Salem 1851

In the process of deciding which rare books we want to put up for “adoption” (conservation) at the Salem Athenaeum, our collections committee was looking at an 1851 map of Salem the other day. It was folded up in a special binder, and had probably not seen the light of day for quite some time. Unfolded and spread out on a table, it was striking: the reddish pink outlines encircling a vibrant city of little square buildings (with homeowners’ names) and several bodies of water that no longer exist. Salem was even more coastal than it is now! Surrounding this terrain are beautiful lithographs of the city’s most notable buildings, including the long-lost railroad depot. Away from the city center, in the north, south and west, there was open land now occupied by buildings, but downtown was just as “developed” as it is now, maybe more so (lots of wharves). The outline of my own house (on the second image below) looks like the original 1827 structure, without the sequential additions that would be added on later in the century. And I finally know where the Salem powderhouse stood! I couldn’t find much on Henry McIntyre, the civil engineer surveyed the city for this map–does anyone know more? There’s another copy of this map here, but it’s not nearly as nice as this one.

Railway map 002

Railway map 001

Railway map 006

Railway map 010

Railway map 003

Railway map 009

Railway map 013

Railway map 015

6 responses to “Salem 1851

  • Steven McCabe

    What a fascinating and detailed document. Love the decorative embellishments!

  • Mythoughts76

    These landowner maps are wonderful, I use them all the time in genealogical research in PA. Ours are dated 1860’s and 70’s. It’s nice to know where my ancestors really lived.

    • daseger

      They are great–Salem has some later ones too, from the 1870s and 1890s, but in the 20th century they lose the homeowners’ names, so become lots less interesting, I think.

  • Sean

    My wife got me a full size framed copy of this map for my birthday a few years back. The map was digitally restored by the Epsteins at Digital Imaging, which at the time was located adjacent to the Daniel Low Building, on Essex St. I believe they have relocated since then. The copy I have is really very well restored, with all of the rips and folds blended out nicely with minimal loss of detail, and the map itself is about 4 feet by 4 feet.

    McIntyre maps were produced during the mid to late 19th century. Like many early 19th century maps of Boston, they tend to include proposed development and landfill as well as existing streets, as shown in the Point section and Webb St. Though they look a bit like the Sanborn Atlas maps, the building size and location are typically inaccurate, and they lack information on building material and outbuildings. We used these when I was in grad school, but were cautioned in getting too excited over buildings seen in them because of these faults. The general consensus was that they were quite pretty and from an interesting time period, but not really to be trusted.

    For Salem history buffs the McIntyre map is really more valuable than those for other towns because it depicts the city layout during a period where we really don’t have many other maps. The 1820 city map, which does not include buildings, and the 1872 map, which is very small, and again inaccurate regarding building shape and location are the closest in time period.


  • charles dansreau

    i am aware of a 1700 era map which shows more water boundaries within salem. Seeing that Salem has a maratime history it would seem practical that tourism reflect where the wharves adjoining the south river were.

  • gallowshillsite

    Is there a place online to download a hi-res version of this map? The link you provided is dead, and google searches uncover low-res images, most of them linking back to your post. The edges of the map (Gallows Hill, Ledge Hill, North Salem) seem to fade to ‘terra incognito’, buildings becoming generic rectangles some not even on streets!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: