The Brookhouse Home is celebrating 160 years as a home for women and throughout 2021, we will continue to honor and celebrate our long-standing place in Salem’s past, present and future.
Looking back over 160 years, it is with incredible gratitude that we continue to remain a part of the Salem community and that we have a Board of Directors, staff, residents and a broader community that continues to support our mission.
According to Mary-Ellen Smiley who wrote a retrospective on our home in 2011, it must be remembered that when the Brookhouse Home opened to senior women in October 1861, there were no social security, Medicare or government programs. It was in part because of Salem’s Reverend Michael Carleton, and a group of benefactors including Capt. John Bertram, Capt. Robert Brookhouse, James Upton, William Dudley Pickman, Michael Carr, Benjamin and John Silsbee, and a few others that Capt. Brookhouse agreed to offer 180 Derby Street for the cause.
The stately mansion itself dates back to 1811. The original owner was Benjamin Crowninshield, a congressman and Secretary of State under Presidents’ Madison and Monroe. It was designed by famed architect Samuel McIntire. Although Samuel McIntire died in 1811 before completing the home, it is believed that his son, Samuel F. McIntire, completed this beautiful structure.
Fortunately, Capt. Brookhouse had long been interested in charity work, according to Smiley’s research. His wish was to turn the “Benjamin Crowninshield” house here at 180 Derby Street into an “Old Sailors Home” but there was more support and need for a home for aged women. So, on April 18, 1861, just over 160 years ago, the house was signed over to the “Association for the Relief of Aged Women in Salem” with the original deed for the home still in our archives.
It was not until 1939 that our name was changed from the Association for the Relief of Aged and Destitute Women in Salem to the Home for Aged Women. Since 1966, we are simply known as the Brookhouse Home for Women.
In 1910, it was estimated that residents lived here for ten years or more, which is still the case today. Additionally, in 1910, it was determined that “applicants must be in reasonably good physical condition and fairly able to care for themselves,” which is true today as well.
We are particularly lucky and grateful that our home and property was never sold. In the 1980s, the nearby John Bertram House for Aged Men was sold and turned into an assisted living facility run by a corporation. There was a lot of discussion at the time that our home might also be sold to a corporation to turn into an assisted living facility. But the Brookhouse Home was preserved and continues in much the same way that it has for the past 160 years.
It is our hope that we continue to shine as a beacon for elderly women. Brookhouse is home!