Above image: Derby House at Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Source: National Park Service. Right: Engraving from the 1770's of people on the wharf of Salem by Balthasar Friedrich Leizelt. Image source: Library of Congress.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
On the land, it's a small place packed with a whole lot of history. East from the wharf, it's a large sea packed with a lot of ships that used to ply the Atlantic Ocean off the Salem coast, searching for seafood sustenance, and now contains a tall ship waiting for your visit. Cute and sea worthy might describe the historic buildings you'll wander around and the ship docked outside them. Salty and historic would go a long way to describe the tales of the men and women who plied the planks and waited for their men to come back from a voyage on the sea that took Salem men to all corners of the world.
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It's historic, this historic site, and not only for the East India company and the merchantmen who trailed into the seas around the world and brought commerce back to New England shores. It's even historic as a historic site, becoming the first National Historic Site in the nation on March 17, 1938. Now, you can visit this site nearly eighty years later and see twelve historic buildings and a replica tall ship, all while touristing around the other sites of old Salem. Yes, including those witches. Yes, including other sections of town with even more buildings reminiscent of the days of ship lore.
Salem Dates of Importance
1626 - Company of fishermen led by Roger Conant arrive from Cape Ann and establish the town.
February 26, 1775 - British Colonel Alexander Leslie and three hundred troops prevented from entering Salem by patriots who raised the North River drawbridge. The British intended to raid North Salem of stores and ammunition.
1795-1799 - Initial voyages to the East Indies from Salem by Jonathan Carnes, Nathaniel Silsbee, Charles Derby, Richard J. Cleveland, and Israel Williams bring cargoes of pepper, coffee, and other goods from China, Sumatra, and more.
May 28, 1797 - Friendship of Salem ship first sails, registering 342 tons.
March 23, 1836 - City of Salem incorporated.
September 4, 1812 - Friendship of Salem is captured by the British during the War of 1812.
June 25, 1914 - Great Salem fire destroyed 1,376 buildings and 253 acres, leaving 20,000 homeless. It began in the Korn leather factory.
March 17, 1938 - Salem Maritime NHS named the first National Historic Site in the United States.
Photo above: The tall ship Friendship of Salem, a replica of the 1797 ship, along Derby Wharf in the park. Source: National Park Service.
Friendship of Salem Tall Ship - Built in 1797, the ship was buit by Enos Briggs in the Salem shipyard. It sailed for the East India Marine Society and made fifteen trips to the East Indies. It was captured by the British in the War of 1812. What happened to the original ship is not known.
Salem Custom House - Thirteen custom houses have occupied Salem since the British built the first in 1649. By 1789, the taxes for imported cargo were paid, for the first time, to the United States. In 1819, due to the increase in international trade to Salem, the current U.S. Customs House was built at the end of Derby Wharf.
Narbonne House - Built in 1675 by butcher Thomas Ives, the original home was added to several times by Ives and subsequent owners.
Friendship of Salem Tall Ship - Built in 2000 as a replica East Indiaman ship of 1797 style in New York. The ship is 171 feet long and outfitted as a museum ship. The ship is fully seaworthy.
U.S. Customs House - The current Customs House dates back to 1819, was used by the Customs Service until the 1930s, and also contained a three story public store warehouse for impounded cargo. The Customs House is one of the buildings open during the regular Salem Maritime guided ranger tour. It includes exhibits on the Customs Service as well as the life of Nathanial Hawthorne.
Narbonne House - Named for the granddaughter of owner Jonathan Andrews, Sarah Narbonne, who lived her entire 101 year life in the home. The Park Service bought the property in 1963 from descendents of the Andrews family.
Image above: 1854 lithograph of the town of Salem by John William Hill for Endicott and Company. Source: Library of Congress.
Salem Maritime NHS
1. Visit the Visitor Center, then take the Salem Maritime guided walking tour. Rangers will take you into several of the houses in the park (U.S. Customs House, Narbonne, and Derby Homes), as well as the ship Friendship of Salem. The tours are free, but should be reserved by phone or at the visitor center when you visit.
2. Visit Salem Maritime during the Harbor Festival and enjoy three days of free ninety minute harbor cruises on various participating ships, exhibits, and lots of sea music. Usually held at the beginning of August. Check with the visitor center for the exact dates.
3. Outside the park. There are walking tours of historic Salem that take you past the maritime arena. The McIntire Historic District Walking Trail (1 hour), Architecture in Salem, African American Heritage Sites in Salem, Nathaniel Hawthorne's Salem, and Bowditch's Salem: a Walking Tour of the Great Age of Sail are only a few of the self-guided tours and brochurs you can follow.
Photo Above: Scene of winter at Salem Maritime. Source: National Park Service.
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