Salem Maritime History Walk

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Follow along on a self-guided walk through Salem’s maritime history. This walk begins at the Peabody Essex Museum at 161 Essex Street and finishes at The House of the Seven Gables, covering 1.6 miles.

Start at the Peabody Essex Museum

In 1799, the East India Marine Society was founded as an organization of Salem captains and supercargoes. Under the organization’s provisional charter, which called for the establishment of a “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities,” the Peabody Essex Museum was formed.

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If you plan to visit the museum, be sure to reserve tickets online and confirm hours prior to your visit at pem.org.

Exit the museum and walk down New Liberty Street then take a left on Church Street stopping at St. Peter’s Church (on your right)

St. Peter’s Church was the first Anglican church in Salem founded in 1733/34. The church’s original structure along with its replacement, the facade you see today, was built on land donated by Philip English, a wealthy Salem trading merchant.

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From the church, continue down Church Street, and take a left onto Washington Street, stopping outside of Salem’s City Hall (on your left)

Salem’s City Hall was constructed in the Greek Revival style in 1838, and today is on the National Register of Historic Places. Its connection to maritime history comes into play with the Salem City Seal (which you can see on the exterior of the City Hall Annex building across the street).

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Continue down Washington Street stopping by The Merchant (on your left)

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.

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Stop for lunch

Restaurants nearby The Merchant include:

  • Adriatic Restaurant: Right across the street, offering Mediterranean dishes with homemade pasta, flatbreads, and fresh seafood
  • Rockafellas: On Washington Street to your left, with burgers, sandwiches, and salads, plus flatbreads and chowder
  • Koto: On Washington Street across from City Hall for sushi, ramen, Chinese and Japanese entrees, and bubble tea

From the Merchant, cross Washington Street onto Front Street and turn down Artists’ Row.

If time allows stop by some of related museums and attractions on Derby Street:

  • Salem Wax Museum: Learn about notable seafarers from Salem’s maritime history (and the Salem Witch Trials) through London-made wax figures
  • New England Pirate Museum: Hear the history of New England’s sea-robbers through a guided tour of a recreated pirate ship

Stay on Derby Street until you reach Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site is the country’s first National Historic Site, established on March 17, 1938. The site includes 12 historic buildings as well as interpretation and programming of Salem’s role in global trade and centuries of New England maritime history.

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While at Salem Maritime National Historic Site, don’t miss:

  • Derby Light Station: Constructed in 1871, it’s a short walk to see the exterior of the lighthouse.
  • U.S. Custom House: Est. in 1819 to house the offices of U.S. Customs officials. Free tours are available seasonally, confirm availability at nps.gov/sama.

Continue down Derby Street until you reach The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables, or the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, may be most known for the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne of the same name, but the mansion has quite the connection to Salem’s maritime history as it was constructed in 1668 for Captain John Turner I. To get the full history of one of Salem’s most treasured historic sites, step inside and take the tour. (Note: Online reservations may be required throughout 2021. See 7gables.org for updates).

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Exit The Gables by taking a left onto Derby Street, followed by a right onto Daniels Street, pausing outside the Daniels House Bed & Breakfast.

Built by sea captain Stephen Daniels I in 1667, the Daniels House today is the oldest bed and breakfast in Salem. The building features impressive first period architecture shaped by the Daniels’ family of shipbuilders and mariners who resided there until the mid 19th century.

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Take a left onto Essex Street and continue until you reach the Hawthorne Hotel on your right.

As you walk toward the Hawthorne Hotel, be sure to read the Historic Salem house plaques along Essex Street. They indicate when each of the houses was built and who they were built for, in many cases Salem merchants, sea captains and shipwrights.

The Hawthorne Hotel is a Historic Hotel of America (1925) with a fascinating maritime connection. While not open to the public, the Salem Marine Society (est. 1766 by sea captains) continues to hold quarterly meetings in their Cabin, located in a private room on the top floor of the hotel.

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The hotel concludes your maritime history walk- Stop inside to check out the beautifully designed lobby or to grab a drink and appetizers in the Tavern, or continue on to see nearby sites like Salem Common or the Salem Witch Museum.

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