The Joshua Ward House - Salem, Massachusetts
The Joshua Ward House, designed by Samuel McIntire, is a Georgian style building featuring Federal style interior details. The home was built between 1784 and 1788 on land that previously belonged to George Corwin, the sheriff of Essex County during the Witch Trials of 1692. The Joshua Ward House with its sloping front yard would have once overlooked Salem Harbor and Ward Wharf, which over the centuries has been filled in to expand Salem’s downtown. Joshua Ward, a ship owner, merchant, and rum distiller would have watched as trade ships returned to Salem from the West Indies with spices and molasses, ingredients vital to his distillery.
On October 29, 1789, Joshua Ward hosted President George Washington, who was visiting Salem during a tour of New England and spent a night at the Ward home. Upon Joshua Ward’s death in 1825, the house was transformed into a hotel, appropriately named Washington Hotel.
In the late 1970s, the Joshua Ward House underwent extensive preservation and restoration. The work was spearheaded by Salem architect Staley McDermet and paid for with grants provided by the Salem Redevelopment Authority. In 1978, the Joshua Ward House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places; it is also part of the Downtown Salem District, a national historic district that was established in 1983.
In 1994 the home was purchased by Robert Murphy, an antiquarian book dealer and owner of Higginson Book Company, who headquartered his business out of the Ward House.
In 2015, The Joshua Ward House once again was transformed into a hotel, fittingly called The Merchant.The hotel boasts newly remodeled and painted rooms that harken back to the time of Joshua Ward’s ownership but with a modern style.

Postcard images: Salem State University Archives & Special Collections
Photograph courtesy of The Merchant

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

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