In 2000 Historic Salem called out the Wendt House at 18 Crombie Street (built in 1770 moved to the site in 1830) as “Endangered” due to the attempts by the company that owned the building to demolish it; their desire being to make way for 7 parking spaces. When permission was denied to demolish (it is protected inside the boundaries of the Salem Redevelopment Authority) the company left the building abandoned and neglected, satisfied to let the slow workings of weather and trespassers level the structure.
This small house has loose ties to Nathaniel Hawthorne and President Franklin Pierce and strong ties to Salem’s abolitionists and the “Shoreline” branch of the Underground Railroad. While in appearance it is just a small house on a small street it reminds us that each house has a story to tell. This building is a rare surviving example of a colonial period vernacular house in Salem's central business district. In contrast to the grand scale and high style of Salem's famous Georgian and Federal mansions, the diminutive size and setting of this properly is deceptive, causing it to be easily overlooked and underestimated. In fact, compact closely spaced workers houses of this type dominated 18th century Salem and the historical significance of the City's now more numerous surviving mansions cannot be fully understood without recognizing their common and traditional counterparts, such as 18 Crombie Street. Today, only three other comparable houses remain in Salem's central business district (See NR Nomination form, item 7, pp. 2-3). As 18 Crombie Street was decaying neighbors sought assistance from organizations including the City of Salem, Historic Salem, Inc. and North Shore CDC. In addition to Historic Salem’s Endangered List the the house was named to the statewide Endangered List. While the property owners faced multiple years of legal battles, attempting to demolish the house, the neighbors would surreptitiously clean up the yard as they fought to maintain the residential nature of their street. Advocacy for 18 Crombie Street was a unifying action for many groups in the city. Finally, in a negotiated settlement facilitated by then City Solicitor, John Keenan, the city exchanged the right to use 5/6 parking spaces on Holyoke Square in perpetuity (during business hours only) for the house at 18 Crombie St. (Read a full report of advocacy work here) Once no longer Endangered the house was soon “Saved” through a restoration and updating by Habitat For Humanity and granted to a local family. This was Habitat’s first historic rehabilitation on the North Shore.
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Founded in 1944, Historic Salem Inc. is dedicated to the preservation of historic buildings and sites.