Sunday, November 29, 2009

Excursion to Salem

We're trying to explore our new state. Warm Sunday afternoons seem the perfect time, especially now that most of the leaves are blown or raked off the grassy parts of the yard.

Today we headed to Salem, yes witch trial Salem. There was a Witch Museum, but we instead chose to focus on Salem's maritime past. From the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s, Salem was a major trade port. Local products like wood and dried cod were shipped around the world. Elias Hasket Derby, perhaps America's first millionaire, sent his ship Grand Turk to China and India for exotic trade goods. There was little reference to slavery in the signage around the area, but I wouldn't be surprised if that trade too enriched these Northern traders. Privateering also enriched the city during the Revolutionary War. The city prospered from taxes collected at the Customs House where one of the clerks, Nathaniel Hawthorne plotted The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables (which you can visit nearby) while he worked.

At one time Salem was America's 6th largest city. Its fortunes turned for the worse once ships, built too big for its shallow channel, headed to Boston and New York instead. But the density of a bustling early American city remain. Narrow streets are lined with charming houses built in the 1700s with barely a yard between them. Signs on many buildings tell when prominent architects of the time built the homes for wealthy merchants and sea captains. The town is now well maintained and full of little shops and restaurants catering to tourists. But, it was not too crowded on this chilly Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Looking back toward the town from Derby wharf. The ship is a reproduction of one that would typically have unloaded goods here.

Looking out at the channel from the wharf.

That little lighthouse reflects the little use this area gets today. The channel is maintained at 19' through dredging for local pleasure boats. The area around the wharf might be only 1 or 2 feet deep at low tide.

1 comment:

Meryl said...

Oh you New Englanders! I've never been there, but in my imagination it's paradise--beautiful coastline, ships, the smell of the sea....thanks for feeding my fantasy!