Submitted to the Salem Redevelopment Authority on September 3, 2020
Dear Ms. Napolitano, Chair:
For nearly two decades Historic Salem, Inc. has been advocating for decision-makers to facilitate the successful reuse of these historic court buildings. We look forward to the selection of a development team to make this reuse possible. As the Salem Redevelopment Authority reviews the three proposals, we offer the following comments and questions.
We thank the SRA, city staff, state agencies and the developers for recognizing the value of these historic court buildings and targeting development plans that allow for their reuse. With this shared understanding and appreciation, the reuse plans can meet the goals of the Preservation Restriction, the SRA guidelines, the City Council’s goals in transferring the Crescent Lot property, and the historic preservation vision that our community has repeatedly embraced.
The Massachusetts Historical Commission will rigorously review the final development plans for compliance with the Preservation Restriction and we understand that these proposals include only conceptual drawings. We note that one proposal for Superior Court that include residential uses may indicate a reduction in the width of the existing corridors and this may not meet the intent of the Preservation Restriction. Likewise, the proposal to replace all the historic windows and store the original materials does not meet the intent of the Preservation Restriction, the care taken in mothballing the buildings, or recognize the value of having the historic windows at all.
The uses planned for the historic spaces will be key to this project’s success. It has long been HSI’s position that institutional uses in the Superior Courtrooms and Law Library that parallel their historic use as gathering and judicial spaces will allow for more public access as well as retention of their volumes of space. We are pleased to see this conclusion drawn by the development teams. Each use proposed for the Superior Court building appears to allow tenant fit out that preserves the historic fabric. Therefore, it is important that the SRA clearly understands the real-life feasibility of each proposed use/tenant. We request that each development team be asked what other options exist if the proposed anchor tenant were unable to proceed, and in that case how the developer will ensure public access to the Courtroom and Law Library spaces in the future.
In regard to using the former County Commissioners building for housing, we believe this can be a good fit for this space. We support others in the community asking that this project achieve ambitious levels of affordability. With the recognition that the public has limited access to financial data in order to judge feasibility we ask the SRA to represent the community’s desire for affordable housing as you review the project price proposals and proformas to ensure that there is a significant benefit to the community as a result of this conveyance of city-owned property.
All the proposals appear to improve pedestrians’ urban experience in this prominent city location by reducing the crossing distance at the intersection and by creating gathering space at the County Commissioners’ green and on the plaza space on the Crescent Lot. We feel the JHR proposal demonstrates the highest amount of creativity and an understanding of Salem’s urban conditions at this location, as demonstrated by the seamless integration of existing amenities with new connections. In all cases we will be looking for the selected team to enable connections between existing pedestrian access points (North Salem, Salem’s downtown and the Bridge Street Neck neighborhood) and enhanced ties to nearby neighborhood amenities such as Leslie’s Retreat and Furlong Parks. This is another way that the community will benefit from this transfer of public land. We also look forward to integration of plans between the development of these sites, the updated Harbor Plan, and the bike and open space planning process throughout the downtown.
We are supportive of using railroad rights-of-way but note that these have consistently been obstacles in other planning processes and would like to understand what work the development teams have done to address those issues. We would also like to better understand access to the North River and how that will work with the significant tidal levels of the river and the need to cross the often-busy access road to the MBTA parking garage to reach the water.
New Construction in Historic Downtown Salem
In considering the proposed designs for the Crescent Lot, we have the following comments:
The design should be led by the strong presence of 19th and early 20th century commercial and mixed-use buildings of Salem’s downtown. Just as the row of court buildings on Federal Street reminds us of Salem’s central role in Essex County law through the centuries, the historic commercial buildings along Washington St. remind us of Salem’s prominence as a commercial center in Essex County throughout its history. A new building that will define the entrance to Salem for thousands of people should be related to this commercial heritage.
The final design must be rooted in a sense of place and meeting the conditions of the City Council in transferring the Crescent Lot, in this case that the resulting project be, “compatible with uses in terms of scale, use, design, and historic character.” This will be achieved through a study of scale, massing and detailing of materials. While the Ruane Judicial Center and the MBTA garage are prominent contemporary buildings, we find their size and massing out of scale with the rest of Salem’s downtown and they should not be used as precedents for this development. As community advocates, we will support either traditional-style designs or complementary contemporary designs. A ready and successful example is the addition to the Probate and Family Court building that references the adjacent historic buildings in size and massing and marries tradition and modernity through the window patterns and materials.
The building elevations as measured from Bridge Street should not exceed four stories in keeping with longstanding downtown scale and, in particular, we think that the proposal for a 15-story building is significantly incompatible not only visually but according to zoning, wetlands regulations, or public safety infrastructure including fire department capabilities.
The mass of the building should be considered from downtown as well as approaching the site from North Salem on North Street. We request that each development team illustrate how the building sits on the foreground of Salem’s downtown by having a view shown from the intersection of North and Commercial Street, as was provided by Winn Development.
As stated in Section 3 – Design Standards of the the Downtown Renewal Plan, “Large scale developments or buildings shall be reduced in overall impact by providing variation in building massing,” with the standards presenting specific ways this can be achieved. Window patterns should be rhythmic, the street level should be pedestrian friendly at all sidewalks, materials traditional or modern should be finely detailed.
We look forward to the upcoming interviews of each development team and will provide further comment after their completion. Thank you again for your rigorous review of these projects and for consideration of our comments.
Signed by Caroline Watson-Felt, President
Read their responses to the question: Why HSI?
Lori Boudo - I have lived in Salem for 20 years now and was first attracted to this great city because of its ‘oldness’—in its architecture, its history and it’s lifelong residents. As a volunteer for Christmas in Salem, I’ve become more acquainted with the mission of Historic Salem and am inspired to learn more and do more for this city I love. I am particularly interested in the history of Black Americans in Salem and proudly participated as a volunteer and contributor for ‘Salem’s Black Heritage’, a self-guided audio tour. Thanks for the opportunity to serve in this way.
Colleen Brewster - As a child, every three weeks my family and I would travel to Virginia to visit my grandmothers’ side of the family where we had a second home. At 8 years old I vividly remember helping my grandfather install vinyl siding and being disappointed that he would only let me work on the areas I could reach from the ground. I had so much fun helping him work on the house that I knew ‘this’ is was what I wanted to do when I grew up. I continued to be his helper and worked my way up from holding the flashlight, passing him tools, and hammering, to helping him cut and install the porcelain tile floor in his basement. It has been nearly 20 years and that floor is still in great shape.
My family and I would also visit my godfather on Martha’s Vineyard throughout my childhood and beyond, so I’ve been appreciative of the charm New England has to offer for quite some time. In 2002 I moved to Massachusetts to continue my education in Architecture, quickly fell in love with the area, and decided to stay. Although I no longer live in Salem, I’ve worked in this City since 2005. If there is one thing I’ve developed in that time, it’s a passion for preservation, restoration, and the use of historically accurate materials. I’ve also spent nearly 5 years recording minutes for multiple Salem Boards and Commissions, and I’ve seen projects of all types seeking approval, and even presented a few of my own projects on behalf of my clients at Gray Architects.
The built environment is always one of the first things to catch my eye when I travel, and I’d like to believe the architecture that surrounds us is at least one of the reasons why visitors travel to Salem, not just for the witches, ghost tours, and Hocus Pocus filming locations. While some rehabilitation and renovation projects are necessary due to age, deterioration, or code requirements, many are completed for modern conveniences; a family room with enough wall space for the big screen TV, creating an en suite so you don’t have to share the bathroom with the kids, adding an HVAC condenser unit, etc. These structures and subsequent additions tell the story of their evolution and those histories need to be preserved using appropriate methods that retain the integrity of these structures.
If it were not for organizations like HSI working with local Boards and Commissions, many of the existing historically or architecturally significant buildings that surround us would have either disappeared long ago or be barely recognizable today. HSI provides another level of oversight that pushes for higher standards of quality design that will enrich the neighborhood, take the context of the surroundings into consideration, and insist upon the respect for the districts that have been preserved. A preservation group with these goals is a organization that I would be proud to be affiliated with.
Amanda Eddy - I am a young and passionate Salem State University public history graduate. Homegrown in Salem, this city has always been a constant in my life. From a young age, history has been my passion. As soon as I learned about HSI's mission, I knew I had to join in and help however I could. I feel as an active member of the historic preservation community in Salem, I'm going to make a great addition. I hope to add some new ideas, and I'm excited to hear about other plans and ideas from other passionate historians. I have been taking Christmas in Salem tours since age 6 and have been a volunteer and house captain for at least two years. I also write house histories for HSI which is my favorite part! I love being able to not only contribute to the organization and share my talents, but also continue to learn more and more about the houses that I am surrounded by in my daily life. I love HSI because we have the same goal - historic preservation. To keep our city's heritage and history alive. I appreciate this opportunity to be a part of HSI's board for the next few years to come and I hope I can make a youthful difference!
Jessica Herbert - Preservation is not something that I choose to do over something else—It’s a systemic drive that has been the focus of my life as early as I can remember. As a young child, I was drawn to the historic homes of Virginia, including my ancient family home on the point of land at the head of Hampton Roads. Herbert House, circa 1753 is a brick Georgian mansion which sits adjacent to the site where Black Beard (Edward Teach), the infamous 18th century pirate’s severed head was mounted on a pole at that point where the Hampton and James Rivers meet.
This dramatic bit of history, along with many others of the Revolutionary & Civil War's surrounding battles, made Herbert House’s history and standing within the history of Hampton, Virginia all the more interesting to me growing up in its midst. In the late 1980s, the renovation of Herbert House became my obsession, for it had languished without care during much of the 20th century and was about to be razed by a developer who wanted to build a marina on its magnificent waterfront acreage. Despite being on the National Register, I found that it had no protection from the local historical commission. It was a monumental struggle to save it — lasting more than 20 years — but it is now fully restored, despite sharing the waterfront portion of its former land with the new millionaire-row marina.
My interest in working with HSI is a direct consequence of my experience with Herbert House, which has taught me how important it is to use all the tools available to educate and to save historic buildings and landscapes. Money and politics play an important role in preservation, and it is critical to be aware of where preservationists can have the most impactful and sustained influence if they are to be successful in preventing the loss of the historic fabric of their city through the ravages of poor and inappropriate renovations, and wholesale eradication.
I have spent 36 years in Salem, and I love this City! I started here with the complete restoration of an important Victorian mansion that had fallen into shameful ruin after many decades of neglect. Within 10 months of sustained and cherished effort, it retook its place as an important historic element of the McIntire Historic District. From there, I realized what my role could be in working to save Salem’s rapidly changing historic character. That role would develop over time, and eventually lead to serving on the Salem Historic Commission for 16 years, 10 years as Chair. I enjoyed creating partnerships with builders, homeowners, architects, attorneys, various non-profits (including HSI), for-profits, and related departments within the changing City administrations, resulting in the collaborative restoration of scores of historic buildings throughout the City.
I am honored to be a part of HSI, and support HSI’s efforts to expand and create new local historic districts in neighborhoods seeking these protections, and to work on an improved demolition delay ordinance. These protections will help maintain the historic character of Salem for future generations. HSI is the organization where I feel I can best share my skills, experience and passion for historic preservation.
Thank you to the nominating committee and the Board of Directors for this opportunity to be of service in the realm that I love.
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.
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
Salem Redevelopment Authority