Salem’s newest public space was recently unveiled, situated in the former gas station/carnival lot at 289 Derby Street along the South River. The reaction has been a bit mixed, I would say. I think some people were expecting more of a green space, but it is not really that kind of park; it’s more of a concrete (plaza? court? square?) built for activity rather than rest and contemplation. Some people are critical of its cost, particularly of the land. It’s also been identified as a homeless magnet, which strikes me as an unjustified criticism as it is a public space after all. I first went down to see it on a bright sunny day and it did seem a bit inhospitable as it is primarily a bright swath of concrete, but I returned at night and found it much more inviting. I’ve decided that I like it: the swings, the topographical “maps”, and particularly the lighting around the perimeter.
As you can see, it’s built for movement (and sound), to be a happening place rather than a tranquil one, so when things start happening we will see how the space works. We have been invited to name the new park but restricted in our choices: South River Park, Charlotte Forten Park, Nathaniel Bowditch Park, 289 Derby, Naumkeag Park. While I’d love to see something in Salem named after Charlotte Forten, the first African-American teacher in the Salem Public Schools and a graduate of Salem State, this is not the place: I can’t see how it has anything to do with her, spatially, thematically, or aesthetically. Same with Bowditch; the other names are bland and generic. Because this is a playful place, I propose moving the dreadful Samantha statue from Town House Square (where she does not belong) to this new park and naming it Bewitched Park. People seems to think that a few days of shooting that show on location here in 1970 somehow saved Salem by enabling it to realize its full potential as Witch City, so naming rights seem in order.
July 12th, 2019 at 7:57 am
Agree. Bewitched park. And rename Town House Sq after Charlotte Forten. Rob Wall
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July 12th, 2019 at 8:16 am
I should have said that!
July 12th, 2019 at 9:09 am
I was a bit surprised that you suggested Bewitched Park but I like it. Move the Elizabeth Montgomery statue there or better yet, get a new one. I am an admirer of E.M. both as an actress and for her charitable and advocacy work with AIDS patients and gay rights. As a celebrity, she was ahead of the curve with this. Maybe a little tribute plaque would be a nice touch. Thanks for your thoughtful commentary and (as always) great photos!
July 12th, 2019 at 9:15 am
Well, Rick, I’d love the Samantha statue to go away altogether, but over the years I have learned how attached many people are to it so I’ve shifted to the “move her” rather than “get rid of her” position! This new park does seem like a fitting place for her as it is kind of playful and whimsical.
July 12th, 2019 at 10:03 am
From your excellent pictures and description I like the new park. Also like the Samantha statue and think they go together perfectly. As the author of Kensington’s “Witch City Mystery” series, (shameless plug) I love the idea of “Bewitched Park!”
Carol J.(Phelps) Perry
July 12th, 2019 at 10:32 am
You’ve got to come and see it for yourself, Carol!
July 12th, 2019 at 8:16 pm
Would be nice to move Samantha to 289 Derby and place the anchor that was in front of PEM at the spot she’s in now…
July 13th, 2019 at 2:40 pm
Thanks so much for this post. I’ll definitely head to Salem in August so check out this new park. I was really intrigued by the series of maps showing the changes in the city and the South River Channel. I tried to find the source for these in hopes of getting copies, but my google searches did not turn anything up. Any help you can offer?
July 13th, 2019 at 4:07 pm
Let me look around; the best place for maps is always the David Rumsey site or the BPL.
July 13th, 2019 at 7:31 pm
I would plump for “kitschy” instead of “dreadful,” but I have to admit, moving the Bewitched statue to a “playful” park makes sense. And I can’t help but look at pictures of it and think it needs a swing set beside it.
July 13th, 2019 at 8:07 pm
No question: the swings and Samantha go together!
July 14th, 2019 at 12:36 pm
Great idea. Moving the statue and name of park. As we watched it develop, it was an area of activity-play. Voting is currently taking place for naming. Better act quickly to add “Bewitched” to list.
July 14th, 2019 at 11:54 am
I can’t Kathleen—they’ve only given us those 5 choices, there is no write-in option!