Custom House

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The Custom House, at 178 Derby Street, built in 1818, is well known for its ties to Nathaniel Hawthorne. While Hawthorne worked at the Custom House, he gathered material for his famous novel, the Scarlet Letter.

The Custom House serves as the principal building of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site (est. in 1938). It was here that import duties used to finance the federal government were collected during the busy shipping trade era.

The gracious Flemish-bond brick structure has a gracious front central doorway, a hipped roof topped with an enormous gilded eagle with outspread wings and barbed arrows in each claw.

The previous custom house was on Central Street before moving to Derby Wharf in 1819.

In 1825, Salem artisan Joseph True carved the Custom House eagle that perches on top of the building. In 2003, the eagle was taken down, replaced temporarily with a replica while the other was restored over a three year period.

See Also

Vertical File in Salem Collection - Custom House

Custom House Historical Marker Database

Architecture in Salem B. Tolles, p.57-8

"Exhibit recalls Custom House's role" Salem News, Oct. 11, 2002, p. A3

"Rediscovering the Custom House Eagle" Salem News, Jan. 3, 2006, p. A1

"The Custom House eagle will soon re-land" Salem News, Oct. 18, 2006, p. A1