Salisbury Mansion was once home to one of Worcester County's wealthiest families. It was built in 1772 as a combination store and dwelling for a bachelor merchant from Boston, Stephen Salisbury (1746-1829). He brought his bride, Elizabeth Tuckerman (1768-1851) of Boston, to live there in 1798. They had three children; only one-son Stephen-survived to adulthood. After Madame Salisbury's death in 1851, the house became a rental property, their son having built an elegant mansion of his own for his family.
Stephen Salisbury II
Managed first by son Stephen (1798-1884) and then by his son Stephen (1835-1905), Salisbury Mansion survived many decades of sweeping economic, social, and cultural change in Worcester. By the time the last Stephen died it stood amidst a heavily industrialized landscape at the north end of Main Street with trains thundering by just outside the east windows. At his recommendation it was destined for demolition to make way for the reuse of valuable real estate.
Stephen Salisbury III
However, by 1905 little was left of Worcester's 18th-century landscape and some people thought it should be saved, particularly given the prominent role the family had played in the community. For three generations, the Salisburys influenced the direction of local affairs through economic, religious, and charitable activities. Stephen Salisbury I was a leading colonial merchant.
His wife Elizabeth Tuckerman Salisbury helped found a conservative break-away church in the early 19th century. Their son Stephen Salisbury II played a leading role in developing the town industrially and culturally. His son, who never married, willed the considerable family fortune back to local cultural and charitable institutions.
The Salisbury Mansion was willed to the American Antiquarian Society (AAS); three years later AAS transferred ownership to Worcester Art Museum. In 1929 the mansion and its storeroom were moved from Lincoln Square to Highland Street to make way for civic improvements. In 1950, the Art Museum sold the mansion to the Worcester Employment Society for use as a craft center, with the proviso that they not alter the building. In five years they outgrew the mansion and asked permission to alter or tear it down. In response, concerned citizens formed the Salisbury Mansion Associates and three years later purchased it. After years of dual use by the Worcester Girl Scouts Council and the Associates, Worcester Historical Museum leased the mansion from the Associates in 1981 and assembled a team of experts to begin its restoration. In 1984, Salisbury Mansion opened as the city's first historic house museum. It became a property of the museum through merger in 1985.
Restoration, furnishing, and interpretation of Salisbury Mansion is based on surviving architectural evidence and on information found in the voluminous family papers, manuscript collections housed at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester and at the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University.
Salisbury Mansion is located at
40 Highland Street,
Worcester, MA 01609
Friday & Saturday 1-4
Salisbury Mansion offers changing exhibitions and special programs. Tours are guided and can be tailored to focus on visitors' particular interests.