In My Footsteps
Trip 30: Salem, Mass.
March 6, 2010
Much like with my visit to Plymouth, Salem, Massachusetts seems to overflow with history. Just about every street, every house, every building in general has an amazing story. Certainly the first thing that comes to mind when hearing the name ‘Salem’ is the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The ‘Trials,’ in which twenty-six people were found guilty of witchcraft, have left their mark all across this historic town. Not confined to the Halloween season, witches adorn the police cars that pass by. It gives Salem an aura unlike most places in the United States.
The Witch House, also known as the Jonathan Corwin House, located on Essex Street, is the only building still standing with a connection to the Witch Trials. For a deeper look into the history of that era there is the Salem Witch Museum and the Witch Dungeon Museum.
However there are many other sites to see in this town that do not have any connection to the Witch Trials. A perfect place to start is at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. With twelve historic structures on nine acres of waterfront land this was the first American National Historic Site. As soon as you step foot on the grounds you are face to face with a replica of the Friendship of Salem(left). The original ship was built in 1797 and captured as a war prize by the British during the War of 1812. The Friendship of Salem was an East Indiaman ship, meaning that it was chartered to the historic East Indian Company founded by Britain which dealt in trade with the Asia and India. The ship is open for tours year round, weather permitting, and is a very faithful replica of the original.
Derby Wharf, Salem’s longest at a half mile, stretches out into Salem Harbor and houses a tremendous view of the Maritime Historic Site as a whole. Sitting at the end of the wharf is Derby Wharf Light, a brick square lighthouse built in 1871. Standing only fourteen feet tall, Derby Wharf Light was built due to belief that another lighthouse, in addition to the two that already stood, were needed to complete the lighting of Salem Harbor. Not open to the public, this lighthouse is solar powered and is still used to this day for private navigation.
Close by on Derby Street sits The House of the Seven Gables(left), one of the places with a connection to literary legend and Salem resident Nathanial Hawthorne. Seven Gables is a 17th Century mansion, now a museum open to the public for a fee. The seven ‘gables’ refers to the triangular portion of a wall between the edges of a sloping roof. In addition to The House of the Seven Gables being a Hawthorne novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne’s most famous work, was set in 17th Century Purtian Boston. Hawthorne’s birthplace(below) itself is also a historic landmark located on the ground of the House of the Seven Gables museum.
As the story goes, Nathaniel Hawthorne was born ‘Hathorne.’ He added the ‘w’ to his last name during his twenties when he discovered that his great-great grandfather was a judge that had presided over the Salem Witch Trials. Even with a legendary author like Nathaniel Hawthorne it all comes back to the Witch Trials. All around The House of the Seven Gables are historic homes, it seems like every house you pass has a plaque on it dating the buildings up to 300 years old. Salem’s Heritage Trail, a painted red line that leads through the towns’ roads, begins at Remember Salem Gifts and ends at Derby Wharf. It is a great trip through history and some great exercise on a sunny day.
A spot visible from Derby Wharf that is another historic area is Winter Island. Sitting on forty-five acres, Winter Island has two attractions that must be seen. The first one is Fort Pickering which was originally built in 1644. Manned during the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, Fort Pickering’s remains are still visible in the hills along the shore. Fort Pickering Light(left) was built in 1871, the same as Derby Wharf Light and Beverly’s Hospital Point Light. Nearly destroyed by the Blizzard of ’78, this lighthouse was brought back from the brink by a group of concerned citizens in the early 1980’s. It is a beautiful site along Salem Harbor, you can risk walking the rocks to stand along side the light as I did, but it is probably easier to sit on one of the benches on the nearby hill and have a more comfortable viewing experience.
On the opposite coast, facing Beverly Harbor, sits the Salem Willows Amusement Park. Part of an oceanside neighborhood, the thirty-five acre Salem Willows became a public park in 1858 and also became a popular summer retreat for folks living in Boston. It is home to a remarkable hand-carved carousel originally created in 1866. There is a tradition of great summer jazz concerts at the Willows and in the past jazz legends like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong played here. The first ice cream cones were introduced to Americans on this site in 1906. As great as the amusement park is, Salem Willows also has some beautiful views of Beverly Harbor and is great for walking or picnicking as well.
There is almost no way to see all that Salem has to offer in one trip. I know myself that a second trip is needed for me to fully appreciate this epicenter of so much history. I loved all I did see and am looking forward to visiting each and every historic spot in the future. I believe that all Americans, not just locals, should visit Salem at least once it is a gold mine as far as historical and cultural significance. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Salem Maritime National Historic Site: From Rt. 128 heading north take Exit 25A. Turn right onto Rt. 114, follow Rt. 114 until bearing slightly right onto Rt. 107. Turn right to stay on Rt. 107/Bridge Street, take the 2nd right onto Williams Street. Turn right onto Rt. 1-A, left at Derby Street. The Maritime Historic Site is on the right as well as Derby Wharf Light and The Friendship of Salem.
The House of the Seven Gables: From Rt. 128 heading north take Exit 25A. Turn right onto Rt. 114, follow Rt. 114 until bearing slightly right onto Rt. 107. Turn right to stay on Rt. 107/Bridge Street, take the 2nd right onto Williams Street. Turn right onto Rt. 1-A, left at Derby Street. Follow Derby Street, parking area for Seven Gables is in between Hardy St. and Turner St.
Winter Island/Fort Pickering: From Rt. 128 heading north take Exit 25A. Turn right onto Rt. 114, follow Rt. 114 until bearing slightly right onto Rt. 107. Turn right to stay on Rt. 107/Bridge Street, take the 2nd right onto Williams Street. Turn right onto Rt. 1-A, left at Derby Street. Continue onto Fort Ave. Turn right at Winter Island Rd.
Salem Willows Amusement Park: From Rt. 128 heading north take Exit 25A. Turn right onto Rt. 114, follow Rt. 114 until bearing slightly right onto Rt. 107. Turn right to stay on Rt. 107/Bridge Street, take the 2nd right onto Williams Street. Turn right onto Rt. 1-A, left at Derby Street. Continue onto Fort Ave, follow it to the end, Salem Willows is on the left.
References: The House of the Seven Gables