PEM Renovates, Reimagines, Reopens 18th Century Ropes Mansion

Open to the Public Saturday May 23 

Property Offers Innovative House Experience 

SALEM, MA -- Following an extensive renovation and conservation project, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) reopens its historic Ropes Mansion to the public. As the inaugural step of a larger historic property initiative, PEM’s 18th-century Ropes Mansion reimagines what a historic house experience can be. Beginning Saturday, May 23, PEM invites visitors on a lively journey through one of its most storied properties, in which present day and personal life experiences are placed in dialogue with the past. PEM’s Ropes Mansion -- located at 318 Essex St. -- is a 10-minute walk from the museum and will be open free to the public seasonally, Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 4 pm

Built in 1727 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Ropes Mansion was home to four generations of the Ropes family and is recognized as one of New England’s most significant and thoroughly documented historic houses. Filled with original furnishings, the house contains superb examples of 18th- and 19th-century furniture, ceramics and glass, silver, kitchenwares, textiles and personal objects. The property has been closed to the public since 2009, following a fire that was swiftly contained by firefighters, and its reopening ushers in a new chapter for this stately and illustrious Georgian Colonial. 

“As a leader in developing innovative museum interpretation strategies, PEM invites the public to experience the Ropes Mansion and its grounds in a new way,” said Josh Basseches, PEM’s deputy director. “The property has been reimagined and reinstalled to offer ‘emotional snapshots’ of the Ropes family over time. Nuanced insights -- of the family’s hopes, joys and celebrations as well as their trials, tribulations and tragedies -- are gained through enhanced access to the property’s rich archive and superlative collection.”

Instead of traditional timed tours, guests can freely circulate throughout 15 rooms of the home, exploring the property at their own pace. Guides will be on hand to engage conversation and answer questions, while hands-on interactive experiences encourage guests to explore the house’s stories layer by layer. 

On the first floor, the dining room is set as it would have appeared for Christmas dinner in 1847, details gleaned from a letter by Sally Fisk Ropes Orne who hosted the event. The installation features an elaborate dinner service, menu and serving techniques used on that festive occasion. The nearby kitchen offers a glimpse into the lives of the parlor maid and cook employed by the Ropes family in 1894 and the housekeeping practices used in their daily tasks. Cooking implements, recipes, as well as the plain china used by the servants are on view in the kitchen. Towels hanging near the sink feature printed instructions to kitchen staff on the correct way to wash dishes and clean silverware. Elsewhere, guests are invited to try their hand at historic napkin-folding techniques and learn period table manners and etiquette.

Upstairs bedrooms present tales of marriage, housekeeping and child rearing, as well as emotionally charged accounts of illness and death within the family. The childhood toys, books and seashells of Elizabeth Ropes Orne are given stark contrast by the locket, containing a lock of her hair, that was commissioned and worn by her mother after Elizabeth died of tuberculosis at age 24. 

Period rooms within the Ropes Mansion welcome guests to explore the intimate surroundings with as few barriers as possible. Open drawers, trunks and desks are designed to pique curiosity and offer a naturalistic glimpse into the lives of Ropes family members. Reproduction bed hangings, carpet and wallpaper introduce vibrant color and texture to the home and, for the first time, the 1894-period bathroom will be on view.  

Coinciding with the reopening of Ropes Mansion, PEM will team up with photographers, designers, museums and historic preservation organizations to increase social media engagement with historic homes. Unified under #HistoricHouseCrush, the public is encouraged to share their favorite photos and thoughts about historic homes on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Ropes Mansion photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is one of the oldest and fastest growing museums in North America. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. Founded in 1799, the museum's collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time -- including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, as well as Native American, Oceanic and African art. PEM's campus affords a varied and unique guest experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities, performance spaces and historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese House, a 200-year-old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday10 am-5 pm, and the third Thursday of every month until 9 pm. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $18; seniors $15; students $10. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $5. Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866‐745‐1876 or visit