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Salem, Massachusetts
Federal Street District.jpg
House of the Seven Gables (front angle) - Salem, Massachusetts.jpg
Custom House at Salem Maritime National Historic Site.jpg
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.jpg
Official seal of Salem, Massachusetts
The Witch City, The City of Witches
Divitis Indiae usque ad ultimum sinum (Latin: To the farthest port of the rich Indies)
Location in Essex County, Massachusetts
Salem, Massachusetts is located in the United States
Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, Massachusetts
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  Massachusetts
County Essex
Settled 1626
Incorporated 1629
City 1836
 • Type Mayor-council city
 • Total 18.30 sq mi (47.40 km2)
 • Land 8.29 sq mi (21.48 km2)
 • Water 10.01 sq mi (25.92 km2)
26 ft (8 m)
 • Total 44,480
 • Density 5,211.72/sq mi (2,012.31/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 351, 978
FIPS code 25-59105
GNIS feature ID 0614337

Salem ( SAY-ləm) is a historic coastal city in Essex County, Massachusetts, located in the North Shore region. Continuous settlement by Europeans began in 1626 with English colonists. Salem would become one of the most significant seaports trading commodities and slaves in early American history,

Today Salem is a residential and tourist area that is home to the House of Seven Gables, Salem State University, Pioneer Village, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, Salem Willows Park, and the Peabody Essex Museum. It features historic residential neighborhoods in the Federal Street District and the Charter Street Historic District. The city's population was 44,480 at the 2020 census.

Much of the city's cultural identity reflects its role as the location of the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. These were the subject of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible (1953). Police cars are adorned with witch logos, a public elementary school is known as Witchcraft Heights, and the Salem High School athletic teams are named the Witches. Gallows Hill was once believed to have been the site of many public hangings, including of persons convicted as witches. It is now a park and used as a playing field for various sports.


Nathaniel Hawthorne statue - Salem, Massachusetts
Nathaniel Hawthorne by Bela Pratt
Salem shipping colonial color
Scene along the Salem waterfront, circa 1770–80

Salem is located at the mouth of the Naumkeag river at the site of an ancient American Indian village and trading center. It was first settled by Europeans in 1626 when a company of fishermen arrived from Cape Ann, led by Roger Conant. Conant's leadership provided the stability to survive the first two years, but he was replaced by John Endecott, one of the new arrivals, by order of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Conant graciously stepped aside and was granted 200 acres (0.81 km2) of land in compensation. These "New Planters" and the "Old Planters" agreed to cooperate, in large part due to the diplomacy of Conant and Endecott. In recognition of this peaceful transition to the new government, the name of the settlement was changed to Salem, a hellenized form of the word for "peace" in Hebrew (שלום, shalom) which is mentioned many times in the Bible and associated with Jerusalem.

In 1628, Endecott ordered that the Great ("Governor's") House be moved from Cape Ann, reassembling it on what is now Washington Street north of Church Street. When Higginson arrived in Salem, he wrote that "we found a faire house newly built for the Governor" which was remarkable for being two stories high. A year later, the Massachusetts Bay Charter was issued creating the Massachusetts Bay Colony with Matthew Craddock as its governor in London and Endecott as its governor in the colony. John Winthrop was elected Governor in late 1629, and arrived with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, beginning the Great Migration.

In 1639, Endecott's was one of the signatures on the building contract for enlarging the meeting house in Town House Square for the First Church in Salem. This document remains part of the town records at City Hall. He was active in the affairs of the town throughout his life. Samuel Skelton was the first pastor of the First Church of Salem, which is the original Puritan church in North America. Endecott already had a close relationship with Skelton, having been converted by him, and Endecott considered him as his spiritual father.

Title page of A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft by John Hale (Boston, 1702)

Roger Conant died in 1679 at the age of 87; a large statue commemorating him stands overlooking Salem Common.

Salem originally included much of the North Shore, including Marblehead. Most of the accused in the Salem witch trials lived in nearby "Salem Village", now known as Danvers, although a few lived on the outskirts of Salem. Salem Village also included Peabody and parts of present-day Beverly. Middleton, Topsfield, Wenham, and Manchester-by-the-Sea were once parts of Salem.

Puritans had come to Massachusetts to obtain religious freedom for themselves, but had no particular interest in establishing a haven for other faiths. The laws were harsh, with punishments that included fines, deprivation of property, banishment, or imprisonment.

One of the most widely known aspects of Salem is its history of witchcraft allegations, which in many popular accounts started with Abigail Williams, Betty Parris, and their friends playing with a Venus glass (mirror) and egg.

William Hathorne was a prosperous businessman in early Salem and became one of its leading citizens of the early colonial period. He led troops to victory in King Philip's War, served as a magistrate on the highest court, and was chosen as the first speaker of the House of Deputies. He was a zealous advocate of the personal rights of freemen against royal emissaries and agents. His son Judge John Hathorne came to prominence in the late 17th century, when people generally believed witchcraft to be real. Nothing caused more fear in the Puritan community than people who appeared to be possessed by demons, and witchcraft was a serious felony. Judge Hathorne is the best-known of the witch trial judges, and he became known as the "Hanging Judge" for sentencing witches to death.

Salem and the Revolutionary War

On February 26, 1775, patriots raised the drawbridge at the North River, preventing British Colonel Alexander Leslie and his 300 troops of the 64th Regiment of Foot from seizing stores and ammunition hidden in North Salem. A few months later, in May 1775, a group of prominent merchants with ties to Salem, including Francis Cabot, William Pynchon, Thomas Barnard, E. A. Holyoke, and William Pickman, felt the need to publish a statement retracting what some interpreted as Loyalist leanings and to profess their dedication to the Colonial cause.

Salem Harbor Fitz Hugh Lane
Salem Harbor, oil on canvas, Fitz Hugh Lane, 1853. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

During the American Revolution, the town became a center for privateering. Although the documentation is incomplete, about 1,700 Letters of Marque, issued on a per-voyage basis, were granted during Revolution. Nearly 800 vessels were commissioned as privateers, and are credited with capturing or destroying about 600 British ships. During the War of 1812, privateering resumed.

Trade with the Pacific and Africa

Following the American Revolution, many ships used as privateers were too large for short voyages in the coasting trade, and their owners determined to open new avenues of trade to distant countries. The young men of the town, fresh from service on the armed ships of Salem, were eager to embark on such ventures. Captain Nathaniel Silsbee, his first mate Charles Derby, and second mate Richard J. Cleveland were not yet twenty years old when they set sail on a nineteen-month voyage that was perhaps the first from the newly independent America to the East Indies. In 1795, Captain Jonathan Carnes set sail for Sumatra in the Malay Archipelago on his secret voyage for pepper; nothing was heard from him until eighteen months later when he entered with a cargo of pepper in bulk, the first to be so imported into the country, and which sold at the extraordinary profit of seven hundred percent. The Empress of China, formerly a privateer, was refitted as the first American ship to sail from New York to China. By 1790, Salem had become the sixth-largest city in the country, and a world-famous seaport—particularly in the China Trade, along with exporting codfish to Europe and the West Indies, importing sugar and molasses from the West Indies, tea from China, and products depicted on the city seal from the East Indies – in particular Sumatran pepper. Salem ships also visited AfricaZanzibar in particular, Russia, Japan, and Australia.

The neutrality of the United States was tested during the Napoleonic Wars. After the Chesapeake–Leopard affair, President Thomas Jefferson was faced with a decision to make regarding the situation at hand. In the end, he chose an economic option: the Embargo Act of 1807. Jefferson essentially closed all the ports overnight, putting a damper on the seaport town of Salem. The embargo of 1807 was the starting point on the path to the War of 1812 with Great Britain. Both Great Britain and France imposed trade restrictions in order to weaken each other's economies. This also had the effect of disrupting American trade and testing the United States' neutrality. As time went on, harassment of American ships by the British Navy increased. This included impressment and seizures of American men and goods.

1820 Salem Massachusetts map bySaunders BPL 12094
Map of Salem, circa 1820

The Salem–India Story by Vanita Shastri narrates the adventures of the Salem seamen who connected the far corners of the globe through trade. This period (1788–1845) marks the beginning of U.S. international relations, long before the 21st-century wave of globalization. It reveals the global trade connections that Salem had established with faraway lands, which were a source of livelihood and prosperity for many. Charles Endicott, master of Salem merchantman Friendship, returned in 1831 to report Sumatran natives had plundered his ship, murdering the first officer and two crewmen. Following public outcry, President Andrew Jackson ordered the Potomac on the First Sumatran Expedition, which departed New York City on August 19, 1831. This also led to the mission of diplomatist Edmund Roberts, who negotiated a treaty with Said bin Sultan, Sultan of Muscat and Oman on September 21, 1833. In 1837, the sultan moved his main place of residence to Zanzibar and welcomed Salem citizen Richard Waters as a United States consul of the early years.

Legacy of the East Indies and Old China Trade

The Old China Trade left a significant mark on two historic districts, Chestnut Street District, part of the Samuel McIntire Historic District containing 407 buildings, and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, consisting of 12 historic structures and about 9 acres (36,000 m²) of land along the waterfront in Salem. Elias Hasket Derby was among the wealthiest and most celebrated of post-Revolutionary merchants in Salem. Derby was also the owner of the Grand Turk, the first New England vessel to trade directly with China. Thomas Perkins was his supercargo and established strong ties with the Chinese and garnered the Forbes fortune through his illegal opium sales.

Salem was incorporated as a city on March 23, 1836, and adopted a city seal in 1839 with the motto "Divitis Indiae usque ad ultimum sinum", Latin for "To the rich East Indies until the last lap." Nathaniel Hawthorne was overseer of Salem's port from 1846 until 1849. He worked in the U.S. Customs House across the street from the port near Pickering Wharf, his setting for the beginning of The Scarlet Letter. In 1858, an amusement park was established at Juniper Point, a peninsula jutting into the harbor. Prosperity left the city with a wealth of fine architecture, including Federal-style mansions designed by one of America's first architects, Samuel McIntire, for whom the city's largest historic district is named. These homes and mansions now comprise the greatest concentrations of notable pre-1900 domestic structures in the United States.

Shipping declined throughout the 19th century. Salem and its silting harbor were increasingly eclipsed by nearby Boston and New York City. Consequently, the city turned to manufacture. Industries included tanneries, shoe factories, and the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company. More than 400 homes were destroyed in the Great Salem Fire of 1914, leaving 3,500 families homeless from a blaze that began in the Korn Leather Factory at 57 Boston Street. The historic concentration of Federal architecture on Chestnut Street was spared from destruction by fire, in which they still exist to this day. A memorial plaque currently exists where the Korn Leather Factory once stood, on what is now a Walgreens store.

Air Station and the National Guard

Coast Guard Air Station Salem patch
Coast Guard Air Station patch

Coast Guard Air Station Salem was established on February 15, 1935, when the U.S. Coast Guard established a new seaplane facility in Salem because there was no space to expand the Gloucester Air Station at Ten Pound Island. Coast Guard Air Station Salem was located on Winter Island, an extension of Salem Neck which juts out into Salem Harbor. Search and rescue, hunting for derelicts, and medical evacuations were the station's primary areas of responsibility. During its first year of operation, Salem crews performed 26 medical evacuations. They flew in all kinds of weather, and the radio direction capabilities of the aircraft were of significant value in locating vessels in distress.

During World War II (1939–45), aircrews from Salem flew neutrality patrols along the coast, and the Air Station roster grew to 37 aircraft. Anti-submarine patrols were flown on a regular basis. In October 1944, Air Station Salem was officially designated as the first Air-Sea Rescue station on the eastern seaboard. The Martin PBM Mariner, a hold-over from the war, became the primary rescue aircraft. In the mid-1950s, helicopters came, as did Grumman HU-16 Albatross amphibious flying boats (UFs).

The air station's missions included search and rescue, law enforcement, counting migratory waterfowl for the U.S. Biological Survey, and assisting icebound islands by delivering provisions.

The station's surviving facilities are part of Salem's Winter Island Marine Park. Salem Harbor was deep enough to host a seadrome with three sea lanes, offering a variety of take-off headings irrespective of wind direction unless there was a strong steady wind from the east. This produced large waves that swept into the mouth of the harbor, making water operations difficult. When the seadrome was too rough, returning amphibian aircraft would use Naval Auxiliary Air Facility Beverly. Salem Air Station moved to Cape Cod in 1970.

In 2011, the City of Salem finalized plans for the 30-acre (12 ha) Winter Island Park and squared off against residents who are against bringing two power generating windmills to the tip of Winter Island. The Renewable Energy Task Force, along with Energy and Sustainability Manager, Paul Marquis, have recommended the construction of a 1.5-megawatt power turbine at the tip of Winter Island, which is the furthest point from residences and where the winds are the strongest.

The nearly 30-acre park has been open to the public since the early 1970s. In 2011, a master plan was developed with help from the planning and design firm, Cecil Group of Boston and Bioengineering Group of Salem. The City of Salem paid $45,000 in federal money. In the long term, the projected cost to rehabilitate just the barracks was $1.5 million. But in the short term, there are multiple lower-cost items, like a proposed $15,000 kayak dock or $50,000 to relocate and improve the bathhouse. This is a very important project since Fort Pickering guarded Salem Harbor as far back as the 17th century.

Designation as National Guard Birthplace

First Muster 1637
First Muster, Spring 1637, Massachusetts Bay Colony.

In 1637, the first muster was held on Salem Common, where for the first time a regiment of militia drilled for the common defense of a multi-community area, thus laying the foundation for what became the Army National Guard. In 1637, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered the organization of the Colony's militia companies into the North, South, and East Regiments. The colonists adopted the English militia system, which obligated all males between the ages of 16 and 60 to possess arms and participate in the defense of the community.

On August 19, 2010, Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick signed HB1145, "An Act Designating the City of Salem as the Birthplace of the National Guard." This as later approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in March 2012, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 10, 2013. This executive order designated the City of Salem, Mass., as the birthplace of the U.S. National Guard.

Each April, the Second Corps of Cadets gather in front of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, where the body of their founder, Stephen Abbott, is buried. They lay a wreath, play "Taps" and fire a 21-gun salute. In another annual commemoration, soldiers gather at Old Salem Armory to honor soldiers who were killed in the Battles of Lexington and Concord. On April 14, 2012, Salem celebrated the 375th anniversary of the first muster on Salem Common, with more than 1,000 troops taking part in ceremonies and a parade.

World record for Federal furniture

In 2011, a mahogany side chair with a carving done by Samuel McIntire sold at auction for $662,500. The price set a world record for Federal furniture. McIntire was one of the first architects in the United States, and his work represents a prime example of early Federal-style architecture. Elias Hasket Derby, Salem's wealthiest merchant and thought to be America's first millionaire, and his wife, Elizabeth Crowninshield, purchased the set of eight chairs from McIntire.

The Samuel McIntire Historic District represents the greatest concentration of 17th and 18th-century domestic structures anywhere in America. It includes McIntyre commissions such as the Peirce-Nichols House and Hamilton Hall. The Witch House or Jonathan Corwin House (circa 1642) is also located in the district. Samuel McIntyre's house and workshop were located at 31 Summer Street in what is now the Samuel McIntire Historic District.


Salem Ferry
The Salem Ferry approaching its dock off Blaney Street

Salem is located at 42°31′1″N 70°53′55″W / 42.51694°N 70.89861°W / 42.51694; -70.89861 (42.516845, -70.898503). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.1 square miles (47 km2), of which 8.1 square miles (21 km2) island and 9.9 square miles (26 km2), or 55.09%, is water. Salem lies on Massachusetts Bay between Salem Harbor, which divides the city from much of neighboring Marblehead to the southeast, and Beverly Harbor, which divides the city from Beverly along with the Danvers River, which feeds into the harbor. Between the two harbors lies Salem Neck and Winter Island, which are divided from each other by Cat Cove, Smith Pool (located between the two land causeways to Winter Island), and Juniper Cove. The city is further divided by Collins Cove and the inlet to the North River. The Forest River flows through the south end of town, along with Strong Water Brook, which feeds Spring Pond at the town's southwest corner. The town has several parks, as well as conservation land along the Forest River and Camp Lion, which lies east of Spring Pond.

The city is divided by its natural features into several small neighborhoods. The Salem Neck neighborhood lies northeast of downtown, and North Salem lies to the west of it, on the other side of the North River. South Salem is south of the South River, lying mostly along the banks of Salem Harbor southward. Downtown Salem lies 15 miles (24 km) northeast of Boston, 16 miles (26 km) southwest of Gloucester and Cape Ann, and 19 miles (31 km) southeast of Lawrence, the other county seat of Essex County. Salem is bordered by Beverly to the north, Danvers to the northwest, Peabody to the west, Lynn to the south, Swampscott to the southeast, and Marblehead to the southeast. The town's water rights extend along a channel into Massachusetts Bay between the water rights of Marblehead and Beverly.



Veterans Memorial Bridge
Veterans Memorial Bridge between Salem and Beverly

The connection between Salem and Beverly is made across the Danvers River and Beverly Harbor by three bridges, the Kernwood Bridge to the west, a railroad bridge and the Essex Bridge, from the land between Collins Cove and the North River to the east. The Veterans Memorial Bridge carries Massachusetts Route 1A across the river. Route 1A passes through the eastern side of the city, through South Salem towards Swampscott. For much of its length in the city, it is coextensive with Route 114, which goes north from Marblehead before merging with Route 1A, and then heading northwest from downtown towards Lawrence. Route 107 also passes through town, entering from Lynn in the southwest corner of the city before heading towards its intersection with Route 114 and terminating at Route 1A. There is no highway access within the city; the nearest highway access to Route 128 is along Route 114 in neighboring Peabody.


Salem has a station on the Newburyport/Rockport Line of the MBTA Commuter Rail. The railroad lines are also connected to a semi-abandoned portion of freight lines which lead into Peabody, and a former line into Marblehead has been converted into a bike path.


Several MBTA Bus routes pass through the city.

Salem Skipper

The City of Salem launched a microtransit network called the Salem Skipper in December 2020. The on-demand transit network is operated by Via and allows riders to share the same vehicle for approximately the same price as a MBTA Bus ticket. Passengers can hail a ride on their mobile device with the Salem Skipper app, or by calling a dispatcher.


The nearest general aviation airport is Beverly Municipal Airport, and the nearest commercial airline service for national and international flights is at Boston's Logan International Airport.

The Salem Ferry

The Nathaniel Bowditch is a 92-foot (28 m) high-speed catamaran that travels from Salem to Boston in 50 minutes from May to October and had its maiden voyage on June 22, 2006. The Salem Ferry is named after Nathaniel Bowditch, who was from Salem and wrote the American Practical Navigator. Ridership increased every year from 2006 to 2010, when it peaked with 89,000, but in 2011 service was cut back because of the dramatic rise in fuel prices. The Salem Ferry is docked at the Derby Waterfront District.

The ferry was purchased by the City of Salem with the use of grant money that covered 90 percent of the $2.1 million purchase price. Because of the cutback in service during the 2011 season, Mayor Kim Driscoll is now seeking a new operator who can run the ferry seven days a week from May to October.

For the 2012 season Boston Harbor Cruises took over the running of the Salem Ferry with seven-day service and a Monday to Friday 7 a.m. commuter ferry to Boston. The Salem Ferry will be running seven days a week for the 2012 season starting the first weekend in June and going through to Halloween.

Boston Harbor Cruises, the contractor that operates the city's commuter ferry to Boston, runs their largest and fastest vessel between Salem and Hingham for the last two weekends in October. The company's high-speed ferry service to Provincetown concludes in October, freeing up its 600-passenger boat for service between Salem and Hingham. The ferry ride between Hingham and Salem takes one hour. With traffic, especially around Halloween, the drive between Salem and Hingham could be three hours or more.

For the 2013 season, service was expected to start in the last week of May. The Salem City councilors approved a five-year contract with Boston Harbor Cruises to operate the city's commuter ferry from 2013 to 2017. Also new for the 2013 season, Boston Harbor Cruises will offer a 20 percent discount to Salem residents for non-commuter tickets. The City of Salem has approved a seasonal restaurant with a liquor license at The Salem Ferry dock to be operated by Boston Harbor Cruises. The plan is to build a 600-square-foot (56 m2) building plus patio seating.

The latest data from 2015 point to 61,000 riders, with around 11,000 being commuters, according to Boston Harbor Cruises, which runs the Salem Ferry.

Electric car charge program

Salem has eight stations where drivers can charge their electric cars. Four are located at the Museum Place Mall near the Peabody Essex Museum and the other four are in the South Harbor garage across the street from the Salem Waterfront Hotel. The program started in January 2013 and will be free of charge for two years, allowing people to charge their electric cars and other electric vehicles for up to six hours. This program was paid for by a grant from the state of Massachusetts due to Salem's status as a Massachusetts Green Community.

Waterfront redevelopment

1883 SalemMA map BPL 2675001218
Map of Salem and Harbor, 1883

The first step in the redevelopment was in 2006 when the State of Massachusetts gave Salem $1,000,000. The bulk of the money - $750,000 - was earmarked for the acquisition of the Blaney Street landing, the private, 2-acre (8,100 m2) site off Derby Street used by the ferry, and Salem Harbor. Another $200,000 was approved for the design of the new Salem wharf, a large pier planned for the landing, which officials said could be used by small cruise ships, commercial vessels and fishing boats. In June 2012, the $1.75 million was awarded by the state of Massachusetts and will launch a first phase of dredging and construction of a 100-foot (30 m) extension of the pier; a harborwalk to improve pedestrian access; and another lighting, landscaping and paving improvements. Dredging will allow the city to attract other ferries, excursion vessels and cruise ships of up to 250 feet (76 m).

In October 2010, Mayor Driscoll announced that the city would formally acquire the Blaney Street parcel from Dominion Energy, paving the way for the Salem Wharf project. The City of Salem secured $1.25 million from the Massachusetts Seaport Advisory Council and $2.5 million in federal grant dollars to move forward with the construction of the project. The city acquired the parcel with the help of a $1.7 million grant received from the Seaport Advisory Council.

The City of Salem's plans calls for a total build-out of the current Blaney Street pier, known as the Salem Wharf project. When finished, the Blaney Street pier will be home to small to medium-sized cruise ships, commercial vessels, and the Salem Ferry. This project is fully engineered and permitted.

In 2010, in the early phase of work to be finished for the 2011 season, a contractor was running underground utility cables and erecting an interim terminal building that will be used by the Salem Ferry, replacing the current trailer. The building will have an indoor bathroom — a first at the ferry landing — along with a waiting room and possibly an outdoor area with awnings. Also new for 2011 is a paved lot with about 140 parking spaces replacing the existing dirt parking lot.

Also in 2011, construction crews were building a long seawall at the Blaney Street landing, which runs from the edge of the ferry dock back toward Derby Street and along an inner harbor. This is one of the early and key pieces of the Salem Pier, which the city hopes to have completed by 2014 and is the key to eventually bringing cruise ships to Salem.

At the end of the 2011 season of the Salem Ferry, in the late fall of 2011, after the ferry season ended, contractors were to start building the first section of the T-shaped, 350-foot (110 m) pier. Work on that phase was scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2012. As of April 2011, the City of Salem had secured half of the $20 million and still needed to secure about $10 million in state and federal funds to complete this waterfront pier.

Salem Harbor Power Station

Salem Harbor Station
Original Salem Harbor Station in 2012

In May 2011, after years of legal battles, protests, and one recent fatal accident, the owner of the Salem Harbor Power Station announced it will close down the facility permanently. Salem Harbor Station was a 60-year-old power plant that was owned by the Dominion of Virginia. With the approval of ISO New England, the 60-year-old coal and oil-fired plant closed for good in June 2014.

The City of Salem was awarded a $200,000 grant from the Clean Energy Center prior to the closure of the plant. This grant money is being used to plan for the eventual re-use of the property. The City of Salem reached out to state and federal officials to ask for their cooperation and assistance in planning for the future and to provide money, in an effort to clean up the 62-acre site.

Salem Harbor Station Demolition
The original coal plant (at left) being demolished in 2016, as the single smokestack of the new plant rises

Footprint Power, a startup New Jersey-based energy company, announced on June 29, 2012, that it had signed an agreement to acquire Salem Harbor Station from Dominion Energy of Virginia. Footprint Power planned to demolish the 63-acre waterfront site that has towering smokestacks, a coal pile, and oil tanks. A city study estimated cleanup costs at more than $50 million. The final plan was to develop a new state-of-the-art natural gas plant on one-third of the original site, reportedly along the Fort Avenue side near the city's ferry landing. The remainder of the waterfront property eventually will be used for commercial and industrial redevelopment, the company said. "The transition will not only stabilize our property tax base but also provide cleaner, more efficient, and reliable energy." Footprint said its plans are consistent with the recommendations of a city study completed earlier that year on the future use of the power plant site. The City of Salem required Footprint to demolish the existing plant and stacks. "We will restore some 30 to 40 acres of our waterfront to its vibrant and prosperous past." Mayor Kim Driscoll said she had not "detailed" talks yet with Footprint but is encouraged by discussions so far. Beginning in December 2013, there were many appeals under way from various groups who did not want the plant rebuilt. The main opponent that fought in court was the Conservation Law Foundation, a leading environmental advocacy group intent on blocking the plant from being built.

The City announced that the new plant will begin its operations in June 2017. It will provide clean, efficient, and environmentally-friendly energy to Salem, and its surrounding areas.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1635* 900 —    
1765 4,427 +391.9%
1776 5,337 +20.6%
1790 7,921 +48.4%
1800 9,457 +19.4%
1810 12,613 +33.4%
1820 12,731 +0.9%
1830 13,895 +9.1%
1840 15,082 +8.5%
1850 20,264 +34.4%
1860 22,252 +9.8%
1870 24,117 +8.4%
1880 27,563 +14.3%
1890 30,801 +11.7%
1900 35,956 +16.7%
1910 43,697 +21.5%
1920 42,529 −2.7%
1930 43,353 +1.9%
1940 41,213 −4.9%
1950 41,880 +1.6%
1960 39,211 −6.4%
1970 40,556 +3.4%
1980 38,220 −5.8%
1990 38,091 −0.3%
2000 40,407 +6.1%
2010 41,340 +2.3%
2020 44,480 +7.6%

Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.

As of the census of 2010, there were 41,340 people, 19,130 households, and 9,708 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,986.0 people per square mile (1,926.1/km2). There were 18,175 housing units at an average density of 2,242.7 per square mile (866.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.5% White, 4.9% African American, 0.22% Native American, 2.6% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 6.74% from other races, and 2.47% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.6% of the population (9.1% Dominican, 2.9% Puerto Rican, 0.5% Mexican, 0.3% Guatemalan). Non-Hispanic Whites were 75.9% of the population in 2010, compared to 95.9% in 1980.

There were 17,492 households, out of which 24.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.8% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.5% were non-families. Of all households, 34.9% were made up of individuals, and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 20.2% under the age of 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 33.4% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $44,033, and the median income for a family was $55,635. Males had a median income of $38,563 versus $31,374 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,857. About 6.3% of families and 9.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.2% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.


See also: Chestnut Street District and Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Historic homes

The Pickman House, built circa 1664, abuts the Witch Memorial and Burying Point Cemetery, the second oldest burying ground in the United States.

The Gedney House is a historic house museum built circa 1665 and is the 2nd oldest house in Salem.

One of the most popular houses in Salem is The Witch House, the only structure in Salem with direct ties to the Salem witch trials of 1692. The Witch House is owned and operated by the City of Salem as a historic house museum.

Hamilton Hall is located on Chestnut Street, where many grand mansions can be traced to the roots of the Old China Trade. Hamilton Hall was built in 1805 by Samuel McIntire and is considered one of his best pieces. It was declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1970.

Witch-related tourism

One of Daniel Low's witch spoons, circa 1891

Tourism is the backbone of Salem's economy. Tourism based on 1692 witch trials dates back to at least the first half of the 20th century when dry goods merchant Daniel Low sold souvenir spoons with witch images. Such tourism expanded significantly in the 1970s when the television situation comedy Bewitched filmed several episodes in the city. Witch-related tourism expanded significantly in the 1990s with the movie Hocus Pocus, and the city added an official "Haunted Happenings" celebration during the October tourist season.

Court Trial of Witches

In 2007, the city launched the Haunted Passport program which offers visitors discounts and benefits from local tourist attractions and retailers from October to April. The goal of the program is to get visitors to come back to Salem after Halloween and experience businesses that may not be directly tied to Halloween. Thousands watched in 2007 as Mayor Kim Driscoll started a new trend with a massive fireworks display that kicked off at 10:00 pm on Halloween.

In recent years, tourism has been an occasional source of debate in the city, with some residents arguing the city should downplay witch tourism and market itself as a more upscale cultural center. In 2005, the conflict came to a head over plans by the cable television network TV Land to erect a bronze statue of Elizabeth Montgomery, who played the comic witch "Samantha" in the 1960s series Bewitched. A few special episodes of the series were actually filmed in Salem, and TV Land said that the statue commemorated the 35th anniversary of those episodes. The statue was sculpted by StudioEIS under the direction of brothers Elliott and Ivan Schwartz. Many felt the statue was good fun and appropriate to a city that promotes itself as "The Witch City", and contains a street named "Witch Way". Others objected to the use of the public property for what was transparently commercial promotion.

Other tourist attractions

Friendship of Salem
The Friendship replica docked off of Derby Street

In 2000, the replica tall ship Friendship of Salem was finished and sailed to Salem Harbor, where she sits today. The Friendship of Salem is a reconstruction of a 171-foot (52 m) three-masted East Indiaman trading ship, originally built in 1797, which traveled the world over a dozen times and returned to Salem after each voyage with goods from all over the world. The original was taken by the British during the War of 1812, then stripped and sold in pieces.

In 2006, with the assistance of a 1.6 million dollar grant and additional funds provided by the City of Salem, Mayor Driscoll launched The Nathaniel Bowditch, a 92-foot catamaran with a top speed of 30 knots that makes the trip between Salem and Boston in just under an hour.

    • Waterfront redevelopment - The first step in the redevelopment was in 2006 when the State of Massachusetts gave Salem $1,000,000. Bowditch, who was born in Salem and had a home on North Street, is considered the founder of modern maritime navigation. His book, Bowditch's American Practical Navigator, first published in 1802, is still carried on board every commissioned U.S. naval vessel.

The original Fame was a fast Chebacco fishing schooner that was reborn as a privateer when war broke out in the summer of 1812. She was arguably the first American privateer to bring home a prize, and she made 20 more captures before being wrecked in the Bay of Fundy in 1814.

The new Fame is a full-scale replica of this famous schooner. Framed and planked of white oak and trunnel-fastened in the traditional manner, the replica of Fame was launched in 2003. She is now based at Salem's Pickering Wharf Marina, where she takes the paying public for cruises on Salem Sound.

Salem Harborwalk opened in July 2010 to celebrate the rebirth of the Salem waterfront as a source of recreation for visitors as well as the local community. The 1,100-foot (340 m) walkway extends from the area of the Salem Fire Station to the Salem Waterfront Hotel.

Peabody Essex Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum is a leading museum of Asian art and culture and early American maritime trade and whaling; its collections of Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese art, and in particular Chinese export porcelain, are among the finest in the country. Founded in 1799, it is the oldest continuously operating museum in the United States. The museum owns and exhibits a number of historic houses in downtown Salem. In 2003, it completed a massive $100 million renovation and expansion, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, and moved a 200-year-old 16-room Chinese home from Xiuning County in southeastern China to the grounds of the museum.

In 2011, the Peabody Essex Museum announced it had raised $550 million with plans to raise an additional $100 million by 2016. The Boston Globe reported this was the largest capital campaign in the museum's history vaulting the Peabody Essex into the top tier of major art museums. The Peabody Essex Museum trustees co-chairs Sam Byrne and Sean Healey with board president Robert Shapiro led the campaign.$200 to $250 million will fund the museum’s 175,000-square-foot expansion bringing the total square footage to 425,000 square feet.

Pioneer Village Winter 2008
Pioneer Village

The Misery Islands which are a nature reserve were established in 1935 and located in Salem Sound and are managed by the Trustees of Reservations. The island's name comes from shipbuilder Robert Moulton who was stranded on the islands during a winter storm in the 1620s. The island, in the past, has been home to a club with a golf course and subsequently about two dozen cottages. The island is now uninhabited.

The Pioneer Village, created in 1930, was America's first living-history museum. The site features a three-acre re-creation of a Puritan village and allows visitors the opportunity to participate in activities from the lives of Salem's earliest English settlers.

The Old Salem Jail, an active correctional facility until 1991, once housed captured British soldiers from the War of 1812. It contains the main jail building (built-in 1813, renovated in 1884), the jail keeper's house (1813), and a barn (also about 1813). The jail was shuttered in 1991 when Essex County opened its new facility in Middleton. In 2010, a $12 million renovation was completed. One feature of the reconstruction is the jail keeper's house, a three-story brick, Federal-period building originally built in 1813. The project went into a long phase of stagnation when in 1999 the county government was dissolved, resulting in the sale of Salem Jail by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the City of Salem for $1. The Old Salem Jail complex was renamed 50 Saint Peter Street and is now private property, with private residences.

Salem Willows Path
Salem Willows

Salem Willows is an oceanfront neighborhood and amusement park. It is named for the European white willow trees planted there in 1801 to form a shaded walk for patients convalescing at a nearby smallpox hospital. The area became a public park in 1858, and in the twentieth century became a summer destination for residents of Boston's North Shore, many of whom escaped the heat of the city on newly popular streetcars. The beaches are also a commonplace to watch the 4th of July fireworks since you can see three sets of fireworks; Salem, Beverly, and Marblehead. The Willows also has a famous popcorn stand, Hobbs, which is known around the North Shore as one of the best places to get popcorn and ice cream.

In 1855, located on 210 Essex Street, was founded the Salem Five Cents Bank, one of the oldest still-functioning American banks.

Points of interest

Naturalization ceremony on the stairs of the Custom House, Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Salem points of interest

Sister cities


Salem State University

Salem State University is the largest of the nine schools comprising the state university system in Massachusetts (the five University of Massachusetts campuses are a separate system), with 7,500 undergraduates and 2,500 graduate students; its five campuses encompass 115 acres (0.47 km2) and include 33 buildings. The Salem State Foundation hosts an annual lecture series, featuring high-profile speakers from around the world. was originally built in the 1950s and in January 2014 a $18,600,000 project was announced with development.

The university was founded in 1854 as the Salem Normal School (for teacher training) based on the educational principles espoused by Horace Mann, considered to be the "Father of American Public Education."

Salem State University enrolls over 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students representing 27 states and 57 foreign countries and is one of the largest state universities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The university also offers Continuing Education courses for credit or non-credit. Situated on five campuses totaling 115 acres (0.47 km2). Currently, the university houses 2,000 students in its five residence facilities. In 2013 the $74 million, 122,000-square-foot library is going to open on the Salem State University campus. The new library will have more than 150 public computers and 1,000 seats of study space, from tables and desks to lounge chairs scattered throughout the building.

On July 28, 2010 Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that transforms Salem State College into Salem State University.

Salem State University plans to build a $36 to $42 million dorm for 350 to 400 students. Construction starts in the spring of 2014. In April 2014, Salem State University announced a $25,000,000 fund, and at the time of the announcement, there was already $15,000,000 committed from donations and the money will be used for a variety of things from expanding international study programs, more faculty, brand new computers, scholarships and continued support of professional development for the staff.

Primary and secondary education

Public elementary schools include the Bates, Carlton, Horace Mann, Saltonstall, and Witchcraft Heights schools. Collins Middle School is located on Highland Avenue.

Horace Mann and Salem High School are located on Wilson Street. The Nathaniel Bowditch School closed in 2018 and the Horace Mann School relocated to its previous location. Salem Academy Charter School and Bentley Academy Charter School are also public schools. Private schools are also located in the city, including two independent, alternative schools, The Phoenix School and the Greenhouse School.

Salem also once had a very strong Roman Catholic school system. Once home to almost a dozen schools, the last school in the city, St. Joseph School, closed in July 2009 after over 100 years of providing Catholic education. St. James High School, St. Chretienne Academy, St. Chretienne Grammar School, and St. Mary's School closed in 1971, St. James Grammar School closed in 1972, St. Thomas the Apostle School closed in 1973, St. Anne School closed in 1976, St. John the Baptist School closed in 1977 and St. Joseph High School closed in 1980.

Notable people

  • Nehemiah Adams (1806–1878), clergyman and author
  • Alexander Graham Bell (1847–1922), inventor of the telephone
  • Frank Weston Benson (1862–1951), impressionist artist
  • John Prentiss Benson (1865–1947), architect and maritime artist
  • William Bentley (1759–1819), Unitarian minister, Salem diarist
  • Nathaniel Bowditch (1773–1838), mathematician and navigator; Nathaniel Bowditch School is named in his honor
  • Edward Scott Bozek (1950–2022), Olympic épée fencer
  • Rick Brunson, NBA player and coach
  • William Mansfield Buffum (1832–1905), member of Arizona Territorial Legislature
  • Timothy Burgess, entomologist and zoologist
  • Laurie Cabot, Witchcraft high priestess and author
  • Robert Ellis Cahill (1934–2005), sheriff, historian and author
  • Joseph Hodges Choate (1832–1917), lawyer and diplomat
  • Lucy Hiller Lambert Cleveland (1780–1866), writer and folk artist
  • Roger Conant (c. 1592–1679), founder of Salem
  • Crowninshield family, Boston Brahmins who later helped settle Salem
  • Benjamin Crowninshield (1772–1851), Congressman from Massachusetts, Secretary of the Navy
  • Frederick M. Davenport (1866–1956), US Congressman
  • Elias Hasket Derby (1739–1799), merchant, first millionaire
  • Elias Hasket Derby Jr. (1766–1826), General of Second Corp Cadets, inventor of first broadcloth loom in America
  • Joseph Dixon (1799–1869), Inventor of the SLR, high temperature crucibles, the Dixon-Ticonderoga Pencil, and anti-counterfeiting methods
  • Joseph Horace Eaton (1815–1896), artist and military officer
  • Ephraim Emerton (1851–1935), medievalist historian and Harvard chair
  • John Endecott (1588–1665), governor
  • Thomas Gardner (c. 1592–1674), co-founder of Salem
  • Robert B. Groat (1888–1959), Printer, publisher, and politician
  • John Hathorne (1641–1717), the "Hanging Judge" in Salem witch trials
  • William Hathorne (c. 1576–1650), early businessman and political leader
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864), iconic author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables
  • Sophia Amelia Peabody Hawthorne (1809–1871), painter, illustrator, writer
  • Mary Tileston Hemenway (1820–1894), Sponsor of the Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition
  • Harriet Lawrence Hemenway (1858–1960), Founder of Massachusetts Audubon Society
  • Jeff Juden, Major League Baseball pitcher
  • Frederick W. Lander (1821–1862), Civil War general, wagon trail and railroad surveyor, poet
  • John Larch (1914–2005), actor
  • Dudley Leavitt (1720–1762), early Harvard-educated Congregational minister, Leavitt Street named for him
  • Mary Lou Lord, singer-songwriter; grew up in Salem
  • Samuel McIntire (1757–1811), architect and woodcarver
  • Rob Oppenheim (born 1980), professional golfer
  • Charles Grafton Page (1812–1868), electrical inventor
  • George Swinnerton Parker (1866–1952), founder of Parker Brothers
  • Samuel Parris (1653–1720), minister
  • Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804–1894), educator, writer, prominent Transcendentalist, advocate for women and Native Americans
  • Benjamin Peirce (1809–1880), mathematician and logician, director of U.S. Coast Survey from 1867–1874
  • Jerathmiel Peirce (1747–1827), half-owner of the Friendship of Salem and owner of the Peirce-Nichols House
  • Annie Stevens Perkins (born 1868), writer
  • Samuel Phillips (1690–1771), first pastor of the South Church in Andover
  • Timothy Pickering (1745–1829), secretary of state to Washington and Adams, aide de camp to Washington
  • Benjamin Pickman Jr. (1763–1843), early Salem merchant for whom Pickman Street is named
  • Dudley Leavitt Pickman (1779–1846), state legislator
  • Ernest R. Redmond (1883–1966), Army officer and Chief of National Guard; educated in Salem and became real estate agent; served on Mexican border in 1916 during Pancho Villa Expedition
  • Sarah Parker Remond (1826–1894), abolitionist
  • Aaron Richmond (1895–1965), impresario and artist manager
  • Brian St. Pierre, quarterback, Boston College and NFL
  • Samuel Sewall (1652–1730), magistrate
  • Samuel Skelton (c. 1584–1634), first pastor of First Church in Salem, original Puritan church in North America
  • Joseph Story (1779–1845), Associate Superior Court Justice
  • Steve Thomas, former host of PBS's This Old House
  • Lydia Louisa Anna Very (1823–1901), American author and illustrator
  • Bob Vila, craftsman
  • Thomas A. Watson (1854–1934), assistant to Alexander Graham Bell; his name was the first phrase ever uttered over a telephone
  • Daniel Webster (1782–1852), politician and orator
  • Jack Welch (1935–2020), former chairman and CEO of General Electric; grew up in Salem and attended Salem High School
  • Roger Williams (1603–1683), theologian

Images for kids

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