The Salem Maritime National Historic Site was the first national historic site to open to
the public, officially designated on March 17, 1938 to preserve the maritime history of
Massachusetts, Nee England, and the United States. It continues to be operated by the
National Park Service, and is comprised of 12 structures, a tall-ship, a lighthouse, and
nine acres of land along the coast of Salem Harbor.
The site interprets Salem’s rich maritime history and its role in both the triangular trade
economy of the United States’ colonial era as well as its global expansion with trade in
the Far East during the 19th century. Every August, the site celebrates this important role
with the Salem Maritime Festival.
The site continues to promote and preserve artifacts, collections and structures including
these major attractions:
- Salem Custom House (1819): A highlight for visitors to the waterfront, it is the 13th Customs House in Salem that collected taxes on globally, imported cargo that made its way to the community’s wharves. Nathaniel Hawthorne would go on to write about the site in his infamous novel, The Scarlett Letter.
- West India Goods Store (1804): This warehouse was built by Captain Henry Prince to store goods like pepper, coffee, and other items imported from the East Indies. By 1836, a shop opened to serve the growing needs of Salem, and later occupants included painters, a tobacconist, and an alcohol merchant.
- Derby House (1762): Salem has long been associated with the prominent 17th and 18th century Derby family for whom several historic sites across the city bear their name. Built in 1762 by Captain Richard Derby, this home was actually a wedding gift for his son.
- Derby Wharf (1762): The wharf is Salem’s longest at nearly a half mile. When active in its heyday, warehouses lined its docks. It was even extended 1806. The Derby Wharf Light was built in 1871, and remains at the end of the wharf today as one of the most photographed sites in Salem.
- Friendship of Salem: This replica ship lives on as a replacement for the original Friendship, which was built in 1797. It made 15 voyages around the world and was eventually captured during the War of 1812 by the British Imperial Navy.
- Hawkes House (1780): Salem architect Samuel McIntire designed this home forwhich building initially commenced in 1780. Twenty years later, Benjamin Hawkes purchased the incomplete structure, and ultimately completed the project.
- Pedrick Store House (1770): This three-story building is a historic rigging and sail loft that was once located in Marblehead. It was eventually relocated to the Salem Maritime National Historic Site in 2007 to preserve its historic importance.