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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- Today is the 108th anniversary of the Great Salem Fire, which destroyed nearly 1400 buildings and left 18,000 people homeless. Forest River Park, #salemwillows and #salemcommon became tent cities in the summer of 1914. The fire made national headlines, and even attracted international attention, as this clip from a #pathé newsreel illustrates. Thanks to intrepid rare footage finder @barrysswift! #otd #salemhistory
I always attribute the images that I use in my blog; if you are going to copy them, please do so as well.
Copyright © 2020 Streets of Salem by Donna A. Seger