James B. Bott House, Salem, Massachusetts

The house at 18 Chestnut Street, at the corner of Bott Street in Salem, probably around 1890-1910. Image courtesy of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum, Frank Cousins Glass Plate Negatives Collection.

The house in 2023:

These two photos show the house at 18 Chestnut Street, which was built around 1800 or possibly earlier. It was originally owned by saddler James B. Bott, and according to the building’s Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) form, it was likely used as a multi-family residence. It had a number of occupants throughout the first half of the 19th century, but the most famous was author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who lived here with his family in 1846 and 1847 while serving as Surveyor of the the Port of Salem at the Custom House on Derby Street. This house was too small for the Hawthornes, though, and in 1847 they moved to a house on Mall Street, where Nathaniel would later write The Scarlet Letter.

The house was eventually converted into a single-family residence in the late 19th century, and the top photo was taken sometime around the turn of the 20th century. It was taken by photographer Frank Cousins, who extensively documented the historic houses of Salem and other towns in the region. As the bottom photo shows, very little has changed about this scene since then. The house is still standing, as are the other surrounding homes, and Chestnut Street as a whole survives as one of the best-preserved historic streets in New England. The Bott House, along with the other homes on Chestnut Street, is part of the Chestnut Street District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Leave a Comment