About \\ Historic Houses
East India Marine Hall
Tune into the PEM Walks audio postcard below to listen to a tour of East India Marine Hall:
Erected in 1824-25, East India Marine Hall was the headquarters of the East India Marine Society, a group of 22 sea captains and traders who sailed all over the world from Salem. In 1799, this is where they started the oldest collecting museum in America. The structure is the intellectual, historical and physical heart of the museum.
East India Marine Hall. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Designed by Thomas Waldron Sumner, protégé of major Boston architect Samuel Parris, this Antebellum building is a two-story gable front structure in the Greek Revival style that was built using local Cape Ann granite. Over time, added gallery spaces have surrounded the building, further integrating it into the greater museum.
East India Marine Hall circa 1909. The Phillips Library Collection. © Peabody Essex 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 stuffed one from the Falkland Islands brought back about 1820.