Year built: 1668
Style: Jacobean/Post Medieval
Built for: John Turner I
The seaside mansion known as The House of the Seven Gables was built in 1668 for Captain John Turner I, the head of one of the most successful maritime families in the New England colonies. The industriousness of Turner and his descendants in the fishing, trading and mercantile businesses came to define the economy of Puritan New England and began New England’s maritime tradition.
The original part of the home featured a two-over-two floor plan around a large, central chimney. This floor plan was typical of post-medieval English dwellings. Turner’s success in business allowed him to construct two additions before his death in 1680, including the great ell that featured grand proportions, high ceilings and enormous windows.
John Turner II modernized the décor of the home in the Georgian style. Wood paneling was added to the walls of the parlor, great chamber and dining room chamber. Many of the 17th-century beams were cased in wood. All of the work was painted in the most modern of palettes. Today, these enhancements are considered some of the finest examples of high-style Georgian paneling.
Captain Samuel Ingersoll, a wealthy ship captain, purchased the property in 1782. Captain Ingersoll removed four of the gables to create a boxy Federal home more in keeping with the fashion of the time. After his death in 1804, his daughter Susanna Ingersoll inherited the property. The mansion was both her home and central to her successful business dealings in Salem. Miss Ingersoll was the second cousin of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne visited her often when he worked at the Custom House in Salem from 1845 through 1849. The appearance of the house and his cousin’s tales inspired him to write his famous novel, “The House of the Seven Gables,” in 1851.
Ingersoll’s adopted son, Horace Connolly, lost the house to creditors in 1879. The building was owned by absentee landlords until 1883. The Upton Family purchased the home and used it as both a residence and business. They were the first to offer tours of the mansion. Henry O. Upton was a well-known musician and taught dance lessons around Salem. His son, J. Henry Upton, offered lessons for the organ and piano-forte. His daughter, Henrietta, was an instructor in oratory and physical culture. Ida Upton, a well-known artist, painted a “Witch Cup” that she sold after tours at the mansion. It has been said to be “the first typical souvenir in the world.”
The Uptons sold the property after moving to the Salem Willows neighborhood. Caroline Emmerton, a philanthropist and preservationist, founded The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association to assist immigrant families who were settling in Salem in the early 20th century. Inspired by Jane Addam’s Hull House, she purchased the “old Turner Mansion” in 1908 and worked with architect Joseph Everett Chandler to restore its perceived original appearance. Chandler was a central figure in the early 20th-century historic preservation movement and his philosophy influenced the way the house was preserved.
Emmerton’s goal was to preserve the house for future generations and educate visitors, as well as to use the proceeds from the tours to fund her settlement programs for newly arriving immigrants.
Because of Emmerton, Chandler and countless supporters over the years, The House of the Seven Gables has survived with many unique architectural features intact. The house represents the legacy of Salem’s maritime wealth, the fame of Nathaniel Hawthorne and service to the Greater Salem region. The House of the Seven Gables is one of the largest timber-framed mansions in North America still on its original foundation
Year built: c.1687
Style: Jacobean/Post Medieval
Built for: John Beckett
Moved to current site: 1924
The Retire Beckett house is the oldest building on the site. It was built c.1655 by John Beckett, the first in a long line of famed Salem shipbuilders. The most well-known of these shipbuilders was Retire Beckett, for whom the home is named. The home was originally located on Beckett Street (less than a half mile from the museum campus). Caroline Emmerton had the house moved to Derby Street in 1924 to save it from demolition.
While less prolific than his forefathers, Retire Beckett’s ships were masterpieces and usually attributed with being the “first” to accomplish great feats. He built his first ship, Recovery, to visit Arabia. Cleopatra’s Barge was considered the first American yacht. The Margaret was one of the first ships to visit Japan. His ship, Mount Vernon, is best known for brazenly outrunning a French fleet and was depicted in many portraits by Salem maritime painter Michele Felicé Corné.
Today, the Museum Store occupies the first floor. While inside the building, look for “checking” or splitting in the oldest beams and note that at some point these were filled with plaster. There are two beams introduced in the modern era, probably after moving the house to this site in 1924. In the back room there are still some remnants of 18th-century paneling and a cupboard around a restored fireplace.
Year built: 1682
Style: Jacobean/Post Medieval
Built for: Benjamin Hooper
Moved to current site: 1911
The Hooper-Hathaway House is a building that was rescued through the combined efforts of Caroline Emmerton and Historic New England. Miss Emmerton purchased the house in 1911 when it demolition became a threat. She had it moved from Washington Street in Salem to its present location. Though the home was restored in the Colonial Revival style, it still retains a number of Jacobean details including an exterior overhang girt and specially preserved plaster treatments in the great hall.
The posts and beams in the great hall are an excellent example of early and unique decorative treatments. Builders spent time creating a cyma, or double-curved profile, and added a scalloped fillet, or banding. The posts and beams are also a source of debate that is still being studied. There are four posts in this room and the carved shoulders do not quite match in height or design. This led to the belief in the early part of the last century that these beams were salvaged pieces from Governor Endicott’s original home. This belief is based on the knowledge that Hooper purchased part of Endicott’s land and then built his home upon it. Court records, however, do not readily point to this conclusion. In the future, a dendrochronology study will provide science-based evidence that will determine the age of the posts and beam.
One of the most unique features of the home is the nostalgic diamond pane windows which were designed and installed after the home’s move in 1911.
Year built: 1750
Built For: Unknown
Moved to current site: 1958
The Nathaniel Hawthorne Birthplace was originally located on Union Street. It was purchased by The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association and moved to the museum campus in 1958 under the guidance of Abbott Lowell Cummings, a noted architectural historian and conservator. Unlike the high-style Georgian features in The House of the Seven Gables, the Hawthorne Birthplace is a modest example of this style.
This house is special due to the event that occurred on July 4, 1804. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the famed American novelist, was born here on that day to Elizabeth Clarke Manning and Nathaniel Hathorne. Hawthorne’s parents had grown up as neighbors and were married, much to the chagrin of his paternal grandparents. He was born, according to his older sister Elizabeth, “in the chamber over that little parlor into which we looked, in that house on Union St. It then belonged to my grandmother Hawthorne, who lived in one part of it. There we lived until 1808, when my father died, at Surinam. I remember very well that one morning my mother called my brother into her room, next to the one where we slept, and told him that his father was dead.”
After the death of her husband, Elizabeth Clarke Manning Hathorne returned to her parents’ home with her three children, a move not uncommon for widows during this period.
Year built: 1830
Built for: Unknown
Moved to current site: Unknown
The Counting House, circa 1830, is typical of the small buildings where sea captains, or “supercargoes” like Salem-native Nathaniel Bowditch, completed much of their business. This was a place to balance accounts, pay fees due and figure profit before or after a sea journey. While this building dates slightly later than the time our merchant families were active in the Triangle and China Trades, it is a prime example of a counting house from Salem.
In the summer of 2007, renovations to the Counting House opened the space to children as a maritime discovery zone called Kids’ Cove at The Gables.
The Colonial Revival seaside gardens capture the charm of four centuries of gardening in New England. The raised-bed areas of the garden are considered to be the most historically significant feature of the grounds. The patterned beds were laid out in 1909 by Joseph Everett Chandler, the architect who partnered with Caroline Emmerton on the restoration of The House of the Seven Gables. The garden was designed in a Jacobean style as an “oasis of beauty” to be enjoyed by her neighbors. Miss Emmerton was adamant about the maintenance of the grounds and set the standards practiced today.
While some plant material has changed or been replaced, the elements of enclosure, attention to detail and traditional practices remain. Under the direction of Robyn Kanter of Kanter Design Associates, hand pruning and cultivation help to retain the tradition of one of New England’s most treasured places.
Visitors are invited to relax and walk the garden paths that have been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors over the past century. Highlights include:
- Four centuries of floral color — Today the gardens represent four centuries of planting schemes. The beds are planted in a pastel and green/gray color scheme, featuring varieties of artemisia, santolina and lavender. These plants were also used for herbal remedies.
- Alyssum, ageratum, Mrs. Lawrence geranium, rocket snapdragons and blue salvia make up the center design. Early summer planting is highlighted with white fever few (matricaria), and fall planting includes chrysanthemums, impatiens, begonia and lobelia. Additional coloring is introduced with old-fashioned Colonial Revival plants such as delphinium, coral bells, sweet William (dianthus) and thyme. The overall effect is a mix of pink, white and blue, with a touch of yellow.
- The wisteria arbor — The garden’s wisteria is a variety introduced to the United States during the height of the China Trade in the 19th century and continues to be a favorite in Salem gardens. It is pruned to allow the old wood to form a knotted screen, through which you can get a glimpse of the garden. A collection of astilbe, alchemilla and lilies (featuring the rubrum lily) line the arbor.
- The rose trellis — The rose trellis is a wooden replica reproduced from the Andrew Safford Garden. The climbing rose is “New Dawn,” a delicate ever-blooming pink variety. Understory roses are the “Fairy” and “Sea Foam” varieties.
- Shrub border — Honeysuckle dominates the shrub border and is very old. Viburnums, lilacs, yew, and a Hawthorne tree round out the border.
- Lilacs — The lilacs are of great importance in the setting of The House of the Seven Gables. Perhaps Caroline Emmerton put it best when she said, “I remember the thrill that the gaunt old house gave me when I first caught sight of it. It was shrouded in lilac bushes. They loomed high above a very high fence, and above the lilacs rose the dark old house, craned by its steeply sloping roof.”
Changes to the landscape — The Retire Beckett house was brought to museum campus in 1924. It was used as a new tea house and antique shop. To accommodate the number of visitors brought about by these new attractions, the organization devised an expanded landscape. The updated plan included a wisteria arbor, raised border beds and a rose trellis. Colonial plants, such as foxglove (digitalis), canterbury bells (campanula), and hollyhocks were introduced again. In 1960, the beds were upgraded with treated spruce and boxwood hedges.
The Nathaniel Hawthorne Birthplace was moved to historic site in 1958. The entire area surrounding the house was designed by landscape gardener Dan Foley. The flower bed in front of the home contains thyme, lavender, tarragon, sweet woodruff, baptisia, statchys lanata (lambs ears), monarda (bee balm or bergamot), allium (onion relative), epidenium, achillea (yarrow) and hosta.
The elm tree in front of the Hawthorne Birthplace is extremely old and part of the original canopy. Arborists monitor the condition of this witness tree frequently.