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.

Take the tour’s Gothic Revival cottage as an example. It’s a modest one and one-half story c. 1851-1869 home with steep gable roofs which are characteristic of its Gothic inspiration. Most wave scroll barge boardsdistinctive are its overhanging rake barge boards, shaped into a wave scroll pattern. They create a dynamic shadow line which animates the main gable and cross-gable dormer. 

Inside, the original base, window, and door trim remains as does the wood panelized treatmentGothic Revival window trim below double-hung windows. On the first floor, ceilings are surprisingly tall. Though exterior shingles and windows have been replaced with modern alternatives, the overall massing and character of the house have been largely retained. Look for an updated interior which has been opened up to better accommodate today’s lifestyle.

The Cate House, another tour highlight, is a striking example of a c. 1887 mail-order Victorian Stick style house,Cate House which is a transitional style between the Gothic Revival and Queen Anne styles. Clipped fish-scale shingle accents, stickwork, and a curve-bottomed, projecting gable add texture, depth, and interest to the exterior of this two and one-half story, steep-roofed style.

Approximately nine-foot tall ceilings, original woodwork and five-panel doors (stained a slightly lighter brown than when the owners acquired the property forty years ago) carry the Victorian styling inside. An original cherry, stained a Cate House mantelfireplace mantel with original tile surround and hearth serves the current living room (which was the original dining room) while a similarly detailed fireplace, positioned on an angle, serves the adjacent current dining room. An original, large, heavy pocket door between the rooms provides the option to divide them.

Shoppell catalog pageOn display, the homeowners have a framed page from the Shoppell’s Modern Houses catalog which depicts a mirror image of their home. The yellowed page notes the cost: “$1800, all complete, except grates or heaters” based on New York City prices in 1885. You can find compilations of Shoppell’s Modern Houses through Amazon today. With the recent resurgence in interest and demand for factory-built houses, the Cate House is a great example of a well-detailed, formidable model.

Colonel William Moulton HouseThe tour brings us into the 20th century with the Colonel William Moulton House c. 1920, a striking Craftsman bungalow with recent (c. 2006) rear additions. This low-slung, hipped-roof, stucco-faced home exhibits the style’s hallmark emphasis on overhanging eaves, robust detailing, ganged windows, and floor plans that flow.

The front living room features original, tall wainscoting which cleverly ties into the design ofMoulton House tall wainscot a slatted partition between the climbing stairs and the living space. Natural light from original windows in the main (c. 1920) portion of the house floods the rooms and draws occupants through the space.  A fresh paint palette of whites and soft, warm tones enhances the home’s airiness.

Moutlon House leaded windowOriginal leaded windows flank the dining room bay which flows easily into the living room on one end and the new butler’s pantry and kitchen addition on the other. Curve profiled trim edges window and door side jambs, while heavy flat-stock with crown moldings cap the tops, as window stools with aprons line the bottoms.

Each of the above featured homes boast interesting details which distinguish their unique styles, rarely seen on the Christmas in Salem annual tour. But they’re only three of the tour’s ten homes. Experience the tour’s full range of styles by attending the event.

Visit the Christmas in Salem website to learn more about other related holiday festivities, happenings, and promotions in conjunction with select cultural attractions, retailers and restaurants. Also, look for red flags on the tour indicating homes and locations connected with the storied Nathaniel Hawthorne. Approximately 2500 people attended last year’s tour and the same numbers are expected again this year in North Salem. Don’t miss out.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast and North Shore Art Throb.