A beautiful trip to Salem, Mass.
Salem, Mass is a beautiful coastal city located in the northern county of Essex.
Steeped in rich history of being one of the puritanical seaports of its day, it is perhaps best known for the 1692 witch trials. During these trials mass hysteria was born out of fear of witches and them cavorting with the devil to afflict the innocent God fearing citizens of the town. The fear the supernatural affected everyone and once you were accused of witchcraft then you really didn’t have much hope from there.
In the end 20 people where accused of witchcraft, taken to trail, persecuted and executed. All mostly from hanging a few died in jail and one person was crushed by rocks. I didn’t quite know what to expect from a city with such an interesting history. I didn’t know if they would treat their history as just that, history. Would it be relegated to museums and books only? Would people be so annoyed talking about it that they just wouldn’t anymore?
Though to my surprise and shear delight, not only does the city acknowledge their history but they embrace it in the best way possible! Everywhere you turned where logos of witches, witches on brooms, witch hats, black cats and tattoo parlors ready to give you the best witchy tattoo. It was like stepping into a world of Harry Potter but for witch fans. (Squeee!)
We stayed at a beautiful boutique hotel called The Merchant which is located off of Washington Street. https://www.themerchantsalem.com/ It is in a prime area of Salem and absolutely everything is in walking distance from it.
The hotel was like walking into a Jane Austen novel except with beautiful paint in rich colors of dark blues, greens and purples through out the house. (I say house because it was! Read on) Splashes of animal print on pillows and uniquely decorated touches can be found throughout.
Honestly my husband and I were really blown away by this hotel. The attention to detail was beyond just being on par. It is alluring, charismatic, mystifying and yes I dare say it, bewitching.
It was plush and elegant but yet absolutely comfortable. There were times we had to force ourselves out of the room because we could have easily stayed there all day. It seems The Merchant knows this as it has a small kitchen for you to use and a full sitting room complete with fireplaces. At the time we were there they said they were working on a bar on the sitting area for guests to have cocktails. I am almost happy that they didn’t have this amenity quite yet as I know I would have never made it out at all.
The Merchant itself has an extensive historical background that I didn’t know myself until we decided to research one night. Apparently the house itself stands on the foundation of what used to be Sheriff George Corwin’s house in the 1680’s. Corwin jailed those accused of witchcraft in his jail located in the basement. He even carried out the sentences on the property. You can read more about George Corwin here: http://bapresley.com/genealogy/hawkins/hixson/georgecorwin.html
Much later Joshua Ward a sea merchant purchased the property and hired the renowned architect Samuel McIntire to design the house. You can see the amazing touches that Samuel McIntire did to the house, one of them being the absolutely gorgeous “floating” staircase. I should also mention that George Washington stayed in a room here when it was the Joshua Ward house. You can read more about Samuel McIntire here: http://www.pem.org/sites/mcintire/
Recently The Merchant has now added a history page which you can read all about it here: https://www.themerchantsalem.com/rum-pepper-history/
So not only are you staying in a sumptuously colorfully attractive hotel you are staying in history!
Since our hotel was in the middle of everything we decided we wanted to walk the city and explore the sights. Salem is located so close to the sea that the landscape is very lush and green and yes, while we were there, quite rainy. The houses on the tree lined streets are the quintessential New England style that you would expect to see and love.
Salem knows that most people, like myself, are very curious when it comes to the witch trials and they made it easy for us. They have what is called the “heritage trail” which is a redline that curves and winds throughout the city and leads you to the sites you might like to see. We grabbed a map and followed the redline and it was really easy.
First stop was The Witch House……
The Witch House which was owned by Judge Jonathan Corwin. (Recognize that last name? Well you should he was the uncle to Sheriff George Corwin.) The house architecture itself is pretty amazing with the gables and the dark paint. On the inside you get to actually walk through it as it is a museum open to the public. Inside you will find old papers during the witch trials and also some of the families furnishings. It was really interesting to see how they cooked and lived back then. You can find more info on Judge Jonathan Corwin here: http://historyofmassachusetts.org/jonathan-corwin-salem-witch-judge/
Next was the cemetery called rather appropriately The Burial Point.
This is the oldest cemetery in Salem dating to 1637 and the final resting place for such people as a Mayflower passenger, a justice form the witchcraft court and even the architect Samuel McIntire. You can explore the list here: http://www.findagrave.com/php/famous.php?page=cem&FScemeteryid=1835987
I love visiting old cemeteries to see gravestones. This was was truly amazing. There were so many that had been preserved yet you knew that some were lost forever. Just the pure history lying under these stones was mind blowing. My husband had to practically chase me out as the time started to get away from us and we still had to make it to the Witch Museum that closed in 20 min.
The Salem Witch Museum! We actually made it late and the tour had started but I think the employee noticed how bummed I was and took pity on me. Since it was the last tour of the day she let us go in no charge if we could keep it quiet. (Thank you so much!) Stepping inside the dark room the overhead audio had already started playing voices that were in character and large dioramas lit up to the events that unfolded during the witch frenzy. It went step by step and I absolutely loved it.
Outside of The Salem Witch Museum standing on a rock is contrary to believe not a witch but actually the founder of Salem, Mass. Roger Conant. This is really an impressive statue and looks rather formidable. *An interesting side note is one of his sons was named Exercise how cool is that!
After our excursion out all day in the rain we decided to head back to the hotel to freshen up before we headed out to dinner. Since we had been on the east coast in Boston before Salem we were filled up on seafood and really wanted some pasta in this rainy weather! We noticed on Yelp that a great place was around the corner from us and we really didn’t want to walk far after the day. So we headed out and on our way we came across this great statue.
The lovely Bewitched statue!
We arrived at Firenze Trattoria and instantly felt welcomed and relaxed. Its located off a little street and owned by two brothers from Firenze hence the name. The bread was fantastic and you knew to was freshly baked. This was definitely a place where you felt you needed to listen to the specials of the day which we did. I can not tell you enough about this little trattoria. It is truly a gem in Salem and the owners are so kind. Just lovely people. So lovely in fact that at the end of the night we wanted to get a bottle of wine to take back to the hotel. The owner was gracious enough to find an open liquor store and even drove us there and back to The Merchant!
The next day we had to leave and it was really hard to say goodbye. Overall Salem was a great visit, the people were really friendly, so many sights to see and you get to walk in history. We will definitely be back and hopefully for Halloween!
For more information on Salem please visit http://www.salemmahistory.org/blog/ written and maintained by The Salem Historical Society. Its a treasure trove of all things Salem!
*The above video and song are from “The Hope Six Demolition Project” released April 15th 2016. I do NOT own any of the rights of this song nor any other song of the album. All rights reserved by Island and PJ Harvey Music.