Stories of Old Gallows Hill

Today’s contribution comes from Glenn McDonald, born and raised on Gallows Hill, via Streets of Salem blog. Typos corrected and some minor editing.

I’d surely enjoy talking about Gallows Hill.

Consider the corner of Boston and Proctor Streets, in the news, of late. The Great Salem Fire started there at J. J. Connolly’s Leather Shop (I think). On the other corner, where Sylvania used to be was a place called Hygrade something-or-other. I think it was Hygrade Lighting, but that needs more research. Anyways, my family always called that area “Hygrades”.


I’ll give you some bio on myself: I was raised on Gallows Hill, at 28 Albion street, and being a profound extrovert, knew most everybody between Summit and Hanson Streets by the time I was seven.

Salem Fire from Gallows Hill

Proctor St June 25 1914 taken from top of Gallows Hill. All marked homes still standing

We were the only Scots in what was then an Irish neighborhood.

My great-grandfather was a baker in Edinborough, and was sponsored into the USA in 1880 by Hathaway’s Bakery in Danvers. His first house in the States was at 25 Albion Street, which caused a bit of domestic controversy with my great-grandmother, as the house came with neither indoor plumbing nor domestic help, both of which they had back in Scotland.

They show up there through many decennial census reports.

My mother was a Steedman. Her name was Elinor, and she was born in 1920 at 67 1/2 Essex Street, sort of behind the Narbonne House. My uncle Lester was born on Webb Street in 1922 and my grandfather eventually moved back to Gallows Hill about 1924. I say that because I know that two aunts were born at 8 1/2 Rawlins Street in 1925 and 1934, respectively. In 1942, he bought the house at 23 Albion St, where he and my grandmother lived for the rest of their lives.

My mother inherited 28 Albion Street in 1948, and I grew up with my grandparents living across the street.

Odd memories. Wall Street wasn’t actually paved until the 1960’s. Every couple of years, the Street Department would lay a roadbed of sand and tar on the street. It didn’t really seem to matter to the locals.

The last outhouse I can remember was at 24 Nichols St. The residents were two spinster sisters named Fanning, as I recall. The city forced them to hook up to city sewers in the early 1960s. I don’t get back to Salem much these days, but I remember the old place fondly.