A fire broke out on Saturday, August 15 in the attic of the Ropes Mansion, one of the Peabody Essex Museum
's historic properties, at 318 Essex Street. The fire began while contractors were painting and conserving the exterior of the house.
Fortunately, local fire departments responded quickly, extinguishing the fire in less than 30 minutes. While the attic floor sustained some direct fire damage, there was no significant structural harm to the building. Firefighters took exceptional care to safeguard the house and collections and used minimal quantities of water. To that end, water damage to the first and second floors was alleviated to the extent possible.
The immediate presence of PEM security and facilities staff also greatly mitigated potential harm to the structure and its contents. Owing to PEM's disaster response protocols, members of the facilities, security, collections, and curatorial departments arrived at the house shortly after the fire began and worked through the night moving artifacts and furniture to a safe storage location.
A number of objects got wet, a few were damaged -- all are repairable. Only one object -- a glass pitcher -- was broken during firefighting. The museum considers this to be no less than miraculous, and are deeply grateful to the firefighters and staff members who responded so rapidly and with so much care and expertise. The Museum itself is open per its usual schedule.
The Ropes Mansion Garden remains open to the public from Federal Street. For safety reasons, visitors may be asked to keep a safe distance from the house itself while museum personnel work on the interior. There will be no public tours.