Salem Tunnel Report~ Benjamin Webb House

Have a Drink on Me and a Powder for the Morning…

Benjamin Webb Jr. was a tavern keeper and Apothecary. He had an apothecary on Herbert and Essex Streets. His tavern was on the site of the Salem Five Bank on Essex Street. When William Gray bought the property, he tore down the tavern and it opened in a new location where the Bowker Block is now used as the Peabody Essex Museum’s offices on the corner of Liberty and Essex Streets. His son Jonathan continued the tavern in the new location. It was originally called the King’s Arm and after the Revolutionary War, it became the Sun Tavern. It was in this tavern that Richard Crowninshield Sr. insulted Joseph White upon their mutual loss of 3 ship in Naples at the removal of the Embargo Act he favored; this would cost his son his life in an elaborate murder plot implicating his son Richard in the murder of Joseph White for revenge of this insult. Richard Crowninshield Jr. was found hanging in his cell from a low window with his knees almost touching the ground, the jailers slit his throat to see if he was alive, and he died from exsanguination. This murder is the murder behind the Parker Brothers Clue.

His home here was at 98-100 Bridge Street. Later he would own the Sage-Webb-Wilkins House across from Daniels Street at 52 Essex Street. Both homes are connected to tunnels.

He was a member of the Salem Common Improvement Fund which disguised the tunnel project behind a large public work. They filled in 5 ponds and a river in the Common to hide tunnel dirt. He also was an incorporator with many of subscribers in the Merchant Bank and the Salem Savings Bank. John Hodges, also a subscriber, shared many ships with him and George Hodges marries his daughter Elizabeth. George Hodges was surveyor of the port of Salem from 1809 to 1817. The Custom House where he worked also has tunnels leading from it. The Hodges were the founders of the East India Marine Society who founded the Peabody Essex Museum. Every location the museum was in was connected to the tunnels as well.

Benjamin was a fireman who drove the engine Reliance which was housed at the corner of Hardy and Derby Streets.  His grandfather John Bray and his uncle Daniel Bray were also subscribers. The father was a shoemaker with his shop on Hardy opposite Essex Street. Bray was a consultant to the Salem Savings Bank.

Benjamin was connected in many ways…

Take a look at the tunnels:

You can see the Basement entrance from outside. At the time when the house was built, they had no use for an external entrance. These come later by taking the roof off the tunnel and putting a staircase to block the tunnel from entering the house. The idea was to use a hole in the foundation that exists already. You can see the long hall leading from that entrance which was part of the tunnel. The tunnel might have actually turned to the right across the back of the house also.

There was another entrance through the floor of what could have later been used as a place to store coal. The house was built prior to coal furnaces. In fact, only smugglers had full basement in Salem. You only needed a full basement after boilers were made. Also, later furnaces would utilize spots the tunnel was connected to. You can see the difference in brick between this spot and the rest of the foundation.

Keep coming back to find more tunnels in Salem and how this all shaped American history!

Also, read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City and Sub Rosa to get all the dirt that is under the streets of Salem available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com; and in Salem at Remeber Salem, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Artemesia Botanicals.

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