Hidden behind the trees at the top of the hill on Salem State’s South Campus are beautiful 19th- and early 20th-century buildings of the former St. Chretienne School and Convent. The oldest building on the site was built as an estate house for the Loring family. Later additions made way for a chapel and convent and an adjacent school building. In recent history these buildings were offices for Salem State staff and classrooms for students.
When Salem State and DCAMM began preparing to sell the entire South Campus these significant buildings necessitated review by Massachusetts Historical Commission with Historic Salem and the Salem Historical Commission as consulting parties. In January 2022 HSI signed as an interested party to a Memorandum of Understanding that gave us the opportunity to review and comment on the draft RFP, the final of which has just been released. The SHC and MHC also provided comments. To maintain fairness in the draft RFP process, these comments were provided confidentially. The comments offered by HSI, SHC and MHC helped to emphasize the historical significance of the St. Chretienne buildings and the desirability of preserving them. There will be later opportunities to comment on the development proposals when they are received by DCAMM and we will continue to advocate for preserving these buildings.
If you would like to learn more about the history of these buildings, you can see the updated Historic Resources Inventory Form which starts on page 103 of the RFP.
Link to Salem News article about the release of the RFP:
Link to the RFP (Updated Resource Form A starts on page 103):
Salem State University’s South Campus- Redevelopment Opportunity | Mass.gov
Thank you to Ziggy Hartfelder for the photos below.
February 16, 2022
Larry Spang, Chair
Salem Historical Commission
City of Salem
90 Washington Street
Salem, MA 01970
Re: 6 Lathrop Street, February 16, 2022 SHC Meeting
Dear Mr. Spang:
We are writing to offer comment on the application for waiver of demolition delay of 6 Lathrop Street, which is being reviewed by the SHC at its February 16, 2022 meeting.
This property was constructed in the mid-1800s and is recorded on the state's inventory of historic assets (MACRIS form, attached). This house form, 2-1/2 stories with a gambrel roof to the street and primary entrance from the side yard, was common in Salem and nearby communities throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and is considered a locally significant form. This house has a “twin” nearby at 12 Conant Street, and both were owned by a baker named Joseph Gardner. The gambrel roof of this building, its height, and the location of the main entrance are original components of the building and key to its character. In addition, the gambrel roof form by design provides more head room than a traditional gable roof. Raising and changing the roofline and moving door and window locations would remove the essential historic character of the structure.
This house is listed as a contributing resource in the Bridge Street Neck National Register Listing. We believe that this, together with information provided on the MACRIS Inventory Form, qualifies the building as “Significant” in the Demolition Delay Ordinance. We have lost too many of these vernacular historic buildings that, taken together, provide tangible evidence of Salem’s significant architectural history. The building is nestled in one of the Salem’s oldest neighborhoods and without thoughtful preservation the continuity of history will be lost.
We ask the Salem Historical Commission to maintain the delay period at this point so that the Commission can work with the applicant to preserve the historic fabric and form of this building, as intended by the recently enacted Demolition Review for Historically Significant Buildings Ordinance. In addition, we extend the offer to meet with the applicants and the designer to see whether alternate design solutions could be found that respect this historic building and its surroundings while increasing the long-term value of the project.
Historic Salem regularly offers homeowners and developers professional review and advice on restoration and renovation plans for Salem’s historic buildings with the goal of employing best preservation practices while meeting the modern needs of building occupants. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the developer to examine alternatives that:
(1) achieve objectives to increase interior space, and
(2) minimize external structural alterations that would alter the true historic identity of the building.
It is our hope that the delay time period can be used for the benefit of the neighborhood and the historic resources therein, as well as for the owner to achieve their goals and begin the project.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments.
Vice President and Chair, Preservation Committee
Follow us on Instagram!