House for Sale: Salem, Massachusetts
If we told you that in 1629 this place became the first town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, would you be able to name it?
How about if we said that it was the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne and that he wrote his most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter, here? Still not sure?
We could add that it’s the town where, in 1935, the game Monopoly originated, or that it has the oldest candy store in America — Ye Olde Pepper Companie, established in 1806. Oh, come to think of it, it’s the town that executed 19 people for witchcraft in 1692! (Eighteen were hanged; one was pressed to death.)
OK, now most anyone would know we’re referring to the “Witch City” — Salem, Massachusetts — located on the ocean 14 miles north of Boston and recently named one of America’s top tourist destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“What’s it like living in a town known all over the world for its witches?” we wanted to know as we settled ourselves with coffee in the spacious, sunlit living room of Loretta and Randall Wieting’s (pronounced “White-ing”) nine-room, three-story Salem home. Immediately, without waiting for a response, we began dreamily gazing out the windows — and French doors — across a huge wraparound porch to the shimmering Forest River Salt Marsh beyond. It was truly a gorgeous sight.
We also marveled at the beauty of the professionally designed gardens, too, along with winding stone pathways and even a small pond. Although the property consists of only 0.8 acre, it happens to be pretty much surrounded by conservation land. So although it’s in an urban area — just off Loring Avenue (Route 1A), in fact — it feels as though it’s miles out in the country.
“Well, there are mixed feelings here in regard to all that witch stuff,” replied Loretta, “but for sure, Halloween’s a nightmare.” She went on to explain that more than 100,000 people come to Salem to celebrate that particular night.
Originally from Toronto, Canada, where she owned a florist business, Loretta met Randall, a native of nearby Marblehead and a successful Salem landscape designer and contractor, while both were on vacation in Cancún, Mexico, in 1985. They fell in love right then and there and eventually married. After Loretta sold her florist business and became a dual-country citizen, they began their life together in this Salem house, which Randall had purchased five years earlier when it was sort of a run-down two-family rental, its views obscured by overgrown shrubs. He’d recognized the potential of the setting.
So, together, over the next few years, they proceeded to transform the house, built in 1914, into what it is today. They replaced ceilings, walls, floors, and windows; installed modern full baths on each of the three floors; and put in a spanking-new kitchen complete with granite counters, which seem to be all the rage these days. They enlarged the wraparound deck and finished it with mahogany flooring — also installed on the second-floor deck off the master bedroom, an exquisite coral-painted space with French doors opening to the deck and the view. Besides all that, they made the third floor into an apartment for visitors, complete with bedroom, full bath, living area, and kitchen. While all of this interior work was going on, they cleared and landscaped the grounds.
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