Massachusetts

Christmas in Salem House Tour

Every year, the Christmas in Salem House Tour in Salem, Massachusetts, offers visitors a festive glimpse into some of the city’s most historic private homes.

By Marie Adele Ware

Nov 19 2020

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Please note that businesses, attractions, and events throughout New England have been modified, closed, and/or canceled in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. Please travel responsibly, and check with state guidelines and individual businesses and organizations before making travel plans. This year the annual Christmas in Salem House Tour will be offered as an online, virtual tour. For more information please visit their website.
Given that historic Salem, Massachusetts, is the setting for houses spanning four centuries of architecture, touring residences here can be an experience in and of itself. But during the holidays, the annual Christmas in Salem House Tour takes it to a new level, featuring homes decked out for the season with the help of professional decorators and florists.

CHRISTMAS IN SALEM HOUSE TOUR

Christmas in Salem celebrated its 37th year with "Christmas on the Common."
Christmas in Salem celebrated its 37th year with “Carol on the Common.”
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
I grew up in Salem, and this year I finally got to cross off one of the big things on my annual Christmas to-do list: attending Christmas in Salem, which celebrated its 37th year in 2016 with the theme “Carol on the Common.” The event allows visitors to tour a number of homes in a specific neighborhood, all beautifully decorated to evoke historical holiday spirit.
To make sure everyone comfortably gets through the homes, there is an occupancy limit per household.
To ensure everyone gets through the homes comfortably, there’s an occupancy limit per household.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
This year we were able to tour the homes around the Salem Common neighborhood, starting with a gracious welcome from Historic Salem at the Hawthorne Hotel. There, we received booklets that served as both guides and entry tickets to the homes.
Complimentary cinnamon coffee warmed us as we walked around the common.
Complimentary cinnamon coffee warmed us during the tour.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
The tour is designed to be walkable, but taking the trolley is also an option. Going through each house takes about 10 to 15 minutes (depending on wait time – as we got further into the tour, longer lines began forming). Although it was a brisk day, people waited patiently, including me (and I was grateful for my down coat!). Although we went on the last day of the tour, there were still many people, young and old, enjoying the festivities. Around the common there were carolers and food vendors, and behind the Andrew-Safford House we warmed up with cinnamon coffee and an outdoor fire pit.
The beautiful tree that greeted you upon entering the Andrew-Safford home. The Safford home is owned and cared for by the Peabody Essex Museum.
The beautiful tree at the Andrew-Safford House, which is owned and cared for by the Peabody Essex Museum.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
The Andrew-Safford House was our first stop. The house, which is located across from the Hawthorne Hotel, was built in 1818-1819 and today is maintained by the Peabody Essex Museum; the last time it was open to the public was in 1995. As we entered the living room, we were greeted by a magnificently decorated Christmas tree that towered over us (it reminded me of the tree that magically rises up in The Nutcracker). The house also featured a beautiful marble mantelpiece and early-19th-century wallpaper.
A portrait of Katherine Ferncroft Gauss Cook. Cook was the daughter of the Honorable John D.H. Gauss of Salem and the first full-time female reporter for the Salem news during World War I.
A portrait of Katherine Ferncroft Gauss Cook, the first full-time female reporter for the Salem News during World War I.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
I couldn’t help but feel the Christmas spirit as we entered each house and saw ornately decorated trees, greenery, and crackling fires. Along the way we were greeted by tour guides, who helped direct traffic and answered any questions we had about the home’s history. We learned about the significance of the home and its architectural details, and the lives of the original homeowners.
This beautiful marble mantle is original to the home - just one of the many ornate details from the house tour.
Just one of many ornate details we saw on the house tour, this marble mantelpiece is original to the Andrew-Safford House.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
Our last stop on the tour was the Joseph M. Parson House, built in 1897, where highlights included live music playing in the dining room. I was fortunate enough to speak to one of the homeowners, who said that the last time his family did the tour was 10 years ago (as each year features a different neighborhood). He added that one of his favorite things about this year is that visitors can choose one house to visit twice. Sure enough, on the back of my booklet, next to a little check box, it said “Bonus second visit to favorite house.”
Historic Salem provided many helpful volunteer tour guides throughout each home.
Historic Salem provided many helpful volunteer tour guides throughout the homes.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
The tour ran over three days: Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon. On the weekend there were special events such as live music and a lecture from historian Jim McAllister. I was glad to go during the day because it allowed me to capture the essence of the homes with my camera. (Note: Only press are allowed to take photographs at this event.) That being said, next time I would love to buy a pre-sale ticket for Friday night, when selected homes are open for a preview event. I can only imagine how pretty the trees on the common are at night, all strung up with lights, and Salem fully aglow with Christmas spirit!
Interior designer Barbra Pervier created a beautiful escape on her porch. She wanted to evoke the feeling of Austria in honor of her family's heritage.
Interior designer Barbra Pervier created a beautiful escape on her porch. She wanted to evoke the feeling of Austria in honor of her family’s heritage.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
Pervier included sweet little details - such as the picture of her grandmother.
Pervier included sweet little details such as a picture of her grandmother.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
Each house had its own uniquely decorated Christmas tree.
Each house had its own uniquely decorated Christmas tree.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
Guests were ushered in the entryway and made their way up the stairs to view the bedrooms of the historic home.
Guests made their way up the stairs to view the bedrooms of the historic home.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
Live classical Christmas music swept through the home. Each home has musical performances at different times in the day.
Each home featured musical performances at different times in the day.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
A simplistic Christmas wreath with lovely winter berries.
A simple Christmas wreath with lovely winter berries.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Schultz
Have you ever experienced Christmas in Salem? Learn more about the manyChristmas in Salem events and activities. This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated. 

SEE MORE: Kennebunkport’s Christmas Prelude CelebrationBest Christmas Celebrations in New EnglandChristmas at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire