Ropes Mansion // c.1727

The Ropes Mansion in Salem was constructed in 1727 for merchant Samuel Barnard, a native of Deerfield who moved to Salem and made a fortune in trade. Samuel died in 1762, and the property was willed to his nephew and brother. The property was sold in 1768 to Judge Nathaniel Ropes II. Ropes’s short tenure as an associate justice on the Superior Court of Judicature, the highest court in the colony, was marked by a significant controversy over how judges were paid. Because these royal judges were effectively at the mercy of the colonists, the British proposed paying them directly, through the already-unpopular colonial taxes. This action further outraged Massachusetts patriots, who feared that the judges would become partial to the Crown over colonial interests. Due to this significant backlash from colonists and Patriots, there was significant pressure on these judges to not accept their royal salaries, including Judge Ropes, who promised that he would not accept the royal salary. Although he had refused his royal salary, he nonetheless held Loyalist views, and his position as a high-ranking judge made him a symbol of British power in the colony. According to tradition, in March 1774 an angry mob attacked the house, throwing mud, sticks, and rocks at the windows and calling for Ropes to renounce his allegiance to the Crown. However, at the time Nathaniel was in his bed, gravely ill with smallpox, and he died the following day, with the stress from the mob supposedly being a contributing factor in his death at just 47 years old. With the death of the last two unmarried Ropes sisters, Mary and Eliza, the house and grounds were bequeathed to the Essex Institute (now the PEM) by 1907 for the purpose of establishing a school of botany, as a perpetual memorial to the Ropes family. The stunning public gardens there were laid out in 1912 John Robinson.

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