Open Daily 10 A.M. – 6 P.M. • Advanced tickets are strongly recommended.

Organization History


Our American story starts in 1668, when Salem sea captain and merchant John Turner I and his wife Elizabeth built The House of the Seven Gables. 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. Eventually the property was left 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 nonprofit as a museum and Settlement House to assist immigrant families arriving in Salem. Inspired by Jane Addam’s Hull House, she purchased the Turner-Ingersoll 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 five additional structures with historic significance to the site: The Retire Becket House (c. 1687); The Hooper-Hathaway House (c. 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.

For more than a century, The House of the Seven Gables has been a welcoming, thriving, historic site and community resource that engages people of all backgrounds in our inclusive American story.

Caroline Emmerton

About Our Founder Caroline Emmerton

Caroline Osgood Emmerton was born on April 21, 1866 in Salem, Mass. Emmerton grew up in a city that was transitioning from its past as a major shipping port to its future as a manufacturing center for both textiles and the leather industry. George Emmerton, Caroline’s father, worked in the growing chemical industry. The Salem that Caroline grew up in was the Salem of “The Gilded Age,” when advances in machinery led to economic growth, waves of immigration, and tension around class inequality. These trends influenced Emmerton’s career choice later in life.

Emmerton’s family valued community service. Her grandfather, Captain John Bertram, gave $25,000 in 1873 to build Salem Hospital. His heirs donated his mansion on Essex Street to Salem to be the public library. Her mother, Jennie Bertram Emmerton, was well known for her charitable work with the Salem Society for Higher Education for Women and the Old Ladies’ Home. When Jennie Emmerton died in 1912, her obituary read: “She was the richest woman in Salem, well known for her charitable disposition and ever ready to extend a helping hand to those who were desirous of helping themselves, and to those who were unable to help themselves.”

Emmerton herself was a board member at the Carpenter Street Home, a shelter for orphaned children, and at The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now known as Historic New England. Emmerton was a founder of the Salem Fraternity, the first Boys and Girls Club to be established in Massachusetts.

Caroline Emmerton purchased the Turner-Ingersoll mansion in 1908. Soon after, she hired Joseph Everett Chandler (1864-1942), one of the most prominent Colonial Revival architects in New England, whose restoration of Boston’s Paul Revere House (1680) proved his abilities. Emmerton and Chandler restored the mansion from its early 1900s appearance to its perceived original appearance in 1668. Some parts of the restoration and interpretation were influenced by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literary classic, The House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne was a visitor to the house in the mid-nineteenth century and Emmerton knew this story would draw visitors. The House of the Seven Gables opened to the public in April 1910 and has seen millions of visitors since.

After restoring the Turner-Ingersoll mansion, Emmerton continued to focus on saving threatened Salem buildings. She purchased and saved The Hooper-Hathaway House (c. 1682) and moved it to its current location in 1911. She did the same with the Retire Becket House (c. 1687) and moved it in 1924. Today’s museum campus reflects Emmerton’s generosity and dedication to preservation.

Emmerton used ticket and store sale proceeds from the museum to fund The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association. In the late 1800s/early 1900s, the settlement house movement was seen as the progressive method to help newly arriving immigrant families adapt to life in their new cities. Settlement houses offered a variety of services including classes, medical care, and recreational opportunities.

In Salem, the first settlement house was run by the YMCA. By 1908, the YMCA settlement programming took place in the Seaman’s Bethel at the bottom of Turner Street where The Gables’ seaside lawn is today. The Bethel was a church for sailors associated with the Young Men’s Bethel Society that formed in the 1820s. In 1908, Emmerton assumed responsibility for the settlement house. She said the offerings included, “sewing…and some of the other handicrafts, dancing and gymnasium work.”

Emmerton expanded the programs and services of the settlement house to the point that they exceeded the capacity of the Seaman’s Bethel. When Emmerton learned that the neighboring Turner-Ingersoll Mansion was up for sale, she purchased it as the settlement’s practical and collective center.

Emmerton wrote of her choice: “If, as is generally conceded, the settlements do the best Americanization work, should not this settlement excel whose home is the ancient House of Seven Gables, the foundations of which were laid by the first immigrants who came here long ago, strangers in a strange land?”

Residents in the surrounding Derby Street neighborhood were the primary beneficiaries of the settlement house. The area was an enclave for Eastern European immigrants, especially from Poland and Russia. Other communities served by Emmerton’s work included the Irish, Italian, Syrian, and African.

The Boston Sunday Post wrote of Caroline Emmerton’s restoration of The House of the Seven Gables in 1910: “…Miss Emmerton did not intend it only for a showpiece or a literary shrine, and so she is to turn it into a settlement house for social uplift work.” From the beginning, the two diverse goals of preservation and social work have been central to Emmerton’s organization.

After Caroline Emmerton’s death in March 1942, The Salem Evening News called Emmerton “one of Salem’s Best Beloved Citizens” and noted that she “gave freely of her time and money for the benefit of underprivileged children and adults, winning the admiration and respect of the entire community.”

Emmerton’s legacy can be traced across the city of Salem. Her grave is in Harmony Grove Cemetery. Her birth house still stands on Summer Street and her home as an adult can still be seen today on Essex Street. The mark of her generous spirit can be found at the Women’s Friend Society on Hawthorne Boulevard and at Plummer Youth Promise on Winter Island.

The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association remains one of about 50 settlement houses that still operate in the United States. Caroline Emmerton’s organization has survived for over a century and will continue to help generations of immigrant families.

If you’d like to learn more about Caroline Emmerton, her work, and her views, please visit our ARCHIVES page.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

About Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Mass. on July 4, 1804 to Elizabeth Manning and Capt. Nathaniel Hathorne. The family lived on Union Street in Salem until 1808, when his father died of yellow fever at sea. After his death, Nathaniel, his mother, and two sisters—Elizabeth, and Maria Louisa—moved into the Manning family home on Herbert Street.

At age 9, Hawthorne injured his leg and was confined to the home for two years. It was during this time that he developed a love of books and reading. At age 14, the family left Salem for Raymond, Maine, but Hawthorne would return just one year later to begin his preparation for college entrance. In 1821, he was admitted to Bowdoin College. His classmates included Franklin Pierce and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He graduated in 1825 and moved back to Salem. It is then that he starts to visit his cousin Susanna at the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, which would later be the backdrop for his famed novel, The House of the Seven Gables.

Hawthorne worked a number of jobs while also focusing on publishing his early works. In 1828, his first novel, Fanshawe was published anonymously at his own expense. He later recalled the book and dramatically burned the copies. Nearly 10 years later, Twice-Told Tales was published.

In 1837, he would meet his future wife Sophia Amelia Peabody. Sophia and her sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, would prove to be influential for the rest of Hawthorne’s life and career. In 1839, he received his first political appointment as a “weigher and gauger” at the Boston Custom House. During this time he also published The Gentle Boy and Grandfather’s Chair.

Hawthorne was influenced by the growing popularity of Transcendentalism. In 1841, he joined Brook Farm in West Roxbury and in 1842 moved into the Old Manse in Concord with Sophia. His friends and neighbors included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Bronson Alcott.

By 1846, the Hawthorne family was living back in Salem with Una (1844) and Julian (1846). Hawthorne is appointed a surveyor at the Salem Custom House. It was during this time that he would begin to write The Scarlet Letter—his first critically acclaimed success in publishing.

After the book’s publication in 1850, the Hawthorne family would leave Salem once again for Lenox, Mass. It is here that his relationship with Herman Melville would blossom. While living in Lenox, Hawthorne wrote A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys as well as the famed Gothic novel, The House of the Seven Gables.

Nathaniel and Sophia welcomed their final child, Rose in 1851. In 1852, The Blithedale Romance, which focused on his days at Brook Farm, was published as well as a presidential biography for his longtime friend, Franklin Pierce. Hawthorne’s literary success affords him the opportunity to purchase the Alcotts’ house in Concord which he renames “The Wayside.”

In 1853, Hawthorne was appointed the American Consul to England. He lived in Liverpool for four years and kept a journal related to his travels and observations in England. When his appointment was complete, he toured Italy. His reflections on these travels were published in his fictional work, The Marble Faun. Around the time of publication, the Hawthorne family returned to The Wayside.

Hawthorne continued to write into his later years, including a report about his 1862 visit to Washington D.C. in which he met President Lincoln and visited the Civil War Battlefields in Virginia. His final publication was Our Old Home (1863) which was a series of essays about England and Anglo-American relations. In 1864, Hawthorne traveled to New Hampshire with President Franklin Pierce. He died on May 19 and is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, MA.

You can also follow the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society. The Nathaniel Hawthorne Society is dedicated to the global study and appreciation of the life and works of Hawthorne.