Who was John Bertram?
John Bertram was born on the Isle of Jersey in the Channel Islands off the Coast of Normandy. 

In 1807 his father, Jean Bertram, with his wife Marie, John, and five other children immigrated to America. They were bound for Baltimore on the ship Alert, however, when the ship began to leak, the captain put into Boston instead. The Bertram family settled in Salem, Massachusetts. Only John spoke English and establishing a new life in America was difficult for the family.

In order to help support his family and to begin his career as a sailor, John went to see as a cabin boy at age ten. He earned five dollars a month and had many adventures. On one voyage he was captured by the British. Upon his release he was returned to Boston. With no other choice he set out, bare-foot, to walk home to his family in Salem.

His career continued to grow and John rose to become a ship captain. At age thirty-six he had made sufficient money to retire from the sea. As a merchant he continued to grow his wealth by owning ships which he utilized in trading with South Africa, Zanzibar, Madagascar, and Brazil. He also successfully invested in the railway systems of North America.

Throughout his life, Captain Bertram never forgot his families financial struggles during his childhood. He lead a life aware of the less fortunate around him and sought ways to meet their needs. With his wealth and great generosity he established Salem Hospital and programs for Women and Children. After his death in March of 1882 his widow donated their home to become the Salem Public Library.
One of Captain Bertram's most significant gifts was the Salem Home for Aged Men, or the John Bertram House as it is known today. John Bertram's original intent for the home was to provide shelter and meals for older men who had no family members to care for them. More specifically, sailors, who had spent their lives at sea.

In 1988, with the house in disrepair and only three men residing in the building the Board of Trustees closed the home. After two years of historical preservation and practical renovations the home was reopened as Massachusetts first free-standing assisted living community for men and women. Confident in fulfilling Captain Bertram's mission the Board of Trustees continued to work toward the building and opening of the Bertram House in Swampscott in 1997.
(From a lecture given by his Granddaughter, Selina Little, at the John Bertram House in Salem.)


Our Partners

The John Bertram House Board of Trustees

The non-profit, John Bertram House and the Bertram House of Swampscott are owned and operated by the John Bertram House Estate and Board of Trustees. Fourteen board members volunteer their time fulfilling Captain John Bertram's mission in providing housing and services to older individuals.

The Board of Trustees also has a fiduciary responsibility in maintaining the Trust and to offer financial assistance to those in need. Each year, the Trustees allocate funding for residents and prospective residents in need of subsidized assisted living care. To make a gift to the Bertram House Trust, and to continue Captain Bertram's mission, please contact us. All inquiries will be kept confidential and gifts may be designated to be used at the discretion of the giver under the guidelines of the Board of Trustees.

Sunrise Senior Living

The Bertram communities are managed by Sunrise Senior Living, one of the largest management companies in the senior care field today.  Sunrise Senior Living was started in 1981 by Paul and Terry Klaassen. They began Sunrise by opening a small home for seniors seeking an alternative to nursing home care. These residents received services in a home-like setting. As a child, Paul had experienced this living situation with his grandparents in Holland and wanted to recreate this opportunity for seniors in the United States.

From the leadership of Sunrise, the Bertram Homes receives the support of a larger organization, staff training, resident programming, and quality assurance systems. While each home maintains a commitment to Captain Bertram's mission and its own unique character, Sunrise Senior Living adds to the exceptional assisted living services offered in both homes.