History of the Hawthorne Hotel

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The Hawthorne Hotel is a historic hotel in Salem, Massachusetts named after local author Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The hotel is a six-story Colonial Revival-style building that was first constructed in 1925 and originally featured 150 rooms but has since been remodeled and now has a total of 89 rooms.

Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, Mass, circa 2017
Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, Mass, circa 2017

In addition to being historic, it is also rumored that the hotel is haunted. Some rooms, such as room 325 and room 612, as well as the entire sixth floor, are said to be especially haunted and guests have reported seeing a ghostly woman walking the halls, hearing strange noises and feeling as though they had been touched by an invisible force.

The following is a history of the Hawthorne Hotel:

1675:

  • Colonel John Higginson, son of Reverend John Higginson, builds a large house on what is now the site of the Hawthorne Hotel. Nathaniel Andrew later marries into the Higginson family and ownership of the house transfers to the Andrew family.

1762:

  • Nathaniel Andrews leaves the house to his son John Andrew. Andrew eventually sells the house to John Gardner sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century.

1809:

  • John Gardner sells the old Higginson house to Colonel Samuel Archer.
  • Colonel Archer tears down the house and builds the Archer Block (later known as the Franklin Building), a hipped-roof brick structure designed by architect Samuel McIntire, on the site. The building houses residential apartments, offices and retail stores.

1810:

  • Colonel Samuel Archer dies and his family sells the Archer Block to Josiah Dow, a dry goods dealer, who renames the building Wakefield Place.

1818:

  • Dow sells the building to Captain Thomas Perkins, a member of the Salem Marine Society, who renames it the Franklin Building.

1830:

  • Captain Thomas Perkins dies.

1833:

  • The estate of Thomas Perkins gives the Franklin Building to the Salem Marine Society who begin using it as their headquarters.

1845:

  • The Franklin Building is damaged during a fire.

1859:

  • The Franklin Building is damaged again during a fire.

1860:

  • The Franklin Building catches fire again and is reduced to rubble.

1864:

  • The Franklin Building is rebuilt.

1921:

  • The residents of Salem vote in favor of building a new hotel in Salem. The Franklin Building is chosen as the site of the new hotel and the Salem Marine Society agrees to give up their building if the hotel builds offices on top of the hotel where the society can hold its meetings.

1923:

  • On July 16, a rally is held at the Salem YMCA to celebrate the launch of a fundraising campaign to build a new hotel in Salem. Money is raised by four divisions of salespeople selling shares of stocks, valued at $100 each, over the course of one week.
  • By the end of the first day of fundraising, a total of $500,000 of the $750,000 goal is raised.
  • By July 23, a total of $527,000 is raised.
  • On August 27, the Salem Hotel Corporation is incorporated.

1924:

  • In June, the Franklin Building is razed and construction begins on the Hawthorne Hotel with contractors Pitman and Brown and architect Phillip Horton Smith, of Smith and Walker in charge.

1925:

  • Shortly before construction is completed, an additional $90,000 is raised to expand the ballroom and to pay off some of the hotel’s mortgage.
  • The chairman of the Hawthorne Memorial Association, Judge Alden White, suggests that the hotel be named after Nathaniel Hawthorne, since it is located near many sites associated with Hawthorne, such as his birthplace on Union Street and the House of Seven Gables on Derby Street.
  • On July 21, the Salem Chamber of Commerce and the Salem Rotary Club celebrates the impending grand opening of the hotel with a city-wide parade that includes the Salem Cadet Band, Salem Chamber of Commerce, Salem Rotary Club, and other local organizations. After the parade, a flag-raising ceremony is held on the roof of the hotel.
  • On July 23, the Hawthorne Hotel opens its doors to the public. A banquet is held in the hotel’s ballroom to celebrate the grand opening.
  • On October 17, the hotel hosts its first wedding when Lucretia Johnson Perkins weds William Russell Burns. The couple had met when Burns was working as one of the principal architects on the hotel’s construction.

1954:

  • The owner of the hotel begins to renovate and modernize the hotel by adding air conditioning, televisions, radios and en suite bathrooms.

1959:

  • The hotel changes its name to the Hawthorne Motor Hotel.

1970:

  • In June, the television show Bewitched films a scene from one of their seven episodes set in Salem in an elevator in the Hawthorne Hotel. During filming of the Salem episodes, both Elizabeth Montgomery and her co-star Dick York stay as guests at the hotel.
  • Sometime during the 1970s, the hotel falls upon hard times and is foreclosed on and shut down for more than a year.
  • Towards the end of the 1970s, the hotel changes its name to the Hawthorne Inn.

1976:

  • The hotel undergoes renovations.

1984:

  • Actress Vanessa Redgrave stays as a guest at the hotel while filming the television series Three Sovereigns for Sarah, a PBS series about the Salem Witch Trials.

1985:

  • The hotel celebrates its 60th anniversary.

1989:

  • The hotel changes its name back to the Hawthorne Hotel.
  • In the late 1980s, former Congressman Michael Harrington takes over ownership of the hotel as part of a realty trust known as the Three Corner Realty Trust.

1990:

  • On October 30, a séance is held in the Grand Ballroom in an attempt to contact Harry Houdini on the 64th anniversary of his death.
  • In October, a $6.23 million dollar loan that the Three Corner Realty Trust had received to renovate the hotel goes into default.
  • In October, the Hawthorne Hotel is added to the list of Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

1991:

  • The first annual Halloween Party is held at the hotel.
  • The hotel’s defaulted $6.23 million dollar loan is taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC.)

1997:

  • In October, a small fire breaks out in the basement of the hotel.

2001:

  • Former President Bill Clinton visits the hotel.
  • Harrington steps down as owner of the hotel but is still involved in its day to day operations as part of the Three Corner Realty Trust that owns and operates the hotel.
  • On September 20, Harrington pleads guilty to misappropriating government funds by taking money from the Hawthorne Hotel between 1991 and 1993 that was supposed to go towards the defaulted $6.25 million bank loan being managed by the FDIC. Harrington admits to converting a total of $226,771 into a series of weekly $1,000 paycheck for himself and using it on personal expenses.

2007:

  • The television show Ghost Hunters film an episode at the hotel in an attempt to debunk the rumors that the hotel is haunted.

2015:

  • Scenes from the film Joy, starring Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence, are shot in the Grand Ballroom, Mezzanine, and in one of the guest rooms. Both stars are guests at the hotel while shooting the scenes.
  • The Hawthorne Hotel is voted the Best City Center Historic Hotel from Historic Hotels of America.
  • In July, the hotel celebrates its 90th anniversary with big band music and dancers dressed in period costumes doing popular dances from the “roaring twenties.”

2018:

  • As of at least 2018, Michael Harrington becomes the owner of the Hawthorne Hotel again.

2019:

  • In October, the Hawthorne Hotel is listed on TripAdvisor’s annual list of the most haunted hotels in America.

2020:

  • On July 23, the hotel celebrates its 95th anniversary.

If you are in the Salem area and are interested in learning more about the Hawthorne Hotel, the hotel offers a free 30-minute Hawthorne Hotel History Tour every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 4:30pm. Guests can sign up for the tour at the front desk or by calling the hotel directly.

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History of the Hawthorne Hotel

Sources:
Tolles, Bryant Franklin and Carolyn K. Tolles, Architecture in Salem. University Press of New England, 2004.
Browne, Benjamin. “Youthful Recollections of Salem.” Historical Collections of the Essex Institute. Essex Institute, Vol 1, 1914, pp: 289 – 296
Dowgan, Christopher Jon Luke. Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City. Salem House Press, 2017.
Landau, Jaqueline & Little, Lillian & Jeon, Myunghee Mindy. (2015). “The Historic Hawthorne Hotel: Improving Customer Service.” The CASE Journal, 4 Jan. 2016, Vol 12, Iss 1. pp. 49 – 70, emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/TCJ-08-2014-0057/full/html
Luca, Dustin. “Hawthorne Hotel Celebrates 90 Years.” Salem News, 21 July. 2015, salemnews.com/news/business/hawthorne-hotel-celebrates-90-years/article_3fd8fd87-a7cc-56ae-9f08-a0788ffe5bd2.html
“Massachusetts Hotel Ranked Among Most Haunted in America.” WHDH, 30 Oct. 2019, whdh.com/news/massachusetts-hotel-ranked-among-most-haunted-in-america/
“TripAdvisor Releases List of Most Haunted Hotels in the U.S.” WPTV, 31 Oct. 2019, wptv.com/news/local-news/water-cooler/tripadvisor-releases-list-of-most-haunted-hotels-in-the-u-s
“Massachusetts Attorney Pleads Guilty to Wrongfully Converting Government Funds to Personal Use; Fined $100,000.” FDIC.gov, fdic.gov/news/press-releases/2001/pr7201.html
“In RE: Michael J Harrington.” Board of Bar Overseers, 2001, bbopublic.blob.core.windows.net/web/f/bd01-072.pdf
Forman, Ethan. “Hawthorne Hotel Serves up GM with Experience.” Salem News, 14 Jan. 2018, salemnews.com/news/local_news/hawthorne-hotel-serves-up-gm-with-experience/article_ad96e30d-2e06-5cba-8944-fdbf2b2c1e49.html

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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