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.
2022 Museum Hours
The Museum is open Saturdays, from Noon to 2pm.
For an appointment to visit the museum, please email us your request and we'll be happy to arrange a visit.
Explore Methuen History!
The Industrial Age | 19th & 20th centuries
Early Methuen | 17th - 19th centuries
Early Methuen &
the Whittier Room
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.
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.
Charles H. Tenney
July 9, 1842 -
April 27, 1919
Charles H. Tenney was the proprietor of C. H. Tenney & Co., established in 1868, and became one of the most successful commissioned merchants and hat dealers in the world. He was also a director of the Bank of the Manhattan Company and life trustee of the Bowery Savings Bank.
Born Charles Henry, in Salem, New Hampshire, he was the youngest of four sons of John Ferguson Tenney, a well-to-do farmer, and Hannah Woodbury. He married Fannie H. Gleason on November 23, 1865, and they had two children: a son, Daniel Gleason, and a daughter, Adelaide, who died as an infant. His grandson and namesake Charles Henry Tenney was from 1955 to 1964 Commissioner, Corporate Counsel, City Administrator, and Deputy Mayor of New York City and nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
C. H. Tenney was educated at the New Hampshire Conference Seminary in Tilton. In his youth, he helped tend his family farm and was a clerk in a general store. The family later moved to Methuen, Massachusetts, where his father opened a grocery and hardware store on Hampshire Street. His two older brothers, Daniel and George Washington, established Tenney & Co. shoe manufacturers and were Methuen civic leaders. Charles and his brother John Milton established the hat manufacturing enterprise, in which Charles sold his interest to J. Milton in 1883.
In 1868, C. H. Tenney opened offices in New York and established himself as a wholesale commission agent, handling a very large part of the hat production in the United States, and selling more than any similar concern in the world. He would live principally in New York and have offices headquartered at Washington Place and West 4th Street. His hat business was located at 610-618 Broadway, with more than three acres of floor space. He was a member of the Union League Club of New York, the Metropolitan Club, New York Yacht Club, Sleepy Hollow Club, New York Athletic Club, New York Chamber of Commerce, and New England Society of New York. He was also a sustaining member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History.
Although his principal residence was at 570 Park Avenue, he died in his apartment at New York's Plaza Hotel. Memorial or funeral services honoring Tenney were held in New York City, Salem, and Methuen, at Greycourt. Interment, alongside his wife who died December 15, 1905, was in the Tenney Mausoleum at the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Methuen. The Tenney Memorial Chapel, designed by architect Grosvenor Atterbury, and located within the Walnut Grove Cemetery was dedicated (in 1927) by Daniel Gleason Tenney in memory of his parents. C. H. Tenney's estate was valued at approximately $5 million ($77M in today's dollar), and he left $1 million to his son ($15.3M in today's dollar) and $250,000 ($4M in today's dollar) to each grandchild. He had always been a generous benefactor to Methuen. He dedicated the Hannah Tenney United Methodist Church in Salem Center to honor his mother. His will designated a quarter of a million dollars to a collection of churches, hospitals, and schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Grey Court (aka Tenney Castle) designed by prominent New York architects, Carrère and Hastings, was the centerpiece of Charles Tenney's 75-acre rolling estate, Fair View Park. Begun in 1890 and completed two years later, the mansion was modeled after Château d'Yquem, the ancestral seat of Montaigne, and served as the Tenney family's summer home. Ernest W. Bowditch designed the grounds. He had laid out several estates in Newport, Rhode Island, including Marble House, W. K. Vanderbilt's estate; designed Tuxedo Park in New York; and landscaped Colgate University. His designs for Greycourt's surrounds won a prestigious horticultural prize in 1902.
The mansion and estate were offered to the town of Methuen by Charles H. Tenney's son, Daniel Gleason Tenney. The town voted to reject the generous gift and tragically, Daniel Tenney died unexpectedly while the gift of the castle was being negotiated. The town accepted 26 acres for the construction of Tenney High School (now Tenney Grammar School). The mansion and grounds were sold to the Basilian Salvatorian Order. Greycourt was later used as a drug rehabilitation center. Left abandoned, it was set on fire by an arsonist in 1977. The impressive stone and terracotta castle remains were then almost completely destroyed by a demolition company in 1985. A very small section of one of the towers is all that remains of the magnificent historic castle.
Now home to the Methuen Historical Society and Museum and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Tenney Gatehouse was originally a rough stone farmhouse built by Richard Whittier in 1830. Tenney purchased it in 1882 and remodeled to become the entry point to Greycourt. Today it is one of the few remaining structures on the estate. The building you see today is the result of a seven-year community effort to restore the abandoned building that was on the verge of collapse.
C.H. Tenney was very generous to Methuen during his life. On July 24, 1888, the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial on Charles Street in Methuen, created by sculptor Thomas Ball and honoring, among others, those who had served in the Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, was unveiled. The monument was a gift to Methuen from Charles H. Tenney.
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!