Logo   Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Salem MA produced America's first millionaires, merchants who earned fabulous wealth by sending speedy clipper ships around the world in search of high-value goods for import and export.



In 1937, the National Park Service took over the Salem Custom House, where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked, and Derby Wharf in front of it, as a basis for the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, 174 Derby Street (map).

Today the site includes several other buildings and a full-sized replica of the Friendship, one of the ships that made Salem rich enough to produce America's first millionaires in the 1800s.

First thing to do is to pick up free copies of the National Park Service's brochure, which has a sketch map and directory of the buildings as well as short histories of the prominent Derby merchant family and of the adventures of several famous Salem vessels, both merchantmen and privateers ("legal" pirates).

The Salem Maritime National Historic Site also includes the Derby House, built in 1762 for the shipping magnate Elias Derby by his father, Captain Richard Derby, and the West India Goods Store, right next to Derby House, open for business and selling teas, coffee (beans and brew), spices, and other treasures from the East.

The National Park Service guides are well informed, as usual, and daily in July and August will take you on a tour back to the Bonded Warehouse to show you what cargoes were like and how they were handled, measured, and weighed.

You can also tour the Friendship, a full-size replica of a 1797 Salem three-masted square-rigged ship that sailed the world in the 1800s, bringing its wealth back to Salem's docks. The Friendship is moored on Derby wharf right in front of the Custom House.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site is a main feature of the Essex National Heritage Area, established in 1996 to organize thousands of historic places in Essex County around three historic themes: colonial settlement, maritime trade, and New England's early industrialization in the textile and shoe industries.

For hours of opening, see the Salem Maritime National Historic Site website.

The historic House of the Seven Gables is only a short walk from the Maritime Historic Site, so that should probably be your next sightseeing goal.

—by Tom Brosnahan

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Custom House, Salem MA

A school group takes a photo op on the steps of Salem's Custom House, part of Salem Maritime National Historic Site.


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