Destination Salem Blog

Hawthorne Exhibit at the House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables spent the past several years updating the tour of the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion.  The mansion - the actual house with seven gables - is the central character of the National Historic SIte at the House of the Seven Gables.  Tours of the mansion interpret Salem's maritime, architectural and literary heritage, focusing on the Turner and Ingersoll families who owned the house.  After touring the mansion, visitors are guided across the seaside gardens to Hawthorne's Birthplace, which was, until recently, a self-guided house tour filled with artifacts that represented the era in which the house was a home, and the artifacts were not necessarily specific to Hawthorne.  Today the exhibits in the house interpret the life and family of Nathaniel Hawthorne.


Hawthorne's Birthplace is a self-guided tour, with a docent or guide on site to answer any questions, and each room gives the visitor a personal perspective on the great American novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Furniture has been pulled out of storage and rearranged to give visitors insight into how and where Nathaniel Hawthorne lived.  You can see the bureau in which he filed early drafts of The Scarlet Letter, and the chair in which he sat.  Also on display is the Mahogany Fall Front Desk, built in Salem c. 1775-1780, at which Hawtorne wrote The Scarlet Letter in Salem, and then The House of the Seven Gables in Lenox, MA.  A set of Hawthorne's first editions is also on display.


The exhibit also includes drawings and paintings by Nathaniel's wife, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, and the books and personal objects of Nathaniel and Sophia's three children, Julian, Una, and Rose. 


The bedroom in the house is set up to demonstrate how the room would have looked when Hawthorne was a young child at home with his mother and siblings while his fater  was at sea.  We learn early in the tour that Hawthorne's father died at sea in 1808 (Hawthorne was only four), and it was his mother's brother whom he recognized as a father figure during his childhood.  To stand in the bedroom, looking out at the harbor, imagining Nathaniel, his mother and two sisters spending time together in in front of the fire in the bedroom.


On the first floor, the kitchen remains set up as a functioning early 19th-century kitchen (as opposed to the kitchen in the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, which was designed to look like what Cononial Revivalists believed it would have looked like in the novel, The House of the Seven Gables).


We are delighted that these artifacts and have been brought out of storage, cleaned, and exhibited in a context that relates to Nathaniel Hawthorne.  As one of Salem's favorite native sons, and a major part of American literary heritage, we needed more interpretation of Hawthorne in Salem. 


Learn more at The House of the Seven Gables, 115 Derby Street, Salem.


If you want more Hathorne, you may be interested in the Nathaniel Hawthorne Walking Tour, available on

Posted by Kate on 03/01 at 02:15 PM Permalink