About \\ Historic Houses

Derby-Beebe Summer House

The Essex Block Neighborhood is the center of the museum’s architectural collection. Three centuries of extraordinary New England architecture, set in Federal-style gardens, may be found within this one city block.

Tune into the PEM Walks audio postcard below to listen to a tour of the Derby-Beebe Summer House:

The Derby-Beebe Summer House is a one-room structure built in the Federal style and intended for serving light afternoon meals in a garden setting. It originally graced the garden overlooking the river behind the mansion of Elias Hasket Derby or King Derby. Salem’s preeminent architect Samuel McIntire designed the entire estate, including the gardens and the summer house for Derby, one of the richest merchants in Salem.

©2008 Peabody Essex Museum. Photograph by Walter Silver

Garden houses such as this one were based on such structures found on the estates of England that became popular in the late 18th century. They were hidden in little nooks and crannies and were a place of private escape and quiet.

Derby-Beebe Summer House

©2021 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

This example was substantially restored to its original appearance in the late 1980s and retains important McIntire carvings. It is one of only three surviving such McIntire summer houses and retains nearly complete historic integrity. The garden view provides a landscape context for what the elites living here in the 18th century would have been looking out on while having their tea.

The Summer House is a lovely spot for garden weddings and can be rented for small events.

Steven Mallory and Dinah Cardin recording PEM Walks

Steven Mallory and Dinah Cardin recording PEM Walks. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

The Federal Garden

The federal garden nearby is a replication of the original garden that stood behind the Derby Mansion The plantings are similar to the ones in the original garden — Heirloom roses, fruit trees, rhododendrons, and all sorts of smaller plantings as ground cover. This garden represents a movement away from the geometric and formal gardens of the earlier 18th century, which can be seen in the Colonial Revival garden in our PEM’s Ropes Mansion Garden.