The House of the Seven Gables was built by a Salem sea captain and merchant named John Turner in 1668 and occupied by three generations of the Turner family before being 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 what was the old Turner Mansion in 1908 and worked with architect Joseph Everett Chandler to restore it to its original seven gables. 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, to provide educational opportunities for visitors, and to 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 from the 17th and 18th century! This first period and Georgian architectural “fabric” is today considered significant to American architectural, maritime, and cultural history.
Over time, Emmerton and the organization’s trustees acquired and moved to the site five additional 17th, 18th and 19th century structures: The Retire Becket House (1655); The Hooper-Hathaway House (1682); Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Birthplace (c1750); The Phippen House (c1782); 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 focus on our founder’s mission of education, preservation and community service.