De Facto Demolition

One year ago contractors working for a developer/convenience and liquor store owner named Jewel Saeed tore the roof off a Federal house on Carlton Street here in Salem and exposed it to the deluge of an approaching tropical storm: in the following weeks they ripped out all of the original (soaked) fabric, including its massive center chimney, and rebuilt it as petrochemical-clad condominiums, surrounded by blacktop. I may rant against the huge generic buildings which are gradually transforming the Salem streetscape, but no Salem development has ever troubled me more than the mutilation of 25 Carlton Street. The act was so brazen, and the response so tepid. Carlton Street is not located in one of Salem’s four historic districts, so it is not subject to overview by the Historic Commission, but all Salem structures are subject to the city-wide Demolition Delay Ordinance and Mr. Saeed did not apply for a demolition permit or a waiver. He didn’t have to bother. But make no mistake: the structure that now occupies the lot designated 25 Carlton Street is not the same building that existed a year ago.

Carlton Street 1985

Carlton Street 2014



Carlton Street 003p

Carlton Two 007

Carlton Street 010

25 Carlton Street in 1985, 2014, and this (very foggy) morning. The fine grain of vinyl siding.

17 responses to “De Facto Demolition

  • Secret Gardener

    I’m so sorry. I know what it feels like to see meanness & ugliness replace dignity & beauty. And as time goes on I learn more and more reasons why natural materials & graceful design instinctively appeal to us– and my question has always been (among others): What has happened to the natural instincts of everyone else?
    Who finds a yard laid with concrete baking in the sun more inviting than green land & the shade of a tree?
    Who prefers trapped & stagnant water to a rushing river or stream?
    Who wants to broil inside aluminum, and see it glittering like junkyard trash in the daylight, rather than weather along with wood or feel the cave-like cool inside stone?
    And on it goes through every facet of life in the last 100 years.
    Now we scramble to try to reverse the massive damage we’ve done to the planet—and yet people keep cutting down trees, cluttering town & countryside with random inappropriate objects, and squandering the homes that were built with beautiful rationality to catch the right light at various times of day, to repel heat, muffle noise, please the eye, and fit into the landscape, only to replace them with ill-proportioned buildings in inappropriate zones made of rattly, hollow, uncomfortable, shoddy materials, landscaped in the most generic and unnatural way.

  • Matt

    This isn’t the only example of a tepid response, which only encourages more brazen behavior. Even within historic districts, work gets done without following the rules. Now, we have the lot on the corner of Bridge and Boston Street. At least there, folks are paying attention. Let’s hope it does some good with our administration, which seems to have dropped the word no from its vocabulary.

    • daseger

      I must admit I don’t have high hopes for that project.

    • robertgosskennedy

      The following should be noted regarding Boston and Bridge –

      The lawyer for that project is Joseph C. Correnti of Serafini, Darling & Correnti. He, and all his firm’s partners have given the maximum allowable amount in campaign donations to Mayor Driscoll. Correnti also chairs the Salem State College Assistance Corp, the corporation that has been used to buy up land on the sly for SSU.

      The developer, Highrock LLC has also donated to the mayor’s campaign. When the developer (David Sweetser,) was called in front of the city council this year for a rightful drubbing about his demand to build residential on the site, instead of the agreed upon retail buildings, the mayor herself stood by Sweetser with Correnti literally behind them, and gave an impassioned, although fact sparse, defense of the project.

      No mention of the obvious conflict of interest was made, and in fact, brings about some rather aggressive responses.

      Ethically, the mayor should have avoided speaking out or advocating for this project, as her donors are set to make a lot of money off of it, and in fact also will be getting tax payer money from the city to build the community center.

      In the very least, it should have been mentioned for the record that these people are supporters of her campaigns.

      Make no mistakes….money talks and the rest walk in Salem.

      Also, I live on Carlton. The construction in this house is garbage. Sub-par work, and the pace is insanely slow. Workers are often MIA for weeks at a time and the place just sits. I doubt it will even be done by fall. The interior is still unfinished.

      And the yard….the yard is a wasteland of asphalt. Not a single plant. And I am pretty sure the parking is not going to be up to code.

  • Peg Harrington

    Tepid is not the word I’d use to describe the ‘response’ to the abomination on Carlton St – utter disregard and lack of responsibility is more like it.
    As a neighbor to the property, it was hard not to notice that the only time work crews were on the site was when the City Building inspectors office was closed (i.e., Saturday mornings) They did, however hire a police detail for traffic when they dumped a parking lot worth of asphalt and paved the entire back yard, but the damage is done.
    I hold out little hope that the developer will be denied final safety and occupancy permits, the City has completely failed to respond in any meaningful way to this. I am disappointed and disgusted.

    • daseger

      I am truly sorry, Peg. I cannot imagine living adjacent to this property: it’s difficult for me to even enter your street. I did not do so for a year, which is a shame because there are some lovely houses on Carlton! It’s just too painful–it makes me want to go home, call the realtor, pack up my bags, and move to Ipswich! Obviously I was being excessively polite when I used the word tepid: I am extremely disappointed with the response of both the City and the preservation community, frankly.

  • downeastdilettante

    That sound you hear is my heart breaking over this lost war. A few battles are still won, but the war is lost. Not a day goes by here in rural eatern Maine that there isn’t another graceful old building lost to this sort of renovation. So many forces–the home products industries, well intentioned but uninformed or uncaring owners, indifferent contractors, location, demographics, changing tastes– are now aligned against these handsome structures, that if one doesn’t conflict garm, another will. Sad.

    • downeastdilettante

      I meant *Inflict harm*. The auto correct on my phone has a mind of its own left unchecked.

      • daseger

        I don’t know what it is about this house–there have been a lot of losses in this war–but this particular one really does hurt. It might be the sheer brutality of the “decapitation” last year. And there have been no consequences for the developer that I know of.

      • peg harrington

        Brutality, and the fact that it has been a year since the ‘decapitation’ – could it be that that the building inspector may suffer from agoraphobia, and will not actually leave his office to visit this desecration? why else would it take 12 months (unless contractors were only working on Saturdays) to finish this house?

  • Stan

    Some people have no moral compasses, whether environmental, historical or social. Sadly, that will always be the case.

  • Chris Lohring

    The demo went all the way to just one side interior wall of the first floor. This left no interior or exterior details from the original house, so the demo was for more severe than what is in the photos.

  • Hollin

    As a Carlton Street resident, it has been more than disheartening to watch the transformation of this historic building into such an eyesore. Not only did the developers utterly destroy the historic building, but they’ve also recently paved over the rather substantial (by Carlton Street standards) back yard, removing any possibility for at least a little greenery to make up for the construction. What bothers me the most though is that the developers showed complete disregard for the architectural feeling of the street, and rather than maintaining the fairly uniform height of the single-family and two-family houses, they opted to build what I’ve come to call the “Carlton Street skyscraper”, towering above the adorable and compact houses beyond.

    It disgusts me that these developers, who likely have no intention of ever living in this house or on this street, will likely sell these condos at great profit and get away with such violence against aesthetics and history. Makes me want to advocate to get our street in the historic zone, even if it means requiring a permit every time we replace a window or paint a fence post.

    • daseger

      I’m so sorry, Hollin. I do believe in historic districts, but I also believe that people should choose to live in them–if the majority of your neighbors (on neighboring streets as well) chose to expand the Derby Street historic district, that would definitely defend against this type of assault.

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