The wharf is one of the few surviving pre-revolutionary port facilities in the nation The first 742 feet of Derby Wharf were built in the 1760's by Richard Derby. The wharf was extended to its present length in 1806. Derby Wharf became part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site after the latter was established in 1938.
"While noted as a privateering and East India trade center, Derby Wharf also had some interesting tenants in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In addition to the sailmakers, coopers, carting services and stores one would expect to find on a wharf, there were also, at the turn of the century, a junkyard, A.C. Pettingell's wholesale fish dealership, and the Boston and Northern Street Railway Company. Pettingell's sold processed fish under eight different names including the ever-popular "Witch City" brand. The railway company used its Derby Wharf facility for streetcar storage and repair" writes the Jim McAllister in Salem Webtales.
The National Park Service developed a plan to improve the 9 acre site and published an extensive study with a plan in 1991. This included the building of a replica of the ship the Friendship, dredging the harbor, restoring wharves, building a new visitor center at the Salem Armory Site, and constructing a storehouse on the wharf. A team of archeaological historians from U.Mass did an extensive dig in 1993 before the renovations to the wharves were done. Recently another project is under way, as a storehouse is being reconstructed on the wharf to show how it would have looked in the early centuries. The 1770 wood-frame building, called the Pedick Store House, was moved from Marblehead in 2008 and will be rebuilt to show the type of merchant warehouses that would have stood on the wharf.
Derby Wharf Light Station was constructed at the south end of Derby Wharf in 1871. The building is brick, two stories tall, twelve feet square and topped with an iron deck and cupola. The National Park Service was awarded jurisdiction in 1979 from the U.S. Coast Guard. Since 1911, the lighthouse no longer has a manned by a lighthouse keeper. The Lighthouse was renovated in 1989 due to a preservation grant from the Dept. of the Interior. The grant was used to repoint masonry, replace window, repair doors and windows, install a floor drain and repaint the building.
The Derby Wharf Light Station was placed on the list of the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
In 2008, a new (old) building was added to Derby Wharf. The Pedrick Store House,(ca. 1770) moved from nearby Marblehead was preserved to look like a period store house.
Vertical File in Salem Collection - Derby Wharf
Along the Shoreline Derby Wharf on Salem Webtales
"Project to revitalized wharves under way" Salem Evening News, Nov. 14, 1992, p. 1
"Wharf team digs into history" Salem Evening News, Feb. 4, 1993, p. 1
"Historical transplant; officials hope Pendrick House will revitalize Derby Wharf as hub of history" Salem Gazette, Oct. 30, 2009, p.1
"Lighthouse to get a face" Salem Evening News, Aug. 9, 1989, p. 9
"National Park Service gets money to save salt shed" Salem News, June 27, 2003, p. A9
"Old warehouse returns to city waterfront" Salem News, Sept. 18, 2008, p.1
"A new arrival on Derby Wharf: Marblehead storehouse being rebuilt on historic site" Salem News, April 22, 2008, p.1
"Reconstructing a piece of history: Salem rescues as 238 year old warehouse" Boston Sunday Globe, Oct. 12, 2008, p. N 02