Phillips House (1821)

Explore a Chestnut Street mansion (Salem, Massachusetts)

In 1821 four intact rooms from an earlier house were transported by ox sled to Salem’s fashionable Chestnut Street to form the core of a new Federal-style mansion being built by Captain Nathaniel West. Nearly a century later, Anna Phillips bought the house and launched a fourteen-month renovation in the Colonial Revival style. Today Phillips House is the only mansion open to the public on Chestnut Street.

When Anna Phillips, her husband Stephen Willard Phillips, and their five-year-old son moved in, they brought with them a family collection that spans five generations and grew exponentially during Salem’s Great Age of Sail. Enjoy a glimpse into the privileged world of the Phillips family and their staff during the early decades of the twentieth century. The kitchen, pantry, and a domestic staff bedroom, present a rarely seen picture of how great houses functioned as new technologies were being introduced.

Plan Your Visit


34 Chestnut Street
Salem, Mass. 01970

Days & Hours

June – September
Thursday – Sunday

September 26 – October 
Thursday – Monday

Tours on the hour
11 AM – 4 PM

Also open:
Tuesday, October 29

Wednesday, October 30
Thursday, October 31

Closed July 4


$20 adults
$15 seniors and students
$10 children

Free for Historic New England members


Tour involves standing, walking, and stairs. Visitors with limited mobility may be able to enjoy a first floor tour of the house and grounds and a visual tour of the museum is available. Folding chairs are provided for visitors who would like to use them while on tour. The site is not equipped with ramps, elevators, or lifts. Service animals are welcome. We are happy to work with you to make your visit an enjoyable one and we encourage visitors with questions or requests to call ahead.


From Route 128, take exit 39 to Lowell Street East. Follow signs into Salem, staying straight to end (street name changes). Turn left into Essex Street. At next light, turn right onto Flint Street, and then take an immediate left onto Chestnut Street. Phillips House is the fifth house on the left; visitor entrance at rear of house.


Two hour on-street parking is available on Chestnut Street.

During the month of October, on-street parking on Chestnut Street is limited. Please visit the city’s website or Haunted Happenings for additional parking information.

Public Transportation

Walking from the Salem MBTA Station (0.6 miles): Head southwest on Bridge Street, turn left to stay on Bridge Street, continue onto Washington Street, turn right at Essex Street, turn left at Botts Court, turn right at Chestnut Street. MBTA bus service is also available to Salem.

Contact Information

Phillips House Facade

The Federal-style mansion is located on Salem's picturesque Chestnut Street.

  • Phillips House Facade

    The Federal-style mansion is located on Salem's picturesque Chestnut Street.

  • Dining Room

    This room is the finest example of the house's Colonial Revival renovations. Photo courtesy of Lightshed Photography Studio.

  • Ladies' Sitting Room

    Here, Anna Phillips ran the business of the household and informally entertained guests. Photo courtesy of Lightshed Photography Studio.

  • Stevie's Room

    Stevie Phillips' bedroom mainly reflects his interests in 1919, when he was twelve years old.

  • Kitchen

    The kitchen was a social space for the domestic staff and their friends and family. Photo courtesy of Lightshed Photography Studio.

  • Automobile Collection

    A 1929 Model A Ford is among the vehicles on display in the carriage house. Take a self-guided tour of the carriage house from April to November.

Rocky outcropping in foreground with Forest River marsh in middle and background.Naumkeag

Prior to the seventeenth-century English colonization, the land now called Salem was and is the ancestral home to the Naumkeag band of the Massachusett tribe. Naumkeag, both the traditional name of the land and the people who lived there, was seasonally rich in resources. By living with the land in this way, the Naumkeag were semi-nomadic and traveled to nearby hunting and fishing grounds with environmental changes.

By the early 1600s, the thriving community dealt with war and disease that severely diminished the Naumkeag population. Continual clashes with the Micmac to the north resulted in many casualties, including that of Nanapeshamet, the Naumkeag sagamore or chief. Simultaneously, the Naumkeag’s numbers were further reduced by an epidemic that spread through coastal New England from 1616 to 1619 due to the introduction of European diseases.  Because the indigenous people had no prior exposure, they had no resistance to fight the contagion, which spread rapidly throughout the community. Historian Emerson Baker concludes that by 1631, there were roughly only three hundred indigenous people between the Mystic River and Naumkeag, whereas before 1616, the population was in the 20,000s. Continued interaction with Europeans led to a smallpox epidemic in 1633, which further decreased the Naumkeag population.

The first European to settle in Naumkeag was Roger Conant, who led a group of men from a failed colony in Cape Ann in 1626. Two years later, John Endicott arrived with a charter from the New England Company (which would become the Massachusetts Bay Company). Conant and Endicott’s groups combined and by 1629, the English called the land “Salem,” an anglicized spelling of shalom, the Hebrew word for peace.

While the English and Naumkeag lived relatively harmoniously, however, the English saw the land as empty and available for the taking. The cleared expanses and lack of permanent structures belied the many years of land use by the Naumkeag. The English imposed their farming practices, replacing the traditional crops, and permanent dwellings were built.

In the second half of the 1600s, the English exerted more control over the land. In 1644, the sachems signed over their lands and people to the governance of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and after that time indigenous people had to appeal to the English court system to retain ownership of their land. Tensions continued to mount by the 1670s, and during King Philip’s War, the English fortified their settlement and in 1679 the town ordered that no indigenous person could spend the night in Salem.

In 1686, Salem’s governing council purchased the ancestral land from the descendants of Sagamore George, the sachem of the Naumkeag and several other groups on the North Shore of Massachusetts. They paid Sagamore George’s grandchildren and kin £20 for the land that is now Salem, Danvers, and Peabody.

Water color drawing of 18th century shipA Growing Salem

Colonial Salem continued to grow throughout the seventeenth century. Farming, fishing, shipbuilding, and trade were the major industries of the largely Puritan community that had expanded to include Salem Town, the prosperous, commercial center close to the harbor, and Salem Village, the agricultural community in modern-day Danvers. However, in 1688 the Massachusetts Bay Colony lost its charter and was incorporated into the Province of Massachusetts Bay under the British monarchs, William and Mary. The upset in leadership and tensions in the community led to a difficult end of the century.

By the 1700s, coastal, European, and Caribbean trade strengthened the town’s economy. The wealthy merchant class were largely loyalists to Britain, but by the 1760s there was a growing number of rebels among them. In 1774, the British military governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, moved the General Court, the seat of British power in the commonwealth, to Salem and, in direct defiance to this action, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress began in Salem in October of that year. As revolution erupted the once British trading ships became privateers and legally raided British ships for the colonists.

In the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution, Salem entered its greatest economic age. While neighboring towns buckled under the taxes and pressures of supporting a new nation, Salem’s privateering ships were repurposed for large and expansive voyages. By 1790, Salem was the sixth-largest city in the new nation and a globally recognized trading capital. Leading the charge was Elias Hasket Derby, whose ship, the Grand Turk, was the first to trade with China, beginning the China Trade, which created great fortunes for many Salem mariners. Captain Stephen Phillips (1761 – 1838) was among them, and sailed with Derby’s ships. Phillips amassed a fleet of his own and bought shares in many of the trading ventures leaving the port. He established a prosperous merchant business, which raised his family’s fortune and status. This would be the base of the family’s generational wealth.

Salem’s increased status led to an increase of disposable wealth for the ship captains, merchants, and their families. The proudly international city was consciously fashioning itself in the styles of the time, with a focus on fashion, intellectual pursuits, arts, and architecture. In 1796, Chestnut Street was first laid out on what once was farmland. Federal style mansions began springing up on the available lots. The 80 foot wide street provided a refuge from the bustling wharves and prominent families took up residence, including the Phillips’.

Pictured is the ship “Union”. Owned by Stephen Phillips, it sailed for trade in India and the East Indies and its major cargo was pepper.

Phillips House - Exterior

Phillips House – Exterior

The Oak Hill Estate, South Danvers

Architecturally, Phillips House contains layers of history. From the front, it looks typically Federal in style, with a symmetrical façade, elegant proportions, a grand entryway, columns, fanlight, sidelights, a Palladian window, and a hipped roof. The house also has quoins, or masonry blocks at the corner of a wall, which were more common in the previous Georgian period. In contrast, the inside of the house is a combination of the Federal style and fashionable early twentieth-century Colonial Revival styles, as remodeled by the Phillips family shortly after purchasing the house in 1911.

This long evolution began in 1800, when Elizabeth Derby West and Captain Nathaniel West hired Samuel McIntire to build a grand country estate for them in South Danvers, Massachusetts, approximately four miles from Salem today. Elizabeth’s father, Elias Haskett Derby, America’s first millionaire, left the land to her after his death in 1799 where the Wests built a fashionable country home, showcasing their status. Unfortunately the West marriage ended in a bitter and public divorce in 1806. Elizabeth, determined that her ex-husband should never get his hands on the house, willed it to their three daughters.

PHI Library Review permissions before publication

PHI Library
Review permissions before publication

The Move to Chestnut Street

After Elizabeth died in 1814 and the youngest daughter Sarah died unmarried and childless in 1819, Captain West inherited one third of the estate, which equaled four rooms of the house. In 1820 he had those rooms removed from the Danvers house and moved to Salem, using teams of oxen and logs. These rooms make up the front four rooms of the present house. West added a connecting hallway, a third floor, and a kitchen wing in the rear. The Wests’ son, Nathaniel West, Jr. and his family lived in the home until 1836.

5-exterior_-_364_x_253A Boarding House and School

The West family continued to own the house through the early nineteenth century. By 1836 Malvina Tabitha Ward and her daughter took up residence to run a genteel boarding house and school. In 1863 Nathaniel West’s trustees sold the house to Mrs. Ward for $6,000, which began a long line of female owners of 34 Chestnut Street. In 1875 Sophia Ward, possibly the granddaughter of Malvina Ward, sold the house to Annie B. Webb, wife of William G. Webb, for $15,000. Annie Webb was a founding member of one of Salem’s philanthropic sewing circles, “The Cheerful Workers.”

Not an original photograph. Photograph was saved from photographic tour on HistoricNewEngland.org 2010-2015.

Not an original photograph. Photograph was saved from photographic tour on HistoricNewEngland.org 2010-2015.

Family Home and Rental Property

By 1884 the house had nearly doubled in size to the current footprint, including the existing laundry, kitchen, and second-floor guest room under Annie Webb’s direction. Upon Mr. Webb’s death in 1896, Mrs. Webb took up residence in Europe and rented the house to David Mason Little, a relative by marriage, and his family until 1903. Following the Littles, the Misses King rented 34 Chestnut Street until 1911. Over the years the interior and parts of the exterior were changed to reflect various styles that became popular, from Federal to Aesthetic to Colonial Revival.

PHI Anna Phillips

PHI Anna Phillips

A Colonial Revival Home

Anna Wheatland Phillips (pictured) bought the house in June 1911 for “$1.00 and various sundries.” Within a few months, she and her husband, Stephen Willard Phillips, hired architect William Rantoul to remodel the house in the Colonial Revival style. Using America’s architectural past for inspiration, Rantoul stripped away the elaborate late nineteenth century interior designs, incorporated large windows to let in the sunshine and fresh air necessary for good health and sanitation, and in the dining room and other spaces recreated a “Federal-style” look.

The Phillips family, while appreciating the past as reflected in the beauty of their Federal house, also wanted a comfortable, modern home which reflected their status and wealth; where they could raise their son Stephen, entertain on a frequent basis, and display generations of furnishings and artwork. The interior showcases souvenirs from their travels and many pieces of Stephen Willard Phillips’ Oceanic collection. Two staircases were removed to make way for up-to-date bathrooms, closets, and a great deal of living space. For everyone’s comfort the house was fully electrified and, for the staff, a modern gas stove was installed next to the coal-fired range in the kitchen.

Five domestic staff assisted the Phillips family with the running of the house. Three live-in servants, including a cook Bridget Durgin, first-floor maid Delia Cawley, and nursemaid Catherine Shaugnessy, were Irish-born single women who had separate bedrooms in the back wing of the third floor. Two male staff, coachman/groundsman Cornelius “Con” Flynn and chauffeur Patrick O’Hara, were needed for the horse-drawn carriages and the automobiles owned by the family. The men did not live on the property, but went home at night to be with their families. A selection of carriages used by the Phillipses and three of their automobiles used during this time are on view today in the carriage house. The domestic staff continued to live in the home after Stephen Willard Phillips’ death in 1955.

Stevie Phillips Bedroom; Photo taken by Rob Reynolds of LightShed Photography of Salem

Stevie Phillips Bedroom; Photo taken by Rob Reynolds of LightShed Photography of Salem

Becoming a Museum

Anna and Stephen Willard Phillips’ son, Stephen Phillips and his wife Betty, resided in the family’s neighboring home. When Stephen Phillips died in 1971, he requested that his childhood home be turned into a historic house museum. His wife Betty, residing in the family’s neighboring home, officially opened the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation in 1973, exhibiting five generations of Phillips family furnishings, art, and antiques. Mrs. Phillips was active in the museum’s administration until her death in 1996. From that point forward, the daily operations and programming were overseen by the board of trustees and one staff person.

Historic New England acquired Phillips House in 2006 from the board of trustees. The museum offers a variety of public programs that focus on the many stories and objects in the house including an extensive Oceanic collection, family film collection, a variety of antique carriages and cars, and specialty tours that highlight what life was like in Salem in the early twentieth century.

Collections on Display

Banjo clock


Painting of Venice


Property FAQs

Find out about restrooms, photography policy, and more.

Learn More
  • Are there restrooms at Phillips House?

    Yes, there are two restrooms, but unfortunately they are not handicapped accessible.

  • When can I visit the Phillips House grounds?

    The museum grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk.

  • Are dogs allowed on the property?

    Historic New England welcomes responsible pet owners to enjoy our grounds. Dogs must be on a leash and under control at all times. Dog waste must be picked up and properly disposed of, off the property.

  • Can I take photographs at Phillips House?

    Interior and exterior photography for personal use is allowed at Historic New England properties. For the safety and comfort of our visitors and the protection of our collections and house museums, we ask that you be aware of your surroundings and stay with your guide. Video, camera bags, tripods, and selfie sticks are not permitted. Professional/commercial photographers and members of the media should visit the press room for more information.

  • How can I become a member of Historic New England and get more involved?

    Join Historic New England now and help preserve the region’s heritage. Call 617-994-5910 or join online.

  • Do I need to take a tour or can I just look around?

    All visitors to the house receive a guided tour. A self-guided tour of the carriage house is available during open hours.

  • What does the tour cover?

    Tours of Phillips House are approximately forty-five minutes long and focus on how the Phillips family lived in the house around 1919.

  • How long has the house been open for tours?

    Mrs. Bessie Wright Phillips established the museum (her husband’s childhood home) in 1973 as a memorial to her husband’s family and the sailing ship era of Salem.

  • When did Historic New England acquire the house?

    In 2006 Historic New England acquired the Stephen Phillips Trust for Historic Preservation House from the family. Phillips House became the thirty-sixth Historic New England property.

  • What is the flag that flies in front of the house?

    The Hawaiian flag flies because Stephen Willard Phillips was born in Hawaii in the 1870s while his father, Stephen Henry Phillips, was attorney general under King Kamehameha.

  • When was the house built?

    Captain Nathaniel West and his wife, Elizabeth Derby, built the front four rooms in 1800. The rooms were moved to 34 Chestnut Street in 1820-21. Changes were made throughout the house’s history in the Victorian and Colonial Revival styles.

  • When did the family last live here?

    Stephen Willard Phillips died in 1955; however, members of the domestic staff lived here until 1962.

  • Is there a connection between the Phillips family of Phillips House and Phillips Exeter and Andover Academies?

    Yes, they all descended from the Rev. George Phillips, who came from England on the ship Arbella in 1630 with Governor Winthrop.

  • Are the fireplaces made of plaster?

    No, they are carved out of wood. Parts may be a composite of wood and plaster.

  • Were the mantels carved by Samuel McIntire?

    We are not sure; parts of the front four rooms may have been designed by him, someone of the same school, and/or his son, Samuel Field McIntire. They came from a house called Oak Hill, where McIntire did work.

  • When was the carriage house built? What cars are in there?

    The carriage house was built in the 1820s. Inside you can see the Phillips family’s antique cars and carriages. There is a 1929 Model A Ford, a 1924 Pierce Arrow Touring Car, and a 1936 Pierce Arrow Limousine.

  • What is upstairs in the carriage house?

    There may have been quarters for a stable hand or groom on the left side before the Phillips lived here. The right side had grain and hay for the animals. The Phillipses used it as another storage area.

  • What is the square footage of Phillips House

    Approximately 10,000 square feet of living area; approximately 11,500 square feet including the attic and basement.

  • Do you provide admission discounts for EBT cardholders?

    EBT cardholders from all fifty states can show their card for $2 admission to house tours for up to four guests per card.

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