, Salem, MA

September 27, 2013

Letter: Taking a closer look at Dearborn Street

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Salem folks, it seems, have traditionally come up with some great nicknames for neighborhoods, landmarks and, sometimes, streets.

Dearborn Street, built 60 feet wide, was first called Liberal Street and also Generous Street. By the time the first Salem directory was published in 1837, though, it had acquired the name it would keep. According to E. B. Symonds in “Old Northfields,” the street was named for General Dearborn.

Dearborn Street has been home to residents of note: Salem’s great novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne lived here from 1828 to 1832 in a cottage built by his uncle, Robert Manning, for Hawthorne’s widowed mother.

Next door at No. 33 lived the Manning family. Robert Manning was celebrated throughout the horticultural world for his legendary fruit trees raised on his property in an orchard that contained an unknown number of trees.

Capt. John Bertram, master mariner, merchant shipper and philanthropist, whose impressive home on Essex Street later became the Salem Public Library, had a summer estate at No. 40.

Capt. Edward Pousland, who sailed around the world, once lived at No. 19, and Nathaniel Locke at No. 30 invented a steam regulator that is still in use.

Not everyone was so fortunate. James Dugan was a wealthy leather manufacturer. He owned the two-story wooden house at No. 41. After experiencing severe financial loss, he hanged himself in June of 1893, when it was discovered that he had recently purchased at least 15 life insurance policies. Several of the insurance companies refused to pay up. How the matter eventually played out remains a mystery, but I am sure that it must have caused quite a stir in the neighborhood.

At No. 34 is the Cate house, a mail-order, factory-built house constructed in 1887 at a cost of $1,800 (excluding the heaters). This interesting home was featured in the 2010 Christmas in Salem house tour.

Charles Augustus Ropes and his family had an estate at the foot of the street. Ropes, a flour and grain merchant, had formerly been a merchant shipper in a family business that engaged in large-scale trade with Buenos Aires. His circa 1856 domain, on a headland at the confluence of the North and Danvers rivers, boasted handsome gardens, the enchantment of salt water on two sides of the property, and their 13-room mansion.

Beginning in 1910, this former home served for more than 50 years as the North Shore Babies’ Hospital.

John C. Lee’s estate was located where Lee Street later came to be.

For more information on these and other picturesque properties of 19th century Dearborn Street, I again refer the reader to “Old Salem Gardens,” published by the Salem Garden Club and available at the Salem Public Library.

Jeanne Stella