The Salisbury Mansion was built in 1772 by a wealthy Boston merchant, Mr. Stephen Salisbury. The original house was partly retail for his dry goods store and another portion was utilized as a residential dwelling for himself. In 1929, the building was left to the American Antiquarian Society. It changed hands several times over the years, eventually becoming the property of the Worcester Historical Museum. The Worcester Historical Museum restored the building to its 1830 luster and opened it to the public for tours. It was the city’s first historic house museum.
Backstory and Context
Stephen Salisbury moved into the house after its construction in 1772. Part of the home served as a dry goods store, which Salisbury operated. Salisbury came to Worcester from Boston, where he had made his fortune as a merchant. At the time, Worcester was a growing city of approximately 2,000 residents. It is about 50 miles west of the City of Boston.
The home was built in the Georgian style that was fashionable in the mid-eighteenth century. This architectural style is characterized by symmetrical design, both on the exterior and interior of the structure. The part of the building that originally served as the dry goods store was restored in the 1980s to reflect the designs that were considered stylish during the time the Salisbury family lived in the home.
A few years later, he brought his wife, Elizabeth Tuckerman, to the home from Boston. They had three children together while they were living in this home, but only one of them (Stephen II) survived to adulthood. After the embargo imposed by the War of 1812, the store was closed and the entire building became the family home. Their son made did not continue to live in the home with his family. He became a wealthy businessman like his father, and built an elegant home for his own family not far from his parents in Worcester.
In 1929, the mansion was moved from its former home on Lincoln Square to its current site at 40 Highland Street to save it from demolition. Lincoln Square, where the home was once situated, was rebuilt as the City of Worcester transformed from an industrial mecca to a haven for education and the arts. The land where the house once stood is now the site of the World War I Memorial and the mostly abandoned Worcester Memorial Auditorium.
In 1929, the building was left to the American Antiquarian Society (AAS). Three years later, AAS sold the building to the Worcester Art Museum, which held onto it for nearly twenty years. The Art Museum eventually sold it to the Worcester Employment Society in 1950. The Worcester Employment Society grew out of the space just five years after they purchased it and decided that they wanted to either renovate the building or tear it down entirely. The Salisbury Mansion Associates formed to preserve the historic structure. They purchased it from the Worcester Employment Society a few years later and restored it to its earlier beauty. For some time, the Salisbury Mansion Associates and the local Girl Scouts Council operated out of the space. In 1981, the Worcester Historical Museum agreed to lease the space from the Salisbury Mansion Associates and undertook a huge new project. The restoration of the old building was initiated. The plan was to turn the building into the beautiful 1830 home that the widowed Elizabeth Tuckerman Salisbury cherished. The renovations were completed by 1984 and the property was opened as the City’s first historic house museum. When the Salisbury Mansion Associates (property owner) and the Worcester Historical Museum (tenant) merged in 1985, the home became the property of the museum.
The Salisbury Mansion and Store was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. According to the website of the Worcester Historical Museum, the Mansion is considered one of the best documented historic house museums in the New England region. The mansion offers guided tours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons.
The Architecture. Worcester Historical Museum. Accessed May 11, 2017. http://www.worcesterhistory.org/museum/salisbury-mansion/the-architecture/.
Southwick, Albert B.. Saving Worcester’s Salisbury Mansion. Telegram. December 17, 2015. Accessed May 12, 2017. http://www.telegram.com/article/20151217/OPINION/151219468.
Architectural Style Guide. Historic New England. Accessed May 12, 2017. https://www.historicnewengland.org/preservation/for-homeowners-communities/your-old-or-historic-home....