Salem Maritime National Historic Site | HAWKES HOUSE

Hawkes House

Hawkes House

Construction on what would become known as the Hawkes House was started in 1780 by Elias Derby, the wealthiest merchant in Salem in the late 1700s (some say that he was the first millionaire in the United States). His current home—the Derby House—had grown too small for his family of seven children, so he and his wife, Elizabeth, decided to build a new, 5,000-square-foot house next door. However, before it was completed they changed their minds and instead purchased an existing mansion in the downtown area. Derby used the unfinished building as a warehouse for many years afterward.

The building was purchased in 1801 by Benjamin Hawkes and William Parker. Parker actually removed part of the house that was determined to be his share, leaving a 3,000-square-foot building that Hawkes renovated into his new home. Hawkes was the co-owner of the Hawkes and Babbidge Shipyard located next to Derby Wharf in what is now an open field called Derby Beach. He was one of many shipbuilders in Salem, for after Boston, it was the busiest shipbuilding port city in the United States.

In 1839, financial troubles forced Hawkes to sell both his shipyard and the house. The building was used as a duplex up until the 1930s when the city of Salem purchased it for inclusion in a proposed historic waterfront park. The park never materialized, and in 1937 the house was given to the National Park Service, which was in the process of creating its own such park, Salem Maritime National Historic Site. The house was restored during the 1940s and 50s.

The Hawkes House is part of Salem Maritime National Historic Site and is now used for National Park Service offices. It is not open to the public.

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Last updated on June 15, 2020
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