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?


City Council Elections. V – Results of Preliminary Election

[Updated Sept 16 with numbers and percentages]

Too many candidates in the At Large Councilor and Ward 2 Councilor Elections necessitated a Special Preliminary Election September 12 yesterday, to prune the At Large candidate list from 9 to 8, the Ward 2 candidate list from 4 to 2. No other wards faced a Preliminary Election.

Results in order of highest to lowest
At Large:  15,696/4 = 3924 ballots
Domingo Dominguez –  1725 (44.0%)
Arthur Sargent (i) –  1511 (38.5%)
Elaine Milo (i) –  1461 (37.2%)
Jerry Ryan (i) –  1275 (32.5%)
Tom Furey (i) –  1268 (32.3%)
Liz Bradt –  1232 (31.4%)
David Eppley –  1169 (29.8%)
Jeff Cohen –  1100 (28.0%)
Brendan Peltier – 526 (13.4%) – out

Ward 2:  1175 ballots
Christine Madore – 495 (42.1%)
Mary Usovicz – 257 (21.9%)
Justin Whittier – 215 (18.3%) – out
Brendan Murphy – 191 (16.3%) – out

Unexpected was the first position of Domingo Dominguez, in his fourth run for City Council, who led the pack in nearly every ward. Did not see that one coming, but neither did any other local commentator. Fourth time the charm, apparently. Incumbents did better than challengers, unsurprisingly but disappointingly, as it was dearly hoped that a real scare could be put into some of the incumbents to get them to behave more in tune with what the Salem electorate needs and wants. It’s the same as the US Congress, which sports the lowest voter approval in history yet 90% of incumbents get reelected anyway. Brendan Peltier is the odd man out, but he is young, mid-20s, and more is expected of him in future contests.

The results of the Ward 2 race are mildly disappointing. Of the two McIntire District candidates Mary Usovicz was the less objectionable, and there is justifiable relief that Justin Whittier is out. Christine Madore is an excellent choice, received 42% of the vote in the Preliminary, and is almost certain to prevail in the Final Election. Brendan Murphy was hampered by his wife’s due date coinciding with the election date, limiting his effectiveness in canvassing, but he too is young with many good ideas and should try again soon. And time the delivery date better for the next child 😉

As fall days grow cooler City Council elections will only grow more heated.

Last Note: this blog is devoted to the Gallows Hill neighborhood, mostly in Ward 4 with pieces in Ward 6 and Ward 3, but no piece in Ward 2, but Ward 4 abuts Ward 2 across the Four Corners intersection so coverage of the race by this blog is justified by geography.

City Council Elections. IV – The Endorsements

With the Special Preliminary elections tomorrow here are this blog’s endorsements for the two offices on the ballot tomorrow in Salem, At Large Councilors (pick four from a slate of nine) and Ward 2 Councilor (pick one from a slate of four).

At Large Candidates

Of the nine candidates, three are incumbents who voted in dissent on the Sanctuary for Peace ordinance, both times: Elaine Milo, Arthur Sargent and Jerry Ryan. Given that the Sanctuary matter is paramount in this election season, spreading even to the elections for Salem School Committee, these incumbents can NOT be endorsed. All three, unsurprisingly given the consanguinity between the two paramount issues facing Salem, have voted against advancement of specific proposed development projects in Salem. The fourth incumbent, Thomas Furey, has consistently, and at times passionately, supported the Salem Sanctuary ordinance. He deserves your vote.

All of the five challengers – Liz Bradt, Jeff Cohen, Domingo Dominguez, David Eppley, Brendan Peltier –  have been motivated to run, wholly or in part, by the disheartening opposition to the Salem Sanctuary initiative. They all embrace diversity, all desire more development to protect diversity. They deserve your vote.

A conundrum: six candidates endorsed, just four votes possible. What to do?

This is the 4th time that Domingo Dominguez has run for City Council, coming up short on three previous campaigns. Salem desperately needs more minority voices on City Council, but Domingo may not be that voice, given incriminations of past tax fraud, and given his past and current inept runs for City Council. Besides, there are other minority candidates among the ward councilor candidates that would fulfill the need for diversity. It seems likely that he will be the odd man out in the cut from nine to eight candidates.

A second option would be the experience filter. Incumbent Thomas Furey has decades on City Council; Brendan Peltier is only 25 years old with no experience in city governance, and if he loses will have other opportunities to run. Depending on personal feelings about experience, one or the other can be declined a vote.

Ward 2 Candidates

All four are challengers: Christine Madore, Brendan Murphy, Mary Usovicz, Justin Whittier. Incumbent Heather Famico has declined reelection and will be deeply missed. Two of the four are residents of the McIntire District (Mary Usovicz, Justin Whittier) and so their pro-development bona fides are suspect. With Justin Whittier there is no suspicion. He is whole-heartedly anti F.W. Webb development. Heather Famico did not just complain of bullying in the F.W. Webb matter. She named names. Justin Whittier was one of those names. Justin Whittier should never be allowed anywhere near City Council. Mary Usovicz has run for City Council before. Since it is an election when fresh faces are needed, she also cannot be endorsed.

The two remaining challengers, Christine Madore and Brendan Murphy, are both young fresh faces, both reside outside the suspect McIntire District, both have strongly supported the Salem Sanctuary issue, and both understand the need for new housing, new development of all kinds. Both can be endorsed.

Again a conundrum: two candidates endorsed, just one vote possible. What to do?

Christine Madore is a minority voice, but that is not sufficient reason to endorse her solely. Brendan Murphy is working class, but that is not sufficient reason to endorse him solely. The hope is that both make the cut in the Preliminary Election, meaning that this blog can put off a single endorsement until the Final Election in November. If only one of these two and one McIntire District candidate makes the cut, then who to endorse becomes easy. If the worst possible scenario results, where both fresh faces lose and both McIntire candidates make the cut, then it is write-in time in the November election.

Other Ward Candidates

None of the other six wards have more than two candidates, and therefore are not represented in the Special Preliminary Election. Endorsements from this blog can be delayed until the November election, but given standing already on the paramount issues facing Salem, who this blog will endorse can be foretold.

City Council Elections. III – The Temperament

City councils primarily deal with traffic and parking, parking and traffic, in that order. As such city council elections are frequently somnolent affairs, few candidates running, incumbents unchallenged for years on end. Not in Salem. Not this year. So many candidates have filed for election for both Ward and At Large councilor positions that a special preliminary election is needed to prune the candidate list. Candidate forums months before the November election are packed with spirited attendees.

What explains the excitement?

Two issues: the Salem Sanctuary for Peace ordinance and the pace of growth and development. They may seem like two vastly different issues, but as will be argued they are one issue. Two sides of the same coin.

Salem Sanctuary for Peace

It is not the place of this blog to cover the ups and downs of the Salem Sanctuary issue. The Salem News has a long running series on the changeable fates of the sanctuary proposal. As both opponents and proponents agree, Salem had for years a sanctuary affirmation on record. The Sanctuary for Peace ordinance, voted upon twice and approved twice by the same 7-4 margin, would have merely publicized and particularized existing policy. Dissatisfied with the outcome of representative democracy, opponents managed to gather enough signatures to place the matter of Salem sanctuary on the ballot in November.

That something so innocuous would have riled up so much contention speaks of the temperament of the nation, not only of Salem. But after Charlottesville, how could anybody with a heart not support the Salem Sanctuary? Even Miss Texas Margana Wood affirms so: “…a statement should’ve [been] made earlier addressing [Charlottesville], and in making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.” In the nation and in Salem too.

The arguments of the opponents are specious. That such a matter should be “decided by popular vote” and not City Council upends the very essence of representative democracy. To see what could go wrong see Popular Vote, Brexit. That the ordinance places a “target on backs of undocumented immigrants” is meaningless. There is already a target on their backs. The whole point of the ordinance is to shrink those targets. That the ordinance feeds lawlessness – c’mon that’s just unmitigated racism and has no place in today’s Salem. Shame.

That the ordinance would “result in loss of federal funding” again has no substantiation. Teams of lawyers have concluded that “No provision of the Ordinance violates Federal or State law and, therefore, the measure does not impact federal funding for Salem.” (City of Salem web site). Ward 4 Councilor David Eppley was more adamant: “Let me be very clear about this: the ordinance that we passed does not violate federal law. It does not violate state law. It does not endanger a single dollar of federal funding.”

Threats made by the president’s administration to take away funding for sanctuary cities are Not Even Close to Constitutional. If all municipalities stand together to resist arrant lawlessness and unconstitutionality the administration will back down. See Travel Ban, Muslim. Stiffen your spines, you weak-willed wussies.

The only argument less than specious is that the sanctuary ordinance “dragged Salem into a national debate.” And what is wrong with that? Salem has for centuries [love writing that; hyperbole anywhere else but truth in Salem] considered itself part of the national debate. Consider this passage from native son Nathaniel Hawthorne:

“It would make you laugh to see how the game of politics…is here played in miniature. Burning Ambition finds its fuel here; here Patriotism speaks boldly in the people’s behalf … here the Aldermen range their senatorial dignity around the Mayor’s chair of state, and the Common Council feel that they have liberty in charge. In short, human weakness and strength, passion and policy, Man’s tendencies, his aims and modes of pursuing them, his individual character and his character in the mass, may be studied almost as well here as on the theatre of the nations.” — The Sister Years (1838)

The burning issue in Salem in the time of Hawthorne was abolitionism. It’s disappointing that nearly two centuries later [again “for centuries”] still Salem is debating the intrinsic worth and dignity of all individuals.

Unable to withstand any longer a debate that should not be debated, many candidates for councilor jumped in deliberately to square off against incumbent councilors that did not support the Salem Sanctuary ordinance (Jeff Cohen, Liz Bradt, Brendan Peltier, and most especially David Eppley who led the charge for the ordinance from the beginning). Thankfully and not surprisingly, several recent immigrants, feeling their family and friends threatened by the disheartening opposition, have entered the Councilor races (Christine Madore in Ward 2, Ana Campos in Ward 4, Domingo Dominquez for At Large). Voices are being raised.

There you have it, a synopsis of the Salem Sanctuary issue. There will be more in later posts on this blog, with this is enough for now with the Special Preliminary Election on tap.

New Development in Salem

Many of the proposed developments in Salem fall along the vast swaths of land left empty by post-industrial decay, once-thriving tanneries and mills long since closed. None has drawn more antipathy in the last year than the proposal by F.W. Webb, a plumbing supply company at 295 Bridge St in Blubber Hollow, to expand into the empty space next door at 297-305 Bridge St, now a hardly-used parking lot for the T Station up the street and once the contaminated Universal Steel site.

It is not the point of this blog to cover in this post the ups and downs of the Webb proposal. Salem News again has provided admirable coverage. The McIntire Privilege series of this blog will eventually get to the matter in all its writhing detail. For now, let it be acknowledged that after unending, vehement and inconsiderate opposition by McIntire District neighbors, more precisely the Federal Street Neighborhood Association, the original proposal has been withdrawn, and the modified plan, greatly reduced, is “on pause”.

Looking into the downturned faces of Webb management as they and their company were demeaned and impugned by resident after resident in the interminable City Council hearings, it is the expressed opinion of this blog writer that F.W. Webb and Salem are not long for each other. Another leftover of Salem’s industrial age will be abandoned.

It may seem like an isolated case, but it’s not. Over the last few decades ANY AND ALL development within eyesight of the McIntire District has been vigorously opposed. A short list would include the Salem Suede site on Flint St, the Salem Courthouse expansion on upper Federal St, planned repurposing of the old District Court on Washington St, the apartments on the Parker Brothers site on Bridge St. now Bell Apartments, even the proposal to place the Salem Senior Center on the land vacated by St. Joseph’s Church across town in The Point neighborhood. All have been rebuked, several permanently.

The argument tendered is that opponents are not anti-development, but that development has to be “appropriate”. But really, to this crowd nothing has been, or ever will be, appropriate. A query of development that has been favored by the neighborhood would return the null set. Even news coverage of the groundbreaking last week for the new Salem Senior Center on the former Sylvania site briefly noted long-standing opposition to the development of the site by the neighborhood.

Salem aches for new development. Salem needs more affordable housing, Salem needs more middle class housing, Salem needs more small businesses of all types, Salem needs additions to its tax base. No serious candidate for City Council would deny this. Yet when a development proposal comes along, of any type, more often than not it is consigned to oblivion.

The antipathy expressed around the F.W. Webb hearings is the true yet unspoken reason why Ward 2 Councilor Heather Famico is not standing for reelection. The bullying she endured during the Webb hearings was more than any elected official should have to withstand.

Famico, the Ward 2 councilor,  described a pattern of unacceptable neighborhood bullying. “A self-appointed ringleader in this neighborhood has attempted to bully me since before I was elected,” Famico wrote, adding that included things said face-to-face with neighbors, delivering letters door-to-door and sending around memos that were the definition of bullying.

Her withdrawal from the Salem City Council is perfectly reasonable. The enduring antipathy goes a long way to explaining why there are now four candidates to replace Famico, to be pruned to two candidates by the special election Sept. 12.

Another argument tendered often is that development is too much, too fast. Are you fecking serious!? Alpine glaciers advance with greater alacrity than Salem development. The first serious proposal for the Sylvania site was 25 years ago. The Flynn Tan plant burned down in the early 70’s and only this year has construction started on new apartments. Nearly all of former tannery sites in central Blubber Hollow are still undeveloped decades after closings. The block along Church St bulldozed by a misbegotten urban renewal plan nearly 50 years ago is still a parking lot, development plans for the site long turned into dust. As noted, the former Universal Steel site is going nowhere.

Antipathy to Salem Sanctuary ≈ Antipathy to Development

The opposition to the Salem Sanctuary for Peace is being driven by, let’s face it, fear of the other, xenophobia for the more literate among us. And the arguments against development  – protecting property values, attracting the right kinds of residents – are merely a mask for, let’s face it, fear of the other. No wonder that councilors who voted against the diversity embraced by the Sanctuary initiative are often the same set that repeatedly vote against the diversity engendered by new development.

It is indeed time for fresh faces, for fresh initiatives, for fresh hope. In that light, endorsements to follow in the next post.

What a cruel, sour place is today’s America” Helen O’Rahilly, Irish television executive.