White Horse Tavern, Newport, Rhode Island

The White Horse Tavern at the corner of Farewell and Marlborough Streets in Newport, sometime in the first half of the 20th century. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Newport has a remarkable number of historic colonial-era buildings, but perhaps the oldest is this building at the northwest corner of Marlborough and Farewell Streets. It was apparently built sometime before 1673, because in that year it was acquired by William Mayes, Sr. The building was much smaller at the time, consisting of two stories with just two rooms, but it was subsequently expanded and, by 1687, was being operated as a tavern.

Mayes was the father of the pirate William Mayes, Jr., whose surname is also spelled May and Mason in historical records. Although well known as a haven for religious minorities, the colony of Rhode Island showed similar tolerance for piracy, often playing fast and loose with the distinction between legitimate privateers and their outlaw counterparts. Mayes was among several prominent Newport residents whose career at sea blurred this distinction, and he enjoyed success as a pirate in the late 1680s and 1690s, during the Golden Age of Piracy.

Many of the most prominent pirates during this era would ultimately meet with violent ends, including fellow Newport pirate Thomas Tew, who was killed in 1695. However, William Mayes ultimately retired from piracy and returned to Newport around the turn of the 18th century. He took over the operation of his father’s tavern around 1703, but this evidently lasted for just a short time, because within a few years the property was owned by his sister Mary and her husband, Robert Nichols.

The White Horse Tavern would remain in the Nichols family for nearly 200 years, and the building continued to serve as an important colonial-era tavern. Prior to the construction of the Colony House in the late 1730s, the tavern was also used as a meeting place for the colonial legislature, which held sessions on a rotating basis in each of the colony’s five county seats. The tavern was later used to house British soldiers during the occupation of Newport in the American Revolution, and at some point after the war the building was expanded to its current size, including the addition of the large gambrel roof.

The Nichols family finally sold the property in 1895, and the old tavern was converted into a boarding house. The building steadily declined throughout the first half of the 20th century, and the first photo was taken at some point during this period, probably around the 1930s or 1940s. However, the property was acquired by the Preservation Society of Newport County in the early 1950s, and was subsequently restored. It was then sold to private owners, and reopened as a tavern. The White Horse Tavern has remained in business ever since, and markets itself as the oldest restaurant in the United States.

Broadway from Spring Street, Newport, Rhode Island

Looking south on Broadway toward the corner of Spring Street in Newport, around 1885. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

These two photos were taken more than 130 years apart, yet they show remarkably little change. In fact, many of these buildings were already old by the time the first photo was taken. Newport had been a prosperous seaport throughout much of the 18th century, but its economy was hit hard by the American Revolution. Its shipping industry never fully recovered, and the city saw very little growth during the first half of the 19th century. The first federal census, taken in 1790, shows 6,719 residents living here, and over the next 50 years Newport saw only a very modest increase in population, with 8,333 by 1840.

This long period of stagnation hurt Newport’s economy, and there was very little new construction during this time. By the time the first photo was taken around 1885, Newport had reinvented itself as a Gilded Age summer resort, with most of this development occurring to the south of the downtown area. As a result, downtown Newport remained remarkably well-preserved, and it now boasts one of the largest collection of 18th and early 19th century buildings in the country, many of which are visible in this scene.

Along with the buildings themselves, Newport has also retained its colonial-era street network, complete with narrow streets, sharply-angled intersections, and oddly-shaped building lots. These photos show the view looking south on Broadway, at the complex intersection of Broadway, Spring Street, Bull Street, and Marlborough Street. Both Spring Street, to the left, and Marlborough Street, on the extreme right, intersect with Broadway at sharp angles, creating triangular-shaped lots on either side of Broadway.

The narrower of these two lots is on the left, between Broadway and Spring Street. Long before the Flatiron Building was constructed on a similarly-shaped plot of land, a small three-story, wood-frame commercial building was built here. It appears to date back to the late 18th or early 19th centuries, and by the time the first photo was taken it was occupied by Cornell & Son, a grocery store operated by William Cornell and his son Rodman. William also lived here in the building, and the 1880 census showed him here with his wife Sarah and their daughter Ellen.

Today, this scene has not undergone few significant changes, and many of the buildings from the first photo are still standing, including the former Cornell building. Newport remains a popular summer resort, and the storefronts in this scene are now filled with a variety of shops and restaurants that cater to tourists and seasonal residents. Because of its level of preservation, and its high concentration of historic buildings, the downtown area now forms the Newport Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968.

Hamilton Hall, Salem, Mass

Hamilton Hall, at the corner of Chestnut and Cambridge Streets in Salem, on December 24, 1940. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The building in 2017:

More than two centuries before he became the subject of a popular Broadway musical, Alexander Hamilton was an icon of the Federalist Party, a short-lived but highly influential political party in the formative years of the country. The Federalists were well on their way to political irrelevance at the national level by the start of the 19th century, but they would remain dominant here in New England for a couple more decades, including here in Salem.

Salem was at the peak of its prosperity as a seaport at the turn of the 19th century, and many of its most important homes and public buildings date to this period, including Hamilton Hall, which was constructed between 1805 and 1807. It was built as an assembly hall for the town’s wealthy Federalist families, and was named for Alexander Hamilton, who had been killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804. The building was designed by the prolific Salem architect Samuel McIntire, who also built mansions for many of the towns’s leading merchants, and it is regarded as one of the finest Federal-style public buildings in the country.

It was constructed at a cost of $22,000, and it originally housed two stores on the ground floor, with a ballroom on the second floor. The exterior incorporates many elements of Federal-style architecture, including symmetrical facades, Palladian windows, and a pediment on the gable end of the building. The Chestnut Street side of the building, on the left side of the photo, also features rectangular panels above the windows, with an eagle carved into the central panel.

Early tenants of the ground-floor storefronts included grocer John Gray on the left side, and caterer John Remond on the right. A free black immigrant from Curacao, Remond lived in an apartment here in the building, and worked as a caretaker while also providing the refreshments for events that were held here. He was regarded as Salem’s premier restauranteur throughout the first half of the 19th century, and he catered many events here, including receptions for visiting dignitaries such as the Marquis de Lafayette, who attended a dinner here during his 1824 tour of America.

Over the years, Hamilton Hall was used for a wide variety of social events, including lectures, dances, and dinners. It saw some changes during this time, including the addition of the portico on the Cambridge Street side in 1845, but overall the exterior has retained its original early 19th century appearance. By the time the first photo was taken on Christmas Eve in 1940, it was recognized as historically significant, and was documented as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey. Then, in 1970, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark, and three years later it also became a contributing property in the Chestnut Street Historic District.

Today, Hamilton Hall has hardly seen any changes since the first photo was taken almost 80 years ago. The eagle panel on the left side was removed for preservation in 2014, and was replaced by a replica that is seen in the second photo. Otherwise, the exterior appearance is the same, and the interior is also largely unchanged. More than two centuries after its completion, it continues to be used as a public hall for lectures, weddings, and other events. The surrounding neighborhood has also been well-preserved, and it is one of many early 19th century buildings that are still standing in this part of Salem.

Peirce-Nichols House, Salem, Mass

The house at 80 Federal Street in Salem, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

This house is widely regarded as a masterpiece of early Federal-style architecture, and was among the first works by the prominent Salem architect Samuel McIntire. It was completed around 1782 as the home of Jerathmiel Peirce (1747-1827), a prosperous merchant who was a partner in the firm of Peirce & Waite. He was originally from Charlestown, but came to Salem in 1763 as a teenager, along with his older brother Benjamin. Here he worked as a leather dresser, and in 1772 married his wife, Sarah Ropes (1752-1796). However, Benjamin was killed three years later, in April 19, 1775, while serving as a minuteman in the opening battles of the American Revolution.

Later in the war, in 1778, Peirce went into business with Aaron Waite, as co-owners of the privateer Greyhound. Their partnership subsequently grew into a prosperous shipping firm, and within a few years the former leather dresser had commissioned McIntire to build this mansion. Although there is no surviving documentary evidence from the period that links the famous architect to this house, both family tradition and the visual appearance of the house suggest that it was the work of McIntire, and most historians seem to have accepted this as fact. Among other buildings in Salem, its exterior bears a strong resemblance to the home of Elias Hasket Derby, a merchant who hired McIntire to renovate his Washington Street home around the same time that Peirce’s house was built.

Like so many of the other Salem mansions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it has a rectangular form with three stories, with the third story somewhat shorter than the other two. The exterior is clapboarded, with large pilasters on the corners, and the house is topped by a low hip roof that is partially hidden by a balustrade. A stable, partially visible behind the house in the first photo, was also built around the same time. The backyard was landscaped with a terraced garden, And the property originally extended as far as the North River, where the Peirce & Waite wharf and warehouse were located.

Peirce was about 35 years old when he moved into this house. He and Sarah had three living children at the time: Joseph, Benjamin, and Sarah. However, they had previously had two other sons, both named Benjamin, who had died young. After moving into this house, they would have three more daughters, all named Elizabeth, and a son, Henry. The first two Elizabeths both died when they were only a few months old, but the third Elizabeth and Henry both survived into adulthood. They would lose one more child in 1793, though, when Joseph died at the age of 18, and Jerathmiel was widowed three years later, when Sarah died in 1796 at the age of 44.

The interior of the house was remodeled in 1801, with McIntire evidently performing this work as well, and the fence in front of the house was also added during this time. These renovations coincided with the marriage of Jerathmiel’s oldest daughter, Sarah (1780-1835), to her first cousin, George Nichols (1778-1865), who was a ship captain and merchant. They were married in the drawing room here in this house, in a small ceremony that the groom described in his memoirs many years later:

The ceremony took place on the 22nd of November, 1801, on Sunday evening. We were married by Rev. Dr. Hopkins, in my Father Pierce’s great eastern room, which was finished and furnished only a short time before. Aunt Adams [Jerathmiel’s older sister Rebecca] was buried from the same room, only three days before. My wife wanted only a day or two of being twenty-one years old, and I have often laughed and told her she was never free. No one was present at the wedding but the two families. Betsey and Charlotte [Sarah and George’s sisters, respectively] were the bridesmaids, or at least considered themselves so. Sally’s dress was a beautiful striped muslin, very delicate, made in Bombay for some distinguished person. I purchased it of Nasser Vanji, at five dollars per yard. . . . This muslin Sally wore over white silk. Her headdress was a white lace veil, put on turban fashion. Her cake, of which she had a large quantity, was made in a great bread tray by Nellie Masury, a sister of the late Deacon Punchard. She was quite a celebrated cook.

Following their marriage, George and Sarah Nichols moved into a house at the corner of Washington and Federal Streets. In the meantime, though, Jerathmiel continued to live here in this house. In 1803, his son Benjamin (1778-1831) married George Nichols’ sister, Lydia Ropes Nichols (1781-1868). Benjamin and George subsequently went into business together, running a prosperous shipping firm in the years leading up to the War of 1812. Benjamin also had a successful political career during this time, including serving as a state representative for several years, and as a state senator in 1811. However, the war took a heavy toll on Peirce, Nichols, and many other Salem merchants, with Nichols later writing:

We were generally prospered in business and when the war broke out in 1812 I was quite a rich man for those times, being worth at least $40,000. This was a very disastrous war to me. I lost in it nearly one-half of all my property, notwithstanding I had a great deal of insurance. Every vessel in which I was concerned was captured. Among them was the “Rambler,” a beautiful vessel, owned by my brother Peirce and myself. She was making a fine voyage, but she was taken by the British, off the Cape of Good Hope. Privateering was very common in that war, as in all wars, but I could not feel it to be right and therefore did not engage in it. At the close of the war in 1815, I engaged again in commerce with Benjamin Peirce and others, and for several years affairs went along somewhat prosperously. Then came on a long series of disasters, ruinous voyages were made, the effect of bad management, and in 1826 I found myself bankrupt, as were also my father Peirce and his two sons.

As a result of this change of fortune, George Nichols had to sell much of his property in order to pay off his creditors. Benjamin Peirce left the shipping business altogether and moved to Cambridge, where he worked as the librarian of Harvard College until his death in 1831. His son, also named Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880), went on to become a prominent mathematician, and was the father of philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) and diplomat Herbert H. D. Peirce (1849-1916). In the meantime, Jerathmiel Peirce was also hit hard by these financial troubles, and in 1827 he was forced to sell this mansion in order to pay his creditors. He subsequently moved in with George and Sarah, but only lived in their house for a short time before his death on August 20, at the age of 80.

The property here on Federal Streeet was purchased by George Johonnot, an elderly friend of the Peirce family. He lived here until his death in 1839, and his wife Martha died the following year, leaving the house to George Nichols, who moved into the house in August 1840. By this point his wife Sarah had died, and in 1836 he had remarried to her younger sister, Elizabeth Peirce (1787-1864). George and Elizabeth died a year apart in the 1860s, but the house remained in the Nichols family for another half century until 1917, when it was sold to the Essex Institute.

The first photo was taken around the time that the Essex Institute acquired the property. Over the following decades, this museum would continue to add historic Salem houses to its properties. These would all become part of the Peabody Essex Museum following a 1992 merger between the Essex Institute and the Peabody Museum of Salem.  Because of its architectural significance, the Peirce-Nichols was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968, and it is also a contributing property in the Chestnut Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the house has seen few exterior changes since the first photo was taken, although the house is now partially hidden by trees from this angle.

Gardner-Pingree House, Salem, Mass

The house at 128 Essex Street in Salem, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house in 2017:

The peak of Salem’s prosperity as a seaport came at the turn of the 19th century, a period that coincided with the height of Federal-style architecture. As a result, the town saw the construction of a number of elegant Federal homes and public buildings, many of which still stand today. Among the finest of these is Gardner-Pingree House, which was built in 1804-1805 at 128 Essex Street. It is believed to have been the work of prolific Salem architect Samuel McIntire, and today it is widely regarded as an architectural masterpiece of this era. Like many of McIntire’s other homes, it has three stories, with a rectangular front facade, a hip roof with balustrade, and a small portico at the front door. The house is built of brick, but it also includes marble lintels above the windows and marble trim above the first and second floors.

The original owner of this house was John Gardner (1771-1847), a merchant who owned a number of ships and operated a wholesale business on Union Wharf. According to a 1907 Gardner family genealogy, his business included importing commodities such as “sugar, coffee, cocoa, dyewood, mahogany, broadcloth, Peruvian bark, indigo, spices, etc., etc.” He purchased this land from his father, and moved into this house upon its completion in 1805, along with his wife Sarah and their young children. However, he would go on to suffer significant financial losses in the years before and during the War of 1812, when the British preyed on American shipping. As a result, in 1811 he sold the house to Sarah’s brother, Nathaniel West, for $13,333.33, although the Gardners continued to live here until 1814, when West sold it to wealthy ship captain and merchant Joseph White.

White was in his late 60s and retired when he purchased the house, and he lived here for the next 16 years. His wife Elizabeth died in 1822, and the couple had no children, although he did live here with his niece, Mary Beckford, and her daughter, who was also named Mary. This younger Mary was 17 when she became engaged to Joseph Knapp, Jr., a young mariner who had been captain of one of White’s ships. White was opposed to the match, viewing Knapp as a gold digger, and had threatened to disinherit her if she married him. She married Knapp anyway, in the fall of 1827, and the newlyweds then moved to the nearby town of Wenham.

Less than three years later, on April 7, 1830, Joseph White was brutally murdered here in this house. He was struck in the head with a club while he slept in his bed, and was then stabbed 13 times. By the time his body was discovered three or four hours later, the killer was long gone, but the murder quickly became a major news story. A committee was formed to investigate it, and in a little over a week the evidence pointed to two brothers, Richard and George Crowninshield. It was later discovered that the pair had been hired by Joseph Knapp, who paid them $1,000 to carry out the murder.

According to Knapp’s subsequent confession, he had entered White’s room a few days before the murder, and had stolen what he believed was White’s will. He also left a window unlocked, enabling Richard Crowninshield to access the house while White slept. His reasoning behind the crime was that, with the will missing, the courts would divide White’s large estate equally among all heirs, including Knapp’s disinherited wife. However, as it turned out, Knapp had stolen the wrong will. The actual will had been stored in the office of White’s lawyer, and after his murder the bulk of his estate went to his nephew, the prominent merchant Stephen White.

The resulting trial became a legal spectacle on a scale not seen in Salem since the witch trials of 1692. Determined to avenge the death of his uncle, Stephen White hired his close friend, Senator Daniel Webster, to lead the prosecution, with a symbolic fee of $1,000 – the same amount that Knapp had paid for the murder. Richard Crowninshield committed suicide while in prison awaiting trial, but the other three defendants included George Crowninshield, Joseph Knapp, and Joseph’s brother Frank.

Both of the Knapp brothers were subsequently found guilty, and were hanged in the fall and winter of 1830-1831. Mary also attempted suicide twice during the trials, although she survived and was never charged in the murder. Of the conspirators, only George Crowninshield managed to avoid the hangman’s noose. He had evidently been visiting a local brothel on the night of the murder, and the madam provided an alibi during his trial.

Both the murder and the trials were extensively reported by journalists, and may have even had an influence on some of the most famous works of 19th century American literature. Daniel Webster’s speech to the jury provided a detailed account of how the murder would have taken place, with descriptions such as:

The deed was executed with a degree of self-possession and steadiness equal to the wickedness with which it was planned. The circumstances now clearly in evidence spread out the whole scene before us. Deep sleep had fallen on the destined victim, and on all beneath his roof. A healthful old man, to whom sleep was sweet, the first sound slumbers of the night held him in their soft but strong embrace. The assassin enters, through the window already prepared, into an unoccupied apartment. With noiseless foot he paces the lonely hall, half lighted by the moon; he winds up the ascent of the stairs, and reaches the door of the chamber. Of this, he moves the lock, by soft and continued pressure, till it turns on its hinges without noise; and he enters, and beholds his victim before him. 

Webster went on to describe mindset of the murderer after committing the crime, beginning with the initial satisfaction of getting away with it, before the consuming feelings of guilt that inevitably follow.

The secret which the murderer possesses soon comes to possess him; and, like the evil spirits of which we read, it overcomes him, and leads him whithersoever it will. He feels it beating at his heart, rising to his throat, and demanding disclosure. He thinks the whole world sees it in his face, reads it in his eyes, and almost hears its workings in the very silence of his thoughts. It has become his master. It betrays his discretion, it breaks down his courage, it conquers his prudence. When suspicions from without begin to embarrass him, and the net of circumstances to entangle him, the fatal secret struggles with still greater violence to burst forth. It must be confessed, it will be confessed; there is no refuge from confession but suicide, and suicide is confession.

Based on this, many have surmised that the murder – and particularly Webster’s speech – provided inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s famous 1843 short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In this story, the narrator murders an old man while he sleeps, and then carefully dismembers the body and hides it under the floorboards. At first, he feels pride in having committed such a perfectly-planned crime, but is ultimately driven to confess his guilt after hearing what he believes to be the incessant beating of the dead man’s heart. Many of the detailed descriptions in the story closely echo Webster’s speech, including the end of the story, where the narrator’s guilt steadily consumes him until he finally tells the police “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Along with Poe, the murder likely had an effect on Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was living in Salem at the time. Although they would not be written for another two decades, both The House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter appear to incorporate elements of the crime and the trial. In the former, the elderly and wealthy Jaffrey Pyncheon is apparently murdered by a relative for his money. In the latter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale experiences intense guilt regarding his secret affair with Hester Prynne, and the novel traces his mental and physical decline until, after many years, he finally makes a public confession and then dies in the arms of Hester.

In the meantime, Stephen White inherited this house after his uncle’s murder, and in 1834 he sold it to David Pingree (1795-1863), who was yet another prominent Salem merchant. Pingree was born in 1795 in Georgetown, Massachusetts, but spent much of his childhood in Bridgton, Maine. When he turned 18, he returned to Essex County, and began working for his uncle, Thomas Perkins, who owned a merchant business here in Salem. He inherited a substantial fortune after his uncle’s death in 1830, and continued to prosper as a merchant over the next few decades, with a fleet of ships that imported goods from ports throughout Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and the East Indies.

Pingree became known as the “Merchant Prince of Salem,” but by this point the city’s once-prosperous shipping industry was in decline. He evidently saw this coming, and began diversifying his investments before ultimately retiring from the mercantile business altogether in 1848. He was a founder and president of the Naumkeag Bank, as well as the president of the Naumkeag Cotton Company, but much of his wealth ended up in the wilderness of Maine, where he purchased vast tracts of timberland as an investment. During this time, he also played a role in local politics, serving as a presidential elector for Zachary Taylor in 1848 and as mayor of Salem for a single one-year term from March 1851 to March 1852.

Pingree died in 1863, but his widow Ann continued to live here for another 30 years until her death in 1893. Their son David (1841-1932) inherited the house, and also carried on his father’s business interests. Like his father, he served as president of both the bank and the cotton company, and also continued to expand the family’s land holdings in northern Maine. He was a lifelong bachelor, and he evidently resided here alone after the death of his mother, although census records from the early 20th century show that he regularly employed two to three live-in servants.

In 1933, a year after Pingree’s death at the age of 91, his family donated the house to the nearby Essex Institute. It was opened to the public as a museum, and it is now one of the many historic homes that are owned by the Peabody Essex Museum, which was formed in 1992 when the Essex merged with the Peabody Museum of Salem. Today, the front facade of the house is mostly hidden by two trees, but its exterior has not seen any notable changes since the first photo was taken, and it still stands as one of the finest examples of Federal-style architecture in the country.

House of the Seven Gables, Salem, Mass

The House of the Seven Gables, seen from Turner Street in Salem, around 1890-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house in 2017:

This house is best known for being the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables, but it is also one of the oldest houses in the state, as well as one of the finest surviving 17th century homes in New England. The house has seen considerable changes over the past 350 years, and today the exterior bears little resemblance to the house that Hawthorne would have known, but it was originally built in 1668 as the home of John Turner. At first, the house consisted of just the central portion of the present-day structure. However, like many other colonial-era houses, it steadily expanded over the years, giving the house its distinctive appearance.

Born in Boston in 1644, John Turner moved to Salem as a child, after his father died and his mother remarried to a wealthy Salem merchant. Turner likewise became a merchant as well as a mariner, with a career that coincided with Salem’s rise to prominence as a major seaport. He built the first section of this house around the same time as his marriage to Elizabeth Roberts, but over the years the house was expanded as both the family and Turner’s fortune grew.

The southern part of the house, seen on the left side of the photos, was added in 1677. This wing included a parlor, and increased the size of the house by nearly two thirds. By this point, Turner was among the wealthiest men in Essex County. He owned five ships, with ownership interests in eight others, and had a net worth of nearly 7,000 pounds. However, he died in 1680, when he was only about 36 years old.

Turner’s son, John Turner II, was only about nine years old at the time of his father’s death, but he later inherited the house. He was also a merchant, and eventually accumulated an even larger fortune than his father, with an estate of over 10,000  pounds when he died in 1742. Along with this, he held the rank of colonel in the militia, and served on the Governor’s Council from 1720 to 1740. He made his own changes to the house, including remodeling the interior to reflect the Georgian style of the early 18th century. The house had 14 rooms at the time, and the highly complex roofline featured eight gables, as opposed to the seven that the house is best known for.

As a young man, Turner also played a role in the Salem Witch Trials, which occurred in 1692. He did not make any accusations himself, but one of the accusers, John Proctor’s servant Mary Warren, claimed that the elderly widow Ann Pudeator had bewitched Turner, causing him to fall from a cherry tree. This was one of several accusations made against Pudeator – including a claim that she had turned herself into a bird and flew around her house – and she was subsequently convicted of witchcraft and hanged.

After John Turner’s death in 1742, the house was inherited by his son, John Turner III. However, he evidently did not inherit the business acumen of his father and grandfather, and over the years he squandered the family fortune. Believing the family home was too old-fashioned, he built a modern house near the center of Salem. However, he eventually fell into debt, and in 1782 was forced to sell all of his property, including the House of the Seven Gables, in order to pay off his creditors. He died four years later, leaving an estate of just 59 pounds.

Turner sold this house to Samuel Ingersoll, a ship captain who lived here with his wife Susanna and their children. One of the eight gables had already been removed at this point, and Captain Ingersoll proceeded to remove four more, leaving the house with just the three gables that are shown in the first photo. He lived here for the rest of his life, although he was frequently away on long sea voyages. In 1804, during one of these voyages, both he and his oldest son died of a fever aboard ship. Susanna died seven years later, and the house was inherited by their only surviving child, a daughter who was also named Susanna.

Susanna never married, and went on to live in this house for the rest of her life. She was a second cousin of fellow Salem native Nathaniel Hawthorne, who had been born a short walk from here on Union Street in 1804. The extent to which she and the house served to inspire Hawthorne is still debated, but he did occasionally visit Susanna here, where she told him stories about the house’s history. She also showed him the attic, where there was still visible evidence of the long-removed gables.

Hawthorne never explicitly stated that this house was the basis for The House of the Seven Gables, but it seems likely that he drew inspiration from its history and from Susanna herself. The novel traces the history of the fictitious Pyncheon family, whose founder, Colonel Pyncheon, had acquired the land after the previous owner, Matthew Maule, had been executed for practicing witchcraft. Before his death, though, Maule had placed a curse on the Pyncheon family, and the Colonel died suddenly on the day that the house was completed. In the present day of the novel, the house was owned by one of his descendants, the impoverished Hepzibah Pyncheon. She was an older unmarried woman, likely based on Susanna Ingersoll, and she opened a shop on the ground floor of the old house in order to supplement her income.

The novel was published in 1851, and Susanna continued to live here in the real-life house until her death in 1858. She had no biological heirs, but she left the house to her adopted son, Horace Connolly. He sold it in 1879, and the house changed hands several different times before being purchased by Henry Orlando Upton in 1883. He and his family were living here when the first photo was taken around the end of the 19th century, and by this point the house had become a popular tourist attraction, even though its exterior bore little resemblance to the house described in Hawthorne’s novel.

In 1908, Upton sold the house to Caroline O. Emmerton, a philanthropist who wanted the house returned to its original appearance and preserved as a museum. She hired noted architect Joseph Everett Chandler for the restoration, which lasted from 1909 to 1910. The second photo shows the completed work, which included the reconstruction of the missing gables, as well as a new chimney on the right side that was based on the original 1668 chimney. The exterior was restored to what the house supposedly looked like during the ownership of John Turner II in the 1720s, although some of the changes were made to match Hawthorne’s novel, rather than its actual historic appearance.

Today, the exterior of the house looks essentially the same as it did when Chandler finished his restoration over a century ago. It remains in use as a museum, and has since been joined by several other historic buildings that were moved to the property, including Hawthorne’s birthplace. These buildings now comprise the House of the Seven Gables Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark district in 2007.