. It saw a significant population growth during this time, particularly among French-Canadians and other immigrant groups who came to work in the mills, so a grammar school became necessary to serve the needs of the village.

At the time, students attended primary school for three years, followed by six years of grammar school and then four years of high school. The 1884 King’s Handbook of Springfield provides a description of the grammar school curriculum, writing that “In these schools, thorough instruction is given in all the common English branches, including book-keeping, and United-States and English history; and special teachers give instruction in penmanship, music, and drawing.” Following the reforms of the 1860s, the school year began on the first week of September and ended on the Friday before July 4, and students attended school from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with a two-hour break from noon to 2:00.

The Indian Orchard school was designed by James M. Currier, a local architect whose works included three other schools in Springfield, along with an assortment of factories, business blocks, and houses. Perhaps his most notable commission, however, was a house in Ottawa, Canada, that he designed for his brother, Joseph M. Currier, who was a lumber dealer and Canadian politician. This house, located at 24 Sussex Drive, now serves as the official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada, although it has been heavily altered from Currier’s original design.

Like the Prime Minister’s residence, though, the Indian Orchard school has also been extensively modified over the years. The first photo shows its original appearance, with its mansard roof and Second Empire-style architecture, but by the turn of the 20th century this building had become too small for the growing population of the village. As a result, in 1904 a large wing was built on the west side of the original building, facing Myrtle Street. This is the part of the school building that is visible in the present-day photo, and features a Classical Revival-style design that was the work of architect Eugene C. Gardner. The addition hid the original school building from this angle, although it is still standing and still visible from the other side of the school.

This expansion added eight classrooms to the school, but within a decade there was again need for more space, and in 1914 Gardner was hired to design a matching, nearly symmetrical wing on the south side of the building. Located on the left side of the 1904 addition, just out of view from this angle, the new wing doubled the size of the building. It was completed in 1915, and included eight more classrooms, plus a lunchroom, gymnasium, and an auditorium that could seat nearly 700 people.

The school, which became known as the Myrtle Street School after the additions, remained in use until the early 1980s. Like several other historic Springfield school buildings, it has since been converted into condominiums, and is still standing with few significant exterior changes. Even the original 1868 section is still there, and it now stands as the oldest existing school building in the city, as well as the only one of the original six grammar schools that is still standing. Because of this, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

First Congregational Church, Chicopee, Mass

The First Congregational Church on Chicopee Street in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Today, this church is known as the First Congregational Church of Chicopee, but the building actually predates Chicopee by several decades. It was completed in 1826 as the Second Congregational Church of Springfield, back when the present-day city of Chicopee was the northern section of Springfield. This section of Chicopee Street, located just east of the Connecticut River, was the site of the earliest settlement in Chicopee, in the second half of the 17th century. For around 75 years, residents of the village had to travel more than five miles to the center of Springfield in order to attend church services, but a new church was established here in 1751. The first meeting house was completed the following year, and stood here until it was replaced with the current church.

The new church came at the request of newly-installed pastor Alexander Phoenix, who agreed to become the pastor of the church only if the old building was repaired or rebuilt. The congregation chose the latter option, spending $4,400 to construct a new church.  The work was done by Alva Whitmarsh and Seba Shepherd, who were associates of noted builder and architect Isaac Damon. Their design reflected the Greek Revival style of architecture, which was becoming popular during this period, particularly for churches and other public buildings, and it also bore a strong resemblance to many of Damon’s own churches, including the First Congregational Church in Springfield.

The first service in the new church was held on January 4, 1826. It was equipped with a stove for heat – something that was still a novelty in many New England churches – but this stove was apparently a source of controversy. Judge E. W. Chapin, in a letter that was read to the church at its annual meeting in 1897, related a story that his mother had told him regarding this stove, writing that “Some woman opposed the innovation, fearing the heat would be too oppressive. The stove, however, was put up, but for some reason no fire was built in it the first Sabbath. This, however, was not known by the woman, who was so overcome by anticipated heat that she was compelled to leave the church during the service.”

In 1841, the church acquired the house immediately to the left of it, in the distance of both photos. This house had been built in 1830 as the home of Silas Stedman, and was later owned by George Hooker before being sold to the church for use as its parsonage. The church was still a part of Springfield at the time, but in 1848 Chicopee was partitioned off as a separate town, and the church became the First Congregational Church of Chicopee. By this point, the main population centers of the town had shifted to the south and east, to the factory villages of Cabotville and Chicopee Falls, but this church building remained in use here at the traditional center of the town.

The first photo shows Chicopee Street as it appeared around 1892, with the church in the center and the parsonage beyond it to the left. Around 125 years later, this scene has not changed dramatically. The trees are gone, the road has been paved, and a newer house now stands on the right side of the church, but overall this scene still looks much the same as it did at the end of the 19th century. Both the church and parsonage remain standing, and both are still owned by the First Church of Chicopee, which continues to worship here nearly 200 years after the building was completed.

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Northfield, Mass

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, on Main Street in Northfield, around 1891. Image from Picturesque Franklin (1891).

The church in 2017:

The Catholic church in Northfield was established as a mission of the church in Millers Falls, and originally held services in the town hall, until the construction of this church building on Main Street in the center of town. The small, wood-frame building featured Gothic Revival architecture, and included a clapboarded exterior, narrow windows with pointed arches, and a steeply-sloping roof. It was dedicated on December 5, 1886, and included an organ that had been donated by prominent evangelist Dwight L. Moody, who was a native of Northfield.

The first photo also shows houses on either side of the church. On the right side is the elegant Greek Revival house that was built in 1840 for merchant Benjamin B. Murdock. Later in the 19th century, it was owned by Albert S. Stratton, a businessman who was reportedly the wealthiest man in Northfield at the time. Today, this house is still standing with few significant exterior changes, although it is hidden by trees in the 2017 photo.

The only major difference between the two photos is the house on the left. The house in the first photo was likely built in the late 18th or early 19th centuries, and was owned by the Lord family around the time that the photo was taken. However, it burned sometime around the 1890s, and was replaced by the present-day house, which was built elsewhere in Northfield but was moved to this site around 1900. It now serves as the parsonage for the church, and, along with the church and the Murdock house, it is now part of the Northfield Main Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.