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Exterior of the Salem Custom House, 2000

Constructed in 1819, the Salem Custom House is a superb example of American Federalist public architecture. Hawthorne worked here as surveyor of the port from 1846-1849; import duties collected here helped finance the federal government. Constructed on ground where the George Crowninshield house once stood, the Salem Custom house, says Bryant F. Tolles, Jr. in Architecture of Salem, "may be entered through a beautifully adorned front central doorway serviced by a sweeping flight of granite steps. Combining delicate restraint and rich detail in the best tradition of Salem Federal architecture are the balustraded front entrance, with its four attenuated Ionic composite columns and fully developed entablature, and the modified Palladian window above which the porch column entablature elements are repeated. Perched high on the roof balustrade rests, in Hawthorne's words, 'an enormous [gilded] specimen of the American eagle, with outspread wings, a shield before her breast, ...a bunch of intermingled thuinderbolts and barbed arrows in each claw....' Surmounting the hipped roof, with its tall brick chimneys, is an octagonal Italianate cupola that dates from alterations (mostly interior) made in 1853/4. A three-story bonded warehouse ell is attached to the rear. Although the construction of the Custom House occurred several years after Samuel McIntire's death, it shows McIntire's influence, perhaps in large part because four of his contemporaries--nephew Joseph McIntire, Jr., David Lord, Joseph Edwards, and Joseph True--are known to have labored on the building. Perley Putnam (1778-1864) of Salem supervised construction" (58).
(photography by Aaron Toleos)
citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/images/image.php?name=MMD330