Pioneer Village was constructed in 1930 as part of the Tercentenary celebrations of Massachusetts’ founding. It is America’s first open air living history museum and enjoyed great success during the early decades of its existence. Over the past century, attendance has waxed and waned, buildings have been repaired, constructed, and demolished, and interpretation methods have shifted with the times. Throughout this, Pioneer Village has remained a valued Salem institution. Historic Salem is aware of the needs and issues this historic site has faced in recent years. We recognize the City’s more recent care of this resource under the supervision of Elizabeth Peterson, and her efforts to improve attendance and interpretation of the site.
This classroom film from the 1940s was set in Salem in 1626 and filmed at Pioneer Village.
Now, as Pioneer Village nears its 100th year, the City of Salem is proposing to move select buildings and operations from their original Forest River Park location to the Camp Naumkeag site on Collins Cove near the Salem Willows. As the city’s preservation organization, HSI has been evaluating this proposal carefully. We have the following observations and recommendations.
The City’s project team has worked hard to inform local history and cultural professionals about their plans. We recommend that there be substantial additional opportunity for public input and sufficient time dedicated to incorporating that input into the plan and to developing community support.
Pioneer Village and Camp Naumkeag have been cherished local resources in Salem for many years. Each is a part of Salem’s historic fabric and the city’s residents should be able to actively participate in this process. When complete the face of both locations will be dramatically changed and have an impact on both neighborhoods. We look forward to HSI and community concerns being addressed in a transparent public process before additional actions on this project proceed.
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