The John Cabot House

The Cabots were merchants and mariners who came to Massachusetts in the 17th century, settling first in Salem

John Cabot (1744-1821), son of Joseph and Elizabeth Cabot, was born in Salem, part of large family of 11 children. His father and grandfather were successful merchants. John attended Harvard College, graduating in 1763. Following his father’s death, John’s mother moved to Beverly with her children in 1768. (One son stayed in Salem in the family home.) In the 1770s, she built a house at the corner of Cabot and Central Streets where the candy shop parking lot is today. During the Revolution, John Cabot and his brothers owned shares in many privateer vessels and they made a great deal of money. The house was built in 1781. The parlor was a formal room, used to entertain guests. John Cabot was married twice. First to Mary Cox and they had one son Samuel; After Mary’s death John married Hannah Dodge. They had seven children – only three survived childhood Fanny, John and Lucy.

Visit the Cabot House

117 Cabot Street
Beverly, MA 01915 United States

Museum, Visitor Center and Cabot Shop Hours
Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 9:30 – 4; Thursdays 12 – 8
Kid’s activities whenever we’re open

Research Hours
By appointment; policies available here

The house was the first brick mansion built in Beverly.  It has stayed in close to its original condition because only two families lived here (the Cabots and Edward and Harriet Burley) and two institutions -Beverly Bank and the Beverly Historical Society (now Historic Beverly).  The other surviving Cabot mansion is Beverly City Hall, once the home of Andrew Cabot and later that of Israel Thorndike.

In 1802 John Cabot sold this house for $5,000 to the newly formed Beverly Bank. The bank leased the “southerly part” of the house to Cabot for seven years. What became the bank rooms were originally a family parlor (front) and a separate, informal dining area.

Edward Burley purchased the house in 1834 from the Beverly Bank and he and his wife Harriet lived here until the end of their lives.  The bank continued to operate out of two rooms until 1868. As a condition of sale Burley added an exterior door, a window, and the day vault to the Bank room.  The day vault was built into the original kitchen fireplace. Burley also altered the entry, recessing it and adding Greek-style features popular in the 1830’s. The Burley’s had no children and in 1891 Mr. Burley willed the building to the newly formed Beverly Historical Society.

The hallway has a floor cloth made of canvas (probably recycled sails) with a printed pattern.  These floor coverings were put down in the winter and rolled up in the summer. The lock on the front door dates to that time; it was made in England and is called a carpenter lock.

The parlor to the right of the Cabot Street entrance is the only room furnished in a historic manner. The paneling is all hand-carved and the tile around the fireplace is Delft. In the parlor, visitors will see:

Teak chair from India; merchants were bringing objects from all around the world.

Clock: Made in Beverly by William Sykes about 1800

Secretary: West Indian mahogany and white pine, attributed to John Cogswell’s shop in Salem 1770-1780.  The bust of poet John Milton was probably carved by Simeon Skillen, a local shipbuilder.  This piece was originally owned by Moses Brown, whose portrait by Gilbert Stuart hangs above the piano.

The pianoforte is walnut and was made by Chickering of Boston in 1828 for Mary Bridge Brown, wife of Moses Brown.  Her portrait, by Frothingham, is next to her husband’s.

The large room on the second floor was two rooms when the Cabot and Burley families lived here.  After the Historical Society moved in it was made into one large gathering space.  It is called Memorial Hall because of the bronze tablets on both sides which are inscribed with the names of the original English settlers and soldiers from the 17th century Indian Wars and the American Revolution.