Walking Tour of Salem, Massachusetts, USA
A popular excursion from Boston, for those desiring to become more immersed in Colonial history, is to travel north to Salem, Massachusetts, where visitors are transported back in time to the 17th century, during the period of the Puritans, who first settled this part of the United States. In particular, a visit to this city focuses attention on the Salem witch trials, made famous in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. There are many venues available to the tourist, which focus on different aspects of the period. Numerous “witch” museums entice the visitor into this mysterious culture. Most areas are accessible by walking.
My walk begins at the National Park Regional Visitor Center, at 2 New Liberty Street. See the film, Where Past is Present, to get an overview of Salem’s history. You can also get a map and information about the area.
From here, walk north on New Liberty Street, and turn right onto Brown Street. The John Ward House, on the right, was built in 1684, and was later moved to this site in 1910. It is typical of the New England architecture of this period.
At the intersection ahead is one of the symbols of the city, a Statue of Roger Conant, the city’s founder. To me, it has always resembled a witch, and its position, in front of the Salem Witch Museum, further encourages that interpretation. Check out the museum, if time is not an issue. Opposite the museum is Salem Common, a large public park.
Now, walk south, on Washington Square West, to Essex Street. Turn right on Essex Street to find the Gardner-Pingree House, which once belonged to a successful merchant. Also on the right-hand side of the street is the Phillips Library. Further ahead, on the left, is the Peabody-Essex Museum, with excellent cultural and architectural exhibits. If you only have time for one museum, while in Salem, this should be your choice.
Next, continue west on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall. There are several other museums en route, which you can pass by for now. However, be sure to venture to the left, after passing the Witch History Museum, into Derby Square, to see the Old Town Hall, site of numerous events over the course of the year.
Return to Essex Street and turn left, to reach Washington Street. Then, take a short detour, to the right (north) on Washington to Salem’s City Hall, reputedly the country’s second oldest. Now, return to the intersection and cross the street to see the Bewitched Statue, then continue south on Washington, and then turn left on Front Street (which soon becomes Charter Street). Stop at the Old Burying Point Cemetery, on the right, which contains the graves of several notable Salem residents, such as Governor Simon Bradstreet.
Continue eastward on Charter Street, and then turn right onto Liberty Street. On the right is the Witch Trials Memorial, dedicated to the poor souls who were executed as a result of the famous 1692 hearings.
When you reach Derby Street, turn left and continue beyond the New England Pirate Museum, toward the harbor. Ahead, on your left, is Pickering Wharf, an assemblage of shops and restaurants, designed to resemble the Salem of olden times.
Further east is the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, which preserves a complex of buildings that were part of the Port of Salem. Notable stops here include the Custom House (1819), Derby House (1762), and the Nerbonne House (17th century). The area is administered and staffed by the National Park Service.
After your visit, continue east on Derby Street, to find the House of the Seven Gables, a complex of several buildings which include the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorn. Now, retrace your steps along Derby Street, and turn right on Orange Street, and then left on Essex Street, which leads back to New Liberty Street, where you began.