Derby Summer House gets $50K emergency grant

By November 15, 2018 May 28th, 2019 News

By Ethan Forman, Staff Writer, Salem News
Aug 23, 2016

DANVERS — The 222-year-old Derby Summer House, damaged by water after squirrels chewed on its timbers last year, will get a new lease on life, thanks to a $50,000 emergency state grant.

Secretary of State William Galvin handed over the check to Danvers Historical Society President Thomas Page during an event at the Statehouse Tuesday. The money will help to stabilize and repair the historic, one-of-a-kind structure. The historical society must match that amount with $50,000 of its own.

Also on hand Tuesday were state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, and the society’s vice president, George Saluto, who has spearheaded efforts to save the square, 20 by 20-foot tea house from further damage.

During the winter of 2015, squirrels chewed their way into the building, making holes under the gutter and at the side of the building, which allowed water to penetrate the historic structure and damage it. The tea house is located in the garden of the historical society’s Glen Magna Farms.

The historical society raised money to button up the structure and get rid of the squirrels, but the damage was done. The building itself is still structurally sound, but needs work to stabilize and restore it.

Historical society members met with officials of the Massachusetts Historical Commission earlier this year, and gave them a tour of the Summer House, to highlight the need for emergency funding. Galvin, who also serves as chairman of the Massachusetts Historical Society, approved the grant.

‘An important decision’

Page said this was an important decision by the secretary of state to preserve a unique, 21/2-story tea house, in the Federalist style that was popular during the early days of the United States. Among its many architectural details, including arched windows and Grecian urns on top, are statues (reproductions) of a Reaper and Milkmaid on the roof.

“It is a signal for extended efforts by the state to support historical societies in their missions for preservation,” Page said.

Preservation is an acute problem for many such groups that maintain buildings tied to the past, he added. The society is grateful to Speliotis and Lovely, he said, for being so attentive to the plight of the Summer House.

Saluto, in an email, noted it took less than eight weeks to garner the emergency grant money, which he said was a credit to Speliotis and his staff during the busy end of the legislative session.

Now, he noted, the historical society has until June 30, 2017 to raise $50,000 to match the grant. Even that will not cover all the repairs; an Essex construction company has estimated it will take $143,000 to complete the entire project.

Speliotis said this is a great start in saving a unique historic building in the state and in the nation. Samuel McIntire, for whom it is also named the McIntire Tea House, only ever built one of its kind.

“I think it’s exciting for the Danvers Historical Society,” said Speliotis. “(The grant is) almost like a new beginning for them.”

He also said it was impressive that the Massachusetts Historical Commission had only $300,000 for such projects, and Galvin set aside $50,000 of that for one building.

National landmark

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark, the tea house has ties to Salem, as it was designed in 1793 by McIntire, a noted Salem architect, artisan and woodcarver, for wealthy Salem merchant Elias Hasket Derby.

McIntire built it in July 1794 for a garden at Derby’s farm, according to the historical society. The farm used to be located where Route 114 and Route 128 now intersect, land that now houses the Northshore Mall.

In 1901, Ellen Peabody Endicott purchased and the tea house and relocated it to Glen Magna. One of her descendants willed it to the Danvers Historical Society in 1958.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.


To support its preservation efforts, the Danvers Historical Society is holding a September Swings gala on Friday, Sept. 9, at Glen Magna Farms on Ingersoll Street.

It will include a promenade at 6 p.m. in which hors d’oeuvres and champagne are passed, then dinner by Vinwood Caterers, and dancing to music by Moholland Drive. There will also be a silent auction and raffles. Tickets are $75 per person, available at the society’s office, 11 Page St., Danvers, or by calling 978-777-1666. Wear business attire.