About \\ Historic Houses

Crowninshield-Bentley House

Tune into the PEM Walks audio postcard below to listen to a tour of the Crowninshield-Bentley House:

The Crowninshield-Bentley House sits at 126 Essex Street near the museum. This house was built in 1729 in the Georgian style and was moved one block to the museum’s campus in 1959. Like most houses in eighteenth-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 reflecting an interest in classicism.

Crowninshield-Bentley House interior room

Photography by Kathy Tarantola/PEM

The house was built for fish merchant and ship captain John Crowninshield, the son of a German physician who emigrated in 1684. His success, as Salem emerged as a major maritime economy in the 18th century, is reflected in the quality of the architecture. After John 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, widows and the like.

Crowninshield-Bentley House, interior bedroom

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 cocolunt, 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 tells us about climate change, the lives of Salem residents, as well as news brought back from around the world by the sailors coming home.

Dinah Cardein and Steven Mallory inside the Crowninshield-Bentley house

Photography by Kathy Tarantola/PEM