Rare photo of Hygrade Lamp Co in Blubber Hollow

After searching high and low for months for an image of the former Sylvania plant at 50-60 Boston Street in Blubber Hollow, the front end of Gallows Hill, been able to uncover just one, hiding in the Nelson Dionne Collection in the Salem State University Archives Flickr collection. Nelson Dionne is a local amateur historian, whose recently donated his collection of thousands of photos, restaurant menus, postcards, and other bric-a-brac to Salem State University, where they are slowly getting scanned and digitized. Some 450 items scanned so far, so SSUL still has far to go, meaning that further images of Gallows Hill and Blubber Hollow may yet turn up online.

Hygrade plant Boston St

Sylvania Employees Watch Salem Soldiers March off to World War I

The plant was built in 1916, on land left barren by the Great Salem Fire of 1914, and was then the Hygrade Lamp Company, the first firm to apply principles of assembly line manufacture to the manufacture of incandescent light bulbs. In 1931 Hygrade merged with Sylvania first forming Hygrade Sylvania, becoming in 1942 simply Sylvania Electric Products, after a 1959 merger with General Telephone becoming GTE Sylvania. Sylvania née Hygrade was once among the largest employers in Salem, surpassed only by the Pequot Mills textile plant on the other side of Salem in The Point neighborhood.

The plant closed in 1993 following the buyout of Sylvania by Osram GmbH of Germany, and was demolished several years thereafter. After lying empty for 20+ years, construction of the Gateway Center of apartments and a new Salem Senior Center has finally begun this year on the former Hygrade site.

Returning to the photo, the orientation of the plant is along Boston Street, with Bridge Street just visible hooking off at the left and Federal Street out of view to the right, with roofs of several homes of the McIntire District partially visible beyond. The Hygrade plant would have only been a year old at the time of the photo. Hundreds of new employees hang out of windows and even stand on the roof, filled with patriotic fervor and waving to the soldiers marching along Boston Street.

The photo had to be taken from atop Proctor’s Ledge, looking east towards downtown. Most telling are the ruins in the foreground, all that remains of the Korn Leather Co. factory at 55 Boston St., the ignition site of the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Eventually replacement tanneries would fill the site, but at the time the photo the terror of the fire would have been fresh in the minds of the soldiers and all those waving them on. In their own turn the tanneries would go defunct, replaced in the 21st century by a Walgreen’s super-pharmacy, the Great Salem Fire Memorial in one corner of the Walgreen’s parking lot and the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Trials Memorial in the opposite corner.



Salem City Councilor “Gets It” on Development

This blog has stated, and will continue to state repeatedly, that what Gallows Hill, the whole City of Salem, the whole North Shore actually, needs most is more housing, more development. This runs counter to the feelings of many neighbors, who would like nothing more than to encase the neighborhood in amber for perpetuity.

The Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel gets it, and has been posting lengthy essays on his campaign Facebook page explaining why more development is needed. Too bad he represents Ward 5 (South Salem up to Salem State University and southerly and westerly portions of The Point neighborhood), across the city from Gallows Hill neighborhood mostly contained in Ward 4. We’ll let his words speak for themselves:

We need more housing. We do. Why do we need it? Because Salem has become a very desirable place to live. That genie is out of the bottle and the only way it could go back in would be to reverse everything that’s happened in the last decade. We could have the empty storefronts, no restaurants, no ferry, a shuttered power plant, old, unsafe parks, no improvements to entrance corridors, no train station/garage … Those things could have happened, but over the last decade plus Salem has chosen to improve. … Because of this and the growing local economy, Salem has become a place people want to live. There’s competition for rental housing and ownership. That is driving up home values and prices … I am not a fan of the rapid increase in home pricing.

Having laid out the problem, Josh then covers the possibilities to moderate home prices:

But there’s only three ways out of this inflationary spiral. One is for the economy to crater like it did in 2008 … NO
[The second] is to simply make this city unattractive to would-be residents … NO
The third is to manage things smartly. Smart development.

Having zeroed in on the only choice, Josh goes further by actually laying out some real options for smart development:

Build in places where you can leverage the train to direct commuters there instead of to outlying areas that would generate a lot more auto traffic [transit smart]. Encourage more walking and cycling by improving that infrastructure [health smart]. Modernize traffic signals to be smarter and handle flows better [technology smart]. Enforce existing laws better to deal with overcrowding in college neighborhoods – removing incentives for landlords to maximize profit by renting to big groups of kids and instead to rent to families [zoning smart]. Keep fixing the major corridors to keep the cars we do have moving [traffic smart].

His list of smart options is by no means complete. Not included: removing archaic zoning regulations that ban in-law apartments and infill development, encouraging more to live near family and jobs and not to have to move to distant areas and to spend more time in cars. Not included: consideration of technology advances in transportation (autonomous vehicles, Uber/Lyft, short term rentals like Zip cars) that already have reduced dependency on personal vehicle, which has to be parked somewhere, taking up valuable real estate that could be better used to house people, not cars.

Kudos to an elected representative who is actually thinking through the issues, not spouting rote ideological positions. Others like him are needed.


Salem Mayoral Forum Sept 27 2017

It’s been more than a week since this event, held at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Washington Square along the Salem Common. Incumbent Kim Driscoll and challenger Paul Prevey squared off again. Both candidates were energetic and appealing, yet still only now can this blogger get up the gumption to review the 2nd Mayoral Forum of the election season.

It was much the same set of questions as at the earlier Mayoral Forum, and again many of the issues radiate well beyond the confines of a small city. The growing homeless population, infuriating traffic congestion, the opioid crisis, increasing affordable housing, even improving local schools – all these require more resources and attention than Salem can bear on the matter. Both candidates at one time or another acknowledged that regional approaches, collaboration with neighboring localities, guidance from the state, national leadership (scratch that) will be needed, though that did not stop either candidate from suggesting that they alone could properly address the problems. The discouragement of this blogger makes sense.

The sanctuary issue divides the two candidates the most, with Driscoll being adamantly in favor of the Sanctuary for Peace ordinance, and Prevey against it, though to this listener he seems to have modulated his resistance, stating that he does not wish to have anyone hurt. A day or two later racist graffiti appeared on the Salem State University ball field, emphasizing again why Sanctuary for Peace is so needed, even if its effect is more symbolic than substantive. Speaking out matters.

There were a handful of Salem-specific questions. How to handle a problem called Halloween? Prevey wanted Halloween out, or at least muted, but that ship has long sailed and is not returning. Driscoll opined that it is the active citizenry reflected in Halloween celebrations and so much else that make Salem great. What to do about strained town-gown relations with Salem State University, whose students have a propensity for getting loudly drunk on weekend night, tearing up gardens and lawns of neighboring homes? When both candidates answer that better communication with SSU is needed you realize that the problem will fester. Neither thought to get ideas from nearby cities with large student populations, Cambridge, hint, hint. Once cold weather sets in the problem rights itself – jackasses don’t like freezing their asses when indulging in jackassery.

Prevey had a tic of recommending a new Comprehensive Study to investigate any complex issue that cannot be handled instantly and forthrightly, that is, all problems Salem now faces. Four times by one estimate (traffic, property taxes, rental housing, opioid crisis). Next forum the number of times he exercises this tic will be carefully counted.

Proctor’s Ledge Memorial – More Amendments

Though dedicated two months ago, updates to the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Trials Memorial on Pope St just keep coming. There are two new inscriptions in the front stone divider along the sidewalk, the left inscribed simply “Proctor’s Ledge”and the left inscribed even simpler “1692”.

These flank the “We Remember” inscription added the week before.

More deflating to the spirit of the memorial are the addition today of two grand waste barrels, a black one on the left edge for trash and a blue one on the right edge for recyclables. Deflating because why anyone would have a need to deposit trash at a somber memorial. What happened to the old hiker’s mantra “pack it in, pack it out”.

More of the arborvitae that step up the sides of the memorial site, intended to grow and shield neighboring homes from intrusive tourists, have withered and died. So much for the designed “green wall”. The house immediately up Pope Street, just behind some of those dead shrubs and atop the ledge in the left-hand photo, is just listed for sale. It’ll be intriguing to find out if potential purchasers are attracted or repulsed being so close to history.

Proctor’s Ledge Memorial – Two Months After

Sept 22 1692 was the ugliest day in the Witchcraft Trials Hysteria – eight people executed atop Proctor’s Ledge. The date was commemorated in 2017 by the laying of 19 red roses, visible atop the wall in the photo, one rose for each executed on Proctor’s Ledge throughout the summer of 1692.


As seen in the photo the central oak tree has unfortunately died again. It was doing all right, then suddenly withered and died. This was the second oak tree planted in that spot, replacing a previous dead tree just before the dedication ceremony July 19. Some of the shrubs around the site have also withered and died. Something about the site is unkind to living vegetation. Perhaps it is toxic tailings in the soil strewn by a battery factory that once occupied the site down the street where the Walgreen’s parking lot is now.


A final inscription has been added under the [dead] oak tree since the dedication ceremony. Simple, unadorned, evocative.

Salem Demographics Turn of 19th Century

One factoid about Salem that never ceases to amaze, and that has relevance today with all the hue and cry about development being adversely too much or adversely too little, is how negligibly Salem has grown in the last century. Population peaked in 1910, declined every census thereafter, reaching a nadir in 1990, before finally jumping back up amid the great urban renaissance of the 21st century.

Here are selected numbers from the US Census Bureau. 2016 is an estimate
Year       Pop.
1910    43,697
1990    38,091
2010    41,340
2016    43,132

Even with the recent jump Salem still does not match the population at the time of the Great Salem Fire of 1914, despite waves of building, demolition, and rebuilding in the century since. What gives?

The statistic is more unbelievable looking at a city map of a century ago.

1891 Salem Map Annotated

The map is from the 1891 Walker Atlas, but except for some filling in North Salem depicts Salem much as it was at the time of the Great Fire in 1914. The red dashed line designates the edge of development. In 1910 HALF of Salem had yet to be developed, yet the population was GREATER THAN it is today. The “wilds” of Salem have been filled in with homes and business, all through the 2nd half of the 20th century, yet population was repeatedly down.

So if someone complains that Salem cannot support more growth, show them this map. That’ll shut them up.

Note the apposition of the Gallows Hill and McIntire neighborhoods, both then part of Ward 4. The Point is more clearly set apart from the remainder of the city, before 20th century landfill blurred The Point more into the city proper. Note a railroad spur going into Gallows Hill, right next to where the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial sits today and behind the Boston Street Walgreen’s.

Wards are indicated on the 1891 map, and mostly follow ward boundaries of today, despite a century of jostling map lines to adjust to expanding (but not increasing) population. Ward 5 is still South Salem, though in 1891 Ward 5 included The Point, since passed over to Ward 1. Ward 4 is still Gallows Hill, though the McIntire District has since passed over to Ward 2, joined now to the north half of downtown and Bridge Street Neck. Ward 6 is North Salem, then and now. Ward 3 has shed the Mill Hill neighborhood and its half of the McIntire District, but Ward 3 is still central Salem, then and now. The only appreciable change is the addition of a new Ward 7 encompassing far south Salem, though since there was NO population growth between then and now why was an extra ward needed.


A&J King Artisan Bakers Officially Opens on Gallows Hill

Though the new bakery has been open to customers for weeks, already hosting several special functions, it was only yesterday September 18 that the official ribbon-cutting was held, with Mayor Kim Driscoll and other officials present.

Welcome to Gallows Hill A&J King Artisan Bakers!

A&J King Artisan Bakers

Open at 139 Boston Street for breakfast and lunch and snacks seven days a week. Fine foods such as those crafted at this bakery were available in central Salem, but until now could not be had in outlying districts of Salem like Gallows Hill. Definitely not counting the Dunkin Donuts down the street. Latest entry in a small renaissance of specialty shops in Gallows Hill.

City Council Elections. V.A.1. – Results of Preliminary Election

A last comment on the Salem Preliminary Elections Results for City Council, as pointed out by Salem Digest.

Preliminary Election Results

The At Large results in Ward 2 are the inverse of the results in the rest of the city. The order in Ward 2 is Dominguez 1st, Bradt 2nd (tied actually), Eppley 3rd, and Cohen 4th, all challengers, with incumbents Sargent, Furey, Milo and Ryan finishing 5th through 8th, respectively. In the city as a whole Dominguez still retains 1st position, but it is the four incumbents 2nd through 5th and the other three challengers 6th through 8th.

Could this be a pointer for the Final Election in November? Who knows? Could increased participation in the outside wards, to match the high participation rate in Ward 2, push up the challengers in the standings? Or maybe Ward 2 will remain an outlier and the other wards will follow through in the Final Election as in the Preliminary? As with many things McIntire District (a large component of Ward 2), it’s a head-scratcher.

City Council Elections. V.A. – Results of Preliminary Election in Spreadsheet Form

Courtesy of Dustin DeLuca of the Salem News comes this nifty spreadsheet tabulating the results of the Salem Preliminary Election on September 12.

Preliminary Election Results

Several comments and corrections.

  • Perhaps stimulated by the only ward councilor election on the ballot, Ward 2 readily led all wards in voter participation.
  • Voter participation in Ward 4, encompassing most of the Gallows Hill neighborhood, was pathetically low, undershot only by Ward 3, itself with a substantial piece of Gallows Hill in its boundaries. C’mon Gallows Hill, get out and vote!
  • Domingo Dominguez led or was a close second in all wards except Ward 4, where he came in fourth. Again the Gallows Hill neighborhood is the outlier.
  • Note the crushing defeat of all candidates by Domingo Dominguez in Ward 1 Precinct 2, comprising the Dominican neighborhood of The Point.
  • The space between the fourth (Jerry Ryan), fifth (Tom Furey), and sixth (Liz Bradt) finishers is tight, just 43 votes. That is where the real race will be for the final election in November.
  • In Ward 4 current Ward 4 councilor David Eppley lost by a large margin to past Ward 4 councilor Jerry Ryan. Where is Eppley’s base?
  • Jerry Ryan is listed as W4-P1 but has moved and now lives in W6-P1, though from the results fond memories of him remain in Ward 4.
  • Of the eight remaining At Large candidates, three are from Ward 6 (North Salem), two each from Ward 7 (far South Salem) and from Ward 4 (Gallows Hill / Witchcraft Heights), one from Ward 5 (South Salem), and none from Ward 1 (Salem Neck to The Point), Ward 2 (Bridge Street Neck to McIntire District), and Ward 3 (central Salem).

McIntire Privilege. V.

Upping the ante from head-scratching but trivial to still head-scratching but starting to get consequential, in this example of the series we turn to the notorious Case of the Clementine House.

To refresh, McIntire Privilege is the thesis that residents of the McIntire District of Salem gain benefits to the detriment other neighborhoods in Salem, without even being conscious of received benefits.

The Clementine House, at 102 Federal St in the McIntire District, is formally listed as the George Whitefield Martin House, built in 1800. The house in modern times has been divided into three condominiums, including a not incongruous contemporary style addition in the rear. In 2003 the three condo owners decided to repaint, selecting a heretofore rarely used but historically acceptable color. We’ll let Historic Buildings of Massachusetts take up the story from there:

The house’s owners caused a stir in the neighborhood when they painted the house a reddish-orange color called “Clementine (manufactured by California Paints), which contrasts with the more muted hues of neighboring houses on Federal Street. Although Clementine is a historic color developed by Historic New England and approved by the Salem Historical Commission, some neighbors sued the condo owners in 2003, complaining about the orange glow from the house!

Clementine House

News of the lawsuit made it to regional media. Here is part of the account from the Boston Globe:

The clementine paint had received the blessing of the local overseers of historical accuracy, the color police at the Salem Historical Commission. Clementine was among 149 shades developed by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, which notes that new research and scientific techniques have revealed some surprisingly flamboyant colors in centuries past.

Negotiations between the McIntire District neighbors broke down, and the lawsuit proceeded to court, where the judge quickly dismissed the farcical case. Feelings were hurt, but the “vivid, reddish-orange” paint remained, and the house became a minor tourist attraction.

In the summer of 2016 the house was repainted the same “reddish-orange” clementine, this time with the gloss turned down several notches to be less vivid. And impressed by the color choice, several neighbors in the area have since chosen the identical color when repainting their house. The clementine revival has spread! As it should. Again from the Boston Globe account:

Clementine was among 149 shades developed by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, which notes that new research and scientific techniques have revealed some surprisingly flamboyant colors in centuries past. “The quintessential storybook New England village with all white houses and a white church is really a figment of early 20th-century imagination,” said Frederick W. Lyman, president of American Landmarks, real estate brokers and preservation consultants in Winchester. “It didn’t really happen that way.”

Now what would cause neighbors to object to the approved color of a house? Could it be — McIntire Privilege?