It’s been a busy month back at OCLP! Before work on Saugus begins, I’ve been helping finalize the treatment chapter of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site cultural landscape report. Though many associate Salem with the infamous witch trials in the 1690s, the town has a long and diverse social and economic history. The population of Salem boomed throughout the mid-1600s to mid-1700s, as Puritans fled religious intolerance in England. Over the following centuries, Salem enjoyed successful international maritime trade as well as domestic manufacturing. Much of this success relied on the movement of goods and people across borders. Like most colonial settlements, Salem benefited heavily from displacing Native American inhabitants and participating in the transatlantic slave trade. However, by the early 1900s, Salem flourished as a city of French Canadian, Irish, Polish, Russian, Italian, Greek, and Turkish immigrants.
So far working on the Salem cultural landscape report has been a fun learning curve – yesterday I spent some time reading up on rehabilitating historic foundations, different pattern options for brick sidewalks, and appropriate plants for an 18th century herb garden! Earlier in the month, I had a chance to visit the site with Bob and Eliot for a conversation with our park partners. Having visited the park several times as a tourist, approaching it from a “behind the scenes” angle gave me a new perspective on the complexity of maintaining historic character, engaging visitors, and addressing the effects of climate change.
Shifting gears, I also had a chance to tour the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with their landscape historian JoAnn Robinson (thank you for organizing, Mona!). This was another delightful case of experiencing a familiar place through a new light. It’s impossible not to feel a sense of wonder while enjoying the central courtyard, and JoAnn shared equally impressive historic photos of Isabella’s greenhouses and gardens at her homes in the Boston area which were tended to with the same care. I particularly enjoyed discussing the relationship between the centrally located Medusa mosaic and the stone statues scattered throughout the courtyard. With the plant display changing soon, I’m excited to head back over to the Gardner museum soon for their monthly Third Thursday event, which I can’t recommend highly enough, especially for first time visitors!