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The House of Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts

While visiting my in-laws over Thanksgiving, I had a chance to go to Salem, Massachusetts, where we saw the house that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The House of Seven Gables.  Unfortunately, I was not able to take pictures inside the house.  The volunteers had just finished decorating it for Christmas, and the parlor in particular was really beautiful.

The real House of Seven Gables

The real House of Seven Gables

The house has an interesting history, and it has been added to and rebuilt several times.  During Nathaniel Hawthorne’s childhood, the house did not actually have seven gables.  (It had been remodeled/modernized, and there were only three gables.)  He would visit his cousin, Susannah Ingersoll,  the current owner of the house, and she would tell him stories of how the house used to look.  Her stories and his family’s history later served as the inspiration for his famous novel, The House of Seven Gables.

Later, the house was purchased by Caroline Emmerton, who restored it to the way it had looked in colonial times.  She also added some details to make the house more like the one in the novel: specifically, a small shop like the one the main character opens to keep the family finances afloat and a secret staircase, like the one used by Clifford in the book.  During the tour, we actually got to climb the secret staircase to get to the upper floor.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s childhood home has been moved to the same site, so we visited that as well.  (Really, this is the house where he was born-the family moved several times during his childhood.)  They had one of his writing desks and some other family memorabilia on display.

Hawthorne's childhood home

Hawthorne’s childhood home

I also enjoyed getting to see a little of Salem.  It is a very charming town, with lots of beautiful old houses.  I felt like I could easily recognize modern Salem after reading Brunonia Berry’s The Lace Reader-it really is just as she describes it in the book!

Visiting Massachusetts has been a great way to see places I have read about and learn more about famous authors who lived in the area.  I am hoping that I will be able to visit more places on the East Coast in 2014!

-Elizabeth

 

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