Visit \\ Architecture

Historic Houses

The museum’s physical campus includes three city blocks and several off-site properties. Here you will find a unique collection of buildings, gardens, and architectural fragments spanning three centuries. 


The Peabody Essex Museum has been a pioneer in the acquisition, relocation, restoration, and interpretation of historic environments. In 1865 the museum reconstructed the Quaker Meeting House from beams thought to be original to the First Church. In 1910, under the direction of curator and early preservationist George Francis Dow, the museum moved the John Ward House — split in two and rolled on ox-drawn logs — from its original site three blocks away. In 1911 that house opened to the public, becoming the first outdoor museum of architecture in the country. Since then, the Peabody Essex Museum has grown to include more than twenty pre-Civil War buildings, including four National Historic Landmarks and many properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Salem has a uniquely rich architectural heritage. Every major American architectural style is represented within its borders. Below is a guide to some of the styles you will encounter at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Salem has a uniquely rich architectural heritage. Every major American architectural style is represented within its borders.

Historic House styles

First Period or Post-Medieval is the earliest style of architecture found in New England. English colonists brought Medieval building methods to the New World with them, adapting traditional methods to the materials they found. Look for massive central chimneys; steeply pitched, many-gabled roofs; asymmetrical door and window patterns; batten doors; diamond-paned leaded casement windows; and second-floor overhangs.

Georgian style is based on classical models popular in Britain in the early eighteenth century. Excavations of Nero’s Golden Dome, and later of Pompeii and Herculaneum, sparked great interest in ancient architecture. Look for orderly, symmetrical façades-usually of two stories; transom lights or small rectangular windows over doors; double-hung sash windows; gambrel roofs; and classical details such as pediments, pilasters, and columns.

Federal style is an American adaptation of the Neoclassical, Roman, or Adam style popular in Britain in the late eighteenth century. Look for orderly, symmetrical façades, usually of three stories; fanlights above doors and sidelights beside doors; semicircular porches; double-hung window sashes; hipped roofs; and classical details such as pediments, pilasters, and columns. Scale and proportion are very important to this style of house.

Greek Revival structures are usually one or two stories with a façade that resembles a Greek temple. Columns or pilasters typically have Doric or Ionic capitals. Details such as dormer windows have prominent pediments. Granite is a favored material.

Italianate town houses are usually built of sandstone in dark brownish or reddish colors. They are meant to evoke the farmhouses of northern Italy. These houses are often square or cube-shaped with wide, overhanging wooden eaves held up by large brackets. Round-topped windows and cupolas are common.

Visit \\ Historic Houses

McIntire Historic District

Visit \\ Historic Houses

Main Campus

Visit \\ Historic Houses

Essex Block Neighborhood