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A home with some Salem witch trials history is up for sale

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John Proctor House
The John Proctor House. Courtesy, Paul Aquipel / J Barrett & Company

Many may recognize the name John Proctor from learning about the Salem witch trials or watching “The Crucible,” the 1950s play turned into a popular 1996 movie in which Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Proctor.

But few may know that the Proctor family home still stands in present-day Peabody, and that home is currently up for sale.

Listed at $600,000, the six-bedroom, two-bathroom house at 348 Lowell St. features Colonial-era charm, according to real estate agent Joseph Cipoletta, of J Barrett & Company, with many historic features intact and maintained by the Raponi family, the current owners.

How much of the home John Proctor actually lived in, and operated a tavern in, isn’t exactly known, according to curator Kelly Daniell of the Peabody Historical Society.

While the current residence definitely sits on the land Proctor and his family farmed and operated their business on, the structure could have part of the original home inside, or, perhaps, it was rebuilt on that original foundation, Daniell said.

Some testing of the house indicates that it was built after Proctor’s death, she said, but in-depth testing hasn’t been done because the home has been privately owned.

“For it to come on the market, it was very uncommon,” Daniell said. “We were really excited.”

The historical society is one of the interested buyers, she confirmed.

A snapshot of John Proctor’s life

Roughly 30 years before John Proctor was accused of witchcraft and hanged during the trials, he was a successful tavern owner and farmer, Daniell said.

Proctor actually didn’t own his home or farm — he began leasing it in the 1660s and applied for his tavern license in 1666. The farm itself was 700 acres and lay within what was then “Salem Village,” before the area split off to become Peabody.

“He and his third wife (Elizabeth) ran a successful tavern up until the witch trials,” Daniell said.

While Lowell Street is a major artery through downtown Peabody today, back then the tavern was a “main stop” on what was Ipswich Road.

“It was in a pretty prominent place, even in the 1690s,” Daniell said.

But the father of 17 would end up one of the 20 executed during the hysteria of the witch trials.

Proctor was hanged on Aug. 19, 1692. Elizabeth Proctor was also condemned to death, but was spared since she was pregnant, according to Daniell.

The trials stripped the family of its wealth.

The aftermath of the trials

After his father’s death, Thorndike Proctor took on the family’s financials and eventually made the government pay back a portion of the money from the goods lost during the trials, Daniell said.

The family also bought Proctor’s Ledge, the place where Proctor was hanged that recently had a memorial built by the city, she said. 

For about two centuries after Proctor’s death, his descendants lived on the farm. Eventually, the house and farm were sold, Daniell said, sometime in the mid- to late-1800s. Since then, the home has passed through different owners’ hands.

“It hasn’t had that many owners,” she said. “Historically, that’s unusual. Property changes hands frequently, especially ones right on Lowell Street.”

Currently, the property is owned by the Raponi family.

The late Vincent Raponi Sr. and his wife, Marion, bought the home in the 1960s and preserved many of the home’s historical elements. Marion Raponi just passed away earlier this week, Daniell said.

“They absolutely were the best caretakers,” she said.

Present day

Cipoletta said he purposely waited until October to put the Proctor home on the market, considering the tourism traffic and interest the month of Halloween brings to Salem and to the witch trials history.

An open house this past weekend drew some who were just interested in seeing the inside, he said.

As of Tuesday, around 36,000 people had viewed the property listing online, and, considering the amount of shares its received on Facebook, “that would be a record for me,” Cipoletta said.

Inquiries on the property have come from as close as the Peabody Historical Commission and Salem Witch Museum to as far away as people emailing from England.

“It has been maintained practically as a museum by the current owner, who went far and beyond to maintain the home’s authentic, first-period feel,” Cipoletta said.

From private to public?

Former Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti, who currently sits on the city’s historical commission, said if there were to be a public offer on the property, the money could come from a mix of the commission and the historical society, plus grants and community preservation act dollars.

“We are looking at if it’s financially feasible to purchase the John Proctor House,” he said.

If that did come to be, Daniell said there would be opportunities to do more research on the home, plus archaeological digs on the grounds.

“The house itself is an artifact,” she said.