The House History & Plaque program is the oldest and most visible of Historic Salem's efforts. More than 500 plaques across town act as a visual, continual reminder of the individuals and families that have shaped the history of our city, state, and country.
HOUSE HISTORY DATABASE
In 2017, the House History Program became much more visible and accessible thanks to a partnership with Salem Historical Society (SHS). They have scanned, uploaded, and recorded 50 years worth of house histories in our new database. This database is searchable by address as well as key terms and names, such as architects, builders, and family names. The house histories are also mapped to show where in Salem histories have been conducted. Click below to explore our database!
The House History and Plaque program was developed jointly with Ben Campbell, a teacher at the Vocational School in Salem. The original research guidelines were developed by Bill Tinti and Joyce Potter, while Joyce Mazur and Hester Tinti provided assistance to do-it-yourself researchers. The first plaque granted was at 120-122 Federal Street on the Elijah and Jacob Sanderson House in 1966. Since then, Historic Salem has conducted over 500 house histories and put up almost as many plaques.
ABOUT THE PROCESS
The house history provides current residents with a general look at previous owners of their house as well as an architectural synopsis of the building. The narrative identifies the house’s early residents and the events of their lives, and relates them to the larger events occurring in Salem and beyond. It is keyed to primary and secondary sources so that you may be assured of accuracy. Appended are copies of deeds, atlases, and (sometimes) inventories of furnishings.
After research is conducted, Historic Salem will suggest the wording of the plaque, subject to your approval. All house plaques are made by Ould Colony Artisans, based in Providence, RI. For the creation of the sign, a 1/2" pre-primed medium density overlay with a pine cap and moulding on top is used. That is followed by an oil-based primer, 4 coats on the edges and 2 on the already-primed surface, with an additional topcoat of oil-based enamel, twice on the edges and once each on the front & back of the sign. The paint is specifically formulated for the outdoor sign industry and is very long lasting. All of the lettering is done by hand in a black ink on a white background. Two holes are pre-drilled on the left and right sides of the plaque and 2 screws are provided for ease of mounting. The final size of the sign is 12 x 12" (some exceptions made for unique circumstances). The house plaques not only benefit the homeowner who can proudly display the building date and original owner, but they also allow neighbors and visitors a glimpse into the history of the house.