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Caroline Emmerton’s Preservation Vision Today

Caroline Emmerton’s Preservation Vision Today

Caroline Emmerton purchased the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion in 1908. This mansion, now known as The House of the Seven Gables was vacant and retained little appearance of earlier days. Emmerton’s vision for the mansion, executed by the Colonial-Revival architect, Joseph Everett Chandler, gave us the unique place we now know. It is on the merits of their work that we place our identity and define our goals.

Miss Emmerton was a pioneer in the preservation movement, and a founding member of Historic New England. {link to} In her book, The Chronicle of Three Old Houses, Emmerton underscores her interpretive principles for the museum. She describes the mansion as “a perfect backdrop for the 1840 Salem House. For in furnishing the House of Seven Gables I have had that date — in mind.” Why 1840? This date is significant because it coincides with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s letter to Horace Connolly – the adopted son of Susannah Ingersoll. In that letter Hawthorne describes a visit with his cousin Susannah in which he describes the original architecture featuring “seven gables”. That visit was the genesis of the famous novel whose name we share. Miss Emmerton saw it fitting to present the interior of the house to the public as it was seen by Hawthorne during his lifetime.

One of the institution’s most notable achievements, The National Historic Landmark District Designation (2007), recognizes and endorses these attributes of our historic site with the following commentaries:

“Given the careful preservation of the house, and the faithful adherence to the surroundings established in the early settlement house period, The House of the Seven Gables retains integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association to the period of Joseph Everett Chandler’s restoration in 1909.”

“The exterior, as restored by Chandler and Emmerton in 1909, represents the house as it appeared about 1720, a time when they believed that the structure still retained its overall Post-medieval appearance, but had lost the original leaded glass casements in favor of large vertically sliding sash windows of Georgian design.”

 “Miss Emmerton’s wish to preserve the house as it would have appeared circa 1840 – “, are stated as the primary description of the mansion’s interior in this document as well.

These extremely important statements provide a firm foundation for the continued “faithful adherence” to our original dictates. It is this essential and far-reaching vision that guides us as stewards and compels our preservation mission today.

Date: February 28, 2019

Author: Sarah Garriepy

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