Dear Members, Supporters, and Friends,
As we think about the families, loved ones, and neighbors of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, whose senseless murders have sparked a nationwide call for justice and a renewed call to address systemic racism and inequalities in America, we here at HSI have taken this time to quiet our own presence on social media so that we could reflect on the power of historic preservation, the traditional practices of protecting our past, and the dynamics of power and economics that determine who writes history.
We’ve been asking ourselves, as a 75-year-old organization, what has our part been in perpetuating injustices, inequalities, and cultural erasure in seeking to protect that which we have helped to define as “the historic resources of Salem?” What have we done to bring greater awareness to the true breadth of cultural and economic variety and diverse populace of almost 400 years of life and commerce in Salem, Massachusetts?
Recently, we have been working to expand Local Historic Districts and Neighborhood Conservation Districts to more neighborhoods, and to offer more inclusive house histories and plaques, but those efforts have not been done with current and past inequalities and injustices at the very forefront of our efforts. We commit to dig deeper into the stories we tell, the research we conduct, and to expand our educational programming; we must increase our support and promotion of the work of others who are elevating a more inclusive telling of Salem’s storied past which includes the lives of many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
We want to acknowledge that HSI, as its own institution with privilege and position in Salem’s community, likely participated in exclusionary practices by focusing protections on some but not all of Salem’s neighborhoods, perpetuating the white privilege inherent in the retelling of America’s history and through what has been deemed “significant” in defining our city’s historic character. As an organization, we must come to terms with this and commit to work diligently to dismantle racism and exclusionary practices in historic preservation when we see them. We acknowledge and support the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement now motivates us at HSI to include the telling of the lives and history and living experience of Black people in Salem and beyond from those enslaved here in the 17th century through today’s residents.
It is HSI’s mission to, “ensure that the historic resources of Salem, Massachusetts, which are the key to its identity, its quality of life, and its economic vitality, are preserved for future generations and that new development complements the historic character of the city.” We recognize that we must work to expand our understanding of what Salem’s identity and character have included and therefore work to preserve more stories, buildings and cultures.
Moving forward with increased self awareness and a commitment for change, we will share the resources that we’re using to educate ourselves; we’ll share the work of other organizations that highlights the lives and stories of People of Color and Indigenous people from Salem’s history, and we will elevate work being done in the preservation community nationwide that could give us direction for how we might do similar inclusivity work in our own community. It is our goal to acknowledge the experiences of our neighbors who are still marginalized today, and those from our collective past, in the hopes that together, we might help to build a more inclusive community and a more equitable future. It has been said before by others, and we now adopt and commit to the belief that historic preservation is not, and can not be, a neutral or exclusionary act.
Below is a list of resources to check out - preservation advocates, history lovers, neighbors, let’s get to work.
Historic Salem, Incorporated
Read: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi
Read: Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in New England by Jared Ross Hardesty
Follow and Support: Not Your Momma's History, Cheyney McKnight
By Polly Wilbert and Pat Donahue
An excerpt from the last poem written by Kate Tannatt Woods in the days before she died and published in National Magazine, Vol. 43 after her death:
The Temple of My Soul
I give thee thanks,
O Temple of my Soul
That thou hast bravely held
God-given power to share
With others on my way
To do and dare,
To feel the bliss of life
The sacred depths of joy
With earth’s alloy.
I give Thee thanks, dear God.
For power to work
From night to morn;
For love of children
Near my heart once borne;
For love of faithful friends
Grand, noble, ever dear
Whose courage gave me strength
From year to year.
And now, O Temple,
If the hour has come
And my once earnest voice
Must now be dumb,
If this once busy pen
Must tire and rust,
I still will thank thee
And my Maker trust.
Kate Tannatt was born in Peekskill, New York, where her father, James, was an editor. Her mother was descended from an old Scottish family named Gilmour that in the 19th century still owned a castle near Edinburgh. Kate briefly attended the Peekskill Seminary and then, because of ill health, had private instruction. Following her father’s death when she was 10, the family moved to Salem, drawn in part by the excellence of New England public schools and to be closer to other family members.
When not much older than the students she was teaching, Kate briefly taught public school in Salem, and was still in her teens when she met and then married a lawyer George Henry Woods on July 22, 1857. From a Salem family, he was a graduate of Brown and Harvard Law, and had a successful practice in Minneapolis, where they went to live.
When the Civil War began, George Woods raised a company of Minnesota soldiers for the Union Army and became a lieutenant colonel. While serving on General Sumner’s staff, he was severely wounded near Richmond, Virginia, during the Seven Days battle of the Peninsula campaign in late June 1862. Kate was then living with their two young children in Washington, D.C. and volunteering as a nurse at the front, and was able to care for her husband there. After Lincoln’s assassination, Woods was one of the honored bodyguard during the funeral. He was mustered out in July 1865, and the family returned to Salem to live at 166 North St., which Kate called Maple Rest. Maple Rest was a house on a triangle-shaped plot of land in North Salem, which was owned by George’s father, the highly successful nursery owner Ephraim Woods. The property held several houses built in 18th and 19th centuries.
George never fully recovered from his wounds, but often had to travel for work, including for several years to Decatur, Illinois, where he did grain trades by commission from a shared office. He died on September 30, 1884, and Kay was buried by his side in Greenlawn Cemetery after her death in the summer of 1910.
Kate was a founder of the Woman’s Friend Society (1876), which provided “an employment bureau, a reading room, and a home for young woman”. Emmerton House on Hawthorne Boulevard continues as the Friend Society residence for 20 single working women. About 1899, Kate opened a tea room, the Ladies Lunch and Tea Club and Woman’s Exchange, at 36 Lynde Street, where the Thought and Work Club (1891-1974) met twice a month. The club, with Kate as founding president, had been formed to encourage women “in all departments of literary work, to promote home study, and to secure literary and social advantages for its members”. It grew to 300 members, organized civics classes, which were addressed by city officials and state senators, and held foreign-language classes. The club also worked to improve local schoolrooms, clean the streetcars, and elect women to the school board. .
Over the years, Kate wrote articles for newspapers such as the St. Paul Pioneer (Minnesota), the Omaha and New England newspapers and popular stories for juveniles for periodicals like St. Nicholas, Wide Awake and others. Historian Sidney Perley described her editorial work for the Boston Globe and American Home Magazine as “clear, terse, and vigorous”. She was also an editor of Harper’s and The Ladies Home Journal. She was a poet whose poems were widely quoted, and she painted in oils and watercolor and was respected for her needlework. For many years, she often wrote a book a year, with such titles as: That Dreadful Boy, The Minister’s Secret, Hidden for Years, Hester Hepworth, Toots and What He Did, and A Fair Maid of Marblehead. In later years she gave up her house and lived at 8 Federal St. She died at the home of her son, Dr. Prince Tannatt Woods, in Buffalo, New York.
Wikipedia: Kate Tannatt Woods
The Poets of Essex County, Massachusetts, Sidney Perley, 1889
Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Vol. 1, edited by William Richard Cutter, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908
National Magazine, Vol. 43
The Thought and Work Club was active in Salem 1891-1974
This information was gathered during research for a past Friends of Greenlawn tour at Greenlawn Cemetery.
By Polly Wilbert
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This elevator tower wrapped in building wrap perfectly illustrates something that all buildings, old and new, have in common - stack effect. Cold air is less dense and sinks to the earth, creating the indents on the lower portion of the building wrap. Then as the space warms up the air, it rises, creating the billowing effect at the top. Also, near the middle of the structure is the neutral pressure plane, where inside and outside pressures will cancel each out out.
Other lasting machines for use in making different types of shoes were invented at this time and the patents came to be owned by the Consolidated & McKay Lasting Machine Company. Through Winslow’s initiative, three companies came together: the Eppler, Goodyear and two McKay companies and their subsidiaries, and were consolidated in 1899 as the United Shoe Machinery Company. The successful formula for their ongoing endeavors included leasing, not selling, machinery, providing excellent equipment and service, and requiring the purchase of manufacturing supplies by the equipment leasees. In 1903, the 3-year long construction on 200 acres in Beverly of an immense reinforced concrete, three-building factory complex began (known locally as “The Shoe” and now the Cummings Center commercial complex) backed financially by New York and New England businessmen. This group selected Winslow as the first president of the new company to manufacture a complete line of shoe manufacturing equipment, and he shortly became known, through what became both an industry innovator and a virtual shoe machinery monopoly, as a “New England financial Colossus”.
Winslow had grown up at 15 Dean Street (Dean St. was added onto Flint St.), later razed for the construction of St. James Catholic Church (built 1891-1900). In 1877, he married Georgiana (called Georgie) Buxton of Peabody and they bought the house at 140 Federal Street (built 1794) as their first home. (140 Federal St., today owned and being restored by Michael and Stacia Kraft, was featured on HSI’s 2019 Christmas in Salem tour). The young Winslow couple had four children here, two girls and two boys.
Not quite ten years later in October 1886, Winslow split the Federal St. property into two parcels, selling the Federal St. house and its lot for $5,000 to Mary Ann (Ropes) Bertram, the widow of Capt. John Bertram, (whose own home on Essex Street was gifted to the City of Salem and is now the Salem Public Library), who would use it for rental income. He sold the second parcel running back to the newly extended Bridge Street to John Redmond for $1,000. In line with Winslow’s increasing business success, he and his family would go on to live in a large art-filled mansion on a Beverly estate on upper Cabot Street that remains today as the Winslow Building at Shore Country Day School.
The news of the successful passage of the Municipal and Religious Building Reuse Special Permit zoning has been widely reported. We would like to thank the City Council for listening to the public comment and the city Planning Department for thoughtfully addressing concerns, ours as well as other community members and those of the city council.
We anticipate that as the targeted properties are redeveloped over the next months and years, Salem will see lasting benefits from renewed use of these properties. These benefits will include a continued connection with our shared past, continued use of physical building material (and therefore reduction of construction and demolition debris), employment for local tradespeople, and neighborhoods infused with greater diversity and vibrancy.
Each building has been vacant or underutilized for some time and we particularly look forward to the repairs and stabilization of 5 Broad Street, a property that has long needed more focused preservation efforts. Preservation in our historic city continues – Preserve on!
Lee & Jacqueline Dearborn of The Makers Guild, Inc., with consultation from Derby Square Architects in Salem, and the help from a host of highly skilled tradesmen, worked together to achieve this successful project. We celebrate this simple act of preserving and respecting the integrity of one of Salem’s historic buildings – and its far-reaching impact as an example in future projects.
In both buildings original exterior details were retained – including access through the grand front entrances, a key concern of the National Park Service review.
A side note – Donna restarted the Preservation Award program about 15 years ago after it had gone dormant for a time – so this award is a particularly meaningful one.
Ada Louise Huxtable
Christmas In Salem
Design Review Board
Five Broad Street
Historic House Crush
Historic House Plaque
North River Canal Corridor
Salem Common Neighborhood