The Custom House at Salem Maritime NHS is the last of 13 Custom Houses in the city.There has been a Custom House in Salem since 1649, collecting taxes on imported cargos first for the British Government during the Colonial period, then for the American Government after the establishment of the
U. S. Customs Servicein 1789. This Custom House was built in 1819 and housed offices for the officers of the U.S. Customs Service, as well as an attached warehouse, thePublic Stores, used for the storage of bonded and impounded cargo.
The Collectors offices were furnished with rich colors and fine furniture. The furniture in these offices was purchased by the Customs Service in 1873.
The Custom House symbolized the Federal Governments presence in Salem, requiring the architects to design an impressive building. High ceilings, a sweeping staircase, and beautifully carved woodwork all contribute to a feeling of strength and stability. The Salem Custom House was used by theU. S. Customs Serviceinto the 1930s, and the furnishings reflect the long use of the building.
In 1826, a wooden eagle was placed on the roof. It was carved by Salem craftsman Joseph True, and its original cost was $50.00. In 2004, the original wooden eagle was replaced with a fiberglass replica. After undergoing several years of conservation work, the original wooden eagle is on display inside the Custom House.
Today, the U.S. Custom House in Salem contains exhibits on the tools of theCustom Service, the work of the Customs inspectors, and the office ofNathaniel Hawthorne, the famous American author whose three-year-long stint in the Salem Custom House inspired his classic novel,
The Custom House is open daily by tour. For tour infomation, seeVisiting Salem Maritime
Issues of Salem Maritimes occasional newsletter,Pickled Fish and Salted Provisions
Animal House Volume 1, Number 3 (200 KB pdf file)
Old Step Over to Lynn Volume 1, Number 8 (423 KB pdf file)
Officers of the Revenue Volume 2, Number 2 (149 KB pdf file)
A Custom House Sketch Volume 2, Number 2a (93 KB pdf file)
A Large-Scale Enterprise Volume 4, Number 1 (143 KB pdf file)
Retired on the Fourth of July Volume 4, Number 6 (105 KB pdf file)
He Now Resides at Violet Path Volume 5 Number 4 (coming soon)
Pickled Fish and Salted Provisions Volume 6, Number 1 (800 KB pdf file)
A Tangled Web Volume 6, Number 5 (173 KB pdf file)
The First Three Years Volume 7, Number 3 (983 KB pdf file)
detail views of an embroidered 18th century waistcoat
Scenes of Salem in 1797 from the Salem Marine Society membership certificate
Views of the U.S. Custom House in Salem
Album of photographs of the interior of the Derby House
Views of the 1675 Narbonne House at Salem Maritime