Day 57, Monday, September 10, 2018
The House of Seven Gables, Salem, Massachusetts
First off, I must admit, I never read this book in high school or college. I did read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s other well-known classic – The Scarlet Letter.
This home in Salem, Massachusetts, was the home of Hawthorne’s cousin during the 1800s; she entertained Hawthorne at the home often. It is widely believe to be the inspiration for the home in the book. In the House of Seven Gables, the home plays a large role and takes on the quality of a distinct character. The dark shadows and creaking floors, the hidden staircase, and rooms tucked into the gables of the home added to the dark ambience of the story. The cent shop that created the occupation for Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon provided a backdrop for the local children to mock and tease the old woman. So given all that, what literary nerd wouldn’t want to see the home that inspired this fascinating story?
The House of Seven Gables was originally built in 1668 in Jacobean and Post-Medieval architectural styles, and its original owner, Captain John Turner I, was well off enough to expand it twice while he owned it. During this period, it was originally believed to have had seven gables. Future owners updated the interior in the Georgian style, with thick wood paneling, and removed four gables to make it appear more as a Federal style home, which was popular in the late 1700s.
The home was purchased in 1908 by Caroline Emmerton with the intention of preserving the home and opening it for tours, in order to support her work of assisting immigrant families who were settling in Salem in the early 20th century. Emmerton had the exterior of the home restored to what is believed to be its original appearance, with seven gables. She also added the cent shop that is currently a feature of the home, as an attraction for the tours. The hidden staircase from Hawthorne’s story was also added at this time. Over the last hundred years or so, I can only imagine the numbers of people who have toured this home!
It is incredible to me to think about the people (and fictional characters) who have made this their home for the last 350 years!
The tour was really neat, with a couple of bonuses. You can take photos inside! And the tour takes you up the hidden staircase! It was narrow and steep and oh-so-wonderful! If you are uncomfortable making your way up a steep, narrow, claustrophobic staircase, you can take the regular stairs up. I think every home should have a hidden staircase!
The grounds and a few other historic homes are on the property and open; visitors can do a self-guided tour. One of them is the home that Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in. It was built in 1750 in the Georgian style, and was moved to the House of Seven Gables site in 1958. Be sure to check out this home!
Of course the gift shop sells copies of The House of Seven Gables, and Hawthorne’s other works, and I did buy the book and read it. You can read my review here.
This was such an interesting tour for anyone who enjoys historical homes, literature, or both. At $15 in 2018, it was on the more expensive end of history home tours, but I thought it was worth it! So whether you read the book or not, I hope you check it out. I would love to go back!