First (North) Church (Unitarian), (North Church until 1923; First Church thereafter), 316 Essex St.

This building is the second meeting house of the North Church, which separated from the First Church in 1772; the original building was located at the corner of "Curwen's Lane" (North St.) and "The New Lane" (later Lynde St.). When the two churches merged again in 1923, this building became the home of First Church. Constructed in 1835-36, it is considered, along with St. Peter's Church, to be among the finest stone masonry Gothic Revival churches in the United States. Francis Peabody, a parishioner who oversaw the construction, is said to have led the argument for a building in the Gothic Revival style. North Church was one of the three more liberal churches in Salem in Hawthorne's time. It was the church attended by the Peabody family and also by Jones Very (1813-1880), a mystic, Unitarian minister, and poet. Some in Salem thought Very insane, but the Transcendentalists were intrigued by him as was Hawthorne who was friends with him in the late 1830s, according to Margaret Moore in The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne(215). N.B. Margaret Moore presents the interesting convergence of what is now First Church with the Hathornes and Thomas Maule in her book The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne. She says that across the street from First Church were the houses of Philip English and Thomas Maule. The English house was inherited by John Touzel; after his death, Touzel's widow shared ownership with William and Mary Touzel Hathorne, and then Sophia Peabody's family later lived in William and Mary's half of the house. Also, Moore says that Mary Hathorne, daughter of William, "owned a house on the other side of Essex Street, just in front of the land on which First Church now stands. It stood on part of Thomas Maule's orchard. She willed this house to her sister, Ann Hathorne Savage, but the will was lost, found much later, and then stolen. So, one Hathorne house on the southern side of Essex was next door to the Maule house; the other on the northern side stood on what had been his garden. Maule's garden is important in The House of the Seven Gables. The juxtaposition of the Hathorne house with the Maule land, the garden, the lost will, the witchcraft accusations: all make another possible Hawthorne connection to witchcraft" (45-46).
(courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum; special thanks to Bryant F. Tolles, Jr.) close window