Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Must-Read/Must-See if You Love Salem History

This article was borrowed from the Destination Salem blog post of earlier this week, with many thanks to Kate Fox, as well as Jim McAllister who was the source of the original article.

1956 Article about Salem (Click on this to read the full original article)

Destination Salem Blog Post, by Kate Fox

I love it when old - vintage - collateral comes across my desk.  A few weeks ago local historian Jim McAllister (Derby Square Tours) did some housecleaning, and Destination Salem was the benefactor.  Of all of the great publications he brought to the office, this is by far my favorite.

These illustrations, by Ben Eisenstat, are from a feature called, "The Heritage of Salem," which ran in the Lincoln and Mercury Times, November-December, 1956.  The illustrations are wonderful, and the prose evokes a time long gone - or is it?

Nobody in this day and age writes with the panache with which Mr. David McCord described the intricacies of Salem.  Some of my favorite quotes include, "To the coasting-trade of tourists streaming in by routes 1A, 107, or 114 from 128, Salem is fairly and even reverently regarded as the wellspring of New England... with relics of an ageless perfection and reaches of unbroken architectural delight."

He continues, "Everything in Salem of importance is related," and, later, "Salem is full of ghosts, but  they are the liveliest kind of ghosts."

The article, which you can read here, is an ode to all things Salem in the 1950s - the Peabody Museum and Essex Institute, the House of the Seven Gables, the Charter Street Burial Ground, Hawthorne, Bradstreet, Bowditch, and Saltonstall.  All of the characters are here, and they are paid a respect that we often forget to mention in our modern hustle-and-bustle.

What is truly wonderful about this article and its illustrations is that little has changed. The streetscape of Chestnut Street, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, the Gables, the ("exploited") Witch House - with all of the change, investment and evolution that has occurred in Salem since 1956, the city is still true to its roots.

The essay begins, "In the pleasing name of progress they have just torn down the substance of my earliest memory of Salem (the train station)," and ends with a trim Friendship sloop coming into the harbor under power.  Current events involve the building of a new train station (pleasing progress, indeed), and the return of an East Indiaman Friendship.  Clearly we aren't as far from 1956 as we might think.

Oh - one more note - a bit of a postscript, if you will... The article begins with the Melville quote, "It's not down on any map, true places never are..." The quote also begins Brunonia Barry's novel, The Map of True Places, which is set in Salem. Truly, "everything in Salem of importance is related."



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