[Downing-Bradstreet house, Salem]

Downing-Bradstreet House

Although the original of this old house in Salem, Massachusetts, was demolished in 1758, this drawing executed by Samuel Bartol in 1819 might have been seen by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It seems to be similar in some respects to Hawthorne's description in The Scarlet Letter of the Hall in Boston of Governor Bellingham in 1645. No structures anything like it remain in New England, so the description otherwise seems fanciful. The authoritative volume, The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, by Abbott Lowell Cummings, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979, ISBN 0-674-31681-9, p. 144, notes that although the view is somewhat questionable, there is considerable other evidence that many Puritan homes had pinnacles on the gables. The original picture makes it clearer that the walls were made of pine boards rather than cedar shingles. No houses remain in New England with glass or symbols in stuccoed walls, but these are also known to have existed in Boston and Salem, perhaps by Hawthorne's time, and so those other houses might have served as models. The two tall structures on either side of the door here appear to have diagonally-paned leaded glass windows and might have been used to light the otherwise dark stairs there, if not the entrance hall itself, as Hawthorne writes.

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