Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Salem Heritage Trail - Part 2 of 2

After satiating our hunger with hot dogs, my 8-year-old companion and I set out to continue exploring the Salem Heritage Trail, AKA "The Red Line."

We left you on Washington Street at the corner of Lynde Street. Facing east, the MBTA Commuter Rail Station is a few steps north of our lunch stop, and while the Heritage Trail goes to the train station we will not. Instead we head south along Washington Street, passing Salem City Hall, which was built in 1836-37.

To avoid retracing our steps up the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall, we continue down Washington Street (Occasionally referred to as "Eat Street," Washington Street is home to more than a dozen restaurants that offer a wide range of fare from around the world.) and we turn onto Front Street, passing the Old Town Hall where Cry Innocent is performed and the Salem Farmer's Market offers local foods and crafts on Thursday afternoons.

Front Street turns into Charter Street and heads up hill toward the Old Burying Point Cemetery. We spend some time wandering through the cemetery, looking at gravestones and trying to read the stones that have been worn away by time and weather.

I wanted to find the grave stone for Samuel McIntire, Salem's famous architect and wood carver, because it is not cited on the sign and most people don't realize that this beloved son of Salem is buried in the Charter Street Cemetery. Using the map of notable stones, we wind our way through the cemetery and find Mr. McIntire's grave site.

Adjacent to the cemetery is the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Dedicated by Nobel laureate Eli Wiesel in 1992 to commemorate the tercentenary of the Witch Trials, the memorial is a start reminder of the tragic Salem Witch Trials. Nineteen innocent people were hanged and one man pressed to death during the Witch Trials of 1692.

We do not know for sure where the hangings happened. The memorial, which is on the Liberty Street pedestrian way between Charter and Derby Streets, is the most appropriate place to remember the victims and consider the lessons of tolerance learned from the Salem Witch Trials.

When you visit the memorial, note the twenty benches that extend from the walls. Each bench is inscribed with the name of one of the condemned, the method and date of their execution. The trees in the center of the memorial were chosen because they are the last to flower in the spring and the first to shed their leaves in the fall. Upon the memorial's threshold you will read the words of the condemned, which are carved into stones that run under the walls of the memorial, symbolizing the accused words falling on deaf ears. Often you will see candles or flowers laid on the benches to remember the victims.

Truth be told, the lessons of 1692 are somewhat difficult to convey to my 8-year-old son, so I explain the history, he takes pictures, and we move along down Charter Street toward Pickering Wharf.

We are following the Heritage Trail (Red Line), so we loop through Pickering Wharf and do some window shopping. I'm checking out menus in the windows of the restaurants, pondering our next meal, and he is concentrating on the shops and the boats docked in the marina.

You will find a bit of everything at Pickering Wharf, from pet boutiques to ladies' accessories, Witch shops to beauty salons, creative cuisine to an all-you-can-eat salad bar. And lobster rolls. There are many great lobster rolls to choose from on Pickering Wharf!

I always think "The Salem Frigate" plaque would be a perfect addition to any scavenger hunt, because I don't think anyone knows it exists. This plaque is on Pickering Wharf, facing the water, so to see it you need to walk along the fence between Capt.'s and Victoria Station.

The plaque reads:

On 23 October 1798 prominent citizens of Salem who had subscribed to build a ship for the service of the United States voted “to build a frigate of 32 guns and to loan the same to the government.” The Essex was constructed and equipped at winter Island about a mile from this site. “To oppose French insolence and piracy.” Her keel was laid in April 1799: She was launched 30 September and sailed from Salem 22 December 1799 under Captain Edward Preble. Essex did outstanding service in the naval war with France and the Barbary Wars. Her last cruise under Captain David Porter in the War of 1812 was epic in naval history. Essex swept the pacific clear of British whalers and provoked a British squadron to seek her out while disabled in the neutral port of Valparaiso, Chile on 28 March 1814. Essex was attacked and forced to surrender after a valiant 3-hour battle.

The proud name and heritage of the Frigate Essex were carried on by the aircraft carrier USS Essex, first of 24 Essex-class ships commissioned 31 December 1942. She bore the name nobly for more than 26 years of an illustrious career.

Dedicated 20 June 1979.

Salem's history just keeps going and going and going... and so do we. As we leave Pickering Wharf, we round the corner of Derby Street to the Salem Maritime National Historic Site Orientation Center.

We step into the Orientation Center and watch the free 19-minute film, "To the Farthest Ports of the Rich East." The film presents Salem's fascinating maritime heritage, giving context to the wharves and buildings preserved by the National Park Service.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site includes Derby Wharf, Derby Light, the tall ship Friendship of Salem, historic buildings including the Custom House, Derby House, and Narbonne House, and the West India Goods Store (note: this is a great spot to buy spices!)

The Heritage Trail continues down Derby Street to The House of the Seven Gables, and on to the Salem Ferry landing at Blaney Street. We stop at Ye Olde Pepper Companie for some energy in the form of malt balls and Swedish Fish. Ye Olde Pepper Companie is most noted for its Gibralters and Blackjacks, however, which were two of the first commercially produced candies in America.

Bags of candy in hand, it is time to double back up Derby Street to the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, where we cut through on the path between Derby House and the Hawkes House up to Essex Street and on to Salem Common.

Salem Common has been public grazing land since the 17th century. In the 18th century it was used as a training ground for the militia. Today it's a great spot for picnics, bike riding, dog walking, and relaxing.
We reach the end of our adventure at the statue of Roger Conant on the northwest corner of Salem Common. This statue was erected to recognize Roger Conant, who founded Salem in 1626 for the English Dorchester Company. Salem was known as Naumkeag ("fishing place") then, and was renamed Salem (from the Hebrew word for peace) in 1629.

We had a great time exploring Salem's Heritage Trail. It runs in three loops through the city, passing most of the historic sites, museums and attractions, and past many of Salem's hotels, inns, and B&Bs. We did not wander off the trail other than food and the film at the Salem Maritime Site, and our walk took about 2.5 hours and we spent less than $20 on lunch and candy.

There is so much to Salem's history. The Heritage Trail lets you explore it independently and at your own pace. Travel from 1626 to 2009 New England - just follow the red line!

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