Long before the Tobin Bridge was erected there was the Salem Turnpike, which linked Boston with Salem and other parts of the North Shore. In 1802 the turnpike was extended to Charlestown, as part of a toll road, where Chelsea Street is today. This part of the turnpike ended at City Square.
One of the turnpike exits was at Adams Street, at the north side of the Training Field. It is conjectured that travelers, on their way back to the north shore, stopped in Charlestown and stayed at the Salem Turnpike Inn.
The Charlestown Preservation Society did extensive research into the history of this building and surmises that it ‘would have been a simple matter for the turnpike traveller’ to get off the pike at Adams Street to stay for the night at the hotel.
The Salem Turnpike Inn
The Salem Turnpike Inn was actually two houses, at 19 Putnam and 16 Common Street. Carpenter Daniel Carter built the house at 19 Putnam first, in 1794. Carter bought the lot from Esquire Putnam and built a clapboard house.
In 1804, Carter sold the house at 19 Putnam Street to Thomas Robbins, an ‘inn-holder’ from Charlestown. Shortly after, Robbins established the Salem Turnpike Inn on this property.
In 1805 Josiah Gurney, ‘shipwright,’ bought the lot at 16 Common Street from Hubbard Carr for $600. It’s possible that Gurney ‘transferred his ship-making skills’ to house building and built the 16 Common Street house himself.
In 1805 the hotel expanded to include 16 Common Street, which ‘suggests that the hotel was a success’ and needed to expand to accommodate more travelers. It also seems probable that Gurney and Robbins became co-owners of the Salem Turnpike Inn.
By the 1830’s, however, the inn was no longer being used for lodgers and the buildings reverted to private ownership.
Matthew Rice, foreman of the Joiners Department at the Charlestown Navy Yard and one who repaired the USS Constitution, bought 16 Common Street from David Ingersoll for $1,075. The Rice family kept 16 Common Street until the 1890’s. In the early 1900’s 16 Common Street belonged to Charles Logue. It also was known as the Hay Mansion, under the provenance of Ellery Hay. Possibly this is a member of the John Hay family. John Hay lost his home in the fire following the 17th of June battle and was part of the reconstruction of Charlestown.
In 1852 James Deblois sold 19 Putnam for $2,000 to James Sutton, a ‘pump and block-maker’. During the 1880’s and 1890’s William H. Long owned 19 Putnam. In 1911, 19 Putnam was owned by Charles Sweeney. It is apparently still a private home.
- Where is it? 16 Common Street and 19 Putnam Street
- When were they built? 1795 and 1805
- Who built them? Josiah Gurney (16 Common Street) and Daniel Carter (19 Putnam Street)
- What were they built for and who were the first occupants? Both houses were built as private homes but some of the early occupants were travelers.
- Why were they built? As part of the long-term building phase following the Battle of Bunker Hill.
- How were they built? In late Georgian-Federal style. They are wood-frame, clapboard houses. The lots total about 3,000 square feet.
- What are the future plans for the structure? The houses are privately owned and currently occupied.
Information for this article was compiled with research from various sources, including Boston Landmarks Commission, vis a vis Massachusetts Historical Commission Inventory and Old Charlestown by Timothy T. Sawyer.