Old Ethnic Neighborhoods of Salem

This old map below, taken from a 1947 book on the history of Salem (Salem and the Indies), is the only one yet found showing the distribution of ethnic immigrants throughout Salem’s industrial period (roughly 1850-1950). Though the map is an abstract schematic and as such difficult to overlay on a current street map (it helps to follow the railroads), still it conforms to common lore. Polish immigrants concentrated along the waterfront with a secondary nexus on the far side of the Salem Common; French-Canadians (Quebecois) in The Point then spreading southwesterly towards Castle Hill; Italian immigrants in a tight knot on Mill Hill around St. Mary’s Italian Church; and most pertinent to the focus of this blog, a teeming Irish immigrant community along Blubber Hollow and up Gallows Hill.

Salem Ethnic Map

All these formerly tight knit communities dispersed in the great suburban migration of the 2nd half of the 20th century, shredding the fabric of the old neighborhoods. Wistful remnants remain. The AOH Hall on Boston St in Gallows Hill still has its function rooms in heavy use, though these days more for quinceañeras than for Irish christenings, reflecting the recent influx of Dominican immigrants into Salem.

Another echo of past ethnic neighborhoods are the named Veterans’ Squares scattered throughout the city, commemorating veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in twentieth-century wars. The Veteran’s Service Department of the City of Salem endeavored mightily to match surname to place. In Gallows Hill there exist Corrigan SquareHennessey Square, Butler Square, and O’Donnell Square, all proud Irish surnames.

Flowers at the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial

It was inevitable that individuals, descendants perhaps of Witchcraft Trials victims, would leave bundles of flowers at the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Trials Memorial on Gallows Hill. The real question is why it took several weeks after the dedication for this practice to begin.


The flowers are allowed to remain for several days, after which they are given to the City of Salem composting program. “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” Ecclesiastes 3:20.


McIntire Privilege. III.

Continuing what will eventually be an extended series of examples of McIntire Privilege, in this post we consider the odd Quiet Zone signs on Essex St near the Salem Library. They are arranged a short distance apart, the first declaring the start of a quiet zone heading towards downtown by Monroe St, the second declaring the end of the quiet zone a short block away by Hamilton St; a matching pair across Essex St heading away from downtown from Beckford St back to Monroe St.

The signs are head-scratchers. Quiet Zone for what? The library perhaps, but the Quiet Zone is displaced up Essex St from the library, and the librarians disavow any association with the signs, as they discourage library patrons from using the library. Quiet Zone from what? It’s not like parades or demonstrations frequent the city street; no fraternities and music halls on the block.

Quiet Zone from traffic congestion perhaps? No can’t be, as signs like that never discourage drivers, and are difficult to read clearly when passing at 30+ miles per hour. Besides, Essex St is a main corridor into and out of downtown Salem and extends for blocks on either side of the Quiet Zone. Noisome vehicles become silent for a block then resume prior sound levels – don’t think so.

The mystery deepens when a closer look shows that the signs are not official City of Salem signs. The City has nothing to do with the signs. Turns out the signs were paid for and installed by a neighborhood group on its own initiative, when the city turned down a petition for official signs, although the City did permit installation of “private” signs.

Also note the “Resident Sticker Parking Only” signs affixed on the same posts. Those are official City of Salem signs. Such resident parking zones are a plague throughout Salem. They do NOT work and so should be outlawed. Resident zones are never enforced, as police have better things to do. The fees are too nominal to discourage street parking and push resident cars into little-used driveways and garages instead. The only enforcement possible is when a neighbor calls police on a neighbor, leading inevitably to an escalating series of counter-calls and vituperations, tearing neighbors apart. Given the neighbor upon neighbor accusations that marked the Salem Witchcraft hysteria, you’d think that Salem, of all places, would be leery of even the mildest neighbor confrontations.

Though resident parking zones exist throughout Salem, not just the McIntire District, they are particularly repellent in the wealthy McIntire District, where most homes have garages, multi-car garages often. Homeowners there, like homeowners everywhere, are just too lazy to pull the family car into the family garage, preferring to leave the car on the street by the front door, meaning that street parking then becomes part of the property. Hence the clamor for resident parking zones, and the resignation of city officials in bending to residents’ demands.

So, in the McIntire District there is a futile and meaningless Quiet Zone paid for by wealthy residents themselves. What could explain such folly? Could it be—McIntire Privilege?


Dark Moon Healing Art opens on Gallows Hill

A repeated complaint on this blog is that Gallows Hill suffers from a dearth of retail options. Chain drugstores (two CVS, one Walgreen’s) and pizza shops galore, and of course a Dunkin, but anything beyond that – real coffee shops, tea houses, galleries, pubs, wine shops, chic clothing shops – anything that adds color to urban life, is lacking.

That absence may be diminishing this year, with the opening in short order of the African Store, A&J King Artisan Bakery,  though lost the entrancing Nightingale Gallery. Now the Dark Moon Healing Art shop on Boston St. has opened up. Occult shops Salem has a-plenty, but this is the first such shop to open outside of downtown.

Dark Moon Healing Art

From a release provided by the proprietor:

Dark Moon Healing Art-SALEM, a sister store of Dark Moon Healing Art-Australia, focuses on all aspects of metaphysical service. While occult supplies are carried, much more is offered. All religions are welcome. Healing Arts are our specialty, particularly Reiki, Polarity and meditation. Our highly trained Reiki instructor also teaches Yoga at studios in the area. We also offer spiritual services to help aid and guide others through psychic workings.

We hope to bring the community together in unity. We are willing to examine works by local Artists, and if agreeable we would display the art for three months. Workshops will be offered on subjects ranging from crystal works, meditation, soul collage and more. Come gather with friends to our paint nights and meet and greet with Artists. We invite the Gallows Hill community to come and try the experience.

Now that the Witchcraft Trials Memorial on Proctor’s Ledge has been dedicated, foot traffic in the neighborhood should increase. Though tourists are welcome and items of interest to tourists are offered, we want all visitors, tourists and neighbors alike, to experience a comfortable shopping experience, relax, ask questions and get to know new people. That is why we opened in the Gallows Hill neighborhood and not downtown, which after all is only five minutes away. We hope to cross promote and market with other small businesses in Gallows Hill. More than a healing arts vendor and an art gallery, we also are a representative of Powerflux PC for computer repair design and service. We encourage all in the neighborhood to come in and sample our wares. Join our shoppers club and receive discounts on purchases. All welcome.


Geography of Gallows Hill from the Air

An old aerial view shows the relation of Gallows Hill to the rest of Salem better than any map could.

Gallows Hill from the air

Centered on Gallows Hill Park the view is missing the half of Gallows Hill neighborhood to the west (left) of the park. Also missing is most of the Blubber Hollow area. How the water tower looms over the neighborhood, the city for that matter, is clear in the photo. The coal-fired power plant with its tall smokestacks, once the tallest structures in Salem, is gone now, replaced by the soon-to-be operational gas-fired Salem Harbor Footprint Power Station.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Part II.

Continuing on the previous post on the proliferation of (often unnecessary) streets signs around Proctor’s Ledge, we move on down Proctor St to the intersection with Pope St and Mansell Pkwy.


The arrow sign points to the right along Mansell Pkwy. to the public parking lot in Gallows Hill Park a block away. Sure to sow confusion with the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial on Pope St a block to the left. And the No Parking restrictions along Proctor St have negligible effectiveness, as attested by the illegally parked Cadillac Escalade in the photo.

Swinging down Pope St next noted are the new placement of warning signs about the Memorial itself. There was last week a single “Stay Off Slope” warning sign right in the middle. That led to complaints from artists and descendants that the sign spoiled the solemnity of the site, so signs were shuffled again. Now there are identical tandem signs bookending the two sides of the Memorial, and no signs in the center. Still won’t discourage the “adventurous” from climbing the slope, but hey, the City of Salem is trying.

Signs proliferate like rabbits around Proctor’s Ledge

The City of Salem Traffic and Parking Department has been busy making and installing new street signs around the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Trials Memorial along Proctor and Pope Streets. Recalls the lyrics of the former hit rock ‘n roll song;

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?


First up at the portal into Proctor’s Ledge along Proctor St. is this tandem pair banning trucks and tour buses. The placement of the anti-truck sign is quizzical, as the truck loading dock to the Malik factory right across the street, by the hedges, repudiates the intent of the sign.


Continuing up Proctor St is this tandem before the “viewing platform”. The “No Entry” was there before but is unenforceable, as all neighbors can attest to “midnight visitors”. New is the crude map directing visitors to the Memorial around the corner on Pope St, hinting that “you’re not quite there yet”.


Across from the “viewing platform” are three consecutive arrow signs pointing to the public parking lot at Gallows Hill Park. Not sure yet how effective these will be, as the parking lot is a right while the Memorial is a left. Plus across the street from the “viewing platform” is the private Malik factory lot, which has already had intruders parking there, despite the prominent No Parking signs. Not October yet, and towing season has already begun

McIntire Privilege. II.

Next in a continuing series on McIntire Privilege: the contention that McIntire residents enjoy benefits beyond other neighborhoods in Salem, without being conscious of said benefits. A first example described a benefit delivered by the Salem Dept. of Public Works regarding clearing of dead trees. The second example here continues the line of special assistance from Salem DPW.

On January 13 2017, Friday the 13th as it turns out, Federal Street and connecting streets were cleaned by the DPW street cleaner. Nothing remarkable about that in and of itself, but this was the dead of winter with the street cleaner apparently having been mothballed for the winter, or should have been. Yes it was a light winter for snow, but nobody at Salem DPW could have foretold that. There was no special event planned, and no vehicle accident or truck dumping that would have necessitated pulling the street cleaner out of its garage.

When called and questioned the responding DPW office explained that “the streets were dirty.” Duh. The streets of Salem are always dirty and always need cleaning (check out Fireballs of Salem on citizen efforts to salve the street litter problem), but apart from downtown streets no neighborhood of Salem gets streets cleaned, outside of the once-a-year springtime cleaning.

What is the explanation for this special occurrence? Could it be…McIntire Privilege?

Historic Home on Proctor’s Ledge For Sale

Besides highlighting local businesses (e.g. African Variety Store, Salem Market, Nightingales), from time to time this blog will also highlight homes for sale on Gallows Hill. Today it is time for the historic 21 Proctor St to strut its stuff, a 5-bedroom 3-bathroom 2300 sq ft jewel listed for sale last week at $499,900.

[Update Aug 6: price reduced to 449,900]

21 Proctor St

In 1692 19 people were hung to death behind this house for the false accusation of witchcraft, one of them being the farmer and tavern keeper John Proctor of Salem Farms (now Peabody). Decades later his grandson, knowing full well the significance of the site, bought the land and established a farm around the area, building his farmhouse on what became Proctor St. The land and house stayed in the Proctor family for generations. By the mid-19th century industrialization in the form of tanneries impinged on the area making farming untenable, and the site passed out of the Proctor family. In the early 20th century three large homes were built on the site of the former Proctor farmhouse by John Brophy, numbers 21, 23, and 25 Proctor St. Numbers 21 and 23 have since passed out of the Brophy family, but #25 is still occupied by John Brophy, great-grandson of the builder, and retired chief of the Salem Fire Dept.

In 1914 an explosion at the Korn Leather Factory at 57 Boston Street, behind 21 Proctor St, marked the beginning of the Great Salem Fire, which leveled great swaths of Salem.

Salem Fire from Gallows Hill

The Brophy Houses, soon after they were built, witness the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Perspective from crest of Gallows Hill

So if it’s history you want in your residence, this home has it in abundance – Salem witchcraft trials, Salem fire, bygone leather industry, and in 2017 the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial – all steps from the front door. The house appears remarkably the same as it did in 1914, apart from the loss of the wraparound porch. A standout on Gallows Hill.

The day the Beatles visited Gallows Hill

In the late 70’s, long-term resident John Brophy of Proctor Street, former commander in the Salem Fire Dept and raconteur of all things Salem, was raking leaves in his front yard next to what has since become the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Trials Memorial, when up Proctor St comes a black limousine. Pulling to a stop in front of him, the driver’s side window scoots down, and the decked out chauffeur asks John if he can point them to the place where the “witches” were hung in 1692. John, knowing full well even back then that his house was actually built on the witchcraft trials hanging site but not wanting strangers traipsing through his back yard (as happens today after publicizing of the site), pointed the chauffeur up the street to the water tower at back of Gallows Hill Park. A thank you comes from a man on the passenger side of the front seat, and John bends over to peer inside to see John Lennon incongruously sitting in the front seat besides the chauffeur, not in the rear where limo passengers normally would ride. Doubting that it is indeed Lennon John steps away, but as the limo rolls away the rear window rolls down and Yoko Ono waves thanks, confirming the initial identification.

Rushing into his house John tells wife and kids that he just spotted John and Yoko, but of course they rightfully disbelieve him. But a later sighting of the pair at the Charter St Burying Ground confirms that John Brophy did indeed meet the Beatles legend. A tale that has been retold and embellished around the Brophy dinner table countless times in the 40 years since.

Salem Fire from Gallows Hill

The Brophy House at #25 Proctor is where John Lennon and Yoko Ono stopped to ask for directions. A historic site – the origin of the Great Salem Fire behind it and the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial besides it