7 Historic Houses to Visit on the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway

May 3, 2023

The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway is well known for its lovely coastal scenery and surroundings, but it also has a significant story to tell. The Byway is home to some of the oldest houses in America dating back to the 18th and 17th centuries. From mansions to farmhouses, you can find these fascinating historic homes (and others!) in Salem, Ipswich, Gloucester, Beverly, and Marblehead.

1. The Sargent House

Address: 49 Middle St, Gloucester, MA 01930

The Sargent House served as the residence of sea traders, patriots, and civic leaders for more than a century. One of many historic houses in the region, it was constructed in 1782 for Judith Sargent Murray (1751–1820). She was a philosopher, writer, and early supporter of women’s equality. It is an excellent example of high-style Georgian domestic architecture.

2. The Crane Estate

Address: 290 Argilla Rd, Ipswich, MA 01938

The land that would eventually become The Crane Estate was first acquired in 1910 by Chicago businessman Richard T. Crane, Jr.. Crane was impressed by the breathtaking scenery and spent two decades working with some of the greatest architects in America to design his new vacation home. It is situated on Castle Hill Ipswich and boasts fantastic views of the Atlantic and the Great Marsh. The Crane family home, now known as The Great House on The Crane Estate, is a 165-acre National Historic Landmark.

3. The Whipple House

Address: 53 S Main St, Ipswich, MA 01938

One of the earliest still-standing houses in New England is the Whipple House in Ipswich, Massachusetts. It exemplifies how houses from the 17th century changed over time. Its three different components show how the Whipple ancestors moved away from their English roots while also improving craftsmanship and architectural detail. The earliest known date for the house is 1650 when a previous transaction from John Fawn to John Whipple was recorded. The original component of the house may have been constructed as early as 1638.

4. The House of the Seven Gables

Address: 115 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970

In 1668, merchant and shipowner John Turner I and his wife Elizabeth Robinson Turner built a home in Salem Harbor destined to become one of America’s most beloved historical buildings. The House of Seven Gables was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. It is today best known for being the setting for world-renowned American author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel, but has many other great stories to tell. Learn more about centuries of history in one of America’s most visited historic houses.

5. John Hale House

Address: 39 Hale St, Beverly, MA 01915

The Hale Farm, also referred to as the John Hale House, is a historic house located at 39 Hale Street in Beverly, Massachusetts, and is currently run as a nonprofit museum by Historic Beverly. It is complete with antique furniture and a room filled with artifacts from the witchcraft hysteria. Reverend John Hale served as the pastor of Beverly’s First Parish Church and built this house in 1694. Hale is most known today for his major role in the 1692 Salem witch trials. Be sure to visit this must-see historic home to learn more about his involvement. 

6. Witch House

Address: 310 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970

The Witch House, home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, is the only structure still standing in Salem with direct ties to the Witchcraft Trials of 1692, and an excellent example of 17th century architecture. As a local magistrate and civic leader, Corwin was called upon to investigate the claims of witchcraft in Salem and neighboring communities, serving on the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Today, Witch House tours blend information about seventeenth-century lifestyles, furnishings, and architecture with fascinating insights into the events of 1692. Visitors gain a deeper comprehension of the lives of those involved in the Witchcraft Trials through examination of the material culture of the period.

7. Jeremiah Lee Mansion

Address: 161 Washington Street, Marblehead, MA 01945

The 1768 Lee Mansion is a magnificent Georgian home built by American craftsmen for Jeremiah Lee, the wealthiest merchant in Colonial Massachusetts. Preserved in a nearly original state, many of the Mansion’s original decorative elements have been preserved, including rare 18th century English hand-painted wallpapers – the only such wall treatments surviving in place. If driving when venturing to Marblehead, Marblehead Museum’s Jeremiah Lee Mansion is a great stop! While there, you can also learn more about the interesting work being done with the Marblehead Museum’s newly-acquired space, Jeremiah Lee’s Brick Kitchen & Slave Quarters

The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway’s variety of historic houses gives us great insight into the region’s fascinating past. Want to discover more history along this beautiful roadway? Check out Landmarks and Historic Sites On The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway.