The grassy strip of land extending into the harbor in front of you was once a busy commercial wharf. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, cargoes from around the world were unloaded on the wharf and stored in warehouses until they were sold.
Central Wharf was built in 1784. In 1791 merchant Simon Forrester purchased the wharf and extended it to its current length of 795 feet, making it the fourth longest wharf in Salem. On the foundation in front of you, Forrester built a fine brick warehouse. The same year, he purchases and finished the large house behind you, and from his mansion he could survey the wharf, warehouses, and vessels that were the source of his wealth.
Through the years, Central Wharf has seen many uses. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, flour, grain, and coal were loaded and unloaded here. From 1937 to 1973, the U.S. Navy operated a Naval Reserve Training Center that has since been demolished.
Yesterday died in Salem, Capt. Forrester, Age 71...with a temper as boisterous as a tempest & with habits of occasional intemperance like a ship without a helm, he still retained so much of his industry in the active parts of his life as to have more than common success." - Diary of Rev. William Bentley, July 5, 1817
Simon Forrester owned Central Wharf from 1791 until his death in 1817. An experienced seaman and former privateer, Forrester's trading expertise made him one of the nation's first millionaires. In 1776 he married Rachel Hawthorne, aunt of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, and they raised twelve children. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.
This photo shows Central Wharf just after the Salem Fire of 1914. Forrester's brick warehouse, indicated by an arrow, has been gutted by the flames; today only the foundation in front of you remains. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.