House tour: May Day on Chestnut Street

Living room in a Greek Revival, double house on Chestnut StreetI had no idea when I moved to Salem that I would be living in the town featuring “the finest street, architecturally, in New England” (according to maritime historian Samuel Eliot Morison). This spring, that street -- Chestnut Street -- will welcome visitors into ten homes along it, to benefit Hamilton Hall (also on Chestnut Street). Tour first-floor, living spaces of featured homes on Saturday, May 5 from noon to 3:45 pm. Owners and guides will share tales of historic and anecdotal interest about the stately homes participating in May Day on Chestnut Street.

Stroll the street originally laid out in 1796 where well-to-do sea captains, ship builders, and merchants (among others) created their Federal and Greek Revival style dwellings, far removed from the workaday bustle of the wharves and counting houses. Explore homes, like the one shown in the photograph above built in 1845/46 for Reverend James W. Thompson. It’s the western half of a Greek Revival double house. (The eastern half was built for Captain Nathaniel West.) When Captain John B. Silsbee owned the western half (pictured) in the late 1850’s and 1860’s, 20 of his family members and servants resided there. They occupied four floors and a basement kitchen in the 5,500 square-foot home, while the Captain sailed to Zanzibar and Sumatra importing pepper. Today, the house has fewer inhabitants, but teems with a rich architectural and social history.

At 4:00 pm after perusing the participating homes, indulge in high tea at c. 1805 Hamilton Hall, designed by Salem’s renowned wood-carver architect Samuel McIntire. For more event information, visit the Hamilton Hall website. Reservations are required.
by Katie Hutchison House Enthusiast