Yin Yu Tang

Salem, MA


Client: Peabody Essex Museum

Project Type: Re-erection and Comprehensive Restoration; Maintenance Manual

Yin Yu Tang (Hall of Plentiful Shelter) was built in the late eighteenth century for a Chinese merchant who commissioned the construction of a house in the province of his birth, Anhui, China. The five-bay, two-story residence was typical of its region, built of timber frame construction, with a tile roof and exterior masonry walls of sandstone and brick. The house survived economic and political upheavals, but by the mid-1980s the house stood empty. Local and national authorities, with the endorsement of the original owner’s descendants, gave permission for the house (and its contents) to be relocated to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

The house was dismantled and shipped to the United States. John G. Waite Associates, Architects, was engaged to re-erect the house, integrating modern building systems and meeting modern building codes for life-safety and seismic reinforcement. The timber frame structure, and the interior floor and wall assemblies were laid out and reconstructed in a warehouse. Missing or deteriorated pieces were identified and repaired or replicated by a multi-national team of craftsman and conservators. The firm developed measured drawings of the house from information gathered during this initial evaluation and assembly process.

After completing the documentation and conservation process, JGWA began the re-erection and restoration of Yin Yu Tang at the museum site. An external kitchen wing was reconstructed based on physical evidence found in the building and information derived from other local buildings in China. In addition to a kitchen, this wing also includes the re-erection of the Huang family’s original gong tower, along with a modern stair and elevator to meet egress and accessibility requirements. Transformed from a family residence to a house museum, Yin Yu Tang was opened to the public in June 2003.