Christmas in Salem 2010 offers architectural variety in North Fields area

Dining room looking toward the living room in the Colonel William Moulton House c. 1920Salem enjoys a wealth of elegant historic homes from the Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival periods. Yet, often overlooked, but equally worthy of our attention, are Salem’s more informal (some might even say more approachable) homes of the Gothic Revival, Victorian Stick, and Craftsman movements. 

Luckily, Christmas in Salem (presented by Historic Salem, Inc. December 3-5) shines a light on a wide range of styles from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries on this year’s tour within the North Fields area of town. Expect each home to be decorated for the holidays by professional florists and/or designers, and for several to offer a peek into Salem’s unsung architectural history.

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Backyard retreat web tour, house tour, and garden tour all-in-one

Did you see The New York Times article last week about the garage retreat near Seattle?  It's a fun and sophisticated 250-square-foot getaway.

A small space of one's own, beyond the hustle and bustle of everyday life, can remind us of life's simple pleasures. Such little buildings generally tread lightly on both the environment and our pocketbooks, while recharging our spirits.

The design of small retreats, backyard and beyond would be a great topic for a book, don't you think?  I thought so and was working on such a book a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it fell victim to the publishing industry's downsizing which began in mid-2008. I still believe there's a book there, waiting to be discovered.

You can sample a Katie Hutchison Studio small retreat design by visiting the Manchester Garage/Garden Room page in the KHS architectural portfolio.

I imagine my fascination with the topic started with my childhood backyard retreat and was reinforced by my mother's current, petite summerhouse in her Connecticut village. I wrote about her garden and her little retreat in a House Garden Primer.

Get a peek at her garden summerhouse in this short Flip video.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Historic Salem Jail finds new life as apartments, restaurant, and exhibit space

Old Salem Jail complex, now 50 St. Peter, seen from the cemeteryI arrived for the open house a little late.  This wasn’t your typical open house; this was the big house, the Old Salem Jail.  I found a line two- to three-people thick starting at the c. 1813 jail entrance, trailing past the c. 1813 jail-keeper’s house, and turning at the new carriage house which stands on the footprint of its barn predecessor.

From the excited chatter in the line you might have thought we were queuing up to see a prestigious show.  Instead, we were eagerly anticipating the transformation of the jail’s three-building complex into 23 rental units, a restaurant, and jail exhibit.  I was among, what Merry Fox Realty estimates to have been, 3000 curious visitors. So what’s all the fuss about?

“I think any time you have a quality building that’s built from this early of an era, it’s exciting to those of us who are really interested in historic architecture,” explains architect Jim Alexander of Finegold Alexander + Associates Inc. who teamed up with developer New Boston Ventures LLC and Metric Construction to bring the complex, renamed 50 St. Peter, to reality.

Open HouseSince it was vacated in 1991, the hulking granite and brick jail had been lurking behind a razor-wire fence and aggressive weeds on prime property.  In 2005 New Boston Ventures LLC stepped in with a mixed-use proposal that included market-rate condominiums.  When the economy stumbled in 2008/2009, so did the project. As a result, the developer switched gears and secured alternative financing via historic tax credits administered by the National Park Service in order to develop rentable apartments which will be eligible for condo conversion in five years. Now those apartments are scheduled for June 1 occupancy.

“What our goal was, and I’m hoping we accomplished, is to offer the highest level of finish ever offered in a rental development on the North Shore,” says David Goldman a principal at New Boston Ventures and its affiliate Old Salem Jail Ventures LLC.

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Christmas in Salem House Tour celebrates historic preservation and sustainable design

I make a living poking around people’s homes.  As a residential architect in New England, I often find myself exploring antique attics, basements, and living spaces with a tape measure in tow.  I carry the same curiosity about houses into my personal life.  When I visit friends’ old houses, I’m not shy about tapping on a chase to hear if it’s hollow or peering into a fireplace to check out the firebox.  So, naturally, house tours suit my proclivities.  Especially the Christmas in Salem House Tour, which celebrates its 30th anniversary the first weekend of December 2009.  It’s always a treasure trove of intriguing historic properties. 
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Winter 2009 holiday house tours

Recommended upcoming New England tours

Gloucester Home for the Holidays Tour (Gloucester, MA) Saturday, November 21, 2009 11:00 am-4:00 pm

Marblehead Holiday House Tour (Marblehead, MA) Saturday, December 5, 2009 10:00 am-4:00 pm and Sunday, December 6, 2009 noon-4:00 pm

New Bedford Holiday House Tour (New Bedford, MA) Saturday, December 5, 2009 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm and Sunday, December 6, 2009 1:00 pm-5:00 pm

Plymouth Holiday House Tour (Plymouth, MA) Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6, 2009 10:00 am-4:00 pm

Christmas in Salem House Tour (Salem, MA) Friday, December 4, 2009 5:30 pm-7:30 pm, Saturday, December 5, 2009 10:00 am-4:30 pm, and Sunday, December 6, 2009 11:30 am-4:30 pm

Stockbridge Holiday House Tour (Stockbridge, MA) Saturday, December 5, 2009 11:00 am-4:00 pm

Scituate Coastal Holiday House Tour & Boutique (Scituate, MA) Sunday, December 6, 2009 noon-4:00 pm

Westport Holiday House Tour (Westport, CT) Sunday December 6, 2009 11:00 am-4:00 pm

Essex Holiday House Tour (Essex, CT) Saturday, December 12, 2009 10:00 am-4:00 pm

Newburyport Holiday House Tour (Newburyport, MA) Saturday, December 12, 2009 10:00 am-4:00 pm

West Falmouth Library's Holiday House Tour (West Falmouth, MA) Sunday, December 13, 2009 noon-4:00 pm

Woodstock Holiday House Tour (Woodstock, VT) Saturday, December 12, 2009 10:00 am-4:00 pm

Portsmouth Holiday Home Tour (Portsmouth, NH) Sunday, December 13, 2009 1:00 pm-5:00 pm