Ever since the Peabody Essex Museum revealed in December of 2017 that the Phillips Library collection would not be returning to its home in Salem, the two historic buildings that housed the collection until 2011 have been a recurring topic of public and private conversation in Salem.
The Daland House was built in 1851 as a residence for wealthy Salem merchant John Tucker Daland. The Daland family lived there until 1885, when the house was acquired by the Essex Institute. Plummer Hall was built in 1857 for the Salem Athenaeum and was purchased by the Essex Institute in 1906 when the Athenaeum moved to its current home on Essex Street. In 1907, the Essex Institute built a connector between Plummer Hall and Daland House. Plummer Hall became home to Essex Institute museum galleries and administrative offices, and Daland housed the James Duncan Phillips Research Library. In 1992, the Essex Institute merged with the Peabody Museum to become the Peabody Essex Museum, but Plummer and Daland retained the Phillips Library collection until that collection was removed to Peabody in 2011, pending renovations to the buildings.
At the last Salem Historical Commission meeting, it came to the attention of everyone present that Plummer Hall and Daland House, along with the Gardner-Pingree House (1804-05), the Crowninshield-Bentley House (1727), the Andrew-Safford House (1818-19), the John Ward House (1684), the Lye-Tapley Shoe Shop (1830), and the Quaker Meeting House (with framing from Salem’s first Quaker meetinghouse, c. 1688), all currently owned by the Peabody Essex Museum, actually constitute a state and nationally designated historic district. The Essex Institute Historic District was listed as a National Register District in June of 1972 and as a Massachusetts Historic Landmark in July of 1972.
Historic Salem supports the Salem Historical Commission’s recommendation to the PEM to treat any changes to the area more holistically.