The Gardner-Pingree House in Salem, Mass., was built in 1804 by noted local builder, Samuel McIntire and is said to be a masterpiece of Federal architecture.
John Gardner and his wife, Sarah., were its first occupants. When the couple needed to recoup some funds due to shipping losses leading up to the war of 1812, they sold it to Sarah’s brother, Nathaniel West.
Shipmaster and trader Captain Joseph White bought it in 1814, and was murdered here in 1830, prompting a notorious trial that inspired writers Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
At 82 years old, White lived here with two relatives (who worked at the house) and a domestic servant. Benjamin White, his handyman and distant relative, woke up on April 7, 1830, and noticed an open window and feared a robbery. He alerted the Captain’s servant and together they arrived at his room to an open door.
White was dead, having suffered a blow to his temple and several stab wounds. None of his treasures were disturbed, however.
Turns out his great-nephews had him killed in hopes of his sizable fortune trickling down to them.
“The famed lawyer and congressman Daniel Webster was the prosecutor at the ensuing trial,” crime historian E.J. Wagner wrote in an article on the murder for Smithsonian Magazine. “His summation for the jury—its inexorable cadence, the slow gathering of dreadful atmospheric details—tugged at my memory, reminding me of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of terror. In fact, after talking with Poe scholars, I learned that many of them agreed the famous speech had likely been the inspiration for Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” wherein the narrator boasts of his murder of an elderly man. Moreover, I discovered, the murder case had even found its way into some of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works, with its themes of tainted family fortunes, torrential guilt and ensuing retribution.”
The Smithsonian story is lengthy and detailed, should you fancy an interesting true crime read.
Merchant David Pingree bought it the house1934, and 99 years later, his descendants passed it on to the Essex Institute, which would become the Peabody Essex Museum.
The house was one of the filming location for the 1979 film, The Europeans.
It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1972 for its architectural significance.
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