37 Pleasant Street, Methuen, Massachusetts

The Tenney Gate House is now home to the new Methuen Museum of History. The museum opened its doors on September 15, 2017. The new museum features updated displays, artifacts and exhibits on Methuen's history. The museum honors the many contributions of our three native philanthropists Edward Searles, Charles Tenney, and Henry Nevins as well as the original residents of the building, the Whittier family and centuries of people who called Methuen home.

2020 Museum Hours
Masks are required for all visitors.

For an appointment to visit during the pandemic, please Email us with your request. Thank you!

 

Explore Methuen History!

The Industrial Age | 19th & 20th centuries
Early Methuen | 17th - 19th centuries

Early Methuen &
the Whittier Room

Early Methuen

1700 -1840

Early Methuen

The room on the first floor highlights Methuen's beginnings and traces it's early growth from colonial village to a center of industry and farming. The exhibits feature photos, maps, and artifacts that tell the story of early Methuen from the 16th through 19th centuries.

 

Whittier Room (2nd floor)

The first Whittier arrived in Massachusetts in 1638 from England. At the beginning of the 18th century, members of the family settled in newly incorporated Methuen. The early Whittiers were

involved in the new town's governance, serving as Town Clerks, Selectmen, and Treasurers. They worked to choose the site of Methuen's first Meeting House and one Whittier town father served on the War Council which was formed to support the American Revolution.

 

Among other achievements, the Whittiers built the bulding which house our museum. This stone house was built by Richard Whittier, a wheelwright, in 1830. The first official mention of the house was in the Town Meeting minutes of September 3, 1833. In 1905, local historians
described it as, "Down what is Charles Street now was the stone house at Mr. Tenney's gate
which at that time (1845) was owned and occupied by the Whittiers". The Whittier room appears very much as it did in 1830. It has the original pumpkin pine floors, simple fireplace
mantle, and window casements. When this house was restored in the early 1990s, the ceiling in the parlor below was left open so visitors can see the framing of the house.
This stone house and surrounding property was sold by Whittier heirs in 1882 to New York hat
manufacturer, Charles H. Tenney, who remodeled the structure for use as his gatehouse and built his magnificent castle, Greycourt, on the hill behind the house.

Nevins Room

David Nevins, Sr.

December 12, 1809 – March 19, 1881

John Nevins was born in 1784 in Salem, New Hampshire, and married Achsah Swan, the daughter of Caleb and Dorcas Swan of Methuen, in 1808. Achsah and John named their only child David after his grandfather when he was born on December 12, 1809. David moved from New Hampshire with his parents to Methuen at an early age and was educated in the public school system. He proved to be an industrious young man, and was an apprentice in the rigging business at the
tender age of 14. He became extremely successful in the business of fitting whaling vessels in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1838, David married Eliza S. Coffin, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Nantucket. Their first child, David Jr., was born in July of 1839. followed by another son, Henry Coffin, in 1842.
By 1857, David Sr. had transitioned into banking and established the City Exchange in Boston. He had also purchased the Pemberton Mills in Lawrence which became one of the largest jute manufacturers in the country. The textile industry made Mr. Nevins a very wealthy man. The Nevins' contributions to Methuen include the Public Library and Nevins Home. The Nevins estate, seen below, was demolished in the 1950s.

Tenney Room

Charles H. Tenney

July 9, 1842 - 

April 27, 1919

Updated information regarding the Tenney legacy coming soon.

Searles Room

Edward F. Searles

July 4, 1841 - 
August 6, 1920

Edward Francis Searles was born in Methuen on July 4, 1841 to Jesse Gould and Sarah Littlefield Searles.

 

An accomplished interior designer with the prestigious New York City furniture and interior design firm of Herter Brothers, Searles met Mary Sherwood Hopkins while working on the interior of the Hopkins' Nob Hill mansion in San Francisco. They married on November 7. 1587. The widow of Mark Hopkins, Mary's assets included 25% ownership of the Central Pacific Railroad. Searles was also the interior designer of Mary's new home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In addition to this beautiful French chateau style castle, Searles built palatial homes in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and his favorite, his boyhood home in Methuen, which he named Pine Lodge. Searles was a benefactor to Methuen, building the present City Hall, a grammar school, several churches, an organ and tubular bell factory, the Methuen Memorial Music Hall, and miles of impressive granite walls.

 

After Mary's death in 1891, Searles inherited his wife's vast real estate holdings in San Francisco, New York, Great Barrington and Methuen. Her estate was valued at $21 million. He died August 6, 1920, at his Pien Lodge residence in Methuen. He is entombed in the Searles Mausoleum on the grounds. Below is a photo of the Searles Estate from the early 1900s

The building and grounds you see today are the results of the hard work of a community of dedicated professional architects, interior and graphic designers, historians, countless volunteers, and vocational students who contributed to saving this important Methuen landmark. Abandoned, boarded up, vandalized, and on the verge of structural failure, the Tenney GateHouse was saved from disappearing forever. Volunteers worked together to remove years of accumulated debris and damage and slowly, over a seven-year period, brought the building back to life. The needs of maintaining a historic building are continual and work remains to be done. Many thanks to members like you whose contributions help support the important work of the Methuen Historical Society and the museum.

 

We're working on telling the fascinating story of the restoration with photos and video. Check back soon!

View of the abandoned Tenney Gatehouse prior to the start of a seven-year restoration.

Saving the Tenney Gate House

© 2018 Methuen Historical Society