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Little Brick Houses
2023-03-21 16:46
Last week was my spring break, and I was determined to get away after spending the past three right here at home during the prolonged Covid Time. I wanted to drive off alone so I could indul… Read More
The Golden Ball Tavern
2023-03-14 16:07
It’s spring break week and I’m slowly making my way down to “New Sweden” but as I write this I’m stuck in a snowstorm at my brother’s house in New York! I… Read More
March Memorials In Boston
2023-03-09 02:47
This past Sunday, the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, I went into Boston to take the “Massacre and Memory” tour offered by Revolutionary Spaces, the newish organization that… Read More
When Salem Had Castles
2023-02-22 12:22
I’ve got castles on my mind: all my courses this semester have an architectural theme and I’m in the midst of long survey of encastellation in my medieval course, using castle-bu… Read More
Adorning Hearts
2023-02-14 13:00
Something light and bright, fluffy and joyful and merely decorative for Valentine’s Day: I wanted to use the occasion to reaquaint myself with some decorative arts databases. Between m… Read More
Paint It Black
2023-02-08 12:13
There are more and more and more witch shops in Salem, or perhaps I better loosen up that description to goth shops or macabre markets? In any case, our local chronicler had to reassure his… Read More
A Slave Trader In Salem
2023-02-01 12:44
I’ve learned a lot about Salem’s African-American history while writing this blog; I don’t think I would look at the city the same way otherwise. I associate Chestnut Stree… Read More
Some Great Early Gloucester Houses
2023-01-24 18:06
I feel like I should know more about Gloucester, the port city about a half hour to the north of Salem. I have quite a few Salem friends who have summer homes in Gloucester, or have moved to… Read More
Beverly Jogs
2023-01-18 12:29
I was following the discussion on a facebook group dedicated to the restoration of Colonial homes the other day, very deliberately avoiding preparing my syllabi for the new semester, when th… Read More
Secret Staircases
2023-01-10 23:04
Every old house has secrets, but every old house does not have deliberately-constructed secretive places for hiding or hidden means of conveyence: such spaces are special. Novelists love sec… Read More
When The Frame Is In The Picture
2023-01-03 12:40
Starting 2023 off with some color and creativity; I need some brightness. There is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I which I have long admired: it’s from relatively early in her rei… Read More
Anniversary History: Local Edition 2023
2022-12-27 21:47
Looking ahead to the new year from a local history perspective, there are commemorative moments for at least six events: five European settlements and a tea party, the 250th Anniversary of t… Read More
A Big End-of-year Book Post
2022-12-19 12:56
I always do a book post at this time of year for several reasons: it’s fun to go through the mental process of compiling “best of” lists, I like to offer gift suggestions… Read More
Christmas Trim
2022-12-04 22:07
It’s going to be a super busy December, so I got a jump start on decorating my own house: we have eight fireplaces with mantles plus several other surfaces which “require”… Read More
Deerfield Thanksgiving
2022-11-26 13:18
I know that it was a back-to-big-family-Thanksgiving for many people, but because of health and almost-conflicting family events my husband and I found ourselves alone this year. We made a l… Read More
Daniel Low And The Art Of Advertising
2022-11-21 16:14
Very often, one of Salem’s longest-running and best-known businesses, Daniel Low & Company, is reduced to a pioneering seller of witch wares with their souvenir witch spoons and ot… Read More
A Cooper’s Shop For Sale
2022-11-14 12:26
Wow, I don’t think I’ve posted on Salem real estate for quite some time! I’ve just been so serious, but actually there’s not much point: generally as soon as somethin… Read More
The Skeletons Of Lagrange Street
2022-11-01 12:48
Salem is a place where everybody always says that the “past is present” or something to that effect; one discerns the ongoing presence of the past in the old structures… Read More
A Salem Ghost Story
2022-10-23 15:47
Even though I recognize no connection between Halloween in general and the Salem Witch Trials (because #theywerenotwitches) and for that reason don’t particularly care for Salem Hallow… Read More
Revenues And Reparations In The Witch City
2022-10-18 11:40
I often find that my profession and my residence are in conflict: it’s challenging to be an historian in Salem, especially at this time of year. More than one person has suggested that… Read More
Flight To Newbury
2022-10-11 11:26
While I usually make plans to be as far away from Salem as possible on Columbus/Indigenous Day weekend to avoid the crowds and traffic, we had obligations this year so I was stuck in town. I… Read More
The Most Magical Plants
2022-10-03 13:51
Well, October is upon us here in Salem, so that means I’m going to spend all my time inside or on the road. I’m just not a fan of Haunted Happenings, the City’s Halloween f… Read More
My Salem Heritage Trail
2022-09-27 13:08
I’m still frustrated with our city’s “revisioned” “heritage” trail: its blatant commercialism, its yellow color (the exact same shade as the lines in the… Read More
Open House In Essex County
2022-09-12 19:55
It occurred to me the other day that during the long life of this blog I have never spotlighted Trails and Sails, a calendar of dedicated events and openings throughout Essex County in… Read More
Dickinson Domicile
2022-09-06 12:21
I drove “out west” to the recently-reopened Emily Dickinson Museum last week thinking it would just be a pleasant last road trip of the summer during which I would learn a bit mo… Read More
The Wentworth-Gardner House
2022-08-29 15:36
We were in York Harbor all last week with family and friends, several of whom had never been to this region of New England before. So I was a bit of a tour guide, in my fashion. On a morning… Read More
Massachusetts Route 57
2022-08-22 21:15
I have taken a lot of road trips this summer: west, south, north. On my way to any place in the first two directions, I’ve tried to explore a territory I call “middle Massachuset… Read More
Hooked On Kinderhook
2022-08-15 12:08
I made a very quick trip out to the Hudson River Valley at the beginning of last week to visit my brother and brother-in-law, and despite its brevity I still made some discoveries, including… Read More
A July Afternoon, Old Lyme
2022-07-31 16:47
One hot morning last week I was looking at some paintings by the American Impressionist artist Matilda Browne (1869-1947) when I realized I wanted to see more. It was apparent that the best… Read More
An Enigmatic Etcher
2022-07-27 01:18
I wanted to share some examples of the work of the Salem artist George F. White, Jr., better known as George Merwanjee White (1849-1915), but I wish I could also share more details about his… Read More
The Golden Goose
2022-07-20 11:18
Last week Salem’s new Heritage Trail, or at least the foundation thereof, was revealed with a report to the Salem Redevelopment Authority (SRA) and the launch of a new website. The out… Read More
The Justin Morrill Homestead
2022-07-12 18:26
Another week: another pink Gothic Revival house! If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a Gothic Revival kick for a while. It’s a style you can’t help but notice, and S… Read More
Roseland Cottage
2022-07-05 12:57
In the last week of June I drove down to the “quiet” northeastern corner of Connecticut to see a house that was a major presidential July 4th destination in the later ninete… Read More
I Went For The Wallpaper
2022-06-28 11:52
I love Waterhouse Wallhangings, a company which has been manufacturing wallpapers based on historical patterns for decades, and will do anything or go anywhere to see their papers… Read More
After The Fire: A New Salem Saltbox
2022-06-24 11:14
I like to recognize the anniversary of the Great Salem Fire (June 25, 1914) every year, or most years, as it was such a momentous event in so many ways, starting, of course, with sheer destr… Read More
A Juneteenth Tour Of Salem
2022-06-20 12:36
I like to craft my own walking tours for every major holiday just for myself, so that I can get in the proper celebratory or thoughtful frame of mind. This weekend, I put together my first J… Read More
Landmark Lineage
2022-06-16 11:08
I’ve been obsessed with the work “landmark” ever since the Samantha statue incident of last week: a succession of news stories in the days following reported the… Read More
Local Color: Salem June 2022
2022-06-11 21:25
This is going to be an odd post which will start out sweet and end up a bit sour, but I can promise you that it will be colorful throughout. There’s one aspect of Salem’s history… Read More
A Salem Slaver
2022-06-06 13:22
It’s beautiful here in Salem and I had a very colorful post all lined up for you: gardens, the arts festival, blue trees, doors of many colors, cats, my lady’s slippers, simple p… Read More
The Jeremiah Lee Mansion
2022-06-02 15:13
There are two structures which made an impression on me early in my childhood and sort of set the standard for historic grandeur in my mind: Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth College, where my fat… Read More
Tattered Flags
2022-05-28 20:25
The Civil War began with the lowering of a tattered 33-star flag from Fort Sumter in 1861 after which tattered flags defined, symbolized and memorialized the bravery, sacrifices and experien… Read More
Can’t We Copy Concord?
2022-05-23 20:09
The Concord Museum has been one of my favorite local history museums for some time, but I haven’t been there since the completion of a major expansion and reinterpretation initiative d… Read More
Lilac Days
2022-05-18 17:54
Lilacs are so ubiquitous in New England in May that you tend to overlook them, but over the past pleasant days I have been seeking them out in some of my favorite spots. I’m always so… Read More
Selling Seeds
2022-05-13 11:40
A rather fluffy post on seed packets for this week: it’s grading time! This combination of gardening + paper, two of my favorite things, is irresistable to me at all times, but I have… Read More
Skirting Witches And Pirates In Salem
2022-05-03 14:01
Walking is my preferred form of transportation in Salem, but I tread carefully: I want my path to be lined with beautiful old houses, colorful shops and lovely green (or white) spaces. Attra… Read More
The Eminent Antiquarian
2022-04-28 11:58
I have been meaning to post on the most eminent of Salem’s antiquarians, Henry FitzGilbert Waters (1833-1913) for a while, but I kept finding more information about him and thought I&r&hell…Read More
Salem As Historyland
2022-04-22 13:09
For the most part, this blog has been an academic release for me rather than academic engagement: I consider most of the history I’ve offered up here more pop-up than professional. But… Read More
Pirates Were Pirates
2022-04-16 03:38
So I’ve been preoccupied with pirates for about a week, ever since the new Real Pirates Museum opened up in Salem adjacent to Charlotte Forten Park on Derby Street. My p… Read More
Pirates Plunder Charlotte Forten Park
2022-04-10 16:48
What do place names mean? Whenever I’m walking around a town or city I look at the names of streets and spaces and assume that they are clues to the history of said town or city but wh… Read More
The Power Of Juxtaposition
2022-04-06 12:35
The Peabody Essex Museum has opened a new integrated exhibit of items from its American and Native American collections entitled On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America and… Read More
Domed Doors
2022-04-01 11:32
Salem is a great city for doors. There are so many exemplary doors in a succession of architectural styles: First Period, Georgian, Federal, Greek and Gothic Revival, all the Victo… Read More
Runaway Wives Of Salem
2022-03-24 11:53
I don’t think I’ve posted enough about women’s history for this women’s history month so I have put some extra effort into this last March post! Two caveats to the pr… Read More
The South Coast Of Massachusetts
2022-03-19 17:52
One thing that I’ve always loved about Massachusetts is its regional topographical diversity. I’m not sure that this is the correct phrase: topographical generally refe… Read More
Shore Dinners
2022-03-14 13:15
I have a guilty secret to admit, one which will reveal me to be out of step with most of my fellow Salem residents (no, it’s not about “witches”): I’m not particularl… Read More
Books For Women’s History Month 2022
2022-03-08 12:32
Next week is Spring Break and I haven’t decided if I’m going to get away or get reading a large stack of bedside books. A lot of said books are about later medieval/early modern… Read More
Samuel Chamberlain’s Salem
2022-03-01 15:39
The Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum, steward of so much of Salem’s printed, written and visual history amongst its many collections, has recently digitized over 5000 image… Read More
In The Thick Of It
2022-02-24 14:45
This weekend is the annual commemoration/celebration of Leslie’s Retreat, a pre-Revolutionary event which could have marked the beginning of the American Revolution, if not for the pat… Read More
Winter Salem, Day And Night
2022-02-20 14:52
This is a rather lazy picture post: I’m basking in the glow of the publication of my book and rather drained from teaching AND I have some nice pictures of Salem on my camera roll so I… Read More
Candy Land
2022-02-14 12:03
In my sweetest dreams Salem is Candy Land rather than Witch City, and it certainly has the heritage to claim that title (although Candy Land was a Milton Bradley game rather than a Parker Br… Read More
John Remond’s Struggle For Citizenship
2022-02-10 21:13
I’ve written about the Remonds, the African-American family who lived, worked, and strove for a succession of causes in nineteenth-century Salem quite a bit, but I think there is… Read More
Gilded Age Salem
2022-01-29 15:07
Let me be very clear: Salem is NOT a Gilded Age town. In reference to the new series from Julian Fellowes, Salem is the two Old Money sisters in the stuffy house, not the nouveau riche … Read More
Sidney Perley’s Houses
2022-01-21 12:46
Sidney Perley (1858-1928) exemplified that exhausting mix of endeavors—historical, genealogical, archaeological, architectural, legal, literary—which in his time was represented… Read More
Salem’s Spider Man
2022-01-15 16:16
Obviously I am shamelessly exploiting both popular culture and alliteration with my title, but nevertheless James Henry Emerton (1847-1931), one of Salem’s most successful commercial a… Read More
The Era Of Excessive Mourning
2022-01-07 19:28
I’m giving a talk at the end of the month on the impact of the Reformation on the theology of death and practice of mourning, on both sides of the Atlantic in the seventeenth and eight… Read More
What About Fort Pickering?
2022-01-02 13:44
I love commemorations: I have posted about them often here, particularly at the beginning of a new year like 2020, during which the long-planned commemorations (of the achievement… Read More
Christmas At Home And Away
2021-12-27 22:10
Our Christmas was Covid-impacted like everyone else’s, but it ended up being just lovely, with most of our time spent with my brother and brother-in-law in Salem eating, drinking, play… Read More
Books For Christmas/Break
2021-12-14 17:52
Classes have just ended and after grading I will attack the big pile of books by my bedside: I’ve already dipped into one or two but I have a full month with very few obligations ahead… Read More
Thanksgiving Tradition And Transition
2021-11-29 20:25
For many years my family spent the long Thanksgiving weekend at the grand old Equinox Hotel in Manchester Village, Vermont, the generous gift of my grandmother. We established several tradit… Read More
A Peaceful Thanksgiving From Plymouth
2021-11-21 16:56
In full disclosure, as I write this, I am not in Plymouth: I’m actually in New Jersey, soon to go back to Massachusetts for a spell and then to Vermont for Thanksgiving. But last weeke… Read More
A Samuel McIntire Sofa
2021-11-06 20:41
There is an extraordinary auction coming up in a few weeks at Skinner featuring the art and antiques of a Beacon Hill couple. Among the maritime and China Trade paintings and colonial furnit… Read More
The Spectre Ship Of Salem
2021-10-29 16:03
Despite the Salem marketing memo, Halloween is time for ghosts, not witches, who already have their Walpurgis eve. I don’t think any ghost story could be more appropriate for a Salem H… Read More
Teaching With Holbein
2021-10-24 16:11
A new exhibition featuring the works of Hans Holbein the Younger opened at the J. Paul Getty Museum this week, and it will be traveling to the Morgan Library and Museum after the new year. I… Read More
The Rebecca Nurse Homestead
2021-10-16 21:38
As I write this on a sunny warm Saturday afternoon, there’s a line of cars extending down my entire street which has been continuous since about 10:00 this morning; I’m sure ever… Read More
A Picky Guide To October In Salem
2021-10-09 15:35
I think this might be the first time I’ve written up a “things to do” in Salem for Halloween, a holiday that lasts for at least two months here and seems to be on the way t… Read More
2021-10-04 12:07
I adore the venerable and very traditional British magazine Country Life, which has been showcasing stately homes, lush gardens, and rural pursuits since 1897. I’ve had indul… Read More
Venus Rising
2021-09-28 20:31
As we enter/endure that season where hordes of tourists come to the Witch City for ghost tours, I’d like to celebrate some dynamic local history initiatives: over the past five years o… Read More
Salem In (water)color, 1939
2021-09-22 12:18
Salem set the style standard in the first half of the century when Colonial Revival ruled, ruled, and continued to rule: right up to World War II and then beyond, according to the dictates o… Read More
A Cape Full Of Color
2021-09-15 11:55
So every year in early September we journey to Cape Cod on the weekend after Labor Day for my husband’s birthday. It is an odd time, just after “summer” is over and we have… Read More
Cogswell’s Grant
2021-09-06 15:13
Like several summers in the past, this was supposed to be my “Historic New England Summer” in which I made a determined attempt to visit and write about as many HNE houses as pos… Read More
Mushroom Summer
2021-08-30 19:32
The combination of my absence and the tropical weather has turned my garden into a wild jungle: I tried to tame it the other day but succeeded merely in clearing out all the mushrooms. I&rsq&hell…Read More
Hudson River Valley Highlights
2021-08-24 02:29
I’m just back from almost two weeks staying at my brother’s house in Rhinebeck, New York, right in the middle of the Hudson River Valley. I’ve seen a lot, and have many bea… Read More
2021-08-10 12:07
Sometimes I try to look at Salem as a tourist, a casual tourist taking a stroll, rather than with my historian/resident intensity. It doesn’t work for long, but I can pull it off… Read More
Revolutionary Jersey
2021-08-05 12:45
I turned my return trip from a mid-Atlantic family/research weekend into a day trip focused on New Jersey’s Revolutionary history which is, of course, plentiful. I had been to the batt… Read More
The Making Of Witch City, Part Whatever
2021-07-30 11:12
So many people, events, ideas, circumstances, and general forces went into the transformation of Salem, a dynamic manufacturing city that while never altogether embarrassed by its infamous w… Read More
“Certified Historians” Of Salem
2021-07-26 15:15
Salem has been packed with tourists from late spring and all summer, despite the odd hot/wet weather: I’m very happy for all of our shops and restaurants after the challenges of the pa… Read More
What I’m Reading This Summer
2021-07-21 01:28
I haven’t done a reading list in a while and I have really been reading, so it’s time. It’s been a voracious reading summer for me: it’s as if I was emptied out by wr… Read More
Renaissance Refresh In Worcester
2021-07-09 16:25
This past Wednesday was my stepson’s 20th birthday and lo and behold, instead of all the outdoorsy things we have done on birthdays past he wanted to go see the collection of armor and… Read More
A Vexillogical History Of Salem
2021-07-02 13:28
What am I writing about? Flags for the July 4th weekend of course: I had to look up that word and thus am using it, despite the fact that it is somewhat intimidating and I could easily… Read More
Riding With Edwin Whitefield
2021-06-28 11:49
This was supposed to be the summer of LONG road trips but various things keep tethering me to Salem, so I’m taking lots of short ones. My companion over the last few trips has been Edw… Read More

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