Our American story starts in 1668, when The House of the Seven Gables was built by a Salem sea captain and merchant named John Turner. Three generations of the Turner family lived in the seaside mansion before it was sold to Captain Samuel Ingersoll in 1782. An active captain during the Great Age of Sail, Ingersoll died at sea leaving the property to his daughter Susanna, a cousin of famed author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne’s visits to his cousin’s home are credited with inspiring the setting and title of his 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables.
Caroline Emmerton, a philanthropist, and preservationist, founded the present-day museum to assist immigrant families who were settling in Salem. Inspired by Jane Addam’s Hull House, she purchased the old Turner Mansion in 1908 and worked with architect Joseph Everett Chandler to restore it to its perceived appearance from the 1600s.
Emmerton’s goal was to preserve the house for future generations, provide educational opportunities for visitors, and, use the proceeds from the tours to fund her settlement programs. Thanks to Emmerton and Chandler, the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, known popularly as The House of the Seven Gables, has survived with many of its original period features spanning four centuries of American architectural history.
Over time, Emmerton and the organization’s trustees acquired and moved to the site five additional structures with historic significance: The Retire Becket House (c.1655); The Hooper-Hathaway House (1682); Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Birthplace (c. 1750); The Phippen House (c. 1782); and The Counting House (c . 1830). Today, The House of the Seven Gables’ campus constitutes its own national historic district on The National Register of Historic Places.
In the last century, The House of the Seven Gables has continued to be a welcoming, thriving, historic site and community resource that engages people of all backgrounds in our inclusive American story.