of us, Halloween is a one-night event, but in Salem, Massachusetts it’s a
month-long celebration. While the stigma of the infamous witch trials of 1692
still haunts the city, modern Salem, approximately 20 miles north of Boston,
has turned the episode into a tourism boon. Thousands of people visit this
seaside community each year during October to join in the unique festivities,
such as the annual Haunted Happenings Grand Parade. There are also year-round
themed attractions, including the Witch Museum and Cry Innocent, a
theatrical reenactment of the trail. You can even visit the The Witch House,
home of founding father and trial judge Jonathan Corwin. With its
seventeenth century-style unpainted clapboards and diamond-paned casement
windows, it is the city’s only structure still tied directly to the infamous witchcraft
Trials. But there are many connections throughout the city. Author Nathanial Hawthorne’s family heritage, for example,
included Judge John Hathorn, one of the presiding judges.
Salem has much more than witches to offer visitors. As many in Winston-Salem
know, the name derives from “Shalom” meaning peace. Lovers of art, literature,
history, and seaports will find something of interest. New England’s oldest
mansion, the House of Seven Gables, was built here in 1668. Hawthorne’s
birthplace home is also at the site. The elegant Hawthorne Hotel downtown
displays framed handwritten letters from the author.
historic site is Salem’s Custom
House where Hawthorne worked as a surveyor from 1846-1849. His
dreary depiction of the building in the introduction to The Scarlet Letter
doesn’t do justice to the grandeur of this Federalist edifice built in 1819.
Salem is rich with historic houses dating from early Colonial to Georgian to
Federal periods. Many were designed by Samuel McIntire, who embodied the
American ideal. He was a self-taught woodcarver, responsible for creating much
of the architectural grandeur of a major 18th century American city.
Among the first to popularize the symbols of the American Revolution—the
profile portrait of first president George Washington and the “American”
eagle—he transforms them into decorative motifs for official buildings and
the sixth largest port city in the U.S. in the 18th
was a major maritime municipality prospering from a complex trading system.
Salem exported its salt-cod, candles, and other products to the British West
Indies, where they were traded for sugar, molasses and native goods. Then,
these products were transported to Arabia, India and China to be exchanged for
coffee, tea, spices and merchandise, which were returned to the city for
trans-American export from Salem. At the Salem Maritime National Historic Site,
you can visit a reconstruction of the 171-foot, three-masted frigate, Friendship
originally built in 1797. The treasures acquired in the “China Trade” by sea
captains and wealthy merchants, such as Elias Hasket Derby, America’s first
billionaire, became the basis for the collection at the Peabody Essex Museum (www.pem.org)
in 1799, it is the country's
oldest continuously operating museum.
museum, renovated in 2003 by world-renown architect Moshe Safdie, ranks as one
of this country’s twenty-five largest art museums, and its exceptional
collection has grown to more then 2.4 million items. Permanent and changing art
shows highlight Asian, African, Native American, Oceanic, Maritime and
Photographic works that bring a unique world cultural view to exhibitions. The
Himalayan collection, for example, boasts America’s leading collection of 19th
and 20th century Bhutanese textile arts, while the African
department houses one of the world’s finest collections of Ethiopian Christian
art. Among the museum’s architectural treasures are 24 historic buildings and
Yin Yu Tang, the only complete Qing Dynasty house located outside China. This
truly is a world-class museum worth the trip any time of the year. You
certainly don’t have to wait until Halloween to visit, for this city by the sea
is bewitching any time of the year.