A Plaque for 7 Prescott Street
Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a house on 7 Prescott.
Behind the walls of this simple edifice, the history of one family can be traced. No heads of state were born here. No titans of industry. No sports heroes. Just some commonly uncommon folks – veterans of wars, hard work and raviolis.
This house was built on top of the cooled embers of the Great Salem Fire by my grandfather, Giuseppe Giunta, a Sicilian immigrant who died forty years before I was born. None of us now living ever had the chance to meet him and with only a single solemn portrait to ponder, we have all speculated about his character and his life. What was he like? What did he go through coming to this country, raising such a large brood, buying a house, seeing it burn to the ground eleven days after he paid it off, and then building a completely new one? Just a couple years after his house was constructed he was struck by a motorcycle, hit his head on a trolley track and died on the corner of Lafayette Street and Ocean Ave. All we really know is that he was persistent and incredibly unlucky.
July 22nd would have been my Mom's 100th birthday – she came up just a couple years short. She loved this house her father built. She was born in the same room she eventually died, and in the long stretch of time between those moments she wrapped many a lively conversation here with her laughter. On July 22nd, a Sunday, as is our tradition, a large group of us gathered here to continue those conversations over much food and drink. We thought about Giuseppe, Josephine and the whole lot of Lottas and Giuntas who stamped this place with their spirit.
With the help of Historic Salem, Inc., this place has now been properly marked. We appreciate the recognition. Our history here is not the one that most people associate with Salem, but it is ours. It belongs to a time and place in this city that is usually overlooked. We've been told that this may be the first Historic Salem, Inc. house plaque bearing an Italian name. We hope it starts a trend so that new inhabitants and casual strollers alike will recognize a twentieth-century pattern on the houses of this city's by-streets; will ask questions; will start to understand the Twice-Told Tales that have echoed around the corners of these blue-collar neighborhoods in many languages and that, over time, have become our shared experience.
– Joe Cultrera
8/14/2018 08:38:16 am
Beautiful well told story, Thank you for sharing the history of a hard working family
8/14/2018 12:31:09 pm
Lovely! Well told story. Thank you for sharing!!
8/14/2018 06:28:48 pm
What a wonderful story. I know all of my Italian relatives in Salem are very proud of this historic accomplishment.
8/16/2018 03:25:15 am
I'm at 52 Winthrop in a house also built in 1914 by an Italian just after the fire. His name is etched on the precipice of the house. I would love to know the history of the house as each of the four units is built in train car style formerly having a long common hallway serving all the rooms off it. Such an unusual layout. Was it once a rooming house for workers at the textile mill? It's a mystery. I've been to the Inspector's office without success. Wonder if Historic Salem could help. Any suggestions?
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