Mack Park House

 Caretakers chronicle their adventures in historic Salem, Massachusetts

Honey, we’re home!

In October of 2014, John and Priscilla Strom moved into an elegant 1850’s fieldstone on 21 acres of land in Mack Park in Salem, MA. The home, a gift to the city by Dr. William Mack and his sister, Esther C. Mack, has not been a residence since the 1980’s. Together, the two are charged with renovating, cleaning, caring for and settling into one of the City’s greatest gifts.

John and Priscilla were married in 2013. Both attended Salem State University; John earned a BS in Geology and Priscilla, a BA in English. John is a brewer and beer manager and Priscilla works in health care as a proposal writer. They are joined in the Mack Park House by their two rescue dogs, Helga and Charlie. Priscilla and John are also members of the Salem band, Ponyfish, which performs every few weeks in and around Salem.

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Our Latest Posts

Plumbing, Springtime and Cars Driving Down Stairs!

It’s springtime in Mack Park. Want proof? Come on up and see for yourself. This past weekend, the park was full of

How Things are Coming Along

People often ask us “how things are coming along.” Here’s a pretty round-about answer for those of you who wonder: When John

This New Year in the Mack Park House

In 2015, we resolve to provide the Mack Park House with consistent, thoughtful care. The Mack Park House brought us a lot

Happy Thanksgiving from Mack Park House!

Giving Thanks Today I am thankful that Priscilla and I can call the Mack Park House home. Having the honor of living

 

Gallery of Photos.

What a beautiful place!

Strange & interesting things

Caretaking Progress

We love it here

F.A.Q.

Who built this house?

This house was built in the 1850’s by Doctor William Mack, a Salem physician, for his sister Esther C. Mack, for use as a summer home. Since we were selected to be caretakers, John has become particularly devoted to unearthing all that he can about these two people and the other subsequent people who have lived here. This house and the park have a rich and interesting history and John looks forward to sharing it with you. His weekly postings can be found in the History section.

 

How did this happen?

This is a question we get often. In August of 2013, the Salem News ran an article written by Tom Dalton titled, A Handy Man’s Dream.  The somewhat cheeky article described a zany situation: the City of Salem was seeking a caretaker to live in the house in Mack Park – a five bedroom, two bathroom, three story fieldstone complete with a marble fireplace, broken windows, missing downspouts, tired shutters, rotting wooden gutters and a beautiful overgrowth of ivy – for just $500 a month plus the cost of utilities. The home had not been a residence since the 1980’s, and was last used as a park and recreation office until 2006.

The wheels were spinning. We lived around the corner from this park. I walked my dogs there often. Sometimes I would walk right up to the house, pull back some ivy, peer into the windows and think to myself, “Geeze, what’s the story with this big old place? Why isn’t this used for anything?” I loved this house long before I ever knew that one day I’d be on the other side of the window.

John did not need convincing. We are both dreamers and usually on the lookout for a grand adventure. This one, we felt immediately, might be the grandest of all. “So, how do we make this happen?” he said.

A few days later, we attended an open house. The place was a beautiful mess – dust and dirt and signs of mice, but also really redeeming things, like floor-to-ceiling windows, elegant beamed ceilings and meticulously laid wallpaper. The turnout was impressive, and I’ll admit, I spent half the time sizing up the competition and planning our next step.

The next step was responding to the City’s RFQ (Request for Qualifications) It is a document that outlines some of the City’s requirements. Essentially, John and I needed to submit a written proposal; this document needed to summarize our intentions, but also give the City a glimpse into the kind of caretakers we intended to be. John and I knew a few things for sure – we wanted to care for the house thoughtfully and responsibly, we wanted to nurse it back to health, we wanted to share our experiences with others, and we wanted to explore the rich history of the house and the park. There was a quick turnaround for the proposal, about a week, so I had to act fast.

I should say that by profession, I am a proposal writer. I respond to RFQs/RFPs in the health care sector. This one was certainly of a different breed, but I felt so lucky to know my way around somewhat complex government documents. It also seemed like a sign – maybe this was meant to be? We submitted our proposal to City Hall, four bound copies as specified by some fine print that I ALMOST overlooked, with just hours to spare on the due date. A few weeks went by and then we heard—we had been selected for an interview.

In October of 2013, we were notified that we had been selected! Thus began a year’s worth of repairs completed by the City in order to make the home habitable – mold removal, roof repair, gutter replacement, pest control, etc. These things take time!

We moved in a year later on October 1st, and yes, we love it so far!

Can I come to Mack Park?

Yes! Mack Park, also known more historically as Ledge Hill Park, is always open to the public from sun-up to sun-down. On 21 acres of land, there are so many beautiful features in this park– two ball fields, a community garden, a playground, steep sledding hills, just to name a few. Mack Park sees a good number of visitors everyday. As one of the highest points in the City of Salem, it offers views of the City for miles.

Can I visit the House?

Since this is a new adventure, we’re considering different ways to share our experience with the community. If there is a great interest, we may be able to organize a public viewing or some other opportunities for would-be strangers to tour the Mack Park House. If this interests you, please visit the contact section of our site and send us a message. Thanks!

Do you pay to live in the Mack Park House?

Yes. We pay $500 per month plus the cost of all utilities: water, sewer, electricity, oil heat, etc. We also pay for all repairs & updates that are not deemed structural.

How long will you be staying in the Mack Park House?

We have a signed a 1 year lease with the option to renew.

Contact Us

If you have a special interest in Mack Park, a question or personal story to share, we would love to hear from you!

Address: 31 Grove Street, Mack Park, Salem MA 01915

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