Nov 062016

There are tours a plenty in the night to give you a fright here in Salem, especially during Haunted Happenings, but there are more than a few by day that serve to put on display the architectural and social history of the great seaport town of Salem. For example among the tours today are:

Ropes Mansion Tours

ropes-mansionRecognized as one of New England’s most significant and thoroughly documented historic houses, the Ropes Mansion, located at 318 Essex Street, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This Georgian Colonial, built around 1727, was home to four generations of the Ropes family. Filled with original furnishings, the Ropes Mansion contains superb examples of 18th and 19th-century furniture, ceramics and glass, silver, kitchenwares, textiles and personal objects. You can tour the house from noon to 4pm.

U.S. Custom House Tour

Take a self-guided tour through the U.S. Custom House that was built in 1819 to house the offices of the U.S. Customs Service. During the height of Salem’s East Indies trade, the Customs Service in Salem collected millions of dollars in taxes on incoming cargo. These taxes provided vital financial support for the new United States government. For three years this building was the workplace of the famous American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne’s experiences during his stint in the Custom House inspired his most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter.

While the 1-2pm tour is free, reservations are required. Please call  978-740-1650 or visit the Visitor Center at 2 New Liberty Street on the day of your visit to make a reservation

Derby and Narbonne House Tour

This tour, presented by the National Park Service, is a ranger-led program that leads visitors through two distinct historic homes. The Derby House, constructed in 1762 was the first home of Elias Hasket and Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby. It is an exemplary example of a wealthy merchant’s Georgian home and is furnished to reflect the Derbys’ 20-year long residence in the house. The Narbonne House, built in 1675, spans nearly 300 years of history as a home of successful businessmen and their families. The Narbonne House is unfurnished and contains displays of some of the nearly 150,000 archaeological artifacts excavated from the home’s backyard.

While the 2:30-3:30pm tour is free, reservations are required. Please call  978-740-1650 or visit the Visitor Center at 2 New Liberty Street on the day of your visit to make a reservation.

Jul 102015

Not only is Salem an entertaining daytrip destination, it also offers opportunities to further your own education. On any given weekend there are events that perform a double duty! Take these gatherings in July as an invitation.

Seventeenth Century Saturdays at Historic New England’s Gedney House

Salem shipwright Eleazer Gedney built the earliest portion of the Gedney House back in 1665! Follow-up and historically significant renovations to the structure in 1712 and 1800 resulted in dramatic changes to the house’s appearance.

GedneyWhen you visit the Gedney House during this month’s edition of Seventeenth Century Saturdays (July 11) and take the tours, you’ll see why it is not your typical historic house. You will gain insights & be directed to look more closely at the original post-and-beam timbers, brick nogging, and early decorative finishes in Salem’s second oldest historic house.

The Gedney House is located at 21 High Street, Salem, Mass.

The house is significant not only for its framing, but also for its evidence of early decorative finishes in the hall chamber and parlor. It has had three successive color schemes, the earliest of which is believed to date to the house’s construction.

In 1967, Historic New England acquired the house as it was being prepared for demolition. Historic New England is the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the nation. It endeavors to bring history to life while preserving the past for everyone interested in exploring the authentic New England experience from the seventeenth century to today.

The museum will be open from 11am – 3pm with tours available on the hour. The last tour leaves at 3pm. Space on tours is limited due to the structure of the Gedney House. The fee is $5 for the general public and free for Salem residents and Historic New England members.

For more details call 978-744-0440 or visit .

PEM Lecture Series Provides Behind-The-Scenes Look at Historic Ropes Mansion

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents a special 3-part lecture series on the Ropes Mansion this month which offers unique opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the historic house and the family that called it home. The “One House, Many Stories” series offers an inside look at rarely seen areas of the 18th-century house, a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the hobbies enjoyed by the Ropes family and a greater understanding of the culinary tastes of the day.

Ropes MansionBuilt in (or close to) 1727 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Ropes Mansion was home to four generations of the Ropes family and is recognized as one of New England’s most significant and thoroughly documented historic houses. Filled with original furnishings, the house contains superb examples of 18th- and 19th-century furniture, ceramics and glass, silver, kitchenwares, textiles and personal objects.

The Ropes Mansion is located at 318 Essex Street, Salem Mass.

Each lecture session is led by curatorial staff from PEM or Historic New England and is followed by a free drop-in art-making activity from noon to 2pm in the Ropes Mansion Garden, which is open to the public. Cold lemonade will be served and gardener Robin Pydynkowski will be on hand to answer questions. All garden activities are weather permitting.

The current information we have is that the July 11th lecture “Behind-the-Scenes Architecture Tour” is sold out, but if you are really interested, give PEM a call, you never know when there is a cancellation.

(Dean Lahikainen, PEM’s Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Art, is scheduled to speak about the extensive renovation work completed at the historic house through the years. Guests are to be escorted to areas rarely open to the public. From noon – 2pm attendees can enjoy drop-in design activities in the garden.)

The 2nd lecture takes place on July 18th: “Pastimes and Pursuits.” Paula Richter, PEM’s curator for exhibitions and research, will explore the many interests of the family members. These included botany, sewing and needlework, books and literature, travel, collecting art and interesting objects, social activities and more. From noon – 2pm botanical illustrator and author Doreen Bolnick will lead drop-in sketching and watercolor painting in the garden.

The 3rd lecture is set for July 25th: “Kitchens and Cooking.” Nancy Carlisle, senior curator of collections at Historic New England and author of America’s Kitchens, will discuss the history of the kitchen from the early 18th century to the present. Then visitors will spend some time in the Ropes kitchen to examine how it reflects the standards of the day. From noon – 2pm you can sample a treat in the garden that was typically served during the 19th century. Tasting created by chef Rhiannon Nowak of the Hawthorne Hotel.

Tickets are $12 for members, $15 for nonmembers (per session). Reservations required, please call 978-542-1511 or go to

Summer Salon Series at Salem Athenæum: Informal and Informational

Return to the back porch for the Salem Athenæum’s Summer Salons–informal and informational gatherings on Friday evenings at 5:30pm in July and August. Each week will feature a discussion or presentation by members and friends of the Athenæum. The conversations will be diverse–past salon topics have included travel, writing, beekeeping, Spanish pilgrimages, and astrophysics.

The concept of the salon emerged in 17th-century France and quickly became popular throughout Europe. These gatherings of like-minded people were meant to refine tastes and knowledge through the exchange of talents, news, and ideas. (And, we are advised, more than a few were rife with irony, romance, and black humor!)

Salem Athenaeum SmallerJuly 10, Joe McGuire: “Birding Stories, Tips and Tools”
A lifelong birder and nature lover, Joe’s presentation will include bird-watching tips (including information about phone apps and online alerts), fun facts, and stories from his bird watching excursions in all kinds of weather. This is aimed at the amateur nature lover.

July 17, Price Grisham: “Serious Subjects
In May, independent Jane Austen scholar, Price Grisham, participated in a symposium on religion and literature at Chawton House Library in Chawton, Hampshire, England, where Jane Austen lived the last eight years of her life. Price will speak about his experience at Chawton House and the paper he presented: “Serious Subjects”: Jane Austen’s Barometric Readings of the Georgian Church.

July 24, Lynn Murray: ‘Travels in Patagonia
The natural wonders of Patagonia including Cape Horn, glaciers, volcanoes, penguins and more will be brought to life through photos and discussion. This region is part of both Chile and Argentina and is located just 600 miles from Antarctica.  Visits to Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Valparaiso will also be highlighted.

July 31, Norman Gaudrault: “Two Years in America: The Discoveries of a French Family
Norman became an author after his career as a pediatrician, when he and long-time friend Georges Idier collaborated and wrote Two Years in America. Norman and Georges met in Tunisia in 1965 while Norman was volunteering with the Peace Corps. Over the years, they stayed in touch. More human and sensitive than a tourist guide, more vibrant than a simple cultural report, their novel explores the experience of a French family spending 2 years in the United States.

Do your part to keep cultural discourse alive and well in the twenty-first century!

No tickets or reservations are required.

For more information about this series, see or contact Jean Marie Procious at 978-744-2540 or

Come for the entertainment, stay for the information.