Salem is about more than witches

Derby Wharf Light Station in Salem Harbor, Massachusetts.

If you’re just tuning in, I have been recounting my journey to New England in May. It was a two-week trip, and I spent the time with my friend Will. We did a ton of stuff, so I’ll be blogging about it for at least another month.

I have time to drag it out. I played so much in the first half of 2019 that I am totally out of money and I need to stay home for a good long time, so there won’t be any new vacations to talk about till my birthday trip. Every 10 years I like to go somewhere amazing for my birthday. At 30 I went to Greece & Turkey, at 40 I took Tara to Egypt, and for 50 I want to go to New Zealand. I’ve got six months to figure out how to pay for it, since my birthday is in January. Anyhow… back to the story:

For those of you at home playing lighthouse bingo, we have spotted four so far that I mentioned in a previous post (I’m counting the Thatcher Island Twin Lighthouses as only one). Number five was in Salem. In the evening after our cold wet whale watch, the weather took a drastic turn for the better. We decided once more to go in search of a lighthouse. Derby Wharf Light Station is number five.

Two kids try to unlock the light house door.

The Salem Maritime Historic Site is not only part of the US National Park System, but also the oldest National Historic Site in the country. The website says the purpose of this site “is to preserve and interpret resources along the waterfront of Salem, Massachusetts that explain the nation’s settlement, its evolution into a maritime power and its development as a major industrial force.” Along the wharf we got an up close look at Pedrick Store House, that was dissassembled and reconstructed here on the wharf. The point of erecting the storehouse on the wharf is to emulate the days when merchants commonly stored their goods near the ships. A replica tallship, the Friendship of Salem, was docked right behind the storehouse, but undergoing repairs. Typically it is a working tallship. Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of either.

We walked to the end of the wharf in the warm and lovely sunshine with a few other people. Grandparents were walking their granddaughters, who asked to go inside the light house. “We can’t, it’s locked, see,” said Grandpa. After her grandpa was out of sight, the oldest girl got to work. She reached into her bag and pulled out a bunch of keys, and began trying them in the lock, one at a time, while her sister watched eagerly. The adults hollered after a while, and the girls gave up. We caught up with them all before we arrived at the Custom House, and the grandpa gave me his email address so I could send the photo of the girls.

The beautiful old Custom House is also part of the National Historic Site.

We admired the Custom House in the lengthening shadows of evening. Also from the website: “There has been a Custom House in Salem since 1649, collecting taxes on imported cargos first for the British Government during the Colonial period, then for the American Government after the establishment of the U.S. Customs Service in 1789.” It was closed so we were not able to go in and explore.

We returned to Wingaersheek Inn (which I have to mention again because of the funny name) and turned in for the night, but not before we looked up a walking tour for the next day.

Salem offered splendid weather for our walking tour the next morning. What a change in 24 hours! Not a cloud in the sky, we met our guide early and walked the city streets while he told us about the history of Salem that had nothing to do with witches. “Witches are a different tour,” our guide said. He pointed out historic buildings and places occupied by famous people in US history. He pointed out Front Street that used to be the waterfront of Salem Harbor – now so far away from the water we couldn’t even see it from there. The land was filled in and the city expanded over time. After a couple hours, he said goodbye and went back to meet his next group. Will and I bought ice cream and sat in the sunshine to eat it.

Along Salem’s Washington Street during our walking tour.
Daniel Low & Co. established 1867, had a signature silver “witch” spoon for sale – clearly they knew how to capitalize on tourist trinkets. They also sold Nathaniel Hawthorne spoons. The company is now out of business, but there is a nice restaurant at street level now.
Built in 1698, this is the former home of the London Coffee House. Now it’s a sandwich shop. {photo by Will Murray}
A plaque on the building reads: “Lyceum Hall. In this building on February 12, 1877 Alexander Graham Bell presented the first public demonstration of long distance telephone conversations.”
We gazed at this church while we ate our ice cream, from a shop called Melt.

We wandered around town for the rest of the day, exploring things that seemed interesting. We found the site of the old witch jail, the site of the pressing, and also went to the witch museum, but I’ll cover all that tomorrow in my witch-centric Salem post.

We got a laugh out of this.
This honors Salem author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who apparently added the “w” in his name to distance himself from the witch trials Judge Hathorne, his relative.

6 thoughts on “Salem is about more than witches

    1. Maureen and Rod, I would love that SO much. It is so generous of you to offer and if I make it, I’m sure I will take you up on your hospitality. I have dreamed of going to New Zealand for most of my life.

  1. This one reminds me of Burley, a nearby village famous for its witches and full of tourist shops celebrating them. The truth is that there was only ever one white witch living there until she emigrated to America many years ago.

    1. That’s pretty funny that all of the witch tourism is built up on one witch who ended up moving away. But good job for all the people who figured out how to make a living off the story. 🙂

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