I’ve already done a couple of posts on our road trip to Salem, Massachusetts, including all the fun Halloween activities, a tour of the Hocus Pocus filming locations and our jaunt farther north to the Pumpkin Festival in Keene, New Hampshire. As great as all those seasonal activities were, there were lots of awesome historic sites in Salem that we were able to catch along the way.
During the development of North America, Salem was a huge port on the Eastern seaboard, with imports and exports from around the world. There are many great historical buildings that you can visit in the city that have nothing to do with the witch trials, which often overshadows the other historical significance of the area.
Built in 1819, The Customs House is last of 13 that used to exist in the city. Located at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, it held the customs offices, as well as a large warehouse for imported goods. The massive gold eagle on top of the building was restored to its former glory in 2007.
While walking around town, we spotted the Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, the oldest candy company in America. The history of the company dates back to 1806 when an English woman was shipwrecked and landed in Salem. She and her son were destitute and struggling to survive the harsh conditions of the time. When her neighbours learned that she knew how to make candy, they worked together to buy her a barrel of sugar. This was the first candy to be sold commercially in America and carried around the world by sea captains.
As you walk around, it seems that every street has a building with a historical plaque on the wall. Can you imagine what it would be like to live in these homes that are steeped in so much history? I’d be too afraid to even put a nail in the wall!
Whenever we were driving around town, we were gawking at the great buildings everywhere. The carved thistle design on this porch immediately caught my eye.
The Salem Maritime National Historic Site was still closed from the US government shutdown when we were there, otherwise we would have visited that as well.
We were still able to sneak a peak of the Friendship tall ship, a replica of the 1797 ship that made many trips across the world. The original was captured by the British in 1812 and it’s unknown what happened to it. The replica usually sits as a stationary museum, but is capable of going out of the harbour with a crew, and does so several times a year.
While we were in Salem, we knew we had to check out the The House of the Seven Gables, named after the seven distinctive gables of the roof. We even got to climb through a secret passageway to reach a hidden room in one of the gables.
Built in 1668, it is the oldest surviving 17th century wooden mansion in New England. Over the years there were many renovations done to the structure and by the time Caroline Emmerton bought it in 1908, it no longer resembled the home it had once been. Emmerton, a philanthropist and preservationist, founded the museum and funded it’s restoration to include the seven original gables. Her goal was to preserve the house for future generations and to provide educational opportunities for visitors, which it still does to this day.
The mansion was made famous in 1851 when American Gothic novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne published The House of the Seven Gables, a followup to The Scarlet Letter. At the time, his cousin Susanna Ingersoll owned the home and you can just imagine him dreaming up his story on a cold New England night as the wind howled through the old mansion.
At night, twinkle lights are lit in the garden and turns it into a beautiful garden of mystery. A wedding photographer was taking pictures then and I can just imagine how lovely they will be.
Even in October, the gardens were lush and full of fragrant flowers, including huge planters of lavender.
Also on the property is the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Built in 1730-1745, the building was originally at 27 Union Street until they moved it to the property in two pieces in 1958. They had some pictures in the kitchen of the house moving through town and I can just imagine how amazing it was to see it in person that day.
There was a cute children’s learning center on the property, overlooking the water.
Garrett was quick to hop into the boat and grab the wheel. Looks like a natural – maybe he was a seafarer in another life.
Looking out on the water.
I never realized that Salem was a busy international shipping port during the 1600s to 1800s. They were trading with countries around the world.
As night fell, and the full moon rose, we made our way away from the mansion and back to the noise of the streets to join in the Halloween fun.