I was looking for witch-y lore and magic on my first trip to Salem MA on my first honeymoon in 1988. It was just OK and I probably wouldn’t have gone back. However, last year’s unplanned drive through the town of Salem changed my mind. I realized the town is so much more than the overt supernatural stuff! Since it was on the way to Maine, I planned a first-night-of-vacation overnight stay. And, because I’m just that nerd-y, I got the audio of Scarlett Letter to listen to on the way up.
Salem is an interesting little harbor town. It has a wonderful mix of harbor history, Salem Witch trial history, culture, and a lot of new-age type stuff. And, of course, witches. It’s late August and the town is already getting ready for its “Halloween City” festivities!
My reservations at the historic Hawthorne Hotel included tickets to both the House of the Seven Gables and the Peabody Essex Museum. I knew the last tour for the House of the Seven Gables wasn’t until 7pm, so I figured Joseph and I could see that in the House in the evening and the museum the next day. I didn’t count on the WAZE Maze or the harrowing bathroom (or lack of bathroom) experience. So, when we got there around 5:30, I needed a little time to relax.
The room was very, very tiny room (and I knew that in advance). It had a bed, desk, a couple hooks on the way for clothes. and a bathroom. I don’t think there was even a chair to sit. However, since we were driving all day, Joseph and I were happy to walk the few blocks to the historic harbor side house. We got our tickets for the 7pm tour. Then we explored the around the backyard gardens which ended at the harbor. It was nice to sit and enjoy the water on one side and the gardens on the other. I felt myself decompressing.
The House of the Seven Gables is a pretty neat place. It was owned by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s cousin so he visited the house regularly. It’s a creaky place. In fact, with its squeaky backstairs, tiny passageways, and dark corners, it’s easy to see why Hawthorne used it as the backdrop for his book. I felt it especially when touring the attic; the spookiness was easy to identify. It’s been years since I read The Scarlett Letter or the House of the Seven Gables (which uses the house as its backdrop). But, when I get home, I’m going to read both of them again – or, at least, watch the movies!
The tour included the adjoining Nathanial Hawthorne birthplace house (which had been moved to this place from its original location down the road). Most of the things inside the house were not original to the house, but were original to the time. Our guide was very informative and added wonderful color to his stories. In addition to talking about the restoration, he explained that – like many old houses of that era – it was going to be torn down. A woman saved it, restored it and designated that the proceeds be used to help the women at the settlement house (which she also built).
Here’s something I didn’t know and found curious:
Hawthorne had three kids. His older daughter, Una, married and had kids. His only son became a writer and, through some strange business dealings, was incarcerated for fraud. His youngest child, Rosa, married and had a son who died. She later divorced and became a nurse and a nun, Mother Mary Alphonsa. Later on she founded the religious order called the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne and took the name of Mother Rose. She died in 1925 and, since 2003, she’s in line for sainthood! Who knew?!
It was all pretty neat stuff.
After the tour, Joseph and I went back to the hotel for drinks and dinner. In spite of not having eaten anything but car-snacks since those WAWA sandwiches, we were surprisingly disinterested in a big meal. So we ordered nachos, which proved to be plenty, and then shared some dessert with ice cream. For drinks I started with a Tiramisu Martini. It tasted good, but was loaded with calories, and I think, had little or no any alcohol in it. And seriously, after the drive up, I was really ready for some alcohol and a little buzz. So I switched to rum and coke…and got my buzz.
I slept well last night and am ready for the next step in our 2017 Maine adventure: Peabody Essex Museum first and then on to Portland!