The Page-Lawrence-Farrington House, built in 1786, and its neighbors on either side represent what a typical Salem street would have looked like in the 18th and 19th century.
Photo Credit : Bethany Bourgault
Walking the McIntire Historic District is the perfect way for Salem visitors to take a stroll through time. A handy brochure, available online or at any tourist information center, guides walkers past four eras of classic American architecture – First Period, Georgian, Federal, and 19th Century Revival. (Brush up on your New England architecture here before you go.) The trail is about one mile long and even features some open-to-the-public house museums. It’s easily accessible from downtown, though separated from many of Salem’s popular tourist attractions – making it an ideal activity for those seeking a break from the mainstream.
Samuel McIntire, the district’s namesake, was a prominent, influential architect in the late 1700s. He was hired by Salem’s wealthiest merchants and businessmen to design their grand dwellings, and is now oftentimes thought of as responsible for designing the signature look of the city. After 1790, McIntire worked primarily as a woodcarver, carving intricate designs for his high-paying clients. Many of his works remain in their original locations, and you can see some of his most famous homes along the walking trail. McIntire is buried in Salem’s Burying Point Cemetery, the oldest burial ground in the city of Salem. His current neighbors include a Mayflower passenger and Justice Hawthorne of the infamous witch trials.
The district’s walking trail begins at Driver Park – a small plot at the intersection of Essex, Summer, and North streets with a monument to Captain William Driver in the center. Driver, a Salem-native who captained his first ship at the age of 21, is best known for nicknaming the American flag “Old Glory.”
Directly across the street is the former home of Jonathan Corwin, a wealthy 17th century merchant who, because of his early wealth and social status, served as a judge during the Salem Witch Trials. Visitors can choose either a guided or self-guided tour to see what daily life was like for a family so intimately involved in Salem’s most infamous period.
Continuing down Essex Street, walkers encounter the Mary Lindall House, a Georgian-style home built in 1755, that for a time housed Count Rumford – a prominent inventor of the day. Not far from there is the First Church of Salem. The building, built in the Gothic Revival style of the 19th century in 1835, houses a congregation that’s been worshiping since 1629.
Moving right along through historic Cambridge and Chestnut Streets, walkers will find Hamilton Hall – an 1805 McIntire work in the Federal Style named after Alexander Hamilton just a year after his death. The hall has been a popular place for balls, meetings, lectures, and weddings for over 200 years, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Those following the McIntire Historic District Architecture Tour will follow their maps to pass by the Federal style Butman-Waters House and Gothic Revival style Pickering House (once home to George Washington’s secretary of war/secretary of state Timothy Pickering) before heading back toward Chestnut Street again.
Chestnut Street is one of Salem’s most historically significant, playing host to houses like the 1806 Williams-Rantoul House, home of President Grover Cleaveland’s great-uncle, and the former home of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne. Visitors can go in and check out the Phillips House, built in 1821 at a different location for Captain Nathaniel West. The home was moved to Chestnut Street by ox sled, where the wealthy Phillips family renovated it into what it is today. The home is now owned by Historic New England.
Various architectural styles like Colonial Revival, Greek Revival, and Federal can be seen on Chestnut Street.
One of the next stops on the tour is the Bertram-Waters house, built in 1855 in the Italianate style. Captain John Bertram was, like many of his neighbors, was a wealthy merchant – but Bertram is most remembered for his philanthropic efforts. Upon his death, his widow and daughters donated the building to the city of Salem for use as the public library.
Walkers will then make their way toward Federal Street, another of Salem’s most historic. Here, visitors can see houses representing the Greek Revival and Federal styles. Its former residents include the captain of the St. Paul and the owner of the Friendship — two of Salem’s most successful merchant ships. A Part of the Peirce-Nichols House, built in 1782 in the Georgian and Federal styles, is owned by the Peabody Essex museum and open to the public for tours.
The tour finishes up on North Street, where, after passing by the 1805 Bowditch-Osgood house, walkers end up right where they started.
This is just a sampling of the 26 historic locations outlined on the tour. In addition to those 26, walkers will pass by plenty more historical homes along the way. Architecture buffs, history enthusiasts, and and those simply looking to take a nice, summer’s stroll are sure to find something that catches their eye. Download the trail map here, lace up your sneakers, and happy walking!
Have you ever walked this historic Salem walking tour? What are your favorite historic New England architectural walking tours?