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Tag Archives: Massachusetts

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!




Orchard House, Home of Louisa May Alcott

Orchard House

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, the home of one of my favorite authors: Louisa May Alcott. You can find their website here.  This is the home where she wrote many of her books, including Little Women.  The house has been beautifully restored to look the way it would have towards the end of Miss Alcott’s life, when she was a famous and successful author.  I was able to take a guided tour of the house, but unfortunately they did not allow photography inside.

In addition to being the home of the Alcott family, this house is the setting for the fictional March family in Little Women.  The tour guide told us how the wedding scene in the book where the oldest sister Meg marries John Brooke is a very accurate representation of the wedding of Louisa Alcott’s oldest sister Anna.  The first floor windows on the right side belong to the parlor that she was married in.  The youngest sister, May Alcott, was an artist (the inspiration for the character Amy.)  The real May actually seems to have been more talented than the fictional version, and you can see several of her paintings and drawings if you visit the house.  The Alcott parents actively encouraged their daughters to use their talents, which included allowing May to actually draw on the walls of her bedroom and studio and having a writing desk built in Louisa’s room.  It is a little desk sitting between two windows, and apparently it was unusual if not unheard of for a woman to have her own writing desk in that time period.

If you happen to be in Concord, this house is a great place to visit.  The volunteer docents were very knowledgeable, both about the architecture and history of the house and also about the Alcott family.  Concord is a great destination for travelling readers, since there have been quite a few other authors from the area (e.g. Emerson and Thoreau).