We treasure our historic buildings in Salem. We love taking them in as we stroll by on foot, imagining them in their original context. The public spaces and passageways that allow us this experience are an integral part of what defines cities. Throughout history it has been the cities that have contained spaces that are the least presumptive about who should be there and what they are doing – spaces that truly embody what it means to be public. The porous boundaries of public spaces allow people to come and go without having to announce themselves or their intentions either formally or by their dress and demeanor. These are the vital interstices of the built environment: open plazas, squares, parks and other green spaces, promenades--and even ordinary streets and their sidewalks.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the Lewis Hunt House, one of Salem’s lost architectural treasures, is that it survived long enough to be photographed. The two-and-a-half story first period house stood on the corners of Washington and Lynde Streets until it was razed in 1863. The house was built on land acquired by Capt. Lewis Hunt in 1698. Hunt was a mariner and surviving records show that he captained the ketch Industry to St. Kitts in 1687 and the brigantine Adventure to Barbados in 1713.
The house remained in the Hunt family for five generations. It passed to William Hunt (1701-1780), a mariner and merchant, then to his oldest son, Deacon Lewis Hunt (1746-1797), a baker. After Deacon Lewis Hunt’s death, his two oldest daughters, Eunice and Sarah, sold the property to their brother, William. William died ten years later, and in 1823, William’s only child, Lewis Hunt III died in an accident at the age of 18. The house was then owned Eunice’s son John Russell, Jr., who sold the property to his sister, Sarah Orne Russell, in 1863. It was Sarah, living in the gambrel-roofed house to the north of the Lewis Hunt House, who had the old structure built by her great-great grandfather torn down.