McIntire Privilege. VI. Who Let the Dogs Out?

Time to return after a hiatus to the regular series on McIntire Privilege. To reiterate, McIntire Privilege is the thesis that residents of the McIntire District of Salem gain benefits, to the detriment other neighborhoods in Salem, without ever being conscious of said benefits.

Today it is the case of competing dog parks. In August at Gallows Hill Park a new sign was posted.

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In almost 20 years of walking my dogs around Gallows Hill Park (first a Dalmatian and then a rat terrier) never saw such a warning sign at the park before. Leash laws are unenforceable and as such are a waste that serve only to aggravate neighbors, much like resident parking zones. The threat of coyote attacks from a coyote den resident behind the Gallows Hill water tower is way more effective at keeping all dogs leashed. My poor rattie survived becoming a coyote appetizer just steps from this sign, so lesson learned.

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Meantime across town in Leslie’s Retreat Park abutting the McIntire District there is no leash law sign. There used to be one but vandals from the neighborhood tore it down. The city replaced the sign, which survived a couple of years before it was torn down again. A third time replaced and removed. Someone there is that does not like to be reminded of leash laws. The city surrendered, and as can be seen in the photo there is no longer a warning sign, though there is a doggie poop bag dispensary.

The leash law in this park is routinely violated, unlike in Gallows Hill Park. Despite the gate to the dog park  being but 100 feet from the parking area, dog parents routinely let their dogs off leash to run free. Such an incredible inconvenience perhaps to leash dogs for such a short distance ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Dogs being dogs, they are prone to chase whoever else passes near, be it bicyclists, commuters walking to the train station, stroller moms, or joggers, despite entreaties of doggie parents to not do so.

Now not all users of the dog park are residents of the McIntire District, but most are, and the ones who established the dog park resided in McIntire. Not having a leash warning sign and letting dogs run free of the leash – symptoms of McIntire Privilege?

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Construction Bubbles in Blubber Hollow

Two new building projects in Blubber Hollow in front of Gallows Hill, the first major developments in Gallows Hill since early 20th century (really) are progressing rapidly.

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The foundation and utility access and elevator tower for the Salem Community Life Center (which despite the renaming will forever be the Salem Senior Center) on the east side of Bridge Street are all done, and framing is set to commence. Perhaps even the building can be “buttoned in” before the “harsh winds of January” slow down construction.

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On the other side of Bridge St, between Goodhue and Boston streets, work on a 50-unit apartment complex to replace the former FlynnTan leather factory at 80 Boston St is also progressing rapidly. The much larger foundation, needed to accommodate underground parking, is not yet completed, so framing is still some ways off, but should be ongoing by the time the “harsh winds of January” blow in. The factory burned  and was closed in 1976, and for 40 years the Gallows Hill area had to live with the derelict site.

Watch this blog for monthly construction updates.

Updates to Proctor’s Ledge Memorial Just Keep Coming

Every week it seems there are new changes to the nascent Witchcraft Trials Memorial at Proctor’s Ledge on Gallows Hill. This week it’s a new surveillance system.

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To the right of the Memorial

Not sure if it’s really 24 hr surveillance, or if there is even a need for 24 hr surveillance. Apart from a skull prank on opening night, the scene in the neighborhood around the memorial has been demure. No large crowds, just two to three visitors at a time. It remains to be seen what Halloween itself brings.

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Looking around you can finally spot the surveillance camera, high on a pole to the left of the memorial, under the light itself, with a field of vision encompassing both the street and the memorial. Let’s hope that nothing ever happens that forces detectives to check the tapes. Even the perpetual homeless have vacated the premises, though they may be due more to the loss of their star base with the closing of the rooming house at the corner of Pope and Boston down the street. Though from the discards of “fine” spirits it does seem like an auxiliary homeless base has opened in Gallows Hill Park up at the far end of Pope St.

The “Wilds” of Highland Avenue in 1920

In the last century Salem has had no growth. Let’s unpack that assertion. The population remained the same, undergoing a long dip then recently swinging up to return to population levels of 1910. That population was with only half of Salem developed. Everything south and west of a line through the city roughly coincident with Jackson St (see map below) was undeveloped. No Castle Hill neighborhood, no Witchcraft Heights subdivision, no Bertram Field, no strip malls by the dozen, no Salem State University, no Vinnin Square. Over the last century Salem’s population has not changed, but the developed area has more than doubled.

How empty Salem was a century ago is underscored by an old aerial photo of Salem Hospital uncovered by Salem Digest. The original Salem Hospital, along Derby St downtown where the Halloween Alley concentration of tawdry tourist attractions now sits, burned down in the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Hospital trustees decided that a “rural” location would be safer and more pleasing, and in short time a new Salem Hospital was built on Lookout Hill on Highland Avenue.

Salem Hospital 1920

Salem Hospital has grown into the present North Shore Medical Center, engulfing the middle building in the photo, the Axelrod Building at top in the photo surrounded by newer buildings but still recognizable, leaving only the Highland Hall building at the bottom of the photo free of the main structure.

Most striking is the extended emptiness around Salem Hospital. Apart from a few homes along Highland Avenue in front of the hospital, there is … nothing. And of those homes, all along the hospital side of Highland Ave have been razed and replaced by asphalt for hospital parking. And several across the street as well. As the song relates, pulled down for a parking lot.

1891 Salem Map Annotated

For reference repost here a map of early 20th century Salem. The new Salem Hospital would be just to the left of the dotted red line just below Gallows Hill. Between the map and the photo the immensity of open space is impressive. The land has been filled in, but it is ridiculous that Salem has grown no larger.

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, then 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.