The House of the Seven Gables: A Museum Inspired by American Literature and the Settlement House Movement of the 19th Century

Young girls learning English language skills in Settlement ProgramCaroline Emmerton's Settlement program to help transition immigrant children to American cultureYoung immigrant boys learning carpentry skills in Settlement program

In the early 1900s, Salem witnessed an influx of immigrants, mostly of Polish and Eastern European descent.  Recognizing the need for social services for the new Americans, Caroline O. Emmerton began a Settlement program to support and assist these new immigrants in their transition into American life and culture.  Using Jane Addams’ Hull House in Chicago as her model, Emmerton’s Settlement program focused on English language skills, vocational training, homemaking, nutrition, well-baby care, and early childhood education for the newly arriving immigrants and their children.  Plays, pageants, and historical reenactments provided an understanding of American history and Salem’s place in the founding of the nation.  For new immigrants, enrolling in these classes and programs meant making their way towards a better life in a new community.

House of Seven Gables upholds the tradition of local community service since 1910To accomplish her social service work, Emmerton purchased the House of the Seven Gables, also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, to generate revenue for her work.  She purchased the house in 1908 and worked with historic preservation architect Joseph Chandler to transform the structure into a prime example of Colonial Revival architecture reflecting the tale outlined in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The House of the Seven Gables.  Tourists flocked to The Gables to see the mansion and to learn more about Hawthorne and his life in Salem.  Over the next 20 years, Emmerton purchased and restored more historic properties, adding to the site a collection of 17th, 18th, and 19th century structures.

Caroline Emmerton’s effect on Salem is still apparent today, and her commitment to community service remains an important part of our mission more than a century after its founding.  Her selfless philanthropic work and commitment to the community earned her the honor of being named “Person of the Century” by The Salem Evening News in 1999.

The House of the Seven Gables and its Trustees have recently reaffirmed Emmerton’s visionary settlement model to better address the needs of the community in the 21st century.  Today’s focus is on youth from immigrant communities and their families.

Below is a summary of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association’s most recent programs and partnerships that fall under our Settlement programming banner:


Caribbean Connections – A summer enrichment program that aims to help Salem students and their families discover the untold stories and the hidden connections between Salem and the Caribbean. In 2016 the program consisted of five weeks of programming, July 5th through August 5th, and it served 20 students. Caribbean Connections first came into being in 2012, thanks to a partnership with Essex National Heritage Commission, which had been awarded an ABI (America’s Best Idea) grant from the National Park Foundation. At that time, the program targeted middle school students in Salem, offering them a chance to learn, in Spanish, about their heritage and historical connections between Salem and the Caribbean.  The emphasis on the shared cultural and historical connection between the Caribbean and Northeast regions continues, inviting parents as wellCharlot Lucien Photo as students to think critically about their role in this evolving history as new residents of the United States.

Pathways to Citizenship: The Gables offers English-as-a-Second Language and Citizenship classes to adults eager to learn English and those aspiring to become American citizens. The classes are held at Salem Academy Charter School in Salem, MA.  In recent years, The Gables has also hosted naturalization ceremonies on the Gables lawn to local residents who have completed the program, as well as to new citizens from the Boston area.  This is done in collaboration with USCIS – United States Citizenship & Immigration Services.

Immigration Conversations:  The Gables presented a series of five Community Conversations on the topic of immigration.  We are currently planning five more community dialogues on this topic next year.

Settlement Partnerships:  We awarded partnership grants to three community organizations whose missions align with ours in serving immigrant students and their families, or other at-risk children and youth in our community. The Gables provides financial and/or program development support to these organizations:

  • Express Yourself – a multidisciplinary theater arts organization that introduces underserved young people to the worlds of music, dance, and visual arts.  A core group of Salem students, young women primarily from the Dominican Republic, worked with artists and dance instructors in 2016 to create a visual essay and poem that drew on traditions from the Caribbean. Their work, entitled Bodega Dreams, was featured onstage at the Citi Wang Theatre in Boston in May 2016.
  • LEAP for Education works with immigrant youth and orients them and their parents through the process of applying for college.  This summer LEAP combined staff and students from Salem Public High School and the Salem-at-Sea program at Salem State University to engage students in several community service projects. The program concluded at The Gables with the culminating activity, Salem Community Day on August 10th.  Students created digital media presentations, role-playing demonstrations about current societal issues, and oral reports about their projects. In honor of The Gables founder’s 150th birthday celebration, students interviewed a historical interpreter who played the role of Caroline Emmerton and included a report about the Gables’ Settlement legacy in their final presentation.
  • Parent-Child Home Connection program – The Gables provides funding to this early childhood literacy program and currently supports bilingual (English/Spanish) home visitors who teach young mothers how to develop basic literacy skills in their children before kindergarten. We are currently supporting three families in our immediate area.

Vision Statement: To be a sustainable historical, architectural and literary site dedicated to continuing the philanthropic “Settlement” tradition of educating our immigrant population.

Mission Statement: To preserve our National Historic Landmark District and leverage its power as an icon of American culture to engage diverse audiences and provide educational opportunities for our local immigrant community.

Core Values:

  • We value the legacies of Caroline Emmerton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Salem
  • We value the historic preservation of our site: buildings and gardens
  • We value being a center of and for the community
  • We value education as a central tenet of our programming
  • We value long-term sustainability for the Association.

The Gables is a 501(c)(3) charity and your donation is fully deductable under the law.