Three noble school buildings sit on Broad Street in Salem. Two of the three, the 1853 Normal School at 1 Broad Street and the 1818 Latin Grammar and English High School at 3 Broad Street at have been re-purposed into housing. The third, the 1855 Classical and High School at 5 Broad Street is the current location of the Council on Aging and Parks and Rec department.
Five Broad Street is significant architecturally and historically. Designed by Enoch Fuller, noted Salem architect, it was evidence of the growing importance of public education in the flourishing port city of Salem in the 1850s. During design, the committee chairman reflected that the materials and construction should be such that it would be “creditable to our city…especially when it is considered that all such improvements have a marked and beneficial effect upon the taste of our citizens, besides giving character to the city itself.” And indeed they were. Artfully designed in the Italianate-style with a wooden cupola for the school bell adorned with brackets and a dome roof, a prominent bracketed and dentiled cornice and brownstone entrance and and window hoods in many variety of shapes.
The Normal School is now the home to the City of Salem Council on Aging and Parks and Rec department. In summer 2017 construction began on the new Community Life Center, which will house the Council on Aging. During the decade that this project was being pursued there was little done to maintain the historic school building beyond the most basic life safety issues. While this deferred maintenance has put the architectural value of this once beautiful structure at risk we now look forward to the city issuing an request for proposals to sell the building for rehabilitation. We join members of the community who would like to ensure that historic preservation is a key part of any reuse proposal.