The Glen Magna Mansion in Danvers, MA exhibits the grandeur and elegance of the Gilded Age on the North Shore of Massachusetts. What is now a mansion, began as a modest Federal farmhouse built around 1790 by Jonathan Ingersoll, a sea captain who formerly resided in Salem Town. Ingersoll later sold the property and land in 1814 to Joseph Peabody, before moving to Windsor, Vermont, where he lived out the remainder of his days. Joseph Peabody apparently purchased the large farm estate to hide his cargo from the British, who blockaded trade with a young America’s allies. He later would expand the property, hiring a landscape architect to effectively transition the farmhouse into a summer estate.
By 1892, the property belonged to Ellen Peabody Endicott, Joseph Peabody’s granddaughter, who further enlarged and embellished the house and grounds, hiring the Boston firm of Little and Browne to update the estate in the Colonial Revival style. Her son, William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr., continued to improve the grounds, most notably in 1901 by moving the Derby Summer House to the property. In 1963, The Danvers Historical Society purchased the central eleven acres of the property and has worked to restore the gardens and grounds to its early 20th century appearance. Glen Magna is available for tours and events such as weddings.
This beautiful hipped-roof Georgian house was built in 1784 for Reverend Benjamin Wadsworth (1750-1826), the Pastor of the First Congretional Church, on land donated to him by the parish for a parsonage. Originally living in the old parsonage at one time, occupied by Rev. Parris, Wadsworth had the original parsonage torn down and replaced by this one. The original parsonage was home to the beginnings of the Salem Witch Trials. In that home, Tituba, Parris’ slave, told the Parris children of witchcraft, which lead to the hysteria and Tituba’s death. The former parsonage site was uncovered by archaeologists in the 1970s and is set back off Centre Street with informative markers depicting the rich history of the site. Who knew so much history occurred in present-day Danvers!?
Sally Francis Jones, born in Danvers in 1812, married George Nourse in November of 1832, at the age of 20. The couple had two children before 1838, when George was lost at sea and never returned home. Sally lived in the family home for some time until she sold the estate and purchased land from a family friend in town. With both of her children out of the home, she decided to build a distinct Octagon house. Influenced by Joshua Silvester, who built a cement barn in the octagon shape attached to his cement house at 11 Peabody Avenue, today across from the Peabody Institute Library, her home was constructed of a brown concrete and painted a brown color, giving the house the nickname “the mud house”. Ms. Jones resided in the home for ten years, before selling the home. The house remains as one of a few extant Octagon homes in Massachusetts, and a rare example of a concrete Octagon home.
One of the oldest homes in the country, the 1665 Porter House in Danvers, MA is an excellent example of one of many Essex County First Period homes. John Porter (1594-1676) came over from England in 1635, first settling in Hingham, where he was granted over 55 acres of land. Later he moved to Salem (modern day Danvers), purchasing a farm and various other large parcels of land in the growing town. When John Porter’s son Joseph married Anna, the daughter of William Hawthorne, he was granted a large piece of land in Danvers. The new couple had this large farmhouse built in 1665. Joseph Porter was, like his father, a tanner and farmer and ran a farm on the over 185 acres of land bordering Topsfield, MA. Porter died in 1713 and his property was willed to his widow and later to his children. The homestead farm was valued in the inventory at 900 Pounds, and a negro boy named Robin, aged about thirteen, at 40 pounds. The home was later owned by the Bradstreet and Putnam families. The farmhouse and the last three acres of land from the original 500-acre parcel are occupied today by a preschool.
As the town of Danvers grew after the Civil War, the need for larger neighborhood schools became apparent. Land was acquired from Gilbert A. Tapley’s estate in 1895, and $14,500 was appropriated for the design and construction of an eight room school building. The building designed by Salem architect, Edwin B. Balcom, is Colonial Revival in style with a hipped roof and front and rear pavilion entrances. The interior finish was of pine with the first and second stories consisting of four class rooms each with a teacher’s office and book closet to each room. The second story also contained the principal’s room and supply room. The front facade of the structure exhibits simulated ashlar siding with the other sides done in clapboards, quoins are present at corners. The front pavilion entrance includes a closed pediment with dentils and a Palladian window in the gable.
In 1979, the Tapleyville School was closed for school purposes and in the summer of that year the structure was chosen by the Danvers Housing Authority for adaptive reuse for housing for the elderly. The former school remains as a housing development, architecturally significant with minor alterations which include an appropriate addition to the side of the building and a lemon yellow paint job.
One of the most ornate buildings in Danvers, MA has to be the Peabody Institute Library on Sylvan Street. Built in 1891 in the Classical Revival style, the iconic public library is set in a park of over 4 acres overlooking a pond. The library was a gift to the town of Danvers by George Peabody (1795-1869), who was born into a poor family in Massachusetts, and later went into business in dry goods and later to banking. His business took in Junius Morgan as a partner in 1854 and their joint business would go on to become J.P. Morgan & Co. after Peabody’s 1864 retirement. Now, back to the library!
The first Peabody Institute Library in Danvers was designed by Gridley J. F. Bryant and built in 1868-69; this Gothic Revival structure was destroyed by fire in 1890. The library’s trustees elected to rebuild on the same site, retaining Little & Brown (whose chief draftsman was Lester Couch, a Danvers resident) to design the replacement. The wood frame library is covered in flush-board siding to resemble masonry construction. The most character-defining features of the building include the porticos on the two main facades and large Palladian windows, evoking the early years of the Colonial Revival style.