While there has been a Custom House in Salem, Mass., since 1649, this one was built in 1819.
It housed offices for the U.S. Customs service as well as an attached warehouse, which was used to store impounded and bonded cargo.
Because the Custom House symbolized the Federal Government in Salem, top-notch architects were brought on board to create this gem. With high ceilings, a sweeping staircase and intricately carved woodwork, the building operated as a Custom House until the 1930s.
A wooden eagle, carved by Salem craftsman Joseph True, was placed on the roof in 1826. It originally cost $50. In 2004, it was replaced by fiberglass replica. However, the carefully conserved original eagle is on display inside.
Part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, the Customs House now has a number of displays, including the tools of the Customs Service, works of Customs inspectors and the office of famed American author Nathanial Hawthorne, whose three years in this building inspired his classic novel, “The Scarlet Letter.”