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      Crowninshield-Bentley House

      126 Essex Street
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      Crowninshield-Bentley House

      Listen now to the PEM Walks episode about this property! Behind-the-scenes audio storytelling that unlocks PEM’s historic houses.

      Built in 1729 for merchant and ship captain John Crowninshield, the modest Crowninshield-Bentley House was moved one block to the museum’s campus in 1959.

      Like most houses in 18th-century Salem, this house originally stood at the curb. Characteristics of its Georgian Colonial style include its long, rectangular shape with an orderly and symmetrical façade, and the paneled door with pediment, transom lights, and pilasters — all reflect an interest in classicism. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

      Captain Crowninshield, son of a German physician who emigrated in 1684, grew successful as Salem emerged as a major player in the maritime economy of the 18th century.

      Photography by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
      Photography by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

      After Captain Crowninshield died at sea, the house passed to his widow. For the next 35 years, rooms were rented to a revolving door of tradesmen, mariners and widows.

      Photography by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

      Two rooms on the second floor were rented by Reverend William Bentley until his death in 1819. According to probate records, these rooms were densely packed with Bentley’s possessions. His library of 4,000 volumes was one of the largest in America at the time. There were paintings and drawings, sculptures and busts and a natural history collection, which included an armadillo skeleton, bottles with snakes and lizards, a palm branch and coconut, a bird in a cage and a human skull.

      Photography by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

      Bentley’s diary, which he kept throughout his adult life, is an incredible historic document that reveals details about climate change, the lives of Salem residents, as well as news brought back from around the world by the sailors coming home.

      Photography by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

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