What today is one of Salem’s historic boutique hotels was once the home of merchant Joshua Ward (in the late 1780s). While not one of Salem’s wealthiest merchants, Ward had amassed a “small” fortune from importing molasses, Sumatran pepper, tea, spices, silk, and more to construct an opulent home close enough to the harbor so that he could see his ships coming in.
The Georgian style building was designed by Samuel McIntire, the renowned architect behind many historic homes in Salem whose work can be seen throughout the McIntire Historic District. The staircase inside The Merchant is thought to be the oldest surviving McIntire-created staircase in Salem.
While Joshua Ward lived in the home, he hosted George Washington during his visit to New England following his election in 1789. If you happen to stay at The Merchant today, you can stay where Washington stayed by booking the George Washington King Deluxe Room.
Ward’s home was commissioned on the property in 1784, though you may hear about a possibility of a haunting on the site if you happen to take a Salem ghost tour: In 1692, High Sheriff George Corwin resided on the property, and following the Witch Trials there were rumors around town that he had tortured some of the victims in his basement (though no historical evidence for this exists today). Still, some consider the site to be one of the most haunted in Salem, but we’d recommend taking a local ghost tour to come to your own conclusions.
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