Top Ten Reasons Gallows Hill is Historic

Historic” Gallows Hill is often touted. Hell this blog has been heedlessly loose with the term. To prove how historic Gallows Hill really is, here are the Top Ten Reasons Gallows Hill is “Historic“.

1. Proctor’s Ledge witchcraft trials hanging site. Have to start with the Witchcraft Trials,p_00153 the reason why millions come to Salem “for reasons they cannot even fathom“. In 1692 14 women and 5 men convicted of the false crime of witchcraft were executed on Proctor’s Ledge, an Plaque Proctors Ledgeotherwise undistinguished rocky ledge at the foot of Gallows Hill along Boston St. The site’s impact, obscured in historical memory for centuries, was resurrected in 2017 with the erection and dedication of a simple stone memorial to those who lost their lives on the slope.

2. Great Salem Fire of 1914 origin site. Incredibly enough, Proctor’s Ledge is also the site of the other indelible event in Salem history, the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Salem Fire OriginAn explosion at the Korn Leather factory at 57 Boston St, under Proctor’s Ledge, began the conflagration in the early 57 Boston Stafternoon of June 25, 1914. It quickly spread out of control moving east along Boston Street out of the Gallows Hill Neighborhood. The fire alarm box used to report the fire still stands at 57 Boston Street, across the sidewalk from the memorial plaque that sits in the corner of the site now occupied, depressingly, by a Walgreens chain store. Walgreen’s is the steward of Salem’s two most precious historic sites!?

3. Boston St Gateway corridor. Proctor’s Ledge was chosen for witchcraft trials hanging partly because it lay athwart the main colonial-era road that led both to the outlying sections of Boston St 1890Salem, Salem Village (now Danvers) and Salem Farms Gateway Center(now Peabody), and in the other direction to Boston (hence Boston St). Then and since and now Boston Street has been the major gateway into Salem, traversed by 100,000’s of visitors each year, so much so that a major apartment / commercial project planned for the corner of Boston and Bridge Streets is to be known as the Gateway Center.

4. Center of tannery industry in Blubber Hollow. Tanning of leather along the shores of the North River at the base of Gallows Hill began almost as soon as the settlement of Salem was established. Shoe Factory 28 Goodhue StFor centuries the tanning industry was a household industry, families tanning in their yard, but in the mid-19th century technical innovations enabled consolidation into large factories. Tanneries boomed, with perhaps 100+ highly profitable tanneries near or on Gallows Hill by the late 19th century, accessory factories like shoe factories intermingled. Blubber Hollow ruinsInevitably the industry declined, and by the mid-20th century machines fell silent in tannery after tannery. Most were torn down, the sites awaiting revitalization today, but a few “ghost” factories remain, moldering away, the subject of many a photographer seeking ruin porn.

5. Charlotte Forten at Eppes School. Charlotte Forten was the pre-eminent female African-American intellectual of her time: abolitionist, suffragette, poet, writer, educator, lecturer, essayist. charlotte-forten.jpgAfter becoming the first African-American graduate of the newly formed Salem Normal School in 1856, her first professional position was teacher at the Eppes Grammar School on Gallows Hill (also Epes). She was apparently the first African-American teacher of white students in a public school ever. The Eppes School still stands on Aborn Street Court, now a nondescript four-unit apartment building. 7 Aborn St CtPetition has been made to add the former Eppes School to the National Register of Historic Places, where it would join the Charlotte Forten Grimke House in Washington D.C. already so listed.

6 . Highest Concentration of Gablefront Houses in Salem. As the profitable tannery industry took hold in Gallows Hill in the middle decades of the 19th century (see #4 above), the emerging working middle class needed a new type of housing. 13-15-oak-st.jpgThe grand Federal and Greek Revival homes of the merchant class were too swank. The squalid tenements of the laboring class would no longer suffice. Accordingly emerged a new type of single family housing, the Gablefront House, modest and sturdy, characterized by high attic gable facing the street, narrow two-bay facade, and main entryway not in front but tucked to the side. Many thousands of Gablefront houses were built in industrial cities of northeast America through the last two-thirds of the 19th century. Though Gablefronts are found in most Salem neighborhoods, for the real flavor come to Gallows Hill, where they dominate the streetscape.

7. Long-term Gallows Hill eateriesDairy Witch at 115 Boston St in Gallows Hill has been serving delectable ice cream to parched diners every summer since 1952.Dairy Witch

Mandee’s Pizza at 2 Boston Street at the far edge of Gallows Hill has been serving pizza and subs since 1962 to famished teens of Salem High School, which until its relocation way down Highland Ave. in the 1970’s was right around the corner.Mandee's Pizza 1966

Mandee’s was recently entered into the Pizza Hall of Fame. Those who frequented either eatery decades ago now return with children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren in tow, so long have both been serving Gallows Hill residents.

8. Hygrade Illuminating Lamp Co. introduces assembly line manufacturing to light bulbs. Hygrade Lamp Ad 1931In 1914 Frank Poor and his brothers, owners of the Hygrade Incandescent Lamp Company then located in Danvers, were looking to expand to a new location. They intended to institute to light bulbs the principles of assembly line manufacturing, developed by Henry Ford in 1913 for the wildly successful Model T. After the Great Salem Fire of 1914 (see #2 above) there was an abundance of open space along Boston St. in Gallows Hill. The brothers purchased one of those open lots, and in 1916 the new Hygrade Illuminating Lamp Co. plant opened at the corner of Boston and Bridge Streets. The plant remained in business through numerous corporate mergers, employing thousands of Salem residents over decades, until eventually the last owner Osram Sylvania closed and demolished the plant in the mid-90s. Soon a new mixed-use Gateway Center (see #3 above) is to take its place

9. Gallows Hill water tower. On the highest ledge of Gallows Hill sits the Salem water tower, adorned with insignia of a witch aloft her broom. An image of the water tower under a full moon serves as the frontispiece of this blog.moon-over-gallows-hill-croppedSitting astride the main flight path of planes into Boston Logan Airport, hence the first sight of Salem many arrivals espy, the Gallows Hill water tower is among the coolest water storage tanks around.

10. First medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts. In the election of 2012 Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative. “On June 24th, 2015, Alternative Therapies Group became the first dispensary in Massachusetts to begin serving registered patients … located in historic Salem.” p_00146Actually located at 50 Grove St in the Blubber Hollow section of historic Gallows Hill. Could soon be the first retail marijuana dispensary in Salem, and very possibly Massachusetts, should the Cannabis Control Commission ever get its ducks in a row. It’s now looking like late 2018 for opening. A local businessman responded to this history by opening a well-stocked head shop across the street, disguised as a convenience store.

And two bonus historical reasons. Minor, but worthy of notice.

A. Location of a Hawthorne short story. Nathaniel Hawthorne alluded to the savage events of 1692 that took place on Gallows Hill in nearly everything he wrote, but faced it directly in his short story Alice Doane’s Appeal (1835):

… a physical curse may be said to have blasted the spot, where guilt and frenzy consummated the most execrable scene that our history blushes to record. For this was the field where superstition won her darkest triumph; the high place where our fathers set up their shame, to the mournful gaze of generations far remote. The dust of martyrs was beneath our feet. We stood on Gallows Hill.

Indeed, Hawthorne is given credit for naming Gallows Hill. Before that it had been Witch Hill to locals and visitors alike. Hawthorne implored for remembrance:

There is nothing on its barren summit, no relic of old, nor lettered stone of later days, to assist the imagination in appealing to the heart. … And here, in dark, funereal stone, should rise another monument, sadly commemorative of the errors of an earlier race.

In 2017 Hawthorne finally got his monument on Proctor’s Ledge (see #1 above).

B. Minutemen buried at Old South Cemetery. On the last slope of Gallows Hill as a traveler descends into central Peabody lies the Old South Cemetery. Old South CemeteryIt sits within the borders of Peabody, not Salem, but Peabody was once a part of metropolitan Salem, when it was called Salem Farms, and the cemetery fronts Salem on three sides, so really it is Gallows Hill. Among other luminaries within are the remains of four local Witch Hill Gallows Hill Minutemen who fought at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775.


Construction in Blubber Hollow. June Update.

That’s it. Gave it a chance but Time to vote two thumbs down. The facade of the new Senior Center on Bridge Street is complete. Three shades of soporific beige is the best that could be had? Box windows that look like they were cut from poster board? In the words of humorist David Sedaris: “designed by a ten-year-old with a ruler, that’s how basic it is.”000_0322The flat ranch house design, utterly foreign to Salem, resembles nothing so much as a service station, like the Speedway further up Blubber Hollow on North St. Let’s see…flat roof, check; racing stripe around the roof line, check; ornamentation absent, check; uninspired entryway, check; flat unappealing facade, check.Speedway 86 North St

Was it mentioned just how…insipid…is the color scheme.

A defining tenet of contemporary architecture is that any design must in some way echo / reflect / evoke / respect (you select the verb) its surroundings. When a building is planted in an area brimming with epic 18th and 19th century homes then upholding that tenet should not be so difficult.

The bland ranch style evokes nothing of the history and culture of the surroundings. Unless it was designed to evoke the bland warehouses that once dotted the industrial area. Two remaining such warehouses face the senior center on the other side of Bridge St and the North River. If so, the plan was to evoke… a warehouse? Even the Public Storage rental building visible behind in the photo was designed to resemble residential units in the neighborhood, what with red brick facade and lintels over fake windows, and that IS a warehouse.

The Senior Center was 25 frustrating years in the making. Perhaps the designers threw in the towel just out of sheer exhaustion. Moderately justifiable if so, but still no excuse.

As to construction update, this unassuming Senior Center is completed apart from some remaining punch list items, and is scheduled to open September 4, the day after Labor Day. The same day as Massachusetts State primary elections and the start of school for many places. As is there wasn’t enough to attend to already that day.

Flynn Tan Apartments Gets its Name

On the other side of Bridge Street, shoehorned into the ridge between Goodhue and Boston Streets where the Flynn Tan factory once rested, the apartments under construction got their formal name – River Rock Residences – and their formal address – 70 Boston St. Perhaps it was too much to hope for a call out to the former use of the site. Tannery Ridge could have been evocative.


Unlike the Senior Center down the street, this apartment building does deliberately evoke its surroundings. The parapets at the end of the roofs evoke the Georgian-style apartment building at 65 Boston St, badly damaged in the Great Salem Fire of 1914 but rebuilt. The mansard style windows on the top floor with the curved lintels are meant to evoke three outstanding Second Empire apartment buildings at 67, 73, and 87 Boston Street. Hard to believe that the Second Empire apartment at 73 Boston St is low income housing operated by the Salem Housing Authority.

As far as construction update, the apartment building portion of River Rock Residences is topped off, the roof complete, the windows in place, plumbing and electrical contractors toiling. The framing of the townhouses portion is up to the second of three floors and will be complete before July is out. Scheduled opening is Spring 2019, but construction is proceeding so rapidly that an opening by New Year’s is not out of the question. Applications for housing are now being considered on the River Rock Residences web site.

Construction in Blubber Hollow. May Update

This next update has the Senior Center nearly completed, the FlynnTan apartments across Bridge St topped off, and site preparation underway for the Gateway Center at the corner of Bridge and Boston Streets.

For those new to this series of posts, Blubber Hollow, at the foot of Gallows Hill along the North River (which flows west to east north of central Salem), was the center for more than a century of an immense leather tanning industry, at its peak dozens of flourishing tanneries. By the mid-20th century the industry was in a death spiral. One-by-one tanneries went belly up, the factory buildings abandoned, rotted, eventually demolished. Eyesore doesn’t go far enough to describe what Blubber Hollow had become (and in many respects, still is).

Efforts to fill in the vast empty spaces with new buildings have been intermittent, more steps back than steps forward. There have been stunted shoots of life. The North River Apartments opened in 2013 at the site of a demolished tannery, but despite hope was not a harbinger of more. The first medical marijuana facility in Massachusetts opened in an empty tannery in 2015. Finally in late 2017 groundbreaking occurred on two of many proposed projects, the new Senior Center (ahem Community Life Center) (25 years in the making) replacing an outdated facility across town on Broad St, and the demolition of the closed FlynnTan factory and replacement by apartments and townhouses, brought by the same folks who put together North River Apartments (a venture a mere 20 years in the making).000_0314

The FlynnTan apartment building is topped off, the roof going on, plumbing going in. The parapet at each end is intended to echo the like parapets on this noteworthy vintage Georgian apartment building across Boston St.

61 Boston St

61 Boston St

The building is a survivor, damaged in the Great Salem Fire of 1914 but repaired, most recently converted to, what else, condos. In its long life the parapet once served as a billboard for Coco-Cola.


The framing for the six townhouses along Boston St has begun, the carpenters moving over from the now fully framed apartment building. Several vintage Gablefront houses of Gallows Hill are visible across Boston St.

Catty corner to this site the Senior Center has its cladding nearly in place, hardscaping for sidewalks and parking underway. The siding is not very becoming. Final judgment on the aesthetics of the building will be reserved until opening, but it’s not promising. Perhaps the cladding design was deliberately chosen to reflect the remaining industrial warehouses across the street, survivors of when this property was part of Hygrade Sylvania. Echoing vintage buildings in contemporary design is to be promoted (see 61 Boston St above) but really, industrial chic does not cut it.000_0316


Workers plastering in stucco finish on Memorial Day!

Also noted on this holiday perambulation around Blubber Hollow.000_0318.JPG

When moving into an apartment building must not forget to pack the swimming pool ladder and the classic rocking horse. Kudos for getting it all to fit atop the family SUV.

And though the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial is not dedicated to those who died in war, the executed were victims of a religious battle, so the 19 plum-colored carnations strewn along the top, one for each victim, seems altogether appropriate.000_0319

Construction in Blubber Hollow. March Update

Progress on two ongoing major building projects in Blubber Hollow continues apace, despite a string of horrific nor’easters that flooded all parts of Blubber Hollow.

Flooded Bridge St

Bridge St looking towards Gallows Hill, March 4 nor-easter

Since last visited the Salem Senior Center (ahem Community Life Center) has been fully buttoned up, the roof finished, and HVAC machinery placed on the roof.


Rear View

Inside, unseen in the outside shots, nearly all the electrical, plumbing, and duct work have been installed. Wallboard is ready to go up, and with nice weather approaching soon workers will head outside and put up the final siding. Progress is on track to open the Life Center by the end of summer.


Looking from rear of Center towards Gallows Hill

Across Bridge Street the apartment building going up where the Flynn Tan tannery once sat, has started to be built upward. It took two months to enclose the ground floor garage along Goodhue St and to build the elevator / utility shaft. The first floor is done, with three more floors to follow.000_0298.JPG

On the other side of the site, along Boston St, the foundations for the six townhouses part of the project have been poured. 000_0299Soon framing of the townhouses will begin. By the time of the next report it is expected that both the apartment building and townhouses will be fully framed, rendering the building visible from all parts of Gallows Hill.

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 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 1979 article, or maybe it is contemporary with the article and illustrates the tedious non-automated processes in leather manufacturing extant even in late the 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 new 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

Construction in Blubber Hollow. January Update

Progress on two ongoing major building projects continues apace, despite horrific weather sprouting ice monsters nearby. Since last visited the Salem Senior Center (ahem Community Life Center) has gained a roof, sprouted windows on all sides, 000_0291and been “buttoned up” sufficiently to let plumbing, electrical and HVAC contractors do interior work without undue exposure. 000_0290

On the other half of the site, not visible in the photo, ground preparation continues for the Gateway Center, with groundbreaking planned for late spring.

Across Bridge Street apartment construction at the former Flynn Tan site also proceeds although progress not as dramatic. 000_0289Framing of the ground floor, what will be the parking garage, is completed with the floor above ready to pour as soon as weather cooperates. It seems that the remaining three floors will be wood frame construction, not the steel frame construction of the ground floor. It’ll be seen in the February update how far that framing will have progressed.

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.


Construction in Blubber Hollow. December Update

Progress on the two construction projects in Blubber Hollow at the foot of Gallows Hill has been substantial.

Senior Center Xmas 3

Senior Center, looking east.

First up, the Community Life Center (known to ordinary mortals as the Salem Senior Center) on Bridge Street. Just a slab foundation when last visited, but has now been almost completely framed and enclosed. Only the roof frame needs to be completed. The size of the building is surprisingly modest, just two stories, and an entirely wood frame, no steel or reinforced concrete.

Senior Center Xmas 1

Senior Center, looking west into setting sun

Two aspects of the building that draw the eye. First, there are almost no windows on the Bridge Street facade. A design choice perhaps to minimize traffic noise? Second, and related, the building faces what will be the parking lot to the rear of the Bridge St facade.  Putting the parking in back is a commendable design choice, aimed to avoid the foul “strip mall aesthetic” far too common in commercial and public buildings. But not having access off the sidewalk along Bridge St might mean that pedestrian visitors will have to traverse the parking lot to reach the main door on the rear. It’ll have to be seen as the building is completed what access looks like.

FlynnTan Apt Xmas 2

Flynn Tan Apartments,  looking west

Across Bridge St along Goodhue St the frame, a steel frame, is going up at the long-awaited replacement to the Flynn Tan tannery, 50 new luxury apartments and a half-dozen townhouse units, a companion to the North River Apartments across the way at 28 Goodhue. So far just the frame for the partially underground parking garage is completed. Because of the topography of the site, with Goodhue substantially lower than Boston St on the other side of the plot, nothing is visible from Boston St. The final building will be four stories on the Goodhue side, but just two visible on the Boston St side. Completion anticipated by early 2019, with applications for apartments to be taken starting in mid-2018.

FlynnTan Apt Xmas 3

Flynn Tan site looking southeast. Grand mass of Salem Heights Apartments visible top center.

Meantime, further up Goodhue at the intersection with Grove St the old Salem Oil and Grease site decays further. Plans for rebuilding are in stasis.


Decrepit remains of Salem Oil and Grease

Watch this blog for regular construction updates.

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 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