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Discover Manchester-by-the-Sea's history, architecture & art through our exhibits, tours & collections

Singing Beach, c. 1900

Current Exhibitions


Walk in the footsteps of entrepreneur Abigail Hooper Trask. Visit her 1823 kitchen, parlor and shop, which were recently restored to original colors and furnishings.  Through a room-by-room narrative, learn how Abigail became one of the most successful shopkeepers and bankers of her time.


Hear Maritime Stories — from Sea Serpents to Merchant Ship Captains to Salt Cod Fish Yards.  Meet the captains from MBTS and see their ship logs and navigational instruments.  Learn about MBTS's Salt Cod Fish Yards.  View the only documented first-person account, with drawing, of an 1817 encounter with a Sea Serpent off the coast of MBTS.


Learn about the Art inspired by MBTS's natural beauty and the Artists and Writers who called the town home.  Enjoy Weems, Hopkinson, Roux, Tappan, Darrah, and more.

Thanks to a recent gift, the Museum has added its first artwork — a 1918 bronze plaque — by MBTS sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd.  Learn more about Anna and how she used her artistic skills to help WWI soldiers.

Dodge Company 005_edited_edited_edited_e

Discover the variety of fine period furniture made in MBTS and meet their creators.  The town's furniture-making economy, in the mid-19th century, was fueled by hydro power and innovations.  It was home to 43 cabinetmaking shops, factories, and mills.

Museum Tours
Tuesday – Thursday, 10 AM – 3 PM

Seasonal Exhibitions


Visit us this summer to see our Salt Cod Fish Yard, original Singing Beach Bathhouse, and our new summer exhibit.

History Highlights

1630s and 1640s: Salem grants land in lots at “Jeffreys Creek.”

1643: First families settle here with minister.

1645: Village is incorporated as “Manchester.”

1600s: Manchester families engage in farming, fishing, and a few trades; the lack of a harbor (then only a mudflat) will prevent the town’s growth into a seaport.

1700: Offshore codfishing, farming, shipbuilding.

Mid-1700s: Manchester stays small, engaged as before; the most ambitious families move away to the seaport of Marblehead.


1775-1783: Revolutionary War (Manchester, pop. 920, has no Tories)

Capt. Andrew Marsters and Manchester militia march on April 19, 1775, arriving just too late for Battle of Lexington & Concord.

A few men serve long-term as soldiers.

Most men leave army to go privateering against British merchant shipping.

About 30 men are lost in the wrecks and sinkings of privateers.


1800: Capt. William Tuck, former privateer commander, becomes leader of town, which is staunchly Federalist (Washington, Adams) in politics, still pursuing offshore codfishing and fish-curing ashore, farming, and the merchant marine, as men ship out on trading vessels of Salem and Boston.

War of 1812-15: Fishermen and mariners go privateering out of Gloucester and Salem. Manchester residents repel British attempted invasion of Kettle Cove section of town.


1820s: The fishery fades; rise of the town’s home-grown furniture industry, which comes to dominate the town’s economy and increase wealth and population.


1847: Eastern Rail Road arrives.

1840s-1850s: Furniture production flourishes, Bostonians build summer residences. Abolition (anti-slavery) and temperance (no alcohol) take hold along with Lyceum's lecture series and library.


1861-1865: Civil War. 159 local men (4 commissioned officers) serve in Union armed forces; 22 lose their lives (six killed in battle or die of wounds, four die in rebel prisons), many return home badly injured.


1870s: J. B. Booth builds grand resort hotel, Masconomo House. Rev. Cyrus Bartol of Boston leads in developing large tracts as summer residences for some of the wealthiest people throughout the U.S.


1887: Opening of Memorial Library building, underwritten by summer resident T. Jefferson Coolidge.


1890s: Harbor dredged, Essex County Club and Manchester Yacht Club are founded; 20 foreign embassies open in the summer.

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