SALEM — Orne Square, a little slice of stucco in a world built by McIntire, is getting Christmas in Salem all to itself this year.
Tickets are nearly sold out for in-person offerings of this year’s hybrid Christmas in Salem house tours. Each year, Historic Salem Inc. creates a tour from a series of historic Salem homes with their halls decked to 11. The event is HSI’s main fundraiser, and money raised by the tours supports historic preservation efforts in Salem.
This year, the tours hit the block formed by Orne Square and Broad and Hathorne streets and offer tickets within four three-hour windows on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 and 5.
Orne Square stands out based on its design, according to Simeen Brown, an HSI board member who runs Christmas in Salem. She recalled when someone offered to show her “Europe” within Salem and took her to the street, which is lined with homes built with stucco exteriors. Three of the eight homes in this year’s tours are on Orne Square.
“The Orne Square story will be told in those three properties,” Brown said. “They were built specifically for housing for workers, and they were built in a way that was safe, because they were built right after the Great Salem Fire.”
In fact, that’s why the Orne Square homes stand out so much — many other homes in the area predate the fire and were saved from it, according to Brown.
But the tours focus on the interiors of the homes, and each interior will be different based on the homeowner, Brown said.
The tours “will give people a real feel for how people over the years have changed their homes or haven’t, and how different they can be,” she said. “It’s a story we really wanted to explore, because people haven’t seen any Orne Square homes.”
The organization has taken cues from how others have handled business in the still-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, this year offering a hybrid approach with in-person appointment-based tours and remotely viewable alternatives, Brown said.
“It’s kind of a unique year, so we went back and forth for a long time ... should we be in person? Should we not be in person?” Brown said. “We have a lot of measures in place to keep the event safer.”
Christmas in Salem went fully online in 2020 and expanded into Halloween, spotlighting (virtually) homes decorated for the city’s busiest season.
In-person tours return this year, but at 50% of the typical capacity and only within four three-hour windows spread across the first weekend in December. Both Saturday windows are sold out, and the only tickets that remain for Sunday are in the morning.
Live streams will also run for those attending remotely, with streams visiting four of the homes each on Saturday and Sunday, 4 to 5 p.m. Those who tour in-person can also watch the streams, and the videos will be viewable by all ticketholders until the end of the year, according to Brown. Tickets are $35 across the board.
For more information, visit christmasinsalem.org.