A very special post today, presenting some seldom-seen images of Salem streets and people from 1860 to 1930, part of an exhibition of photographs from the collection of the Phillips Library of the Essex Institute (now Peabody Essex Museum) held at Old Town Hall in 1974. This was an interesting time in Salem’s built history; the city had just been through the worst of urban development and was now embarking on a redevelopment plan to save what was left. The captions on the back of the enlarged postcards, which must have been souvenirs of the exhibition, refer (with great hopefulness) about the various elements of this plan, including the creation of the pedestrian mall on Essex Street, which is slated for a major redesign now, in the present. These photographs are amazing; I’ve included a few present shots for comparison but I didn’t do that for every image because frankly, it was depressing: I prefer to stay in the past.
Norman Street from the vantage point of Chestnut Street, 1885 and this morning. A shocking comparison. All of those charming houses on Norman are gone, replaced by parking lots. Consequently the people are gone too; this is one of the most dangerous intersections in the city for pedestrians. For orientation, that little stubby post in the center of the modern shot is the remnant of the gaslight on which the policeman leans in the 1885 photograph. And they say the 20th century was progressive?
Busy downtown Salem: the Boston & Maine Railway Station, demolished in 1954, Front Street, looking toward Washington, in 1885, and Derby Square and Old Town Hall in 1890.
Delivery boys for the Salem Evening News pose for the photographer in front of the Daniel Low building, 1886, Edward’s Market on Hardy Street, circa 1900, and the Toll House on what is now Salem’s main “big box” thoroughfare, Highland Avenue, 1860. Toll rates for sleighs and sheep!
Bathers at Collins Cove and wharves and pavilions at the Willows, 1891.
The Jonathan Corwin house in disguise as an apothecary, 1872 and today, as the “Witch House: a rare present improvement (thanks to Historic Salem, Inc.) except for the name.
Across the street from the Jonathan Corwin house, looking down Essex Street toward Washington, 1885 and today. At least the street hasn’t been widened beyond recognition. Look at that bicycle girl in the foreground of the 1885 picture!
Appendix: the Future? A rendering of the new and improved Essex Street pedestrian mall below. No cars, more people, just like 1885.
April 19th, 2012 at 8:50 am
Wonderful pictures, what a shame all those lovely houses from the first picture are gone!
April 19th, 2012 at 9:37 am
Lovely collection of pictures. The beach wear was amazing.
April 19th, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Love the woman on the bicycle. Those huge sleeves!
April 19th, 2012 at 1:59 pm
Why is everything so much better in the earlier pictures! Thanks for doing this blog today, we love it!
Maeve 🙂 Murphy
April 19th, 2012 at 2:01 pm
Everything is so much better in the earlier pictures! Thanks for posting this today, we love it.
Maeve 🙂 Murphy
April 19th, 2012 at 6:35 pm
Thanks you two! I agree with you.
April 19th, 2012 at 6:32 pm
Sometimes cities’ prosperity means the loss of archictecture like this. In Australia, the capital cities have little left, but towns like Chaters Towers, which was built on the money from gold mines that suddenly went bust, didn’t have the cash to demolish and most of the buildings on main street are still there.
April 19th, 2012 at 6:36 pm
Absolutely: an ironic and unfortunate connection between poverty and preservation!
April 19th, 2012 at 8:00 pm
I seem to remember that tis st of over sized postcards went with an Essex Institute exhibition circa 1972. I do have the Salem News clippings that these photos were originally used in. I’ll dig them out. Leland Tilford was the photographer on some of them.
April 20th, 2012 at 7:55 am
Only the top two are recognizable….
April 21st, 2012 at 10:43 am
Great post as usual.
April 23rd, 2012 at 8:33 am
Thanks for a ride in the past. I’m wondering ..were the lovely houses on Norman Street lost to the great Salem fire or am I in the wrong time period?
April 23rd, 2012 at 8:37 am
Hi Anne-Marie! Norman Street was more of a victim of urban renewal and street widening for automobile traffic than the fire, I believe.
April 26th, 2012 at 9:12 am
These are great. The before & after of Norman St. is haunting… that lonely lamp post…