Thursday, October 22, 2009

House of the Seven Gables

Two of my favorite books are House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of America's greatest authors. (on a personal note, I believe The Scarlett Letter to be one of the great reads of literature offered to humanity. If we are honest, we can find a piece of ourselves in all of the main characters both good and bad, and hopefully have pulled lessons from them as well.) Having the opportunity to visit the Hawthorne's birthplace and the actual House of the Seven Gables was a real treat for me.
Nathaniel Hathorne, born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts later changed his name to "Hawthorne", adding a "w" to dissociate from relatives including John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials. His writings center around New England and many works features moral allegories with Puritan inspiration. His fiction works are considered part of the dark romantic movement and his themes often center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and usually have a moral message.


Statue of Nathaniel Hawthorne in Salem Square.

Entrance to the House of the Seven Gables or as it is known in Salem, The Turner-Ingersoll Mansion. From the year 1668 up until the present day, the House of the Seven Gables has been one of the most famous structures in America.
"Half-way down a by street of one of our New England towns, stands a rusty wooden house with seven acutely peaked gables facing toward various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst." Hawthorne’s opening sentence to his novel The House of the Seven Gables manifests his fascination with the Turner-Ingersoll mansion.
The mansion built by Captain John Turner stood out on the Salem seacoast as a symbol of wealth, but also a construction that produced awe and wonder. Turner’s mansion was an object of interest for Captain Ingersoll, who years later bought the house. Captain Ingersoll capitalized on the house’s waterfront location, where he conducted his trade during the Age of Sail.
The history of the House of the Seven Gables is incredible. It only stands now due to one woman and her vision; Salem philanthropist Caroline Emmerton. She purchased the building, which, at that time, had only three gables, and hired Joseph Everett Chandler, a preservation architect, to restore it and interpret Hawthorne’s novel inside its rooms. In fact, the house only had three gables when Nathaniel Hawthorne knew it; the recollection of seven gables he immortalized came from his cousin’s youthful memories. This room is the only photo we could take indoors and is of the Settlement House (one room) that Caroline Emmerton built to "help new immigrants settle into American life."

The back door of the Turner-Ingersoll house is beautifully reproduced from the original door and is constructed in the "Batten" setup. (a small piece of the original door can be seen in the attic of the home).

The Batten door on the outside is decorated with scribe marks in a diamond pattern and tacks.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a relative of the Ingersoll family and kept in contact with his cousin Susanna. From his visits to see Susanna, Hawthorne was also awestruck by the mansion and became inspired to write a novel based on the house.

Even this tree takes on a haunting look with the grey sky on this damp, wet morning.


The House has taken on some characteristics that are described in Hawthorne’s book. The secret stairwell that is mentioned in The House of the Seven Gables was an addition to the house in the early 1900s. The tour of the house will allow you to climb the hidden staircase behind the fireplace, but the trip up is not recommended for people known to be claustrophobic.
Another renovation was made to the house to make it more compatible to the house that Hawthorne depicts, is the shop that is opened by Hepzibah Pyncheon in The House of the Seven Gables. Hepzibah is forced from poverty to open up a small store, even at her old age. She was once a highly dignified person, who is now relegated to selling things out of her house to support herself.
The character of Hepzibah strikingly resembles another Hawthorne character, Hester Pryne of The Scarlet Letter. Hester was also at a loss for dignity because of her adultery and resorted to selling her embroidery work out of her house as a means to support herself and her young child.
Illustrated as looming, dark and mysterious in the novel, the house nonetheless has light, even romantic features. Its period gardens are charming, and the granite seawall running along the property provides a perfect perch to look over a calm, blue ocean that is filled with historical ships of different sizes.

The Counting House built in 1830 is typical of the small buildings in which sea captains completed much of their business. This was a place to balance accounts, pay fees due, and figure profit before or after a sea journey. It is believed that Hawthorne first developed the idea for the Scarlett Letter while in the counting house.

Lovely view from the counting house. This is a sea captain's view and certainly an artist's view as well. Just looking out the window on the cold rainy day invoked inspiration. The muses were about when I looked out the window; how they must have teased Hawthorne as his most notable works were all borne from this location.


Rolling hills of green? Look closely and you will see that this is moss.


This rich, thick moss with its bright green color was growing on the north face of the roof. Loved the color as it stood out so brightly from the dark colonial paint of the clapboards.




Hawthorne's birth and childhood home. Much smaller then the Turner-Ingersoll home, but just as lovely inside. I adore this architectural period and could easily live in any of these lovely old homes found in Salem.

Old fashioned gate closure. Chain and a weighted ball. When you open the gate to leave, no need to close it as the weight of the lead ball will close it for you. This was a lovely visit to this historical home. I wish I could have taken interior photos, but you will have to take a visit yourself one day. I hope to return again when the weather is better and see what the grounds look like with sunlight. I'm sure it is just as lovely. I have lots of photos from this New England trip and hope to post several from my visit to the Maritime Museum not far from this home. It was fabulous. Have a lovely weekend. Sea Witch

6 comments:

Petit Coterie said...

Thank you so much for sharing your photos as well as the commentary. What a wonderful trip it must have been. So nice of you to stop by my blog and leave a post. I do hope you will stop by again.

Merci, Michelle

Doris Sturm said...

Interesting, but to be honest, that dark house is giving me the creeps...I don't think I would want to live there - too depressing for me. But I do like the story behind it; it's very informative. I love the New England region. I enjoyed the view out of the Counting house ;-) ...and the red house wasn't too scary (I'm just an old scardey cat - meow!)

Love,
Doris ;-)
did you vote for your favorite pet at my Pet Costume Contest yet? Voting started yesterday and will continue till next Wednesday. I hope you can make it.

debsea said...

wow what beautiful photography, i feel like i just went on vacation! when i was little my family spent many summers camping in NH's white mountains, floating soen the russian river, rolling in the leaves. seeing it again through your eyes tugs at my heart strings - thank you!

Jacque said...

Hey Witch...I am green with envy! I love your pics and the dialogue. I love his little red house!

Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to see more!

paperbird said...

I would love to visit this. Great photography- I love the picture of the tree. I love the Scarlet letter as well. Have a great week Sea Witch :)

Garden Antqs Vintage said...

What a beautiful place to tour. Sorry to hear you weren't feeling well, hope you are better now!