Gallows Hill Distillery Opens

From the annals of C’mon Really!? arrives this report of the opening of the Gallows Hill Distillery, not in Salem MA, which would have some perverse justification, but in of all places, Allentown PA. Which makes about much sense as a Billy Joel themed karaoke bar in Salem MA.Gallows Hill Spirits Co

There is some justification:

“In 1692, in Salem, Massachusetts, my eight-times great grandfather was accused and arrested for witchcraft,” [owner Bob] Piano explained. “He was later hanged on Gallows Hill on Sept. 22, 1692.”

Explaining why “Behind the bar will be a replica of the 17th century house of Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges of the trials.”

Now Sept. 22 was the last and busiest of the execution dates in 1692, with eight unjustly accused hanged but only one male, Samuel Wardwell, who “is the eight-times great-grandfather to American actor Scott Foley and to American author Anne Greenwood Brown.” So Mr. Piano has competition in the descendants game. That wikipedia line would seem to have been contributed by Mr. Piano himself.

Samuel Wardwell was a common carpenter with a penchant for predictions. He often claimed the ability to read the future in tea leaves and made a practice of predicting the genders of the towns’ unborn children. After several of these predictions came to pass, he became known as the Soothsayer of Andover. These were dangerous times to behave in such a manner.

Spirits puns continue with the naming of the fine spirits obtainable at the Gallows Hill Distillery, which include Soothsayer VodkaMoonstone Rune pictured above, and even Tituba’s Silver.

Might there be other common products that brand with the Gallows Hill name? A cursory Google search finds disappointingly few. There is expectedly enough a Gallows Hill Brewing Co. offering “all natural & interesting beer of exceptional quality to discerning palettes” but that is even further afield in Cape Town South Africa, with no discernable connection to Salem MA. Of course there are many potboiler dime novels that abscond the Gallows Hill name, a homemade Gallows Hill recording to be found on YouTube, and of course the “top rated” but still kitschy Gallows Hill Museum/Theatre in downtown Salem.

But that’s it. What, no Gallows Hill dark roasted coffee, no Gallows Hill heavy metal album, no Gallows Hill tattoo and piercing parlor, no Gallows Hill winery. C’mon, the opportunities are endless. 😉

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The FlynnTan Tannery in Blubber Hollow

A feature article on the North Shore in National Geographic nearly 40 years past (April 1979) prominently featured operations at the FlynnTan tannery. The sweat, the steam,  the stink, the dankness almost leaps out of the photo.

FlynnTan factory
The date of the photo in 1979 seems off, as the FlynnTan plant suffered a major fire, reputedly arson, in Aug 1976 that destroyed its oldest building, a late 19th century brick building on Boston St. supposedly the birthplace of American Shoe Machinery Corp, a firm that still exists. With half the plant gone, leather manufacturing continued fitfully in the remaining large 4-story wooden building on the other side of the site along Goodhue St. So the photo could have been taken before the 1976 fire and saved for the early 1979 article, or maybe it is contemporary with the article and illustrates the tedious non-automated processes in leather manufacturing still existent even in late 20th century. There is no mention of North Shore tanneries in the National Geographic article besides this sole photo, so why the magazine editors included it is a puzzle.

Either way, tanneries in Salem were doomed, even before the fire kicked FlynnTan in the gut. The remaining half of the plant puttered on for another decade before closing for good in 1988 upon declaration of bankruptcy. The plant degraded further, home to vagrants and druggies, taxes unpaid, fires common, before an EPA cleanup in 1998 cleared the way for demolition of the old wood building in late 1999, leaving a runt of a brick building along Boston St standing, the gold FlynnTan logo atop the chimney tower visible to travelers into Salem a long ways down the Boston St entryway. In the new century legal proceedings dragged on for years before the City of Salem finally took possession.

FlynnTan Fire

Salem Firefighters respond to fire at runt of FlynnTan plant. Again

Even then redevelopment was snake bit. The first idea was to rebuild as mixed light manufacturing, but that proposal went nowhere before the first developer handed off  the site to the next applicant. The next plan was to build a large medical clinic, taking advantage of proximity to the North Shore Medical Center, but that floated balloon deflated when it was realized that the half-dozen other medical clinics closer to NSMC were already more than Salem needed. Finally the last plan, years having passed, was for a mixture of townhouses and an apartment building with first floor retail, now under construction.

FlynnTan Development 2

FlynnTan Town Houses along Boston St under construction in Blubber Hollow

FlynnTan Development 1

FlynnTan Apartment along Goodhue St under construction in Blubber Hollow

John Flynn started his leather business in 1920, bringing his three sons and daughter into business with him. It remained a Flynn family business until the end in 1988. The original plant employed a mere 18 persons making 100 dozen skins a day, expanding to a peak of 300 persons in the wartime boom of 1945. The plant initially produced leather for men’s slippers and sweat bands for the hat trade, switching after WWII to produce sheepskins and lambskins for the shoe industry, especially shoe linings.

FlynnTan Jacket

During WWII FlynnTan expanded into cowhide leather to produce Air Force products, such as bombardier jackets, still seen on the internet under the FlynnTan logo.FlynnTan Jacket label

Salem Plastic Bag Ban – Stop & Shop Falls in Line

The plastic bag ban for the City of Salem went into effect on January 1, 2018. The Stop and Shop on the Peabody / Salem line has reversed initial policy and now will adhere to the plastic bag ban, passing out paper bags to customers who do not bring reusable bags. The Stop and Shop had been expected to legally elude the ban on a technicality, because the check-out stands where bags are disbursed is in Peabody, not Salem, even though the bulk of the supermarket resides in Salem.

Stop and Shop city line

This customer is walking on the city line, check out stands in Peabody to his right, groceries in Salem to his left.

Evidently corporate changed its mind, or had its mind changed. Let it be reminded that it was never store managers and employees who wanted to elude the plastic bag ban. When spoken to they were fully in favor of the ban, but hands were tied by corporate big wigs. What changed minds is unknown. It could have been pressure from Salem Recycling Committee, complaints from customers, pleas from store managers – whatever. Salem is much the better for the largest supermarket (mostly) within Salem following the plastic bag ban.

 

Great Salem Fire Origin – Then & Now

In the early afternoon of June 25, 1914, the fire began when the Korn Leather Co. factory at 55 Boston St. blew up. Before the conflagration was brought under control almost a day later (what is now Pickering Wharf smoldered for weeks after) nearly a third of central Salem was gone: all of The Point neighborhood, nearly all of the Mill Hill neighborhood, much of the South Salem neighborhood along Lafayette St, a slice of the McIntire District (narrowly missing famously elegant Chestnut St), and portions of downtown Salem along the Derby St waterfront.

Gone were many institutions: half of the tanneries that provided a substantial chunk of jobs and tax revenue for Salem: the Pequot Mills cotton plant that employed the other half of the Salem labor force not laboring in the tanneries; Salem Hospital on Charter St downtown, young then and suddenly absent; and even two fire stations, one at the end of Essex St rebuilt soon after and still operating, and one that occupied what is now Lafayette Park in The Point.

Given this history it is entertaining to view this day-after photograph of the origin site, Salem Fire Origintaken from the crest of Proctor’s Ledge of Gallows Hill. What’s left of the Korn Leather factory fills the central portion of the photograph, spectators along Proctor St shaking their heads at the damage. An apartment building and a factory across Proctor St are destroyed, but most of the destruction was to the right of the frame of the photograph, spreading first along Boston St then Jackson St. into Mill Hill, crossing the railroad tracks (narrowly missing the train station where Riley Plaza now lies) and spreading through neighborhoods along Salem Harbor.

More entertaining is to see what became of the area in the photograph. In this annotated Gallows Hill Fire Annotatedimage can be seen what buildings stand there now. The Korn tannery was rebuilt in the same location, decades later going out of business, and the entire lot dispiritedly now occupied by a Walgreen’s. Dispiritedly, because perhaps the two most hallowed sites in Salem, the Great Fire Memorial and the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Trials Memorial, both sit in the parking lot of a chain pharmacy. Across Boston St was built the Hygrade Lamp factory, which stood almost 80 years before being torn down, the long-standing vacant lot soon to be filled by the Gateway Center of apartments and retail outlets.

Across Proctor St the apartment building at 65 Boston St was amazingly rebuilt and is now condos. Amazingly, because look at the damage, the building was gutted. Though the missing roof was replaced not by a gable roof to match its neighbor but was squared off adding a full fourth floor to half the building. The small tannery at 6 Proctor St was not rebuilt but was replaced by a two-family house still standing.

Diagonally across the intersection the site where horse carts are parked at the confluence of Boston and Goodhue Streets is now the parking lot for an outlet of the ubiquitous Dunkin Donuts. Across Goodhue St the tannery then there was replaced at the onset of the 21st century by a Public Storage building.

Examining the area now from the same crest of Proctor’s Ledge from where the photo was taken, what stands out is how concentrated was the area then, how dispersed now. It is a theme this blog has hit up before, and will hit again – Salem of a century ago was twice as dense as it is presently.

A single-story Walgreen’s occupies a full block where three multi-story factories once stood. The Gateway Center to be built in the coming year, while seemingly large (four-stories, 117-units), will be about half the size of the Hygrade plant that once filled the site. Three multi-story buildings once filled the triangle where a small single-story Dunkin Donuts now sits. Even the seemingly substantial Public Storage building is much smaller than the immense five-story building on the site in 1914.

As the Joni Mitchell song tells:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved paradise Salem
And put up a parking lot.

 

Salem Stop and Shop Eludes Salem Plastic Bag Ban on a Technicality

GOOD NEWS UPDATE 1/2/18: Stop and Shop entered the new year by adhering to the plastic bag ban.

On Jan 1 2018 the Salem plastic bag ban goes into effect. All plastic bags distributed at checkout by all retail establishments are banned. Replacement by paper bags (a la Trader Joe’s) or by cloth reusable bags brought in by customers is mandated. Salem joins 53 other Massachusetts communities in the plastic bag ban, including neighboring Marblehead, but not neighboring Beverly (although a ban is under consideration there), or vitally neighboring Peabody.

This ban is an unalloyed good measure. Walk through Gallows Hill streets and note plastic bags impaled in tree branches unreachable; plastic bags covering sewer drains puddling rainfall; plastic bags billowing in side yards jamming mower blades.

But the large Stop and Shop supermarket on the Salem / Peabody line, who passes out thousands of plastic bags daily, is exempt. While the bulk of the store is in Salem, the front of the store, where the cash registers are and where plastic bags are handed out, is in Peabody. Examine the maps below.

Stop & Shop mapStop & Shop map 2

In the top map screen captured from Google maps the city line is difficult to discern, so the city line has been “enhanced” in the bottom map.

While the parking lot is entirely in Peabody only the front fifth of the store is in Peabody; most of the store and the loading docks are in Salem. Also note at bottom the city line passing between the odd conjunction of #179 Peabody and neighboring #179 Salem.

Expectations that Stop and Shop management would observe the ban regardless of the escape technicality are not to be realized; management has doubled down on plastic by replacing the end ramps of each cash register with plastic bag carousels. Packing paper or reusable bags on these carousels is well-nigh impossible. Cashiers and store managers have complained, but (so far) corporate is obtuse to all entreaties of customers, employees, and Salem Recycles alike. Damn, who handles PR at corporate?! A Peabody plastic bag ban, or a state-wide ban preempting local bans, cannot be enacted soon enough.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

Salem Market in Blubber Hollow knows its customers

The Salem Market, the sole retail operation in North River “Luxury” Apartments at 28 Goodhue St, yea the sole retail establishment in Blubber Hollow, strains to find customers in the desolate area. Despite many plans over many years, this is the only apartment building in Blubber Hollow. But the proprietor, Aziz Ali, gets plenty of credit for catering to the one strong customer base in Blubber Hollow, the Massachusetts Registered Marijuana Dispensary around the corner at 50 Grove St. Though Salem Market appears a conventional convenience store from the outside, inside are racks and racks of bongs, pipes, hookahs and other paraphernalia. Yes, the Salem Market, despite the bland name, is a head shop, the most expansive in Salem.

It’s more than gear. Notice the shelf of Cheez-Its above one display case, and not pictured is a rack of Doritos across from another display case. Does the place cater to its neighbor or what?

A shrewd business placement, as there are not enough Blubber Hollow residents, yet, to drive sufficient foot traffic to the store otherwise. But Salem Market is placing a bet on the future. If all planned construction in the area ever gets completed there will be hundreds of apartments, and hundreds more customers, within sight of the front door. Until then the store is just holding on, and three other retail storefronts in the North River Apartment building remain unfilled. So if visiting the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial, just two blocks distant, please patronize the Salem Market.

If the legislature and governor ever get their act together on legalization of marijuana sales, approved by a ballot proposition last year, then the number of potheads passing the Salem Market will grow, as the medical marijuana dispensary is sure to petition to become an outlet for recreational marijuana. Fingers crossed.

Salem Market

Google street view of Salem Market. Note decrepit building adjacent. Medical marijuana dispensary just to the left of photo view

 

Improving the Streets of Blubber Hollow

Way back in November MassWorks Infrastructure Program granted the City of Salem $3.5 million to “help make Goodhue, Bridge and Boston streets more inviting to pedestrians and bicyclists.”

From the report in the Salem News:

The grant, which through the state Department of Housing and Community Development, features a Complete Streets approach. Complete Streets endeavors to increase road accessibility for non-motor vehicle traffic, such as pedestrians and bicyclists. This includes repairing sidewalks and adding bike lanes, or at least providing signage for a shared roadway. Tentative improvements to the area include repaving, new bike lanes and sidewalk upgrades on Bridge Street from Flint to Boston streets, plus finishing a shared path between Grove and Bridge streets with lights. There’s also planned to be a separate bike path between the intersection of Bridge and Flint streets and the Leslie’s Retreat path … Improving walking and biking conditions can cut down on the amount of vehicles traveling through the city, which is also environmentally friendly.

Sounds great and good, and there seemed to be some urgency to the matter.

The city hopes to begin making improvements in the spring. “We’re going to get right on it,” the mayor said.

Here it is in mid-July and no work has been done or started. You read that right – NOTHING.

This stasis is par for the course for Blubber Hollow, the ‘front door’ to the Gallows Hill neighborhood. Elsewhere in the Salem News article is a summary of development plans

Five sites in the neighborhood are planned to … hold housing complexes. The only completed one is North River apartments at 28 Goodhue St. The site includes 45 residences. Approved projects include mixed-use residential at the Gateway Center on Bridge Street; residences at the former Salem Suede site, or Riverview Place; and residences at the former site of Salem Oil and Grease, to be called Grove Street Apartments. Approval is [also] pending for apartments and retail at the intersection of Goodhue and Boston streets, called River Rock Apartments.

Need it be written that NOT ONE of those five projects has begun construction. As noted in an earlier post, the only life in Blubber Hollow are abject homeless and hungry rats.

We’re patiently waiting, Ms. Mayor.