Thursday, September 17, 2009

historic house tour: house of the seven gables

As a child with a voracious literary appetite and a penchant for the gothic, I was naturally drawn to books with a strong sense of place and vivid drama. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a favorite. In fact, I will never forget the first time I read The Scarlet Letter ~ its tragically poignant characters burned into my mind. However, when I read The House of the Seven Gables, it was the place, rather than the characters that struck me. Needless to say, the prospect of visiting the house that inspired Hawthorne filled me both with excitement and trepidation ~ I mean, what if it was just a big let down?

Well, the moment I stepped through the gates of the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, built 1668, the critic in me was seduced and I was transported into another world. At its core, it is the oldest surviving 17th-century wooden mansion in New England. However, much of its original structure was modified in the early 19th century to make it a more fashionable Federal-style residence, reducing its gables from seven to three. The house was then owned by Hawthorne’s cousin, Susanna Ingersoll, who entertained him there often and through whom he heard stories of its original appearance.

In 1908 the mansion was purchased by Caroline Emmerton, who was determined to preserve the deteriorating structure, and to create a foundation dedicated to assisting immigrant families (inspired by the example of Jane Addam’s Hull House). Working with an architect, and using Hawthorne’s novel as a guide, she restored its seven gables and reworked the interior. So while not entirely historically accurate, it is charmingly true to its literary character. It is the house I imagined as a child, right down to the secret staircase and penny shop.

More photos here!


Anonymous said...

Fascinating - the way literature inspired a historic reimagining of the restoration of the house.

Anonymous said...

I am the above anonymous. KDM : )