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 Quaker Meeting House:
The first Quaker Meeting House in Salem was built around 1688. It may be one of the first historic preservation initiatives in America that is centered around a period restoration. The members of the Essex Institute as early as the 1850s recognized this building as potentially the first Quaker Meeting House. Convinced of it’s seventeenth-century Quaker authenticity, antiquarian Sydney Perley orchestrated its preservation. This involved moving it from the western end of Salem to its current location on the former Essex Institute campus around 1860. It was then speculatively restored to its current, imagined 17th-century meeting house configuration.
The building contains many original timbers and evidence suggests that it may in fact contain some of the bones of the original meeting house. As the first historic property to be annexed and restored by the Essex Institute, this project kicked off a century and a half of acquiring historic buildings and amassing probably the most collection of historic architecture owned by an American art museum.