Historic Dr. Nathaniel Peabody House to be preserved!

Commonly known as the Grimshawe House, this house was built in ca. 1770. Between 1835 and 1841, the building served as the family home of the Peabody sisters - Elizabeth, Sophia and Mary. Elizabeth was one of the foremost women in the literary circles of the mid-19th century and both she and Mary were instrumental in the establishment of a national kindergarten model. Mary married the famous educator, Horace Mann. Sophia married another Salem resident Nathaniel Hawthorne, who used the Peabody family home as the setting for his novel, Dr. Grimshawe’s Secret. Both Hawthorne and Mann were frequent visitors to the house. The building later served as a boarding house and a barber shop and it has been remodeled many times.

Today, the house is privately owned and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is not designated in a local historic district and therefore does not require review and approval by the Salem Historical Commission. The building is located in the City’s Urban Renewal Area, which mandates that all exterior changes are subject to review by the Salem Redevelopment Authority (SRA) and its Design Review Board. The owners are seeking to restore the building, including recreation of the building’s original Federal style entrance portico, early corner quoining, and fenestration pattern and to install historically-appropriate window sash and paint colors. A new three-story addition with a single room on each floor would be added at the back southwest corner of the building between the main house and a rear ell. The owner has asked for Commission support when they present the project to the SRA on February 13th. The Commission will learn more about the restoration project at its next meeting on February 6th, which is a public meeting open to all (see agenda at  https://www.salem.com/historical-commission/agenda/historical-commission-agenda-2-6-19).

Neither the Historical Commission nor the SRA has jurisdiction over building interiors. The building is currently assessed as a 3-family and is divided into 15+ rooms. The owners are proposing to redesign the interior for apartments on the second and third floors and a caretaker’s quarters and three offices on the first floor. It is also my understanding that the current owners intend to continue to own the building and the units will not be individually sold as condominiums.