The House of the Seven Gables
A Museum Born from American Literature and the
Settlement House Movement of the 19th Century
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.
To 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, their families, and at-risk teens. Partnering with the Salem Public Schools and other likeminded non-profits, we are able to support this target population. Programs include English language instruction that builds reading, writing, vocabulary, and cognition skills; first jobs training that allows teens to earn a paycheck in a safe and supportive environment, while learning the skills necessary to keep a job; enrichment experiences that expose teens to the performing and visual arts while strengthening creativity, curiosity, and confidence; educational support in the form of scholarships, tutoring, SAT preparation, and college prep, to help each young person reach his or her full potential. Finally, The Gables Settlement Building is the home of the Salem Prep, Salem Public Schools’ alternative High School. This highly structured, intensive therapeutic learning environment provides an ideal environment for academic success, social/emotional growth, and vocational skill development in a small school environment.
Following Caroline Emmerton’s lead, we continue to affirm that our outreach to our community is vital for renewal, not only for The Gables, but for the inspired social experiment known as The Settlement. The Gables continues to embrace the idea that education, more than any other factor, can transform lives.
Recent Settlement Partners include: Salem Public Schools, Express Yourself, Inc, Salem CyberSpace a program of NSCAP, The Plummer Home for Boys, St. Peter's Episcopal Church / Iglesia Episcopal San Pedro, and Family Self-Sufficiency Center, Inc.
The House of the Seven Gables
Settlement Advisory Board
- Trustee, The House of the Seven Gables
- Salem School Committee Member
- Interim Executive Director, The House of the Seven Gables
Rosa Elena Villanueva
- Community Representative
- Former Salem City Council Member. Administrative Assistant,
Salem State University. Community activist.
Dr. Lisa Johnson
- Assistant Professor School of Social Work, Salem State
Rosario Ubiera-Minaya – Trustee, The House of the Seven Gables; Executive Director, Salem Education Foundation.
– Manager, The House of the Seven Gables, Settlement
- Director of Constituent Services, U.S. Rep. John Tierney’s
Dr. William Towne
- Professor, School of Education, Salem State University
Dr. Elizabeth A. Duclos-Orsello
- Professor Interdisciplinary Studies, Salem State University,
Trustee, The House of the Seven Gables