Inspired by my student’s paper and Maurice Prendergast’s painting below, and hoping for a bit warmer weather, here are some views of Salem’s seaside amusement park, the Willows, during its golden heyday at the turn of the last century. Formerly Salem Neck, the site of a smallpox hospital (for which its namesake white willow trees were planted around 1801, with hopes of creating a tranquil convalescent setting) and adjacent farmland, the Willows became a municipal park in 1858 and was further developed and expanded with arcades, “Restaurant Row”, and adjacent vacation cottages from the 1870s. Two maps below, from the early and late nineteenth century, show its early development and connection to the main part of Salem. The first map, from the Norman B. Levanthal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, shows an almost completely rural Salem Neck in the upper right hand corner while the second, from the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum via Salem State’s grant website Salem in History, illustrates a much more connected Willows.
The Willows in the Aughts
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