• Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Salem Maritime

    National Historic Site Massachusetts

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  • Central Wharf Restrooms Closed

    The Central Wharf public restrooms will be closed on Thursday and Friday, September 18th and 19th for exterior door replacement. They are scheduled to reopen on Saturday at 9am.

  • Fishing Prohibition on Hold

    On 8/20/14 the park issued a rule change prohibiting fishing throughout the park due to concerns over water quality and visitor safety. The fishing prohibition is now on hold, pending further review - click for more information. More »

Archaeology of the Derby Counting House

 

Introduction

 
A depiction of Derby Wharf in 1797
Derby Wharf from Stage Point, c. 1797. From the membership certificate of the Salem Marine Society, engraved by Abijiah Northey.
NPS Collections, SAMA 2520
 
Derby Wharf has not always been as serene and park-like as it is today. For the first 150 years of its existence, it was filled with warehouses large and small, containing stored cargo, workshops, and merchants' offices. However, as Salem's international trade and maritime fleet declined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the buildings were torn down or succumbed to weather since they were not thought to be important enough to save. Today, we know that the buildings associated with daily life -warehouses, bake houses, dairy houses, slave quarters, and especially privies (outdoor bathrooms), to name a few - can greatly enrich our understanding of how people in the past lived. So, in order to understand more about our national parks, the National Park Service uses historical archaeology to excavate and study the remains of vanished structures. This project is about what was once one of the most important buildings on Derby Wharf. The "Upper Store House," built in 1765, which between the late 1780s and 1799 housed the "counting house" or business office of Elias Hasket Derby.

 
Derby Counting House excavation in progress
The archaeological excavation of the Derby Counting House in progress.
Photograph by Andrew Sewall, Hardlines Design Company
 
Your fee dollars at work!

This project was funded by recreational fees collected at national parks nationwide. Thank you for your help in making your national parks a better place for all. For more information about the recreational fee program, and the support it has provided to your national parks, visit http://www.nps.gov/pub_aff/feedemo/


 

Did You Know?

Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne, circa 1855.

In addition to being a world-famous author, Salem native Nathaniel Hawthorne also held three government positions: Measurer for the Port of Boston, Surveyor of the Port of Salem, and U.S. Consul to Liverpool. The Custom House in Salem where he worked is now part of Salem Maritime NHS. More...