Salem Yesterday

We left our hosts and hostesses early on another perfect seaside day and decided to go to Salem to walk around and see what's what. It reminded me of Baltimore with the big captains houses with the widows' walks...not little salt boxes but big houses that are the oceanside town version of the posh brownstones. Henry James on the water. There was a lovely quadrangle surrounded by these glorious things that led us to the water--and the National Park presence--highlighting certain houses and the way of life in the 1700s. It was great to see the way the water interfaces with the land and the living--and how one drove the other--very Bath, England etc. I can imagine that there was a great deal of society and living that happened here...far wilder than the scene in Nantucket. We learned a bit about the pirates, the privateers and all that terrific Jane Austen/ Horatio Hornblower lore that is so rich and thanks to those books and movies, so visual (at least for me). It was a very quiet morning in Salem so my imagination had a bit of space to go...which I would think might be hindered with the tourbuses and interested parties coming just for the witches, which have historical relevance--particularly in best understanding the culture and people at the time...but the wax museums? and palmistry centers? and witch gear seems to abuse something that was a sad colonial moment of people maligning and mistreating other people out of fear and greed. It is not about Harry Potter, or witchcraft or fairies or spells ( you get the idea)--so that end of the tourist trap of Salem is unfortunate (but thankfully, not overwhelming).

We visited the House of Seven Gables and Nathaniel Hawthorns birth house and toured them. Interesting but not really impressive colonial architecture (unlike Philadelphia)--but interesting none the less. The lady that rennovated the House of Seven Gables put her spin on the property and installed (among the real features) a cent or Penny Shop which I had never heard of. It was impressive how this establishment preserved other buildings and with their profits support community outreach in Salem. Additionally, the Peabody Essex Museum is a must we did not attend. Looks spectacular--and along with the Museum, they own and operate many grand houses in it's neighborhood which to my thinking is inspired in many ways (ownership, maintenance, taxes, control to name a few).

I love the all red houses (detail shown of the Hawthorn birth house), the all black houses and the severity beyond that of colonial brick or clapboard structures. Imagine entering under this bold eagle and terrific lettering--up the steps and into the custom house--a way to enter America--dead smack on the center of the water access. It's impressive now...imagine 300 years ago before illuminated signage and strip malls.