Samuel McIntire

 

McIntire was the foremost architect/builder and carver working in Salem, Massachusetts, from the early 1780s until his death. Trained as a carpenter by his father, McIntire began practicing the building trade while he was still in his teens. Despite his lack of formal training, McIntire’s houses, churches, and public structures helped transformcolonial Salem into a city of neoclassical buildings. His early work was influenced by Boston’s premier architect working in the style, Charles Bulfinch (1763–1844),although McIntire’s designs were built of wood and retained conservative Georgian floor plans. Later, McIntire introduced oval rooms to his designs of brick houses,showing his familiarity with the writings of Bulfinch’s disciple, Asher Benjamin (1773–1845).Salem’s building boom was made possible by the enormous wealth of its merchant ship owners, many of whom, including Elias Hasket Derby (1739–1799), wereeager to express their material success with new houses. Derby engaged Bulfinch to design his house, but he hired McIntire to revise the plan and to construct it.McIntire’s exceptional carving skills enabled him to carve the ornamental woodwork that he designed for the interior of Derby’s house and others. Festoons, swags, bellflowers, cornucopias, grape-vines, sheaves of wheat, baskets of fruit, and urns are among the decorative motifs associated with McIntire, and these designs alsoappear on some of the most costly furniture made in the Salem area during the early Federal period. McIntire is believed to have carved a suite of furniture ordered byElizabeth Derby West (c. 1762–1814), on whose house he also worked. It is unlikely, however, that McIntire carved all of the Salem pieces that have been attributedto him over the years; with more than sixty cabinetmakers and six carvers working in Salem between 1790 and 1820, McIntire’s designs were likely appropriated byother carvers whose clients wanted pieces that reflected the decorative standard already set by McIntire.At least one figurehead and several drawings of ships’ carvings by McIntire survive. Indeed, he carved ornaments for several ships between 1802 and 1806, thoughElias Hasket Derby turned to the Skillin shop in Boston for most of his ships’ carvings. McIntire’s three-dimensional work includes eagles; an allegorical figure for the pediment of an important chest-on-chest owned by Elizabeth Derby West; and busts of Gov. John Winthrop (1588–1649), and the French writer and philosopher François Voltaire (1694–1778). McIntire’s 1792 submission for the United States Capitol competition included nineteen allegorical figures, on the roof balustrade, andtwo pediment carvings, all of which he presumably intended to carve.