Sixteen miles north of Boston is a city I truly love. Salem, MA is known as the witch city due to their involvement in the witch hysteria of 1692. It is here, upon Gallows Hill, 20 men and women who were perfectly innocent were sentence to death. Their crime: witchcraft. It is here in this city we can learn much from the past. We can ascertain the consequence of intolerance and their ultimate results. In this city, full of history there is much to do, see and learn.
The city of Salem is much more than the madness of what took place in 1692. The city–incorporated in 1629 after Roger Conant and a band of fishermen arrived from Cape Ann. It was to become the leading port of trade with the East Indies and China. We can view some of the artifacts of this maritime history at the Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex Street. It is here we find over two million pieces of art from Africa, China, Japan, Korea, North America, etc. We may then tour the “Friendship of Salem”–a replica of a ship from that golden age of colonial America.
As we venture through the years, we come to the fateful hysteria of 1692. Salem itself has decided to embrace this tragic event and honor those 20 men and women who lost their lives because of narrow-mindedness and fear. Those who came to this country to practice religious freedom ultimately became extremely guilty of intolerance themselves.
Today, Salem is a bustling city full of shops, restaurants and historical attractions. The Hawthorn Hotel, 18 Washington Square has been operating since 1925. This 18th century style hotel has been seen in a number of venues, including “Bewitched” and “Ghost Hunter”. A newer Salem Waterfront Hotel and Marina, 225 Derby Street is also located within walking distance of downtown. There are also many privately owned Bed & Breakfast scattered throughout the city.
Nathaniel Hawthorn’s, The House of the Seven Gables is a must for anyone interested in the literary as well as the historical side of Salem. Built in the late 17th century, the house is best known for its characterization in Hawthorn’s novel of the same name. This historical fiction, published in 1851 tells the tale of guilt, redemption and atonement. It has been claimed that Hawthorn wrote the novel as an apology for his ancestor’s role in the witch trials of 1692.
Across town the Jonathon Corwin, house better known as the Witch House had been the home of the lead investigator during these trials. The house, located at 310 Essex Street is the only building in Salem with direct ties to 1692. Mr. Corwin purchased the home in 1642 and resided there until his death. All though it has been rumored that suspected witches were cross-examined here, no proof of this has ever been found. The house is a great example of 17th century architecture and is also a must see for anyone interested in this time period.
Salem is full of museums and shops a visitor is likely to enjoy discovering. Some of these are:
The Pirate Museum–where we learn about the glory days of those men (and sometime women) who turned to a life of piracy.
The Salem Witch Village–where we get an insight to what it was like to live in 1692, at the height of the witch hysteria.
The Salem Wax Museum–tells the story of the famous witch-hunts of 1692.
The Witch Trail Memorial–remembers those innocents (20 men and women) who refused to give in to false accusations of witchcraft and died in the truth.
Cry Innocent–a live re-enactment of the trial of Bridget Bishop, where we the audience decides guilt or innocence.
… And then, after we visit these dens of knowledge we can stop off at the many souvenir shops in Salem or maybe even have our fortune read by a real 20th century witch. The city also offers a number of festivals throughout the year. Whether it is history, art or literature Salem has something for everyone. Below is a list of just some of the annual gatherings of the past year:
Salem Film Fest
Restaurant Week (spring and fall)
Massachusetts Poetry Festival
Salem Arts Festival
Salem Maritime Festival
Salem Celebrates the 4th
Salem Heritage Day
Salem Haunted Happenings
Again, why not stop by the city that made witches cool and offers a teachable moment about intolerance and religious freedom. The Arabic and Hebrew word for Salem is “Peace” and the tall ship “Friendship” invites visitors to come to the city’s shores and explore this wonderful oasis of knowledge. It is a place where we may gain insight into the past and still enjoy ourselves. In other words, the city of Salem is more than just being the city of witches.
Visit www.salem.org for further information