Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The Historic, Hospitable, and Haunted (??) Hawthorne Hotel
Two weeks ago this coming Friday, I had occasion to make the trip up to Montserrat to drop off a few things that Amanda needed that were too big to be mailed and decided that whilst I was up that way, it might be a good time to finally stay at a place in Salem that I've been wanting to stay at for a couple of years now. Back in October of 2008, Amanda, her friend Darci, my friend Amy and myself spent a day in Salem and while there had lunch at The Tavern on the Green at the Hawthorne Hotel. After lunch was over I popped in to the lobby of the Hawthorne for a couple of pictures and got one that you can see here that seemed to have some sort of an orb up near the ceiling. In Salem, that's not at all surprising and at the Hawthorne it's even less surprising as the hotel is reported to be haunted. Given all that, is it any wonder I wanted to stay there?
Salem is a very short drive from Montserrat so after dropping off Amanda's things and taking she and one of her house-mates over to the local Stop & Shop to grab some groceries, Jamie and I made the short jaunt over to our hotel. Amanda was going to stay with us originally but she had homework and a few other things to take care of so the plan was to get together on Saturday for lunch before we came back to Connecticut.
Arriving at the Hawthorne Hotel (known locally as just the Hawthorne) around 4:00 we had no trouble finding a parking space in the lot behind the hotel reserved for guests and made our way to the lobby to check-in and get our parking pass. The Hawthorne has an absolutely beautiful lobby that is filled with overstuffed couches and chairs along with beautiful flowers, bookshelves filled with old books, ornate mirrors, and other furnishings that give you the sense that you've stepped back a bit in time to when the hotel originally opened.
And just when was the hotel originally opened? I'm glad you asked! Back in the 1920s, the citizens of Salem established a rather unusual public subscription drive to build "Salem's own hotel to meet the needs of Salem, its guests and visitors..." Upon completion of the construction in 1925, the city held all sorts of events to celebrate the grand opening of the hotel that began with a parade on July 21st and concluded on the 23rd when the Hawthorne Hotel opened its doors for business.
The hotel was named for Nathanial Hawthorne, Salem's favorite native son who was born there on July 4th, 1804 to Nathaniel Hathorne and Elizabeth Clarke Manning Hathorne. He later changed his name to "Hawthorne" by adding a "w" in what was believed to be an attempt to dissociate himself from his great-great grandfather John Hathorne who was a judge during the Salem Witch Trials and the only to never repent of his actions during that dark and deadly time.
In 1846, Hawthorne was appointed by his former Bowdoin College classmate and friend President Franklin Pierce to the position of "Surveyor for the District of Salem and Beverly and Inspector of the Revenue for the Port of Salem" and he and his wife and three children moved back to Salem where, in 1849, he penned his classic "The Scarlet Letter". The preface of the book refers to his three-year tenure in the Custom House at Salem and, as one of the very first mass-produced books in America, it sold 2,500 volumes within ten days making it a bestseller and beginning Hawthorne's lucrative career as a writer.
Needless to say, Salem liked Hawthorne - they really, really liked him! - so it seemed a natural choice to name their new hotel after him. Plus doesn't the name alone make it sound like a really nice place to stay?
Now then, as for the Hawthorne being possibly haunted, my research indicated that the hotel was built on property that reportedly was once an apple orchard which was owned by Bridget Bishop, the first woman executed during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Guests have often reported a pungent apple smell in the hotel with no apparent explanation.
In addition, the Salem Marine Society, founded in 1766, moved its building to the spot that would one day be where the Hawthorne would stand. The Society and the hotel struck a deal wherein the Society was allowed to build a new meeting spot on top of the hotel after the old society building was torn down and the hotel was constructed. Built as a replica of the cabin of the East India Trade ship the Taria Topan, the faux cabin acts as both a meeting place for the Society as well as a museum of their past. It's been said that ghosts of sea captains continue to gather at the site and wander the building while making noise and moving objects around.
Our room, though, was neither of those rooms but instead a very nice room located on the 5th floor - room 526. When I called the hotel to make our reservations for the night, I certainly didn't request overnight accommodations in one of their haunted rooms but instead asked for a room with a view of something other than the back parking lot! My guess is the "haunted rooms" probably have waiting lists at least a year or two long so even if I had wanted to live a little more dangerously, I'm pretty sure I couldn't have done it on such short notice!
The Hawthorne has 93 rooms and suites that are furnished with reproduction pieces of 18th-century furniture that most definitely have a New England feel to them. Our room was called a Derby room and it was very spacious with two very comfortable queen-size beds and not just one bathroom but a full bath and a half, a very nice added convenience!
The view from our windows was that of the Andrew-Safford House, a Federal-style home which was built in 1819 and is now owned by the Peabody Essex Museum as well as part of the Salem Common. As the windows in the room opened, as well as the screens, it was easy to get a few pictures of the surrouding area - though I rather like the one that I took through the screen, too!
After getting settled in our room and checking out the amenities that the hotel had to offer, Jamie and I took a little walk around Salem and then later came back to the hotel to have dinner at The Tavern on the Green, where I had eaten once before. Nathaniel's is also located in the hotel but that seemed to be a bit more upscale than what Jamie and I required for an evening meal. The Tavern on the Green is quite nice in that there are large overstuffed chairs that you can relax in while you're dining and in season there's a fire glowing in the big fireplace that makes the oak-paneled room even cozier. Unfortunately, there was no fire burning the night we were there but the ambience was still very nice - though too dark to really take pictures of so I left the camera alone and just enjoyed my meal!
We had originally planned to go out and do some after-dark exploring of Salem but following dinner and dessert (and definitely the pumpkin ale that I had), Jamie and I decided that a nice quiet evening in our room sounded like a better idea so we went back upstairs and watched a little TV before calling it a night around 11:30. Not being a very light sleeper, I did wake up several times during the night but I can't say that anything felt strange at all or unusual. There were no shadowy figures standing by the window or mists drifting along the walls or unexplained noises or anything else that I could tell so I can probably state with some confidence that room #526 is not at all haunted. Beautiful - yes, haunted - no! Which is probably a good thing as even though I like to think I wouldn't be afraid of any ghosts, I rather doubt I'd have had an easy time getting back to sleep if I actually did see something!
The next day dawned sunny and bright and I decided to treat us to a nice room service breakfast being that Jamie had never had room service before and it had been a really, really long time since I had - as a matter of fact, it was long before Jamie was even born! Also, I just love those little ketchup and jam bottles - they're just so cute! We both ordered eggs with corned beef hash that also came with home fries and toast and either tea or coffee and juice. The price wasn't horrible for a room service meal either which made it even more pleasant to casually dine in our room!
Check-out time was at 11:00 so before we made our way downstairs I wrote out the complimentary postcard that was in our room because I really wanted to mail something out via the old-fashioned mailbox that is located in the lobby between the two elevators. After buying a stamp at the Reception Desk I dropped it in to send it on its way; I hope it got to its intended destination in Orlando!
All in all, I would have to say that we really enjoyed our stay at the Hawthorne. It's located in probably THE best spot in Salem within walking distance of many of Salem's attractions, the staff is very courteous and professional, the food was quite excellent, and the atmosphere made me feel like I stepped back in to when life was a bit more relaxed and gentile. Being somewhat of a history lover, it's probably pretty certain that I'm really going to like staying anywhere that's a member of the Historic Hotels of America but I really don't think you'd have to be a history lover to love the Hawthorne or even a wannabe ghost hunter!
Should you wish to see more of the pictures that I took, click over to the Hawthorne Hotel set on my Flickr page and check them out. Obviously I couldn't put them all in this post but I do like to share - especially if there's a chance you might think about staying at the Hawthorne yourself.
Hmmm ... now then ... I wonder how far in advance I need to make reservations for room #325 or #612??
*Added note: in email conversations with Juli, the General Manager of the Hawthorne, she told me - "There is one thing that keeps surfacing on the Internet that is just plain wrong. The stuff about the Hotel being built on Bishop’s apple orchard is a mix-up that someone did a while back, and has no basis in fact. Now it surfaces everywhere as “the truth” and I have no idea how to stop it. There has never been anyone who has smelled apples in the Hawthorne Hotel to my knowledge. Ghost Hunters said that about The Lyceum, and it was on the same show as the Hawthorne, so I suspect that is how it happened. ... no one has ever proved that there is anything haunted about the Hawthorne Hotel. Maybe you will be the first?"