Last weekend we walked to Chestnut Street for a tour of the Phillips House Museum. The event, called “Behind the Canvas”, detailed some of the artwork collected by the Phillips family and hung in the home, displayed in the same places enjoyed by the family in the late 19th century and early 20th century house. It was a unique way of hearing about the art while also learning the historic context of the places it was hung, imagining the thought that went into the art choice and placement of the pieces.
Anna Phillips inherited the Venice inspired work below upon the death of her Aunt Anna Peabody. The piece is prominently displayed in the front parlor of the home where guests would be entertained with music and conversation. The tour guide offered the hypothesis that this particular art was left to Anna because of her love for travel. She was a woman of means who had travelled extensively and took several trips to Venice. Marco and I can relate as we have an original work in our dinning room from our favorite city of Verona.
I’m reading “The Death of an Empire: The Rise and Murderous Fall of America’s Richest City” by Robert Booth, a book about Salem’s illustrious shipping past and its decline. I enjoy walking the streets of Salem, imagining the scenes from these pages. As we walked home from Chestnut Street, along Essex Street, I recounted to Marco and Matteo the opening day and celebration of the East India Marine Hall, now a part of the Peabody Essex Museum, just next door to where we live. The President, John Quincy Adams, walked down Essex Street with other local politicians and prominent merchants and business leaders to inaugurate this building as a symbol of success and world trade.
A landscape by Emilio Sanchez Perrier:
Part of the extensive library collection:
A Walker & Pratt Stove c. 1880:
Our own home is a condominium constructed in a 1903 building that housed the court-house and police station for Salem until the 1980’s. We know from the several tours that stop by our front door that Harry Houdini performed one of his famous escapes from this site. We sometimes imagine the lives affected by the trials that took place in the space we inhabit. All around us we walk the paths of those who have come before as we forge new trails.