Construction in Blubber Hollow. Spring 2019 Update.

Left this thread of construction updates by the wayside for some time, given that little goes on during the winter months. But with sunnier days activity has returned to Blubber Hollow, so another update is past due.

Boston Street

Starting from the west and proceeding east along the North River come first to River Rock Apartments and townhouses squeezed onto the ledge between Boston and Goodhue Streets. When last visited the central apartment house was completed only needing interior trim and paint, while the northerly townhouses had been topped off with interior utility work commencing, and the southerly townhouses having the foundation marked off with steel posts but concrete not poured. Months later the status remains much the same. Trim on the apartments is completed but with landscaping still incomplete the building cannot be occupied; northerly townhouses have all utilities in place and trim work commencing; southerly townhouses still a shell of a foundation. 000_0356
Indeed progress seems to have stepped back a bit, what with the westerly brick parapet, completed months ago, now wrapped in tarps, perhaps for some unseen brickwork repointing. Opening is still promised by mid-spring, with applications for both apartment rentals and townhouse ownership being taken now.

Grove Street

Up Goodhue St from River Rock where it merges into Grove St we come to the site of the former Salem and Oil Grease. When last visited on these pages the nearly century-old main buildings had been demolished, leaving the foundation and two newer cinder block buildings in place when heavy equipment was withdrawn for the winter. Heavy equipment has returned, and in a sure sign that this time the demolition team is serious a Porta-potty has been placed on the site. 000_0357
But the two cinder block buildings, though interiors have been ripped out, still stand, at least partially. Test digs, looking for toxic droppings perhaps, dot the site.

Mason Street

Now passing along the North River several hundred yards downriver we come to the site of the former Salem Suede on Flint Street and the adjoining former Bonfanti Leather factory on Mason St. In 2007 plans were approved for 164 apartments in four buildings to fill the site. In the first wave of activity in 2012 the decrepit buildings were demolished. 000_0358Then the developer pulled out, citing an inability to get sufficient financial backing. Another developer picked up the baton and resumed site prep work in 2016,


Before demolition the enormous Salem Suede building (forefront) and the smaller Bonfanti Leather building (blue dot) fill the site where Riverview Place apartments will soon stand. The former building is about twice the scale of the replacement apartments.

only to themselves pull out, citing an inability to get sufficient financial backing. In 2018 a third development team came on board. In Spring 2019 heavy machinery and laborers now fill the site, digging and marking and surveying. Here’s to hope that the third time is the charm. Salem Suede closed shop decades ago, and the eyesore of a vacant lot has since been home to nobody but numerous murine vermin.

Carousel of Undevelopment

Development of the aforementioned Salem Oil & Grease site was itself delayed for some ten years when the first developer pulled out, citing – speak up if this has been heard before – an inability to get sufficient financial backing.

It’s a game that gets played often in Salem. A local development firm (well-capitalized national firms don’t even consider Salem) plans a large project with expectation of reasonable ROI. Neighbors and city council raise hue and cry about the “massive” size of the proposal, so the developer cuts the scale way back to eventually get city approval. With approved plans in hand the project is shopped around to investment firms. After running the numbers all deem the project marginal, money-wise. Unable to get financial backing the developer sells out to someone else, following the dictum of “somewhere there’s a bigger fool than I”. The project is stalled while the bigger fool reclimbs the chain of needed approvals and permits, only to then itself face difficulty getting needed capital. Around and around the “undevelopment” carousel goes / if it ever stops nobody knows.

Mason Street

Continuing downriver we come to Ice Cream Way on Mason Street, site of the former Bay State Creamery. Progress has been substantial on the conversion of the former creamery into six two-story luxury the three townhouse buildings to surround the creamery building, the first, which incorporated an existing two-family Queen Anne house, is completed and occupied; the corner building is erected and going full speed on interior work; the third is still only a dream.




Smithsonian Channel Highlights Gallows Hill

The Smithsonian Channel on Monday March 4 kicked off this year’s season of America’s Hidden Stories with an episode dedicated to Salem’s Secrets, covering – what else – the witchcraft trials of 1692.

Watching the episode in full requires a premium cable package or an online subscription to Smithsonian, but a segment of the episode covering how Proctor’s Ledge was identified as the hanging site is available for free.

Dedicated sleuthing by researchers uncovered a courtroom interrogation of Rebecca Eames, herself accused of witchcraft and arrested the morning of the hangings. She was being transported to the Salem Jail, but the hangings were ongoing and so she was left “at a house below the hill” to view the spectacle. In the interrogation she reports being able to see “a few folks being executed”. From the house now long gone, but today 19 Boston St, Eames “would have had a clear view of high ground”.vintage-map-proctors-ledge.jpg

In the video clip, two of the four researchers (Marilynne Roach and Benjamin Ray) who confirmed the site are seen walking along Boston Street, map in hand, stopping at 19 Boston St. Their surprise “Well, It’s a laundromat” brings to mind the headline in the Huffington Post the day the researchers’ findings were announced: “Salem Witch Trials Execution Site Found, And It’s Behind A Walgreens“.

View of Proctors Ledge from Sunshine Laundry

“Well, it’s a laundromat”

So much history hidden in unremarkable, forgettable places.


Given the wide notice given to the Smithsonian Channel, the Sunshine Laundry could get a lot of tourist attention. (Wash your clothes while viewing the Witchcraft Trials Memorial). Perhaps eventually a historic plaque will be placed upon its wall? Even the Salem Auto Body in front of Proctor’s Ledge might get more attention. And of course the Smithsonian episode can only drive more traffic to the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial, the most historic site on Gallows Hill.