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Her story

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Standing on the site of Browne House, The Dowager Countess is a Second Empire Victorian that was built for James Trefren, Jr. a clothing manufacturer, his wife, Hannah Osgood Norris Trefren Jr., and their 8 children. Born September 30, 1820, James had a colorful life. He was Overseer of the cloth room of the Naumkeag Cotton Mills for many years, Deacon in the Central Congregational Church in Lynn,  MA, member of the State Guard of Manchester, Rockingham Co., NH which volunteered for duty in the Mexican War. A recruiting officer in the Civil War, in which he enlisted 3 times. A 2nd Sergeant in the Salem Light Infantry he was also at various times a trader, worked for a shoe manufacturer, a peddler, traveling salesman (Wilimantic Thread Co.), grocer, and sewing machine salesman. Both James and Hannah are buried in the Harmony Grove Cemetary in Salem, plot 223. 


With its characteristic mansard roof and symmetrically arranged facade, the 4,500 square foot house is a slice-in-time example of mid-nineteenth century architectural style. The recessed center hall entry features an open portico supporting a paneled second-story bay window. Across the south facade is a full-width porch with open brackets and decorative railing. Exterior details include wood flush boarding on the front facade, wood clapboard, second-story drip cap moldings, pedimented dormer, and paired cornice brackets, and 3rd-floor rooftop deck. Located just off the Salem Common, the house was owned by banker Charles Odell from 1879 to 1910. 


New ownership in 2019 brought many changes. The house needed structural reinforcement, a new electrical system, a new roof, new 3rd floor deck, new insulation, and new subfloor in part of The Violet Suite and all of The Garret. And that was just the infrastructure. So much had to be replaced that it presented an opportunity to optimize and modernize the house into The Dowager Countess. Watch this space and our Instagram feed for how the transformation occurred. Upcoming projects include exterior porch replacement, clapboard, and trim repairs, and full exterior painting. 

Thank you!

The Dowager Countess is a work in progress,

made possible by the generosity, kindness, good humor, and talent of so many souls, including:

Jono Atkins
Paul  Bergonzi

Boston Solar
Alexander Budesky
Jane Carroll
Rick, Katia & JJ  Diamon
Lily Eisermann
Facebook Marketplace :)
Jan & John Goff
Hanscom Federal Credit Union

Brian Hardy

Galen Hartwell
Violet Hartwell
Derek  Hayhurst
Marci Hennessey
Finn, Fergus & Watson Hennessey
Kim Indresano

Charlie Knight
Mary Beth & Rosie Knight

Laura Le Blanc

Ian Lynch

Marblehead Animal Shelter

Joyce & Dennis Maroney

John McDonald
Tyler Mitchel

Newburyport Credit Union
Mary O’Donnell
David Pabich

Dave Privatera
Jim & Lois Pott

Raul Ramirez
Gregory Ramsey
Ryan Robinson
Shimon Avish & Chris Ross
Melissa & Michael Rutstein
Ann & Gus Sousa
The Feline Hospital
Lynn Turner
Amy VanDoren
Luke Welling

Christine Williams 

Your hosts


Morgan & Merlin

Welcome to our historic home,

that we call The Dowager Countess.

Salem is an incredibly special

and magical place! Before we came here we were nomads.

Please be nice to our staff.

They try.


Richard Eisermann

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Margaret Hartwell

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