Sunday, January 17, 2010

Post #6 - Tracing Hawthorne's Steps to the Custom House

"An unwearied pall of cloud muffled the whole expanse of sky from zenith to horizon." - The Scarlet Letter, Chapter 12

And so it was on the morning of Sunday, January 17, 2010.  My friend Ed kindly agreed to accompany me as we re-traced Nathaniel Hawthorne's steps as he would have departed from his home on Mall Street and walked to the Custom House.

We start our walk at 14 Mall Street (click the hyperlink for a map).  There are two plaques on the house, one by the front door and one facing the street.  The plaque on the street states Hawthorne's name and the years he lived at the house, 1847-1850.  It was while living here, after losing his job as surveyor, that he wrote The Scarlet Letter.  Other pictures of this house over the past 100 years, as well as other Salem houses he lived in are documented at the Hawthorne in Salem web site.  According to this web site, Hawthorne lived at 18 Chestnut Street from 1846-1849 when he was surveyor, but perhaps this is an error and should say 1846-1847, because elsewhere the author states the family only lived at Chestnut Street for a couple of months before moving to Mall Street.  In any case - it looks like we can make another walk to work from Chestnut Street some other time.

The view down Mall Street towards the Salem Common.

Crossing Washington Square North to the Common.

Walking the path in the Common towards what else...the Hawthorne Hotel.  We could have taken a short cut across the Common and through the hotel parking lot, but this seemed a nicer way to go.

We've just walked past the front of the hotel bordering Hawthorne Boulevard - hmm, is there a pattern here?  We're looking down Essex Street.  We're going to walk down Essex Street and take our second right onto Herbert Street.  It's just past the white wrecker jutting its nose into the street.

Here we are at the top of Herbert Street.  I like the way the shadows play with the light on the wet pavement.  Coincidentally,  Hawthorne lived on Herbert Street after graduating from Bowdoin, moving back in with his family for 12 years.  Because he called it "Castle Dismal" perhaps he would have preferred not to walk this way.  If we had taken the first right off of Essex Street we would have walked down Union Street, where Hawthorne was born in 1804.  That house is no longer on Union Street, it was moved to the property of the House of Seven Gables in 1958 (the year I was born...which I would not mention except for the sheer randomness of it).

Now we are midway down Herbert Street. Notice how narrow it  the street is, with cars parked on the sidewalk.  Not surprisingly this is a one-way street.  This sort of streetscape is common along the waterfronts of old New England towns.  Example of similar streets in Marblehead, Gloucester, Newburyport and Portsmouth readily come to mind.

Now we've reached the bottom of Herbert Street.  Derby Street is in front of us.  We're going to turn left onto Derby.

Heading up Derby Street towards the Custom House.  It's on the left just past the brick building.

And there it is, our destination, the Salem Custom House, now a part of the Salem National Maritime Historic Site.  It's well worth a visit.  Please come sometime and take a tour.

Here's a detail of the Custom House front entrance.

This is the view of the Derby Wharf from the front entrance of the Custom House.  The weather looks rather murky.  At the moment not much is happening, only a few people walking up the wharf.

And now it's time for us to take a coffee break...well hey, even though we just got here, why start work quite yet?  So it's off to....

 ...A&J King Bakery.  My favorite eating spot in all of Salem, and a great way to end our walk.  Thanks for coming along with us!

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