The Turner-Ingersoll Mansion has long been accepted as an inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The House of the Seven Gables (1851). Other houses have also been given credit because of their architectural similarities. A few of these houses, like the long vanished “Old Feather Store” in Boston and Philip English House in Salem have strong claims, but the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion enjoys the distinction of being the house most closely associated with Hawthorne and the keeper of his legacy today.
But there is also a validation of the novel’s connection to the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion in the form of a primary source. In a fragment of a letter that Hawthorne wrote to Horace Connolly in May of 1840, we read the following…
“The day after the great storm in March, I went with David Roberts to make a call on the Duchess at the old house in Turner street, to learn how she weathered the gale.
I had a more than ordinary pleasant visit, and among other things, in speaking of the old house, she said that it has had in the history of its changes and alterations Seven Gables.
The expression was new and struck me very forcibly; I think I shall make something of it”
(Horace Connolly was a resident of the house, David Roberts was then Mayor of Salem, and the “Duchess” was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s nickname for his older cousin, Susanna Ingersoll.)
This letter and many others like it are available in the book, “Selected Letters of Nathaniel Hawthorne,” at our Museum Store.
This post was written by Everett Philbrook