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5 Places I Love In Downtown Salem

Here's a look at the positive — Derby Square, Artists' Row, the waterfront, flowers and a couple of dry fountains.

Today we follow up on

You and I probably frequent many of the same places. We stop for coffee or a muffin, read a newspaper or just sit and chat with a friend. We all have our favorite spots whether it be a breakfast place or a bench somewhere.

Some of the spots may have changed in appearance or in name over the years, but many have long been places where locals meet to discuss sports, business, family or politics.

Town House Square is one of these places. Many no longer know it by that name. My grandfather, Bill Hussey, used to meet his cronies there when Gerber's Restaurant was in its heyday. He continued to walk there daily up until he fell ill in 1985. 

Here are the five spots that I love in and around the Salem downtown.

Private Garden at North and Lynde Streets — First, I must confess that on many an occasion I accept a bribe in the form of tomatoes as I pass by this lovely spot. This little house has a great garden with flowers crawling along the fence, well maintained bushes and a great vegetable patch with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and a variety of herbs. The whole property looks great and no one in Salem does a better job in the winter of clearing their sidewalk of snow.

The Derby Street Waterfront — From Wharf Street all the way to Blaney Street, you have restaurants and watering holes, historic sites, great old houses and the ferry. Having spent my teen years living within throwing distance of Derby's Wharf, my affection for this area goes back 40 years. The view from the top of Orange Street as you turn from Essex Street is perhaps the best in town.

Traffic Islands — Yes, traffic islands. Thanks to the efforts of many people, including the the Salem Garden Club and private businesses, the traffic islands throughout the downtown are always blooming in full color. Seasonal plantings and decorations are often featured. I love to see the ladies of the garden clubs and beautification committee hard at work on weekend mornings. It adds flair and shows that there are people in Salem who care to do something other than cry and complain. Those who participate in the window box program also get appreciation here.

Front Street, Derby Square and Artist Row — This entire area is a prime example of what can be accomplished when building owners, private business and the creative community work together. Goldberg Properties had a vision that businesses like ,  and have helped fulfill. Artists' Row, which has morphed from what used to be the marketplace, has endured despite years of physical neglect. The re-birth of the farmers' market with products from Maitland Farms here in Salem adds tremendously to this spot and, perhaps, bodes well for the future.

Two Old Fountains — . Each tells a story related to Salem history. Years ago, the larger fountain was an afternoon gathering spot when the weather ran hot. They both sit neglected now, waiting for a decision to be made as to their fate. A decision I fear that has already been made.

It would sadden me greatly to see either consigned to the dustbin of Salem memory.

 — these are the things I love in the downtown.

What did I miss from your list? Be sure to tell us in the comments.

Jim F September 04, 2012 at 12:20 PM
I do not live in Salem, but visit quite often (dozen or more times a year) and agree with all of your comments on these particular places, and there are so many great places in Salem. The comment regarding the fountains on the pedestrian mall is certainly sad, I agree that they have been neglected, but I hope they are not removed. I’ve heard rumor of the pedestrian mall being paved for cars, or the cobblestone removed- I certainly hope not, I love the look of Essex St. as it is sits today.
RWSshs66pu70 September 04, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Bill, Your sharp eye and clear memory are exceeded only by your graciousness in responding to my humble request. I am eager to learn of competing sites from your avid readers. My own favorites would include the Ropes garden (currently dazzling with monarch butterflies), the park on the site of the former Armory, and, best of all, the Salem Common for all of its beauty and activity -- it never slumbers.
Erin Cyr September 04, 2012 at 12:46 PM
I have such wonderful memories of getting popcorn from the seller on the Common and walking to the fountain to go wading on a hot day. There were always lots of kids in there cooling off, it was a special place. It's so sad to me that in a city where the very old is so valuable the powers that be don't recognize that these fountains should be repaired, not torn down. I wish there was more emphasis on the history of the town pump fountain and the beautiful map of the centrally located fountain. There is much to be learned here. My son and I love to go and stand on the stone where our house is. It makes me sad to think that those fountains could be gone. This was a nice piece Bil; a positive to balance the earlier negative piece (which was excellent as well).
Alikya Wingate September 04, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Thank you for including Artists' Row in your positive reflection. We are all working very hard to make sure this remains a safe, vibrant and family-friendly part of Salem's Downtown.
Rebecca DeVries September 04, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Great places you mentioned! Can anyone out there confirm the rumor I've heard regarding why the fountains are on the chopping block? What I've heard is that they are too often used for homeless bathing, etc. Just wondering what the real scoop is.....
PJ September 04, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Adding my thanks here for a wonderful list of MY favorite places too-- and perhaps one more you may not visit often: early morning stand at the end of the ferry dock (Blaney Street)-- yes you can walk out to the end when the boat isn't in boarding/disembarking mode. You can just about see the sunrise this time of year-- and when the water is still it's particularly breath-taking. Thank you CIty of Salem for trusting residents and leaving this dock accessible 24/7. Folks, don't mess it up for us!
chester suchecki September 04, 2012 at 06:32 PM
the places i love in salem lie just outside downtown. one is derby wharf and the other is the salem public library. anything i liked downtown has long since gone and eaten by that evil monster called urban renewal which turned downtown into a laughing stock of shopping destinations. my other choices all are way out of town so i wont bother listing them.
William Legault September 04, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Erin, the popcorn guy is Johnny Kapnis who is now in is mis 80's. He inherited that wagon from his father, who I remember as the "popcorn guy". The Kapnis family has roots in Salem that go back to the Point neighborhood in the depression years. Johnny is also a world class horse-shoe pitcher (thrower) who can still "ring" up the younger guys on a good day. The history that the two fountains represent has become lost in the shuffle over the last fifteen years.
William Legault September 04, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Oh come on Chester. List them.
Denis September 04, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Thinking back, there was a woman selling popcron down at the common. I think her name was Helen. After you purchased her goods she would say thanks a million. I also would drive up to her wagon in my car and get it to go.
Denis September 04, 2012 at 10:59 PM
I remember Mr. Kapnis also, sometimes he would have his cart in front of the Saltonstall school on Sunday's.
john September 04, 2012 at 11:50 PM
If you want to get the real feeling of Salem,past and present,you have to enter Salem by boat. First you go past the willows neighborhood and then Winter Island and as you pass Derby Wharf Lighthouse on your way to Pickering wharf ,you see the Custom House with the gold eagle and it is an incredible site if you know the history. That's Salem
chester suchecki September 05, 2012 at 01:00 AM
thats why i like derby wharf its the gateway to salem.
Hannah Dee September 05, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I too am saddened by the talk of demolishing the fountains. The sound of water is so refreshing on a hot day, not to mention the joy one feels watching kids play there. The Ropes Garden is a special favorite, Forest River Park, Winter Island, we've got it all!
christine September 05, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Throughout history in the world's greatest cities, fountains have been a part of cultured urban life. Besides the two on Essex, the only other one I can think of is at the Salem Library. I think it is time to be adding, not demolishing fountains on the master plan for our wonderful city.
PJ September 05, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Yes to the keeping the fountains and restoring them! And another yes to encouraging more. I realize this string is really about favorite places, but just wanted to add my support here on what I regard is an important issue. I will be watching closely for updates on the continued changes to the Ped Mall and will be very opposed to demolishing the fountains. I suspect the piecemeal approach is part practical and part tactical to diffuse this-- and I too expect ongoing attempts to finalize a design that will accommodate regular car traffic-- then once it's built a campaign to open the street.
Cora September 10, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Bill, Thanks for your kind words; we love when others appreciate the garden & our efforts. It is a joy to live in Salem(most of the time), and we love the walkability. Keep blogging. Cora & Sue 24 North St.
SalemWhole May 28, 2013 at 09:25 PM
One way to make Artists' Row safe would be to get rid of the alcoholics, drug addicts, and pedophiles who hang out there. Most of that could be done very easily by kicking the Salem Arts Club off.

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