Groundbreaking Announced for Salem Senior Center in Blubber Hollow

Announcement from the City of Salem:

In conjunction with the start of National Senior Center Month and the commencement of work at the project site, all members of the Salem community are invited to save the date for the official groundbreaking ceremony of the Mayor Jean A. Levesque Community Life Center, 401 Bridge Street, on Thursday, September 7, at 11:00 a.m.

This building has been awaited for 20+ years. Might it finally get built? Fingers crossed.

Senior center

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


Last touch added to Proctor’s Ledge Memorial

The dedication now more than a week past, the City of Salem added a final touch to the Witchcraft Trials Memorial at Proctor’s Ledge – warning signs. One says no entry after dusk, the other no climbing on the slope. Such signs detract from the solemnity of the site but are likely necessary in these litigious times. Not that either sign will actually deter the actions warned against, and may actually induce adolescents, or adolescents at heart, to pursue the actual behaviors inveighed against. Sigh.


McIntire Privilege. I.

An earlier post introduced the thesis of “McIntire Privilege“, a corollary to white privilege, whereby residents of the McIntire District of Salem gain benefits over other neighborhoods in Salem, without, and this is important, even being conscious of received benefits.

The thesis advanced, what are now needed are examples of said privilege, to make the abstract concrete. This will be a long (and hopefully weekly) series, there being many examples, starting with the head-scratching trivial and eventually advancing to the more consequential.

First up at the plate, a fallen tree in snowfall in Feb. 2015 in the old Quaker Cemetery at 398 Essex St., in the McIntire District.

Snowfall Quaker Cemetery

Nothing remarkable, trees fall down in snow storms all the time. What was remarkable was that this dead tree was cut and carted away within days, well before the snow had melted. One would think that Salem Dept of Public Works would have more pressing items to attend to, heavy snowfall on city streets and all.  The cemetery gate is always locked and nobody visits, so it cannot be that this is a tourist attraction or heavily visited by Salemites. More remarkable, by the spring a replacement tree had been planted.

Now there are dead and dying trees in public parks and green spaces all over Salem, in Gallows Hill Park especially, but these never get cut down and replaced so rapidly, despite plentiful public complaints from citizens. What explains this remarkable attention to civic beautification here and not elsewhere. Could it be — McIntire Privilege?

Stories of Old Gallows Hill

Today’s contribution comes from Glenn McDonald, born and raised on Gallows Hill, via Streets of Salem blog. Typos corrected and some minor editing.

I’d surely enjoy talking about Gallows Hill.

Consider the corner of Boston and Proctor Streets, in the news, of late. The Great Salem Fire started there at J. J. Connolly’s Leather Shop (I think). On the other corner, where Sylvania used to be was a place called Hygrade something-or-other. I think it was Hygrade Lighting, but that needs more research. Anyways, my family always called that area “Hygrades”.


I’ll give you some bio on myself: I was raised on Gallows Hill, at 28 Albion street, and being a profound extrovert, knew most everybody between Summit and Hanson Streets by the time I was seven.

Salem Fire from Gallows Hill

Proctor St June 25 1914 taken from top of Gallows Hill. All marked homes still standing

We were the only Scots in what was then an Irish neighborhood.

My great-grandfather was a baker in Edinborough, and was sponsored into the USA in 1880 by Hathaway’s Bakery in Danvers. His first house in the States was at 25 Albion Street, which caused a bit of domestic controversy with my great-grandmother, as the house came with neither indoor plumbing nor domestic help, both of which they had back in Scotland.

They show up there through many decennial census reports.

My mother was a Steedman. Her name was Elinor, and she was born in 1920 at 67 1/2 Essex Street, sort of behind the Narbonne House. My uncle Lester was born on Webb Street in 1922 and my grandfather eventually moved back to Gallows Hill about 1924. I say that because I know that two aunts were born at 8 1/2 Rawlins Street in 1925 and 1934, respectively. In 1942, he bought the house at 23 Albion St, where he and my grandmother lived for the rest of their lives.

My mother inherited 28 Albion Street in 1948, and I grew up with my grandparents living across the street.

Odd memories. Wall Street wasn’t actually paved until the 1960’s. Every couple of years, the Street Department would lay a roadbed of sand and tar on the street. It didn’t really seem to matter to the locals.

The last outhouse I can remember was at 24 Nichols St. The residents were two spinster sisters named Fanning, as I recall. The city forced them to hook up to city sewers in the early 1960s. I don’t get back to Salem much these days, but I remember the old place fondly.

Aesthetics of Proctor’s Ledge Memorial

Now that months of planning and construction are finally past, it’s time to take a breather and appreciate the memorial, as solemn art and as timeless history.

The site was chosen in 1692 for its convenience to central Salem and its prominence along the main road to Boston, the bodies left hanging all day to serve as warning to travelers and townspeople. Towards evening the remains were cut down and flung into rocky crevices along the ledge, where they were recovered by distraught family members under cover of darkness and eventually given decent though covert burial.

It seems fitting and proper then, that one of the remaining crevices (others having been obliterated by erosion and by a 19th century rail freight spur run along the base of Proctor’s Ledge) was chosen to site the Memorial. More than fitting that it’s a stone memorial, harkening the stony ledge. Concerns of the neighborhood were that the memorial be kept simple and unassuming, expectations more than met by the final Memorial. Simple stone wall, simple stone floor, simple stone seating, simple stone engraving. Landscaping to grow in to eventually obscure the homes abutting the site.

A memorial to reflect. A memorial to grieve, even centuries later. Not a memorial to explain, for to explain, what happened there, will never be possible.

Proctor’s Ledge Memorial Pranked

Well it only took a few hours past the dedication for the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Memorial to be vandalized. A giant skull, some three feet across, was left on the memorial in the dark of night. Not sure whether this is some sort of political statement, or whether some adolescent pranksters thought of it as a good way to dispose of a family artifact left in Grandma’s attic for generations, but anyway, there it be, hulking over the neighborhood. And the memorial’s lights do not shine any more either.


Dedication of Proctor’s Ledge Memorial

Dedication ceremony ceremony at 12 pm Wednesday July 19 attended by hundreds. The ceremony was simple and unadorned – straightforward words by Rev. Jeffrey Barz-Snaell, Minister at First Church Salem and instrumental in getting the memorial planned and built; Kimberly Driscoll, Mayor of Salem; David Eppley, Ward 4 City Councillor and a resident of Proctor’s Ledge; Prof. Emerson Baker, a member of the Gallows Hill Project that (re)-discovered the witchcraft hanging site; and Gail Gorda, President of the Towne Family Assoc. and a descendant of Rebecca Towne Nurse and Mary Towne Estey, both executed on Proctor’s Ledge.

To the ear of this blogger several speakers echoed the immortal words of Lincoln, first spoken at the site of an even greater tragedy in American history:

…we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow, this ground…The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what happened here.

National media will have better photos of the crowd, but here are several crowd shots from a meager cell phone camera.

White Privilege ≅ McIntire Privilege

The controversial notion of white privilege, though debated for decades in academic circles, has recently gathered much public notice, initially when Black Lives Matter formed and exponentially more so since the elevation of Trump to the presidency. The foremost definition, to this blogger, comes courtesy of Joshua Rothman in the New Yorker: that white people benefit from unearned, and largely unconscious, advantages, even when those advantages are not discriminatory.

The key to privilege, and what distinguishes it from overt racism to which it is frequently and erroneously equated, is that privilege is tacit, as those who benefit do not even understand that they benefit from privilege. “I’m not racist – I’m a good person” is the common retort when vehement denials of white privilege fly, often from relatives around the Thanksgiving table. And yes it is true, you are not a racist and you are not a bad person, but that does not make white privilege any less real or any less pernicious.

Academic discourse aside, what really makes white privilege stick are specific examples. An initial list of 50 examples posted by historian Peggy McIntosh way back in 1989 still has resonance today, and it is worth scanning slowly for the many ‘aha’ moments when you realize a particular item is something you say and do. A personal favorite is No. 20: I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race. That’s the one that tripped up Joe Biden in his assessment of future running mate Barack Obama: the “first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” To his credit Biden has grown and now enjoys a deep bromance with Obama.

A personal example will hammer home how unconscious is white privilege. Ten years ago, almost to the day, the home of this blogger was broken into in the middle of the day. The perpetrator walked around the house checking windows and doors. Finding all locked, he picked up a pickax left out from garden plantings and smashed the back door. The elderly women in the house behind mine heard the noise and stepped out on her deck just in time to watch the man step through the shattered door, pickax in hand. She did NOT call the police, because as explained later in her interview with the detective, “I thought it was okay. It was a white guy.” A white guy on a crime spree, my house the first of five break-ins that afternoon before the police caught up.

White privilege can sometimes hurt, not just benefit.

This is a blog about the Gallows Hill neighborhood of Salem, so what does white privilege have to do with Gallows Hill? It was all prelude to the introduction here of the corollary thesis of “McIntire Privilege”: that residents of the McIntire Historic District of Salem benefit from unearned, and largely unaware, advantages, to the detriment to other neighborhoods of Salem.

The McIntire District adjoins Gallows Hill, and an early post to this blog promised that the “historic and sometimes less than felicitous relations between the two neighborhoods will be topics of future posts.” This post today is to be the start of what is hoped to be a long-lasting thread on McIntire Privilege, sometimes disputatious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, with examples provided, critiques posted, and eventually solutions proffered.

Proctor’s Ledge Memorial Ready for its Close-up

About two dozen volunteers, including this blogger, showed up Saturday morning to clear brush from around the new memorial. A truck-full of material removed (oddest finds: several lines of dangerously askew rebar, a buried folding chair, but fewer nip bottles than anticipated given the site’s history as campground for homeless), drought-resistant landscaping planted, curbs and sidewalks swept, stone wall wiped of dust. Interrupted by several groups of curious tourists alerted by the feature in Smithsonian Magazine. City trucks scurried around applying last-minute touches. In the spirit of the times the house across the street got power washed, so it’ll gleam over the site at the dedication. She’s ready for her close-up.


Special kudos to the employees of Walgreen’s who strode across the store parking lot to assist. Walgreen’s, heralded in a breathless headline announcing the (re)-discovery of the witchcraft trials hanging site,

Salem Witch Trials Execution Site Found, And It’s Behind A Walgreens

seems appropriately bewildered by its place in American history, far above the fate of a normal big box store, the Great Salem Fire memorial in one corner of the parking lot, the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Trials memorial in the opposite corner.

Appropriate poetry posted on sister blog Streets of Salem for the occasion.