Then & Now: Tasty Memories
In a building older than the country, the recent memories are tasty.
This former mansion has changed over the years, but now resembles the original more than what most of us remember.
Does it look familiar? Look at the second vintage photo for its recent appearance.
Built around 1760 for the wealthy merchant, Timothy Orne, this Georgian mansion’s solidarity mirrored his career as one of Salem’s merchant princes. Taking after his father, Captain Timothy Orne, he too followed the maritime trade becoming a merchant by fielding a fleet of ships to far flung ports. During his career, he owned some 50 ships that mainly traded in the West Indies and Europe while also supplying fish for trade from his fishing fleet.
It’s easy to imagine Orne standing on the roof walk of his mansion watching for his ships to come into port a few blocks away. He probably could clearly see the owners’ flags unfurling from the masts as they made their way to wharves along the South River.
In addition to his shipping, he insured most Salem ships amassing a fortune that rivaled Derby. While pursuing wealth on the seas, he was also a force on land in Salem where he was a founding member of a number of organizations including Salem’s first library established in 1760.
He also was elected a selectman for the town in 1754. Orne and his wife, Rebecca, had eight children. After his death in 1767, the house remained in the family for many years into the 1820s. In the 1840s, Dr. William Richardson and his family lived here. In the 1860s, the Harrington family lived here and for many years the building was referred to as the Harrington Block.
As Salem grew, this section of Essex Street, between Washington and North Streets, which had been residential for its first centuries, gradually became part of the business center and dwellings were
replaced by stores and new commercial buildings.
The early photograph shows the house at 266 Essex St. before it was converted into commercial space in the late 19th century. The 1908 Salem Atlas shows the building housing a bakery. Over the next decades, the house had one or two stores operating on the ground floor.
In the 1920s, there was a dentist office and a milliner on the premises. In the mid 30s, Chutes confectionary with their popular candies and ice cream saloon became a mainstay on the street.
Some older readers may recall Chute’s, which remained popular up unitil the early 1950s when they were bought out by O.L Bowman & Sons Meats and Bakery, which opened in 1954. Bowman’s continued to be listed as a meats and bakery store until 1976 when it was listed as Bowman’s Home Bakery which it continued to operate until 2000.
The above photo of Bowman’s Bakery should bring back memories to many. I’m sure a majority of readers recall this building as Bowman’s
Bakery, which operated for most of a generation of Salemites. It is Bowman’s that provides many of us with sweet memories of cakes, muffins and pastries freshly made along with coffee before the explosion of coffee and donut chains.
I especially remember their muffins and pastries. This was the place to go after my children’s swimming lessons at the Y. It was a very
popular spot to go mornings where one could sit at a table and have coffee and, of course, a pastry. While there was much alteration to the building over the years, it still retained some of its features hidden away under siding.
Over the years when there were two retail units here, the other unit housed a number of different businesses from dentists to tailors and
A few of the tenants readers may recall were: Connelly’s Candies and Pitt Dental. Dr. Keach and Dr. Springer’s had their dental practices here as well as Richard Len TV; Buck’s Hat shop; Taylor Millinery and Jaynes Tailors. Even a card reader operated here from 1940-1945 -- that reader apparently saw the future of Salem well, although a bit early.
In 2004, D.L. Cote & Company took on the task of restoring this and converting the building to a mixed use of commercial and residential units. After many challenges due to the age of the structure, they
produced two retail stores and four residential units. The restoration and design makes it easy to see the house as Timothy Orne’s residence before the birth of the United States. The modern photographs show the similarities as well as differences with the
original building. Knowing how much the building had been altered over its 250 plus years, it’s quite a testimony to modern restoration skills.
The current commercial tenants are the Barking Cat, a pet emporium and Sorrentino and Associates, counseling services.
An interesting note is that this building is one of two residential structures still standing on this section of Essex Street between Washington and North Streets.
Can you name the other one?