Listen now to the PEM Walks episode about this property! Behind-the-scenes audio storytelling that unlocks PEM’s historic houses.
Erected in 1824–25 in the Greek Revival style by architect Thomas Waldron Sumner, East India Marine Hall was the headquarters of the East India Marine Society.
In 1799, the East India Marine Society, or the group of 22 sea captains and traders who sailed all over the world from Salem and PEM’s founding organization, started the oldest collecting museum in America. The structure is the intellectual, historical and physical heart of the museum. Recently restored to its original elegance, the building is a National Historic Landmark.
Designed by Sumner, protégé of major Boston architect Samuel Parris, this Antebellum building is a two-story gable front structure that was built using local Cape Ann granite. Over time, added gallery spaces have surrounded the building, further integrating it into the greater museum.
As they sailed around the globe, the original members of the East India Marine Society began to collect objects, which is PEM’s origin story. To walk around this room, was to circumnavigate the globe.
Visitors would have seen things brought back from all over the world — coins, shells, musical instruments, weapons, sculptures of Indian and Chinese merchants. Suspended overheard from the ceiling was a large whale skeleton and visitors would have seen their first penguin, a taxidermied one from the Falkland Islands brought to Salem in about 1820.
Nine carved ship figureheads are juxtaposed today with special contemporary exhibitions like Charles Sandison’s immersive, swirling digitized ship logs from PEM’s collection or the amplified sea ballads of Scottish artist Susan Philipsz.
Over the years, this space has welcomed guests of weddings and cocktail parties, exhibition openings, galas, concerts and has been the venue for rising young opera stars. In addition to exhibitions, today, East India Marine Hall is a gathering space of history, art and culture.
Samuel Pickman House
Built in 1672
Located behind the museum
Daniel Bray House
Built in 1766-1806
0.1 miles from PEM
John Ward House
Built in 1685-1699
0.1 miles from PEM
Ropes Mansion and Garden
Built in 1727–1729
0.4 miles from PEM