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Our Visit to Salem

 

Our visit to Gloucester began with a drive on the scenic route to the fishing port of Gloucester (the town you might remember from "The Perfect Storm"). After a quick stop for a photo opportunity just as the sun was setting behind the Fishermen's Memorial in Gloucester and a quick visit to the beach to see the lighthouse, we arrived at the Gloucester Lobster House for an evening of clam chowder, lobster, strawberry shortcake and more with stories about influential residents of this important port town: who knew the remote control and Birdseye Frozen foods were the brainstorms of Gloucester residents?

Lennie Linquata, the manager of the restaurant, was a one-man-show who not only entertained us with his stories but instructed us in the most efficient way to deconstruct our lobsters. Not all of us could quite follow those instructions -- but we made valiant efforts and were rewarded with a tasty meal. 

Salem History

Since 1626, when Roger Conant arrived with the first settlers, Salem, Massachusetts has been attracting people from all points of the compass. Many come to visit and some decide to stay and make Salem their home.

It may be most widely known as the site of the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, but this colorful, coastal city has much to offer both residents and visitors: a culturally diverse population, a rich maritime heritage, an impressive display of historic architecture and amazing stories that span almost four centuries.

"She afflicts me! She comes to me at night and torments me!  She's a witch!"

Words such as these struck terror into the hearts of Salem townspeople in the early spring of 1692 as hysterical young girls called out names.  By summer, hundreds had been accused and imprisoned - defenseless against accusations of witchcraft in a society driven by superstition and fear. The court, formed to try the victims, acted quickly. Bridget Bishop was tried on June 2 and hanged on June 10 thereby setting the precedent for a summer of executions.

Our afternoon activities included a dramatic trip to the Salem Witch Museum, which dramatizes the Salem Witch Hunts of 1692 in a multimedia program. It also includes a thought-provoking and eye-opening history of the evolution of the concept of witches in an accompanying exhibit.

Salem Witch Museum

The Burying Point

The Burying Point is the oldest burying ground in the city of Salem. Here is buried Justice John Hathorne, an ancestor of Nathaniel Hawthorne and one of the judges in the Witchcraft Court.

 

Old Town Hall

The Old Town Hall was built in 1816. It served as the city headquarters until the new City Hall was constructed in 1836.

The Old Town Hall is supposedly haunted. There has been reported poltergeist activity in and around the building since it was constructed. Objects have been seen moving around on their own, and some have even claimed to see a ghostly figure in the windows at night.

The Bandshell on the Salem Common

Salem Common

In 1802, the Salem Common was named Washington Square. A wooden fence with four large, impressive gates was added to the Common in 1805 with one of the gates on the western side decorated with carvings by Samuel McIntire, the famous Salem architect and wood carver. Today the medallion portrait of George Washington and the gold painted eagle which adorned the original gate are preserved in the Peabody Essex Museum.

After Salem's great fire of 1914 which cut a destructive path through much of the city, the Salem Common was filled with tents to house the people who had lost their homes in the fire's devastation.

Ye Olde Pepper Companie

Most of us seemed to include in our meanderings a visit to the nearby Ye Olde Pepper Companie, "America's oldest candy company" which actually features a jar of candy that is more than 100 years old -- and supposedly still edible. Many of us seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in several of the city's museum gift shops as well.

Nathaniel Hawthorne Statue

"[T]hough invariably happiest elsewhere, there is within me a feeling for old Salem, which . . . I must be content to call affection. The sentiment is probably assignable to the deep and aged roots which my family has struck into the soil. It is now nearly two centuries and a quarter since the original Briton, the earliest emigrant of my name, made his appearance in the wild and forest-bordered settlement, which has since become a city. And here his descendants have been born and died, and have mingled their earthy substance with the soil; until no small portion of it must necessarily be akin to the mortal frame wherewith, for a little while, I walk the streets. In part, therefore, the attachment which I speak of is the mere sensuous sympathy of dust for dust. . . . This long connection of a family with one spot, as its place of birth and burial, creates a kindred between the human being and the locality, quite independent of any charm in the scenery or moral circumstances that surround him. It is not love, but instinct. . . . It is no matter that the place is joyless for him; that he is weary of the old wooden houses, the mud and dust, the dead level of site and sentiment, the chill east wind, and the chillest of social atmospheres;ľall these, and whatever faults besides he may see or imagine, are nothing to the purpose. The spell survives, and just as powerfully as if the natal spot were an earthly paradise. So has it been in my case. I felt it almost as a destiny to make Salem my home. . . ."  Nathaniel Hawthorne

Custom House

In 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter--a dark, brooding novel of hidden sin and expiation. Fearing that the novel was too dark, he prefaced it with a short, lighter introduction: "The Custom House" sketch. Hawthorne had actually worked in the Custom House as Surveyor, from 1847-1849. In his introductory sketch, he leads the reader up to the building and through the first story offices, in a literary virtual tour. Finally, he brings the reader to the musty and cobwebbed second floor where, he solemnly assures us, he discovered the historical records that became the novel, The Scarlet Letter.

The Salem Maritime National Historic Site consists of 12 historic structures and about 9 acres (36,000 m▓) of land along the waterfront in Salem, Massachusetts, plus a Visitor Center in downtown Salem. It was the first American National Historic Site, and interprets the triangular trade during the colonial period; privateers during the American Revolution; and sea trade, especially with the Far East, after independence.

  • The Friendship of Salem - a replica of a 1797 East Indiaman, built in the Scarano Brothers Shipyard in Albany, New York in 2000. The original Friendship made 15 voyages during her career.  She was captured as a prize of war by the British in September 1812.

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