Salem shipwright Eleazer Gedney built the earliest portion of the Gedney House in 1665. Originally, the house was an asymmetrical composition consisting of two rooms on the first floor, a single chamber above, and an attic with a front-facing gable. Significant renovations to the structure in 1712 and 1800 resulted in dramatic changes to the house's appearance.
Gedney House was a single-family home until the Gedney family sold it in 1773 to Benjamin Cox, who used it for the next twenty-five years as an investment property. Around 1800, Cox added two townhouse-style ells to the west elevation of the house, converting it into a multi-family dwelling. During the years that followed, it served as a boarding house and tenement in what was then Salem’s Italian-American neighborhood. In 1967, Historic New England acquired the house as it was being prepared for demolition.
The house is significant not only for its framing, but also for its evidence of early decorative finishes in the hall chamber and parlor. Three successive color schemes, the earliest of which is believed to date to the house's construction, were discovered in the hall chamber. This evidence was preserved by the addition of plaster ceilings, beam casings, and paneled walls by the mid-eighteenth century.