How Salem lost its Density Mojo. Part 2.

The previous post in this thread covered examples of how Salem houses, by the hundreds, were razed to make room to park and operate vehicles, attributing the great decline of population density in Salem over the last century to that blatant and unforgivable destruction. Several more examples here hammer home the point.

Hawthorne BoulevardHawthorne Blvd then and now

The next examples return to downtown, along what is now the grandly named Hawthorne Boulevard. After the Great Salem Fire in 1914, which took out the Salem Hospital marked in the 1911 map but went no further up Elm St, it was decided during reconstruction that Elm and Walnut Streets were too narrow. All the homes on the narrow block between those two streets were razed (one house deemed meritorious was saved and moved to a new location). The two streets were combined into the wide Hawthorne Blvd, and Elm and Walnut Streets disappeared from the Salem Directory. In other words, the street was reengineered for cars even before before there were many cars (it was 1914 after all – the Model T was new) to make room for. More than a dozen homes sadly lost.

At the top of Hawthorne Blvd. sits the elegant Hawthorne Hotel. When the Hawthorne hotel was first opened in 1925 there was no parking lot behind it, instead the site between Essex St and Washington Square South was filled with historic homes. By the 1950s the decision was made that the elegant hotel needed to be more of a motor inn to draw guests, so all the homes behind were removed and a large parking lot paved in their place. One house was saved – the 1727 Crowninshield–Bentley House , originally at 106 Essex St smack in the middle of the parking lot, was moved to Essex Institute Historic District of the PEM campus at 126 Essex St in 1959. A dozen homes within the dotted blue line in the 1911 map were lost. Among them the Now and Then Club, viewed below from The Salem Common.Now & Then Club


This thread began with a post on the emptiness a century ago of the Salem Highlands behind Gallows Hill. Look again at the original photo of the recently built Salem Hospital. A half dozen residences, likely mostly dormitories for nurses and doctors, can be seen in front of the hospital along Highland Avenue. All were long since torn down to build the immense hospital parking lot. Now doctors and residents have to live a long ways from the hospital and drive a long ways to work. Such is “progress”.Salem Hospital 1920Counting up the tally from just the few examples in this thread gives several hundred housing units and thousands of residents lost. And there are more not yet considered – the large parking lot that replaced Sewall street downtown, another large parking lot at the top of Lafayette St by the central firehouse, the evacuation of Phillips and Blaney Wharfs, and even more. So the answer to the question – where the hell did all those Salem people live? – is that the car monoculture came and took them away, one and all.




One thought on “How Salem lost its Density Mojo. Part 2.

Comments are closed.