From 1840 to present day

We left off our story in 1840 when the original Bell Tavern was torn down. Part 2 begins with a new owner and a new building. Leather manufacturer David Daniels purchases the property, tore down the existing buildings and in its place put a building with multiple store fronts. By 1867, the building was moved to Walnut Street.

Alfred A. Abbott bought the Daniels property in July 1875. The Abbott family built a large home at number 4 Washington Street, as seen below. The former location of the tavern (2 Washington Street) was a large green space at the corner during this time period.

Essex County Atlas, 1884
The Abbott Estate
The print looks from Washington Street towards Main Street.

When Josiah B. (J.B.) Thomas bought 2-4 Washington Street, he had the the existing home demolished. Construction started in 1897 on a new mansion for his grandson, Elmer Thomas, and this is the building that stands today.

J. B. Thomas might sound familiar, as he left money in his will for the creation of a local hospital. It would later be named J.B. Thomas Hospital, in honor of his generosity.

When the mansion was completed in 1899, the ornate estate was big news. The Salem News described the interior and exterior in great detail, as seen below, from a snip-it from February 16, 1899.

Elmer Thomas was only 23 years old at the time of construction. Elmer, his wife and their infant daughter lived in the home for a very brief time.

By 1900, Thomas O’Shea, a successful local tanner and real estate developer, resided at the home. This is why many today still refer to the building as the “O’Shea Mansion.”

O’Shea built two large commercial buildings still located at the corner of Main and Foster Street (today, No. 1 and 5-15 Main Streets). At the height of his success, O’Shea was the largest individual taxpayer in Peabody.

Image of the O’Shea Mansion, 1937

In 1969, Mary O’Shea sold the property to Anthony Bettencourt. In 1992, the Bettencourts restored the woodwork in the building, as seen below from The Peabody Times. The Bettencourts ran their popular furniture business out of this building for many years.

In 1998, Mercier Plumbing and Heating purchased 2-4 Washington Street, and three weeks later applied for a demolition permit. For the next 23 years, various private owners and the City of Peabody engaged in back and forth over the future of this landmark.

Maybe someday, we will do a Part 3, covering 1998 to present day! For now, we look forward to the next chapter of the new Bell Inn.


Southern Essex County, Registry of Deeds. Robert Daniels, et al. to A. Abbott, July 27, 1875, Book 933 and Page 220.

“Elegant Peabody Mansion,” The Salem News, February 16, 1899.

John Wells. The Peabody Story, Essex Institute, 1972, pages 378, 383-384.

Daniel Doucette, MACRIS Listing for 2-4 Washington Street, 1977.

Jay Kumar, “Store Paints Picture of the Past” The Peabody Times. Tuesday, July 21, 1992. Times Photographer: Nancy Shackleton.

Kelley Bouchard, “Landmark Home in Peabody May Turn into a Memory”, The Salem News, 1998.