The Salem Turnpike Inn

Though comprised of two separate residences at 19 Putnam and 16 Common, the Inn functioned as a resting spot for travelers in the early-mid 1800's.

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.  

Helen O'Neil August 02, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Thank you Nancy and Joseph for your comments. Nancy, the Charlestown Preservation Society does have historic house tours, although the next one might not be until September, 2012. Check out their web-site http://www.charlestownpreservation.org.
Mary Brock August 04, 2011 at 03:47 PM
Great old photos! C-town must have been some place to visit back then!
Helen O'Neil December 27, 2011 at 09:31 PM
This comment, from Ken, came via e-mail and is such an interesting addition to what we've learned about the inn. "I read this entry about the house at 16 Common Street with interest. My fourth great-grandfather, Captain Matthew Rice, purchased this property in 1808 from David Ingersol and for the next eighty plus years it provided shelter to three generations of his family. Matthew Rice was a sea captain who was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1772.
Helen O'Neil December 27, 2011 at 09:33 PM
His travels brought him to Boston by 1796 where he married a local girl named Sally Barnicoat. They settled in the North End and lived on Cross Street. The couple had eight children - five born in Boston and three in Charlestown. Captain Rice died at 16 Common Street in 1836 aged 63. His widow lived on in the house until her death in 1852. Their oldest daughter, Sally, had married Thomas Hay in 1817. They had seven children before he died in 1844. After his death she and her dependents moved into 16 Common Street with her mother. She and various members of her family lived in the house until her death in 1891 at age 93. The house is mentioned in her obituary: "She was a native of Boston, but came to Charlestown with her parents at the age of 12 years, and until her marriage and for 47 years after the death of her husband, had lived in the house where she passed away."
Helen O'Neil December 27, 2011 at 09:35 PM
Her long residence is where the local name "Hay House" comes from. Captain Rice's one surviving daughter and grandchildren sold the house to Charles Logue in 1892. Logue turned around and sold it to Harriet Adams. The majority of Captain Rice's children and grandchildren lived on in Charlestown at addresses such as 36 and 38 Bartlett St., 22 Common St., 48 Monument Square, and 7 Lexington St. There are connections to the building of Dexter Row and Harvard Row. Rices lived in Charlestown until at least the 1920s. I can send more detailed information about his family if it will be of interest. SIgned, Ken


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